Learn the CAGED System – Easy Ways to Remember and Use CAGED on Guitar

The CAGED system is one of those guitar concepts that you either love, or you hate. It can be used in so many different ways, and it seems that whoever you ask will have a different way of explaining it.

In this lesson we are going to look at an easy way to get started with the CAGED system. It will be used as a way to enhance your chord progressions and can open some doors when writing songs.

What is the CAGED system on guitar?

The CAGED system is made up of just 5 key chord shapes. C, A, G, E and D. Each chord in this lesson will have another letter in brackets - this represents the “shape” that we are using:

These are the 5 chords of the CAGED system in their standard form. These shapes can be adapted all over the fretboard from any root note you want to create new voicings of existing chords.

The C Form

The C Form is based around a typical C Major chord. If we move this shape around to be rooted on other notes, we need to add a barre with our first finger to replace the open strings. Here is the C form in a few other positions.

You’ll notice this is just a C chord shape being moved all over the fretboard. The chords in this lesson will only focus on the 5 root notes that make up the CAGED chords but you can apply this anywhere you want.

The A Form

The A Form is based on an A Major Chord. When you start shifting this around the guitar and rooting it in new places, you’ll notice that it’s just a 5 string Major barre chord.

The G Form

The G Form is the hardest of the CAGED shapes to move around. This is based on a G Major chord. When you move this to other positions it requires a bit of finger stretching.

The E Form

The E Form is based on an E Major chord. When you move this position around, you’ll notice that it’s just a 6 string Major Barre Chord shape.

The D Form

The D form is based around a D Major Chord. This is a 4 string chord that can be easily moved around the fretboard by adding an additional root note.

How to Use the CAGED System

CAGED is a great way to spice up existing chord progressions. This is especially useful if you are playing alongside another guitar player. If one of you is playing a simple progression of A, D and E in the standard shapes, you could play higher voicings at the same time such as these to add textures to recordings. There are a few examples of different groupings that you can approach in the video part of this lesson - the combinations are almost endless!

If you're up to speed with how to use the CAGED system then click Next to get started with Mixing Major and Minor Scales. Go Back if you still need convincing on why you should Learn Music Theory.

This PMT College lesson was brought to you in partnership with MusicTeacher.com, and written by experienced guitar teacher Leigh Fuge. Leigh works as part of a community of guitar teachers based across the UK. Click here to find a teacher near you.