For many guitarists the CAGED chord system is a mystery that needs to be unlocked. Just as it takes metal bars to build a cage funnily enough bar chords are also built into the CAGED chord system. 😉
The term CAGED comes from the open string C A G E and D chord shapes used on the guitar neck.
Using these 5 shapes you can play the notes of the C major chord (C E and G) in various positions along the guitar neck. The first shape is the regular diagonal shape used to play the open string C chord. The next shape used is the 5 string version of the C major bar chord. Here the 3 notes in a row on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings come from the A major chord shape. The next shape to be stacked on top in the diagram comes from the G chord shape. The shapes continue up the neck using the E and D chord shapes until you return to the C major chord shape again at the 12 fret.
Another example of the CAGED system shown below uses the G chord with the 5 chord shapes along the guitar neck. In this case the shapes start with the open string G chord followed by the E shape at the 3rd fret which is the standard G major bar chord. After this the chords follow the D C and A shapes until it all repeats with the G chord shape at the 12th fret.
Using Parts of The CAGED Chord Shapes
You’ll quickly discover that some of these shapes are very awkward to play. In reality you don’t really play the entire shape but only part of it. For example for the D chord shape you often just use the triangle shape on the first 3 strings and for the G chord shape only the first 4 strings are used.
The CAGED chord system also works for minor chords and other types of chords such as dominant 7ths. To be a great guitarist especially in styles such as jazz it is essential to know your CAGED chord shapes up and down the guitar neck for all types of chords. Here are the shapes and positions for C minor and C dominant 7 chords.
And here are the shapes and positions for G minor and G dominant 7 chords.
Now we’ve unlocked the CAGED chord system we will next look at how the CAGED chord system is used in songs to play riffs, arpeggios and solos.