The CAGED System For Learning Guitar Scales - Part I
You may at some point have come across the term ‘CAGED’ in relation to guitar scales, and wondered exactly what it meant.
‘CAGED’ is a method for helping you memorise different scale patterns on the guitar fretboard, and how they link together. If you’ve ever tried to learn scale patterns over the whole fretboard, and found them all blending into one, or had trouble remembering the shapes, the CAGED method could help you out.
Basically, the letters of the word ‘CAGED’ relate to the different chords associated with those notes, in the regular open position, and a scale pattern is built around that chord shape. The shapes also fit together on the fretboard, so that you can move up or down the neck going from the shape for one chord letter to the adjacent letter’s shape.
In this post, we’ll look at the first few CAGED scale patterns for the C major scale.
For example, let’s take the first chord in the CAGED sequence, which is C. The regular open C chord is formed on the first 3 frets of the guitar, with the root note of the chord on the 3rd fret, 5th string.
The following diagram shows how the C major scale is formed around the open C chord shape.
The notes coloured blue are the notes usually played as part of the open C major chord, i.e. the 1st (or root), 3rd and 5th of the C major scale.
The notes marked yellow are the other notes of the C major scale, the number indicates their scale degree, that is their position within the scale.
You can use this diagram to learn this particular major scale pattern. To recall the scale pattern, just remember the shape of the open C major chord, and this should help you remember it better.
In a similar way, there are major scale shapes that are built around the other CAGED chords. The ‘A’ shape, for example, is built around the regular open A major chord shape.
or in fact, in this case it’s the A-shape barre chord, positioned at the 3rd fret.
The G scale shape is based on the open G major chord shape, moved up to the 8th fret:
All of these shapes link together, so that with practice, you can start off playing a scale in the C-shape pattern, then move up to the A-shape and G-shape patterns.
To learn more about the CAGED system for guitar scales, and how you can apply this to lead guitar soloing, take a look at the Jamorama Lead Guitar course, which is based on this method, and gives a clear step by step guide to all of the CAGED scale patterns.