Learning Guitar 101: The CAGED System

The CAGED SystemYou’ve just learnt your first barre chords and you’re feeling like a Guitar Hero. There’s nothing like the feeling of conquering chords you’ve been working on for hour after hour, week after week. That is until your band mate slides over and says: “Let’s take it down a major third”. What does that even mean? Now you’ve gone from Guitar Hero to Guitar Zero.This is where the CAGED system comes into action.

We’ve all come to terms with moving an A-shape or E-shape barre chord up and down the necks of our guitars. It’s time to take it a step further. A-shape and E-shape barre chords are like a cheese sandwich: everybody loves them, but we want something extra every now and then. Why not make a cheese and ham sandwich with a little bit of mayonnaise and some pepper? That sounds way tastier to me. You should do the same with your chords. Give them a little extra something, make them tastier. The CAGED system is an easy way to do exactly that.

The CAGED system is based on five open shape chords

C Major CAGED system

A Major CAGED system

G Major CAGED system

E Major CAGED system


D Major CAGED system











Db Major CAGED System








































Now these five shapes are able to move around EVERYWHERE on your fret board. They have now made the transition from open shape chords to barre chords.  Here is a link to the five different barre chord shapes Click Here.The images are in no particular key, they serve purely to demonstrate the SHAPE of the chords. Now we’ve had a look at the diagrams we can try to make sense of what’s going on. If we have a look at our open shape C major chord we find that it consists of the following notes: C – E – G – C – E. The G and second E are open strings.

Now, if we wanted to move this shape up 1 fret we are left with the following notes: Db – F – Ab – Db – F – this is the last shape at the the bottom of the page. Notice that what were open strings in our C Major chord (G and E) now have to be barred on the first fret in order for the chord to be correct. Looking at this diagram we can clearly see the shape of out C Major open chord. However, it is no longer a C major chord. It is now a D Flat Major chord using the “C shape”.

We can apply this to all five shapes of the CAGED system. It’s a very efficient way of navigating your fret board as well as spicing up those chords. Why only use A-shape and E-shape barre chords when you have 3 other shapes to explore. Each chord has the same tonality yet sounds different. This can be a very confusing subject and can be taken into a lot more detail. Once we’ve learnt all five shapes of the CAGED system, we can then apply this to Minor, Sus2, Sus4, Augmented, Diminished, Major 7, Minor 7, Major 6, Minor 6 and all other extended chords, all the way up to Dominant 13 chords.

This is a technique that takes years to master. If you’re curious as to how the CAGED system works and how you can make your cheese sandwich a lot tastier, you’ll have to contact us and register for lessons. Remember, we bring rock and roll right to your door. In this case we’ll bring the CAGED system with us! Enjoy, folks.

Profile photo of Craig Goudge

* Plays for the heavy underground band Pestroy * Graduated in top 3 @ Campus Of Performing Arts * Has been gigging for 5 years * He is best air guitar player at Guitar Excellence * Has 3 years teaching experience * Has mastered an ancient form of power stance – “The Crab” * Likes dune surfing

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