The CAGED system is a method for navigating the guitar fretboard. It’s based on the open chords C, A, G, E, and D. The method is pretty simple:

  1. Fret an open chord (C, A, G, E, or D). Be sure you know where the roots are and what finger is playing a root. Call the finger playing the root the root finger.
  2. Rearrange your fingers to keep your 1st finger free.
  3. Place your 1st finger behind the nut to ‘bar the open strings’. You now have a CAGED grip. If you made a C chord, it’s a C grip. If you made an E chord, it’s an E grip. Etc.
  4. Slide the entire grip up the neck, including your 1st finger. Whatever note your root finger is on defines the chord.
  5. Example:
    1. Make an open A chord and rearrange your fingers to make a CAGED grip.
    2. Slide the chord up 4 frets so that your 1st finger is at fret 4 and frets the note C# at fret 4 of string 5.
    3. You are now playing a C# chord (your root finger is on the note C#) using the A grip. It’s not an A chord! It’s a C# chord. It uses the CAGED A grip.

The diagrams below show each CAGED chord shape and the major scale built from that shape. Look closely and make sure you can see the chord shape embedded in the scale diagram.

Challenge 1

Play through all five CAGED shapes in the key of D. The jam track is about four minutes of a D chord groove. Play through the shapes as we did in our lesson. One idea is to play the chord first to get your bearings. Once you ‘see’ the chord, play the scale.

  • D chord C-shape
  • D chord A-shape
  • D chord G-shape
  • D chord E-shape
  • D chord D-shape

Challenge 2

Play through all five CAGED shapes through the circle of fourths. Start with a C chord at the eighth fret (E-shape) and try to stay in the same area of the neck as the chords change. As with Challenge 1, play the chord first to get your bearings. Once you ‘see’ the chord, play the scale. Here is the chord progression (each chord is played for four bars):

  • C
  • F
  • Bb
  • Eb
  • Ab
  • C#
  • F#
  • B
  • E
  • A
  • D
  • G
  • C