The CAGED chord system is the best way to really understand the layout of information on the guitar neck. Many of you will have had the the unfortunate experience of going into a guitar shop and finding a book that has a title like “All the chords and scales you will ever need” or even worse “Woodward & Thackary Complete Guitar Chord Compendium Volume 13”. On opening this inevitably dusty tome you are confronted with 100’s of pages of tiny chord and scale diagrams all jostling for attention on the page, and all looking identical save for one note changed here or there. It’s usually placed quietly back into the book shelf at this point. The more dedicated might get as far as the kumoi scale or possibly Eb Maj 7#11 but, really, are you ever going to memorise this book? Our survey says……..It would be like trying to learn a phone directory and about as sensible.
Anyway, what they don’t tell you is that the book that tells you how to write that book is only a couple of pages thick and can be learned easily. Starting to sound good eh? The basis for this is the CAGED chord system. Unfortunately on the guitar we have a quality I call “fiveness”. When you want to learn something thoroughly on the guitar, all over the neck, you usually have to learn it in 5 different shapes, those of you who have been through the ordeal of learning your blues scale shapes with me will see this illustrated by the existence of 5 blues scale shapes. This is typical, for anything else you want to learn, it too has to be learned in 5 different places. Everything you want to know, just multiply it by 5. At this point those tuba lessons you were offered as a child are starting to look more attractive, but hold on, it doesn’t have to be this way.
By learning the CAGED chord system you are taking care of this “fiveness” once. This system shows how to find the constituent notes of a major chord ( R 3 5) all over the neck. Then we view everything we want to do in terms of it’s relationship to a major chord. Let’s say we wanted to play a major pentatonic, it has the structure R 2 3 5 6 R. Well if we know the CAGED chords all we have to do is add in a 2 and a 6 into our R 3 5 CAGED chords and play the notes separately and we have it. If we wanted the phrygian dominant then we add in the b2, 4, b6 and b7 instead.
There is another just as significant benefit with this system. Often, if you learn scales the old way, boxes on the neck, their relationship with the underlying chord is something separate that also has to be learned. Human nature being what it is, this is often overlooked and you get hesitant playing where players are groping for strong tones to land. Inherent in the CAGED chord system is an understanding of the relationship between the tones that are in the scale and those in the chord.
It really is that good!