CAGED system for guitar

Caged System for Guitar. For this blog post you’ll need to understand the following chords in open position. C A G E D (majors, minors and for the video tutorial, the 7ths).

Watch this video as you’ll need to be able to play these chords using fingers 2, 3, & 4

The fingerings for each of these chords are correct and it will make sense later on!

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CAGED system on guitar, what is it?

Using the CAGED system will allow you to play the same types of open chord such as majors, minors and 7ths in at least 5 different ways.

Chords that do not involve an open string can be shifted up and down the fretboard whilst keeping the type of chord the same such as majors, minors and 7ths.

The first chord shape will be C Major in the open position. You can find the same type of chord with the root note on string 5 whilst keeping the type (majors minos & 7ths) of chord the same.


Firstly, we’ll be playing a major chord shape, with the root note on note C. Using fingers 2, 3, 4 will allow us to form a barre chord across strings 1,2,3. This major shape of chord will allow you to move down the neck, keeping the type of chord the same. It’s a major chord, because the shape of C major is still there. As is, incidentally, the D major shape with fingers 1,1 & 2.

Learning the roots notes or notes for each string is also important. If you know the chord type and the name of the fret which the root note is on, you’ll be able to identify the chord type and it’s name. Can you find the D Major chord using this type of shape?

The order of notes is just your alphabet. Can you fill in the gaps? 🙂

C (A) G E D

To find the C major chord using the open A chord shape we need to first play the A open chord as you normally would with fingers one two and three.

Again, make your first finger available so now you’re playing the A chord with fingers 2, 3, and 4. Move this shape up to fret 5 then place finger one on fret three string five. You’re now playing the C major chord.

Finding the C major chord using the G chord shape.

You’ll again play the g chord in open position with your first finger available, so you’ll be using fingers 2,3 and 4. Move this shape up to fret 8 string 6 – so that finger 3 is on fret 8 string 6. You’ll then want to stretch your first finger to barre fret 5 on strings 2, 3, and 4.

C A (G) E D

Can you find the C major chord shape using the E

Playing the chord C major in ‘E” form is actually the most common barre chord shape. Much like before, you will play the open E major chord whilst making your first finger available. You’re now using fingers 2,3 and 4. Moving this shape up to frets 9 and 10, you’ll now barre fret 8 across all 6 strings. 

C A G (E) D

We’re now moving onto the final open chord ‘D’.

Like before, you’ll make your first finger available by  using fingers 2, 3, and 4 to play the same D chord you already know. Next, move this chord shape up to fret 12 which will allow you to place finger one on fret 10 string 4. 

C A G E (D)

As long as you know your root notes on strings 6 5 and 4, you’ll be able to move any of these major chord shapes up and down the fret board. Using the same finger positioning for each shape. True for any chord shape that doesn’t have an open string involved. 

Can I play any chord type using CAGED?

The short answer is yes you can and the long answer is it depends what your fingers will initially allow you to do.

There are certain chord types where you’ll find it a stretch when applying the CAGED method. A 7th chord is an example of this. 

Here’s a G7 chord using fingers 1 2 and 3. 

Like before, make finger one available by using fingers 2 3 and 4 move this shape up to frets 8 7 and 6. You can now barre your first finger across strings 1 – 4 on fret 5. Ouch? Yes. exactly. 

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Is the caged system good for beginners?

Having taught the guitar to individuals for over 6 years, my experience tells me that when to introduce the CAGED system for guitarists, really depends on what it is the student needs at that particular point in time. If you’ve found that you’re in a bit of a rut that typically uses chords from the open position and your fretboard note knowledge is a bit limited, now could be the time!

Finger-style and classical guitar pieces usually see these chord types as these styles allow the performer to play the melody, chords and bass in any given arrangement. Jazz is also another known genre to have weird chord shapes, Have a look at some tunes from Amy Winehouse, A tune I’d recommend of hers for improving your barring technique is ‘Back to Back’.

Is the CAGED system worth learning?

The benefits are; you’ll increase finger strength, finger stretching ability and stamina within your left hand. Eventually you won’t need to rely on the Capo. The CAGED System replaces the capo and potentially allows you to play songs in different keys too! It’s really easy to fall into the trap of playing songs which are in the major or minor keys of E A D and G.

How do you practice the CAGED method? 

The first stage is to actually get used the to the stretches for each new chord type. Find some chord progressions that you would potentially like the sound of then you’ll want to make sure you’re hearing every note as cleanly as the last. This will take some time to achieve. If you’re finding it ultra tricky, you might want to look at the positioning of your thumb

When barring you’ll want to train your hand to be as straight as possible to the fret. It’s likely that you’ll only be able to attempt these shapes for a few seconds at a time – whilst gradually increasing the strength and stamina allowing you to play any tune or chord progression in any key. 

Did you enjoy this blog?

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