The Introduction To C A G E D

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The Introduction to CAGED

This lesson is a branch from Area 2 from the Playbook for Beginners and Beyond main lesson. Visit the main lesson to see my philosophy on the five different areas of learning to play.

What chords did you see when you first opened Kirk's lesson The Open Major Chords? Guess what? All of those forms, as you have seen, are forms that move up the neck. For example, if you play an E major chord and slide all your fingers up one fret and barre across with your index finger, you've just moved the E formation up one fret, but now the musical chord is called an F major.

Moving chord formation theory is easy for you to see. We see it used all the time with the moveable E and Em and A and Am formations. You see how an E major chord can turn into an F major chord; how an Em chord can turn into an F#m chord. And how an A chord becomes a B chord; an Am chord becomes a Bm chord (if this information is confusing, please back up and view the lesson Barre Chords for the Beginner and Beyond). But now I want to just use that info as a backdrop for the next major idea in learning neck mechanics.

That idea is called CAGED. The basics of the CAGED theory is that the moveable guitar shapes are all based on those same basic five chords C A G E and D! But stop and don't think in terms of playing these chords. Take a moment and see a picture of how these chord shapes relate on the neck of the guitar:

You have the open chord shapes (images from Kirk's Open Major Chord and The Anatomy of a C Major Guitar Chord -- The CAGED System lessons):


If you then take each shape and stack them up the neck, one right after the other, the musical chord represented by all of those forms is the chord that is at the top of the stack. It is essentially one long chord that covers the neck of the guitar.


Another way of looking at it is to see the entire fretboard.


Notice each color outline box and how it has positions on the fretboard that overlap with the next shape. These shapes are all interconnected; they have notes in common. Notice how the D chord form is actually interconnected with the C chord form and that the pattern continues and repeats itself up the neck.

Kirk, from his CAGED lesson, "...This pattern is referred to as the CAGED pattern because it consists of all the open chord shapes -- the C shape, the A shape, G shape, the E and the D shape -- strung end to end...I used the word "form" instead of shape. Same thing, in this case. You should be able to see each of these as open chords moved up the fretboard and barred. Even if you never use some of these AS chords, it's important that you know where those moveable shapes are for whatever chord".

So, as Kirk says, remember that even if you don't play these AS chords, the pattern exists on the neck of the guitar, nonetheless.

This pattern of shapes will ALWAYS stay in this order, that is the C shape is followed by the A shape, which is followed by the G shape and then E shape and is followed by the D shape. No matter the beginning shape, the same shapes follow each other. Remember, we're not talking about actively playing these shapes, we're talking about the pattern that you see on the fretboard. If the top mechanical chord shape is a C, then the mechanical chord shape order will be CAGED. If the beginning shape is an A, then the next shapes will be AGEDC. If the beginning shape is a G, then the shapes will be GEDCA, and so on.

In our example, beginning mechanical chord shape C also happens to be the musical chord of C. Remember that each connected shape is the same musical chord as the beginning musical chord. This one long chord layout on the neck of the guitar represents the musical Chord of the Moment.

Where the information becomes practical is when, for example, you are playing an A shape chord. What shape comes next up the neck? This rock-solid, never-changing pattern (one huge pattern) becomes a part of your toolbox for when it comes time for you to explore playing individual notes and partial chords.

This might be a huge head-scratcher for you right now. That's ok. Just know that this pattern exists. Always keep this in mind and it will help you progress in your understanding of the chords and notes on the fretboard. When you're ready to understand more about this system, take a look at Kirk's lesson The Anatomy of A C Major Guitar Chord -- The CAGED System.

You know that you can get in touch with me anytime at solidwalnut at gmail dot com.

All the best today,


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