Neck Mastery Through Transposing The 5 Shapes

The purpose of this course is to develop serious, professional level guitar skills with regards to chords and chord knowledge. One of the best and most time-honored traditions in the practice of musical instruments is practicing in all 12 keys. If this sounds tedious and labor-intensive it's because it is.  People who are truly good in anything are never dissuaded are discouraged by the amount of work or effort famous put into something because they are only focused on their goal. Your goal is to be comfortable in any playing situation you may find yourself in, never being caught short or confused when it comes to finding and playing the correct chord, in order to attain that goal you must practice the system in all 12 keys. Up until this point we have learned to play five major chords in the keys of C and G, in other words we have implemented the CAGED system in these two keys. To organize your practicing, use the circle of fifths as is illustrated below:

As we have already studied the keys of C and G in the previous lesson, in the lesson we will take good look at the keys of D, A, E, B and F#, also called the sharp keys. If any of these ideas or terms used here in this lesson are a little unclear to you, I urge you to take the music theory course offered here at To begin our study of the sharp keys, check out the video below.



Diagramming The 5 Shapes In The Sharp Keys

In the preceding video we had the opportunity to visualize our five position chord system in the keys of D major and A major. The diagram just below will serve as a practicing guide for you to visualize, memorize and drill on the five shapes up and down the neck as you saw me doing the video. Play them in time and with paying special attention to the root note of each chord. Also, remember the third, fifth, seventh and 12th frets are your guides for navigating and negotiating your way around the neck. In all the diagrams in this course I have placed a bold blue color in each of those important frets as a guide and aid to your process of visualizing each key on the neck of the guitar. Although these diagrams seem daunting and confusing at first you'll find that this method makes a lot of sense and will enable you to be at home and comfortable in every key.

The 5 Shapes Of D Major

Below, we will continue our journey by examining the key of A major.  Once again I have placed a large guitar neck in the left of the diagram which shows you every note in an A major chord in this case A, C# and E, and of course all of the A root notes in that key are highlighted with those big red buttons. As I said, before these diagrams can seem intimidating and confusing but you'll be surprised at how clear they will become and how many great ideas they will fill your mind with and how much easier they will make your quest when you give them a chance and look at them repeatedly on a daily basis. Study the key of a major below by buzzing your way through the chords up and down the neck, in time, just as you saw me doing the video.

The 5 Shapes Of A Major

As we progress towards completing our study of the CAGED system as it applies to the sharp keys make special notice of the five positions in the key of E major as is illustrated below. One of the most important things I learned in all my years of teacher training is the concept of scaffolding, which means you should build all new knowledge on pre-existing knowledge. The common knowledge E major chord in the open position, which of course is in the key of E major, is one of the first things we learn as guitar players.  Therefore studying the five positions in the key of E should help to firm up and cement your knowledge of the CAGED system because it is built on something that you already know so very well, the open position E major chord.  Remember this concept of scaffolding as you progress through the course.

The 5 Shapes Of E Major

Below the CAGED system is illustrated in the key of B major, which is a relatively uncommon key in the world of rock and pop music but it does occasionally appear. The chord B major itself of course is quite common and useful as is every major chord. Most notably, B major is the V chord in the key of E.  As with all of the diagrams on this page play these chords up and down the neck slowly, purposely and in time. The speed of the exercise does not matter, what matters is your accuracy, awareness of the root notes and fluidity.

The 5 Shapes Of B Major

To complete your study of the CAGED system as it applies to the sharp keys, study and play your way through the diagram below in the key of F sharp major, which is certainly a very uncommon and seldom used key in the world of modern music – especially as it pertains to guitar playing. It would be a mistake however to ignore this key and simply assume you'll never need it because you definitely will. Our approach here can be described as “leaving no stone unturned”.  Give the diagram below the same amount of attention and study as you did to the one in the key of C major.

The 5 Shapes Of F# Major

To conclude this lesson I have included one of my favorite chord exercises and one of the best CAGED system learning tools I have ever come up with, I call it power cycling. In my personal journey through learning the guitar I have always noticed that when I thought I knew something, I really only knew it about halfway. For that reason I came up with this exercise during my study of the CAGED system. I call it power cycling because I am progressing through the cycle of fifths in each one of five positions. The exercises below concentrate on the sharp keys so you will be starting on a C major chord and progressing through the sharp keys in order and of course in time -all the while you will be keeping your position shifting, traveling up and down the neck, to an absolute minimum.  Mastery of all the power cycling exercises in this course will put you well on your way to having a professional guitarist's skill level concerning naming and finding chords quickly.

Power Cycling Beginning With C Major In The Open Position

Just below is the first one of five exercises to introduce my practicing concept of power cycling. Play each chord for two beats beginning with the C major chord you will progress to the cycle of fifths giving each new chord two beats, during this exercise will also help you memorize the order of the keys in the all-important cycle of fifths. After you complete the cycle one time a new count will begin and the tempo will change from a relatively slow 94 bpm to a quicker 120 bpm. As you read your way through the chords notice that you have played seven different major chords but have also kept the position shifting to a minimum. This exercise may seem easy but I have seen very few people master it quickly; it really is a guitar player’s brainteaser.

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Power Cycling Beginning With C Major In Position III

Continue this series of five exercises by shifting your attention to a C major chord located on fret three, the root five a type of major chord. As you check out the diagram below notes none of the chords from the previous exercise are repeated but once again you will be starting at a relatively slow tempo, then changing to a quicker tempo as you make your way through the cycle of chords, playing a major chord in each one of seven keys with doing very little position shifting. This exercise makes a lot of chord changes  in a very short period of time, something which is not normally seen in your average playing or chart reading situations. This is a great exercise because it can make normal, or run-of-the-mill chord charts seem quite easy.

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Power Cycling Beginning With C Major In Position V

This exercise begins with a G shape major chord, in the key of C that puts us on fret V. Once again we will be using the same protocol as in the previous two exercises as we progress through the cycle of seven keys with a solid beat. The G shape of the major chord sound is really not a "go to" rhythm guitar or first choice chord as I have said many times -it is however highly useful and serves as an important visualization tool in your study of the guitar neck. As you progress through these exercises notice the textural shift in the sound of the guitar relative to to the bass and drums as we progress higher up the neck.


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C Major Power Cycling In Position VII

Since power cycling in position eight begins with a very common E shape of the major chord sound you will probably want to pay special attention here.  Obviously, the C major chord in position VIII is probably one of the first C major chords you will grab when the need arises so this exercise deserves extra consideration. Again, all factors remain the same: seven major chords in seven keys with very little position shifting played in time and cleanly. Pay special attention to the root notes and to visualizing these seven shapes as you progress through the cycle.

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Position X Power Cycling In C Major

The fifth and final exercise in this series appears below. The first shape in the series is the D type, or the root four version of C major chord, which happens to be a personal favorite. All the basic parameters of this exercise are the same as in the first four but once again listen to the shift in texture and sonic quality of the guitar as we progress higher and higher up the neck. This series of five exercises should be repeated time and again, with or without the backing track as hopefully, you up and printing and saving every page in this course in a nice neat and complete notebook for your personal study.

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