< All Topics

CAGED system

The CAGED system is a widely used method for understanding and navigating the fretboard of a guitar or other similar stringed instruments. It offers several advantages to players, especially those looking to expand their improvisational skills, chord knowledge, and overall understanding of the instrument.

CAGED system support

smartChord supports the CAGED system if desired. If the option for the CAGED system is part of the Common chord settings. If activated, the fingerings that correspond to the patterns of the CAGED system are automatically preferred and marked.

Fingering favorites are preferred over not-favored fingerings. They are always listed first, so you get them as your first choice. Explicitly preferred fingerings are marked with a yellow star, CAGED fingerings are marked with a blue star.

In this context, we want to mention another option. If Favor fingering pattern is activated, also non-fingering favorites are treated as favorites, if their fingering pattern is the same as a fingering pattern of one of your fingering favorites. Example: If the F barré chord is one of your fingering favorites, all other barré chords, like e.g. the G barré chord, with the same grip shape are also treated as favorites. They are also marked with a blue star.

Advantages of the CAGED system

Here are some of the advantages of the CAGED system:

  1. Fretboard Visualization: The CAGED system helps guitarists visualize the entire fretboard in a structured manner. It divides the fretboard into five main positions or shapes (C, A, G, E, and D), making it easier to navigate and locate notes, chords, and scales across the neck.
  2. Chord Shapes: The system provides movable chord shapes based on the open chord forms (C, A, G, E, D). This allows players to play the same type of chord in different positions along the fretboard, which is essential for creating variety in chord progressions and voicings.
  3. Scale Patterns: Similarly, the CAGED system offers scale patterns that can be moved up and down the neck. This is beneficial for soloing and improvisation, as players can easily adapt familiar scale patterns to different keys and positions.
  4. Transposition: With the CAGED system, players can quickly transpose chords and scales to different keys by shifting the position of the relevant shape. This is incredibly useful for musicians who need to play in various keys while maintaining consistent chord progressions or soloing patterns.
  5. Understanding Music Theory: The CAGED system can serve as a bridge between practical playing and music theory. By learning the relationship between chord shapes, scales, and the underlying theory, guitarists can deepen their understanding of how music works.
  6. Improvisation: Using the CAGED system, guitarists can more easily connect different positions and move fluidly across the fretboard. This improves improvisational skills by providing a framework for creating melodic lines and solos that span the neck.
  7. Creativity and Composition: The system encourages creativity by showing players how to combine chords, scales, and positions in novel ways. This can lead to more interesting chord progressions, melodies, and songwriting ideas.
  8. Efficient Practice: Practicing the CAGED system helps guitarists develop muscle memory for various chord shapes and scale patterns. This aids in efficient practice sessions and faster mastery of the instrument.
  9. Guitar Instruction: The CAGED system is often taught in guitar lessons and resources, making it easier for students to find structured learning materials that guide them through the process of learning the fretboard.
  10. Adaptation to Different Styles: Since the CAGED system is applicable to various styles of music, it provides a versatile foundation for guitarists to play different genres ranging from rock and blues to jazz and country.

While the CAGED system offers numerous advantages, it’s important to note that it’s just one approach to understanding the fretboard. Some players might find other systems or methods more suitable for their playing style and goals. The CAGED system, however, remains a popular and effective tool for many guitarists seeking to enhance their skills and versatility on the instrument.

Disadvantages of the CAGED system

While the CAGED system offers many advantages, it’s important to also be aware of its limitations and potential disadvantages:

  1. Fragmented Learning: The CAGED system divides the fretboard into five distinct positions based on the C, A, G, E, and D chord shapes. This division can sometimes lead to a fragmented understanding of the fretboard, making it challenging for players to see the holistic connection between different positions.
  2. Limited to Certain Instruments: The CAGED system is primarily designed for six-string guitars or similar instruments. While it can be adapted to other instruments with similar tuning, it might not be as directly applicable to instruments with different numbers of strings or unconventional tunings.
  3. Complexity for Beginners: The CAGED system can initially be overwhelming for beginners due to the need to learn multiple chord shapes and scale patterns in different positions. This complexity might discourage some learners who are still getting comfortable with the basics of playing.
  4. Theory vs. Practicality: While the CAGED system provides a framework for understanding chord and scale relationships, it can sometimes prioritize practical application over deep theoretical understanding. Some players might prefer a more theoretical approach that focuses on intervals and note relationships.
  5. Rote Memorization: Learning the CAGED system can involve a fair amount of rote memorization, especially when it comes to memorizing the various chord and scale shapes in different positions. This might hinder some players who prefer a more conceptual learning process.
  6. Lack of Context: The CAGED system doesn’t inherently provide much context regarding music theory or why certain shapes and patterns work the way they do. This might leave some learners feeling like they’re memorizing shapes without fully understanding their underlying principles.
  7. Inflexibility for Advanced Players: Advanced players who have already developed a deep understanding of the fretboard might find the rigid structure of the CAGED system somewhat limiting. They might prefer to navigate the fretboard based on intervals and relationships rather than preset shapes.
  8. Unsuitable for Some Genres: While the CAGED system is versatile, it might not align perfectly with certain complex genres like fusion or experimental music, where more abstract approaches to harmony and melody are common.
  9. Focus on Patterns Over Ear Training: Depending on how it’s taught, the CAGED system might emphasize pattern recognition over ear training and listening skills. It’s important for players to also develop their ability to play by ear and respond to the music they hear.
  10. May Not Suit Everyone’s Learning Style: Different players have different learning styles. Some might thrive with the structure and organization of the CAGED system, while others might find it more beneficial to explore the fretboard in a less structured manner.

Ultimately, the suitability of the CAGED system depends on the individual player’s goals, learning preferences, and musical style. While it has proven effective for many guitarists, it’s not the only approach available. Players should consider the pros and cons and explore various methods to find what works best for their musical journey.


Learn more about the CAGED system:

Table of Contents