CAGED Part One – Professional Guitar Neck Orginization

The 4 Pillars Of Chord Knowledge


In this course dealing with the study of guitar chords we have learned an incredible amount about playing chords that open strings, and we have also studied the concept of movable chords with their root notes on strings 6, 5 and 4. These constitute the first two of what I call the four pillars of chord knowledge, the next concept in that system is called The Five Position CAGED System, which is the professional guitarist’s system of neck organization and navigation. In a nutshell, this system will enable you to play the same chord in five different positions giving you complete neck coverage. The video I have prepared for you below will get us started in our study of this most important of all chord concepts: the five position CAGED system.

C – A – G – E – D System: Key Of C.

Now that you have an idea of what the five position CAGED system is all about, you can begin visualizing the five shapes and practicing them up and down the neck in order. The diagram below will serve to reinforce the knowledge you’ve gained by watching the previous video. You should play these chords in order and with some type of beat, either with a drum machine are metronome. As you increase your skill level, you increase the speed at which the drum machine or metronome plays its beat. Your process should be to playing each one of the chords in the system for two beats, one chord after another. I would say a reasonable target tempo to shoot for is 120 bpm (beats per minute) or a metronome marking of 120.

Finally, in the diagrams below, no fingerings are indicated or implied, only all the available chord tones in each position. You pronbably have a good idea concerning how you personally like to approach the open chord, and of course the E TYPE (root 6) and the A TYPE (root 5) – the two bar chords that are more or less commom knowledge. The G TYPE (root 6), the C TYPE (root 5) and the D TYPE (root 5) are the forms where you have several options regarding the fingerings. As part of your practicing ritual and visualization trasining, choose the ones that make the most sense to you. Also, please review the two full length video presentations that I have included with this lesson before moving on from lesson 13.


Before proceeding take one final look at the diagram above and make sure that you can see how each of the five chords in the system are based on the geometry, on the shape of common knowledge open string chords. Also, make sure you are playing the chords a sending in descending and strips time and making a mental note concerning the location of the root note in each chord. Please proceed to the next video before completing the final two exercises in this lesson.

C – A – G – E – D System: Key Of G.

The five position CAGED system is another one of those things that professionals know and that amateurs don’t know. However, for you to gain the full benefit of this system you must know it like the back of your hand. As I said in the video, you have only truly mastered it, truly learned it when you can do it quickly and smoothly in any one of the 12 keys in the world of music. This means taking a systematic and methodical approach to playing the five interconnected chords, and playing these chords quickly and smoothly, in each one of the 12 keys. The video below will help to train your eyes and mind as you become accustomed to implementing the system in the key of G. Don’t be afraid to pause the video, and be sure to return to and repeat this video until you completely understand the five position CAGED system in the keys of C major and G major.


Perfectly Plagal

As I am sure you already know, the I – IV cadence, the Plagal cadence, is indespensible to, and permeates modern music, especially rock, jazz, blues and country. All styles of guitar playing and music composition employ the I – IV or Plagal cadence extensively and heavily. to me, it is one of the cadences that define rock music. In the Key of G, the the I – IV cadence would consist of a G chord and a C chord, the two chords we have analyzed here in lesson 13. Below is a short ear training exercise to review the theory and especially the sound associated with a I – IV or Plagal cadence in the Key of G.


Applying The 5 Shapes To The Plagal Cadence

The preceding example captures the flavor and the indispensable character of a as it applies to just about all styles of guitar playing. The chords I used to record the exercise are perfectly obvious, open string or common knowledge chords. If you are going to play the rhythm guitar part of the song such as the one in that preceding example you probably would go for these open position chords as your first line of defense or as I call them: the “go to” rhythm guitar chords.

Now, of course you have a whole new set of chords to think about – the five positions of a major chord as we have learned in this lesson. The following exercises will help to expand your skills, and add new tools to your toolkit when presented with common or standard chord changes as we examine and this indispensable I – IV cadence by applying 5 position thinking (the CAGED system) to this short four bar passage.

The first example is in position III, so therefore we would be starting with standard root 6 G major bar chord, also called the E type. Of course, what we want to do is find the closest C major chord to that root 6G major bar chord. Obviously the correct choice is a root 5 C major bar chord also located on fret three, the chord we have named the A type. This move should be fairly obvious to you at this point, but I have also used these two streams to create the picking parts as you can see in the two guitar chart just below. Listen to the example once or twice and then duplicate the parts on your guitar.

As usual, we will do things in a systematic approach as we play the I – IV cadence in the key of G in position V, the D type of major chord shape. Since playing the full on shapes associated with the CAGED system is not comfortable, and is difficult to make sound good, I have opted for the G5 and C5 power chords contained within these shapes. This is a good exercise to lock i away in your memory banks for futute use in a playing situation that calls for a I- IV cadence. This idea, or a similar one, can take a cliche chord pattern, dress it up and put something special in its place.

Just below is a musical example played in the seventh position, utilizing the C type of G major chord -one with its root note on string five as is clearly shown in the illustration. Normally, this type of G chord, a C type, is not immediately thought of in a rock ‘n roll, pop are most modern musical situations. It is however very useful and can provide your playing with some interesting colors and variations.

In the two guitar chart below the rhythm guitar is playing the full on chord formations on the second and fourth beat of each measure, this is meant to emulate a simple reggae pattern. The second guitar is doing some nice melodic background work, which is not meant to be a lead but rather a complement to the rhythm guitar part. These chords work together so nicely because of how close they are to each other on the neck and also because of the note that they share in common, the G note located on fret eight of string two. Smooth chord to chord movement like this is called voice leading and in many cases can be preferable to sliding up and down the neck using “block harmony’ and common knowledge chords.

The following example in position 10 is great for rock, heavy metal and hard rock applications because playing this progression on the 10th fret really cuts through and adds a unique texture to your rhythm guitar part. Notice I am using a C5 power chord as I have discussed many times in this course and in my video lessons, I believe this type of power chord is one of the baddest (bad meaning good of course) chords in all of rock ‘n roll guitar playing. Listen to the exercise a few times then play along with it on your guitar.

The final example of lesson 13 appears below. In it, I am using the classic, iconic open string chord forms of G major and C major, except those forms have been transposed one octave higher in pitch and are therefore played on fret 12th. This part is a great example of creating interesting colors and textures with five position playing and thinking. I am using slash chords with the addition of chromatic approaches to the bass notes of those slash chords. These chromatic approaches are a way of adding smoothness and interest. These are particular chromatic runs approach the third of the chord and are among the oldest tricks in the book and similar examples can be found in countless numbers of great songs. That having been said, these are still great tricks to keep in your toolkit, still excellent ways to create interesting and professional sounding parts in place of basic chord patterns.



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