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The CAGED Chord System For Guitar is Simple

Updated on May 4, 2018
Guitar Wizard profile image

Music School Owner, Recording Artist, Guitarist, Composer, Performer & Educator. My goal is to make good music, make and keep good friends.


What's The Big Deal?

Everywhere you look in guitarland on the net, in books and courses you will always run into mention of this wonderous system called CAGED for bar chords.

For most beginners when you start reading it your eyes glaze over as the author tries to explain it using diagrams, charts and graphs and brilliantly written technical instructions... yawn, huh? wha...Oh yes brilliantly written, oh never mind.

Open C
Open C

CAGED = 5 Different Bar Chords

Bar your 1st finger across any fret and with the other fingers you can make the open CAGE or D chords.

You're a freekin' capo now! We will refer to these non-open chords as shapes; as in C shape, A shape, G shape, E shape, D shape.

Do this and don't ask so many questions yet.

I will add this that the most commonly used bar chord shapes are:

E major, E minor, A major and A minor.

CAGED In Less Words

OK listen and don't think too hard about this.

Every bar chord anywhere up and down the guitar neck is either related to the open chords C A G E or D.

On a need to know basis OK! It just is.

Make sure you know them as open chords or stop reading now and go practice.

HubPages Article

Learning Open Chords

Play open C

Start here so you can spell the word CAGED

C Major using the Open A Hand Position
C Major using the Open A Hand Position

Bar 3rd fret and play A Shape

Usually guitarists bar with first finger on the 3rd fret and 3rd finger covering 3 strings at the 5th fret.

Open A major has moved to the 3rd fret to become C major.

You would refer to this as an A shape chord barred at the 3rd fret.

Where would Rock be without this one? Pick only the low 2 or 3 strings and you get what is known as the power chord sound.

C Major using the Open G Hand Position
C Major using the Open G Hand Position

Bar 5th fret and play G shape

(I know it's hard but don't be such a whiner, simplify it). Play either the 3 low strings EAD or the 4 high strings DGBE

Open G has move to the 8th fret to become C.

Q. Why is the G shape not thought of as being on the 5th fret?

A. Bar chords should be referenced to the bass note. On a G shape C the 8th fret is a C note. You still think of barring the 5th fret but need to need to see the root note at 8. Think frets 5 & 8

C Major using the Open E Hand Position
C Major using the Open E Hand Position

Bar 8th fret and play E shape

Where would Rock be without this one as well? Pick only the low 2 or 3 strings and you get what is known as the power chord sound.

Power Chords

C Major using the Open D Hand Position
C Major using the Open D Hand Position

Bar 10th fret and play D shape

Simplify if the stretch is too much.

C Major using the Open C Hand Position
C Major using the Open C Hand Position

Bar 12th fret and play C shape

If you've got this then you have played all possible versions of the C major chord. There ain't no mo'

Anything else would be part of the CAGED shapes.

Q. Why is the C shape not thought of as being on the 12th fret?

A. Of course the bar is at 12 however, bar chords should be referenced to the bass note. On a C shape 15th fret is a C note.

Think bar 12 and name it by 15

Another Chord?

You want another chord? Try it withoout the pretty pictures this time.

Ok F major it is.

  • Bar 1st play E shape
  • Bar 3rd play D shape
  • Bar 5th play C shape
  • Bar 8th play A shape
  • Bar 10th play G shape
  • Bar 13th play E shape

Do you see how they can go in the order of CAGED? Or is it AGEDC, GEDCA, EDCAG, DCAGE?

In the case of F we started on the E shape and continued to spell the word CAGED starting on the letter E which became EDCAG.

It's all the same isn't it.

This certainly makes a great case to learn all the notes on your neck or at least the bass strings E, A & D as that is where you are referencing to get the chords's letter name.

Notes on the Neck

Do it! It's worth the effort.

All Chord Types Can be CAGED

  • Major
  • Minor
  • Dominant 7th
  • Major 7th
  • Minor 7th

And so much more

What's It Good For?

You can't handle the truth!

These chords become really solid anchors trhat you can relate too when you start learning scales, licks and tricks. Way too much to go into now but trust me if you don't learn these you will hold your progress back a lot.

So start practicing it will make way more sense a couple of years into it.


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      15 months ago

      I'm a lefty.. Do you have stuff for us too please??


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