CAGED Guitar System: How To Master Chords

Want to learn the CAGED guitar system? We’re going to show you EVERYTHING you need to know about this essential system for guitar. 

CAGED GUITAR SYSTEM

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • 5 essential chord shapes that will make you sound amazing.
  • How to learn EVERY guitar chord off of the CAGED guitar system.
  • The secret to unlocking the fret board.

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What is the CAGED guitar system?

The CAGED guitar system is a musical formula which can be used to unlock the fret board.

Each letter in the CAGED guitar system represents a chord shape. Those are:

  • C = C shape guitar chord.
  • A = A shape guitar chord.
  • G = G shape guitar chord.
  • E = E shape guitar chord.
  • D = D shape guitar chord.

Each of these chord shapes are moveable and can be moved around the fret board to create chords in new keys.

The CAGED guitar system is a powerful tool for any guitarist. It’s essential to know if you want to become an epic lead guitarist.

To learn the chords in the CAGED system you must know how to barre chords. Watch this video for 3 quick & easy barre chords tips:

For today’s example, we’re going to keep each chord in the key of ‘C’.

C Shape Guitar Chord

The ‘C’ in the CAGED guitar system refers to the shape of a open C chord. Here’s a C chord:

CAGED Guitar System

(If you don't understand the above image please read our article "How To Read Guitar Chordboxes In 60 Seconds". It will make everything clear!)

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Moveable C Shape

This chord can be moved around the fret board. To do this we must learn how to play a barre version of this chord. This chord is in the key of D:

D_Bar_Chord_(C_Shape)

To change the key of this chord, we must change the root note. The root note is the first note in the chord.

Learn more about root notes here:Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners

In this case, the root note is on A string. Here are ALL of the root notes on the A string.

CAGED guitar system

To change the key of the chord move it to a different fret.

For example, to play this chord in the key of F, move this shape to the 8th fret.

A Shape Guitar Chord

The ‘A’ in CAGED guitar system, refers to the shape of an A chord. Here’s the A chord:

A guitar chord

Learn to play this chord here: 3 Easy Ways To Play The A Chord On Guitar

We can play a barre chord by using this A shape. Here’s a C barre chord which uses the A shape:

CAGED GUITAR SYSTEM

Can you see how this chord uses the A shape within the barre chord?

To change the key of this chord, you must change the root note. To do this, move this chord to a different fret.

If you find it difficult to learn each guitar note on the A string, just concentrate on the:

  • 3rd fret. (C note.)
  • 5th fret. (D note.)
  • 7th fret. (E note.)

Each of these frets refers to your fret markers on your guitar. If you find this difficult to remember, just remember ‘CDE’.

Learning to play the guitar is good for you! Find out how in this article by Guitar Player: 10 Reasons Why Playing Guitar Is Good For Your Mind And Body

G Shape Guitar Chord

The ‘G’ in CAGED guitar system refers to the open G chord. Here it is:

CAGED guitar system

Learn to play the G chord here: 4 Easy Ways To Play The G Chord On Guitar

We can play a barre chord off of this chord shape. Here’s a G shape guitar chord in the key of C.

CAGED GUITAR SYSTEM

Moveable Shapes On The E String

To change the key of this chord:

  • Move it to a different fret.

To do this, you must know what ALL of the root notes are on the low E string. (6th string.) Here they are:

E root notes

For example: To play an A chord (G barre shape), move this shape to the 5th fret. Your 2nd finger must be on the 5th fret for this to be correct.

E Shape Guitar Chord

The ‘E’ in CAGED guitar system, refers to the open E chord. Here it is:

CAGED guitar system

Learn to play the E chord here: 4 Easy Ways To Play The E Chord On Guitar

You can play a barre chord version of this chord. For this example, we’re going to the use the key of C.

C Major Chord (E Shape)

E Shape Guitar Chord

Can you see how this chord uses the E shape within the chord?

Moveable Shapes

You can move the E barre chord shape ANYWHERE along the fret board.

For now, concentrate on moving it to the:

  • 3rd fret. (G note.)
  • 5th fret. (A note.)
  • 7th fret. (B note.)

On the 3rd fret, this chord becomes a ‘G major chord’.

The 5th, ‘the A major chord’.

The 7th, ‘the B major chord’.

If you can’t remember each note name, just remember ‘GAB’.

D Shape Guitar Chord

The ‘D’ in CAGED guitar system refers to the open ‘D chord’. Here it is:

D Chord

Learn to play this chord here: 3 Easy Ways To Play The D Chord On Guitar

To move this shape around the fret board, we have to make a slight tweak. Here is a C major chord which uses the D shape.

C Chord D shape

Changing The Key Of This Chord

To change the key of this chord, we’re going to apply the same concept. We must move it to a different fret.

This time, the root note can be found on the D string. (4th string.)

Here are the root notes for the D string:

CAGED GUITAR SYSTEM

For example, if you wanted to play a G major chord using the D shape, move this chord to the 5th fret.

CAGED Guitar System Scales And Arpeggios

As well as learning chords through the CAGED guitar system, you can also learn scales and arpeggios.

For this example, we’re going to learn each scale and arpeggio in the key of C major.

Each of these scales fit around there respective chord shapes.

C Shape Scale And Arpeggio

caged guitar system

arp

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again. Click here to download your copy.

 

Listen to the Learn Guitar Podcast

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A Shape Scale And Arpeggio

CAGED GUITAR SYSTEM

caged guitar system

G Shape Scale And Arpeggio

C Major Scale

C Scale

Learn to play guitar scales here: Learn Guitar Scales In 8 Easy Steps

E Shape Scale And Arpeggio

CAGED GUITAR SYSTEM

caged guitar system

D Shape Scale And Arpeggio

C SCALE

caged guitar system

 

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

We made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. We hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

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