In the last post we looked at organizing some thoughts related to our acoustic playing (chords families!) and the plenty of work that can be done there. One of the next steps would be to consider how those basic shapes fit beautifully into an idea known as the CAGED system.
Basically, the idea is that the main chord shapes we use all over the neck of the guitar are:
Seems simple but its not just about open position!
In fact, the basic open C chord shape, A shape, G shape, E and D are so foundational to how chords are made on the guitar, that they are in fact THE shapes, in one form or another, that you'll use all over the neck for almost any chord you play; even scales, arpeggios, etc.
This might sound a little strange but you're already doing it!. Think about it:
- An F bar chord (1-3-3-2-1-1) is really just an “E” shape barred at the first fret
- A Bm chord, at the 2nd fret (x-2-4-4-3-2) is really just an A (minor) shape barred at the second fret
- The E chord at the 7th fret that we’re so fond of sliding around, is really just an “A” (major) shape using open strings (0-7-9-9-0-0)
Making sense so far?
Again, the basic C, A, G, E, and D chord shapes are the guiding shapes for many chords we play all over the neck. If you use a capo you’re already using this idea as well (i.e. you’re handed a song chart in Ab and you decide to capo 1 and play it as if its in G), and spending time thinking through this will really help you out. Specifically:
- For acoustic strummers, this is key to you really intelligently using a capo to give you 2-3 different sounding options with which to play any song and it will help you visualize the neck.
- For electric players, this opens up the fretboard for you, helping you to visualize and remember chords up and down the neck. Its also a great starting place for understanding scales and being able to play them in any key (good for you acoustic guys too!)
For any guitarist, the CAGED concept is a foundational, practical idea for understanding how the guitar neck works and how you can move around with confidence. Awareness is the first step! Its kind of nice that it comes together to make a word we can remember too.
In the next post, we’ll look at the CAGED chord sequence how it can really unlock the neck for you. Until then, thanks for serving and keep practicing!