What is the Caged System on Guitar

What is the Caged System on Guitar?

If you want more than just a simple explanation of what is the caged system on guitar. If your looking for a more practical use for the Caged system then take a look at this.

What is the Caged System on Guitar? A Good Question! What is the Caged System on Guitar? It is a system to play 5 open chord shapes all the way Up the guitar neck. The C chord, A chord, G chord, E chord and D chord. These are the 5 open chords. The system makes it easy to play all over the guitar neck by using these open chord shapes.

So now you know what “Caged” stands for. Lets take a look at how the system works, and more importantly how you can use it to find your way around the guitar fingerboard.

First we will go over the open chord shapes. If you already know these open chords then good your one step ahead. Just go to the C in the Caged system. It is listed below. Under the title “What is the Caged System”. Everybody else let’s start here with the C open chord.

To play the C chord, place fingers one, two, and three on strings: Two, Four and five. See the Chord Diagram of the C chord below.

What is the Caged System on Guitar
C chord

You will want to remember the root note of the chords. On the C the Root is at the 5th string, the third fret. There is also a root note on the first fret of the second string. The root is also the name of the chord. C is the Root note of the C chord.

A Chord Diagram in the Open Position

The next chord we want to see in the open position A chord. Here is how to place your fingers for an A open chord. Your first second, and third finger are all on the second fret. On strings four, Three, and Two. See the chord diagram of the A Major chord in the open position.

What is the Caged System on Guitar
A open Chord

Root of the A chord is the A note located on the 5th string. It is played open. There is also a Root note on the G string. The A on the third string.

After the A in the Caged System is the G. Here is the G open chord finger position. There are several ways to play the G chord. This is one of them. Place your first finger fifth string at the second fret. Second finger is on the sixth string at the third fret. Your third finger is on the first string at the third fret. Here is the G chord diagram.

Related Article: 5 ways to play an A chord.

What is the Caged System on Guitar
G open Chord

The root of the G is found at the third fret of the 6th string. There is a G note at the open G string, and at the high E string. Where your third finger is placed.

The Open E Chord Diagram

Now we need to know what the finger position of an E in the open position is. First finger is on the first fret of the third string. Then second finger is on the fifth string at the second fret. Third finger is on the fourth string at the second fret. Look below at the chord diagram for the E chord.

What is the Caged System on Guitar
E Major Chord

The root notes of the E chord are the E open string. Which is the 6th string. Then there is an E note on the 4th string at the second fret. Where your third finger is. Don’t forget the high E string. The open first sting is also a root note.

Last but not least the open D chord. Your fingers are placed like this to make the D chord. First finger is on the third string at the second fret. Second finger is on the first string at the second fret. Then your third finger is on the second string at the third fret.

There is a root note on the open D string. Which is the fourth string. Then another root at the third fret of the second string. Take a look at the chord diagram for the open D chord.

What is the Caged System on Guitar
Open D Chord

Now that you have the 5 open chords and how to make them. We are going to learn the Caged System. Oh if you need help with other open chords take a look at First Position chord here.

You might want to go ahead and get your guitar out. Make the chord as we go along. This way you can see first hand what the CAGED SYSTEM is.


What is the Caged System

Are You ready to unleash the Caged System?

We are going to start with a C chord. Look at the C Chord. The third fret of the 5th string. Where your third finger is. Is the root C note. It is also going to connect the next Chord Shape.

All the chords are going to connect. Once you see where they connect it will be easy to find them on the guitar.

Replace your third finger that is on the 5th string, with your first finger. Then place your third finger across string 4, 3, and 2. At the 5th fret. This is also a C chord. It is the A chord Shape.

The C is a Major Chord if you want to get an inside look at how do you know if a chord is Major or minor .Click that link!

The reason it is called the A chord shape is: If you look at the A in the open position. Notice strings 4, 3, and 2 are played. Now if you were using your third finger to Barre those strings. The nut is where your first finger would be on this chord. But you don’t need to use your first finger as the nut of the guitar takes care of it for you. Look at the Chord Diagram for the A shape C chord.

What is the Caged System on Guitar
C open chord and C A Shape Chord

Two Parts to the Chord

When you think of the Chords. Think like this; that there are two parts to the chord. One is the top part of the chord Which is that second position C chord, in the A shape. The other is the Bottom part of the chord. Which we will discuss. Just keep in your mind top and bottom part of the chord.

The other part of the A shape. Is found at the third fret. Place your first finger on the first string, still at the third fret. Then Place your second finger on the second string, at the fifth fret. Then your second finger is on the third string at the fifth fret. This is a Triad, A three note chord.

You can think as the first A chord Shape as the bottom part of the A, and the Triad as the Top part of the A.


Related Article: How to play different positions on the neck.

What is a Guitar Chord Shape

By now you can see what the guitar shapes are. If you know the Shapes, and how to connect them. Then you can play all over the guitar. Let’s not stop there we still need to learn the next chord shape.

The Next chord in the Caged System is G. First off you would not take the open G chord and play it open at the 5th fret. Here is what the G in the Caged system looks like.

First off there is the connection point. Where we left off was the Barre on the fifth fret. Replace your third finger with your first finger. This is where the G shape chord will connect at. Then your third finger is going to be playing the fifth string, at the seventh fret. Which means you are playing strings 5, 4, 3, 2 again. This is the bottom part of the G chord shape.

If you keep your first finger in position, and then place your pinkie on the first string at the eighth fret. This is the top of the G chord Shape.

Don’t get confused you are not playing the G chord, or the A chord. You are playing the C chord up the neck of the guitar.

The next shape in the Caged System is E. What you want to do is replace that pinkie with your first finger. So your first finger will be on the eighth fret. You will barre all the Strings on the eighth fret.

On the E chord Shape, you use fingers 2, 3, and 4. Instead of fingers 1, 2, and 3. Since you need to use your first finger for a barre. Look at the chord diagram below to See the C Barre chord.

What is the Caged System on Guitar
C Barre Chord

D Shape C Chord

The Last part of Caged is the D Shape. To connect the D shape with the C Chord that we just covered. Where your third and fourth finger are on the guitar. Which is at the tenth fret. Replace those fingers with your first finger. Barre from the fifth string down. At the tenth fret.

Then on the second string at the thirteenth fret place your pinkie. Your third finger is on the twelfth fret on the third string. Don’t play the sixth string or the first string. This is the Bottom part of the D Shape chord. If it was played in the open position.

you would be playing strings two and three without using your second finger on the first string. Which is played like that in a lot of rock songs. The nut lets you play it in the open position. But if you were to move up a fret, then you would have to use your first finger to barre the first fret. In order to play the chord.

The Top Part of the D shape chord is played with your second and first fingers on the twelfth fret. The second finger is on string one, and your first finger is on string three. Then your third finger is on the thirteenth fret on the second string. See how it is the same shape as the open D chord.

Remember though it is not a D chord, it is a D shape chord. But it is actually a C chord.


Related Article: What is a 1 4 5 Chord Progression.

Is the Caged System Good?

As you have read the Caged system is good. Once you learn the Different Shapes it will unlock the Fingerboard. Start with the C chord, and work through all the different shapes.

The more ways you can play a chord. The more chord voicing’s you will have to choose from. This will change how you see the fretboard. Also how you play your guitar.

I would practice setting up the shapes. Then strum them one at a time. If you have problems memorizing the shapes. Do a couple. Then go to the next chord shape. Before continuing to the next chord shape.

Then try all three. Once you get that, add another chord shape. Until you have them memorized. Then you will be able to practice using a different chord.

For Example if you start with the F chord. To play the F in the first position you would play the F barre chord. Which if you remember from earlier is the E chord Shape. So what you need to connect the next chord shape is. What chord comes after the E in the Caged System? That’s right the D. So you need to play the D shape chord next.

What you would do is replace the third, and fourth fingers with your first finger. Barring the fifth string down. On the fourth fret. Then your pinkie is at the seventh fret, second string. Place your third finger on the sixth fret third string. Only Play strings 5, 4, 3, and 2.


Related Article: How to play House of the Rising Sun.

How to Play the D Shape F Chord

Then the Top part of the F chord is Played Like a D chord. Place your fingers like this:

  • First finger is at the 5th fret. On the third string.
  • Second finger is also at the 5th fret, First string.
  • Third finger is on the 6th fret, on the second string.

D is the last letter in the word Caged, But the System continues. After D it starts over with C. So now we are looking for the C shape to make the f chord. The connection from the D shape is at the fifth fret. That is where you place your first finger. Then you barre the first three strings with your first finger.

The second finger is on the second string at the sixth fret. Your third finger is on the fourth string, seventh fret. Then finally your pinkie is on the 5th string, at the eighth fret. If that is to much of a stretch you can play that shape without your pinkie.

Another way to play that chord is just by using the barre with your first finger. Still at the fifth fret. Your second finger is on the second string at the sixth fret. Then use your third finger on the fourth string, at the seventh fret.


Related Article: How to play wipe out on guitar.

How to Play the F Chord in the A Chord Shape

The C chord shape anchor is at the eighth fret. Where your pinkie is. The next chord shape after C is the A. The A in C. A. G. E. D. You know that the anchor point is where your pinkie is. Replace your pinkie with your first finger.

You are going to want to barre the strings on the eighth fret. Then using your third finger barre strings 4, 3, and 2 to make the A shape chord.

When making this chord shape if it is difficult to barre the strings. Just place your finger on the 5th string. Then with your third finger barre the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings. You are only going to playing strings 5, 4, 3, 2.

Don’t forget the top part of the A chord. That little triad. Your first finger is positioned on the first string. At the eighth fret. Then your second and third fingers are at the tenth fret. On strings three and on string two.

The Cycle or system continues to the G. Remember it is only the G shape. But the chord is the F chord. Once you can get that idea. Then that’s half the battle. The rest is just knowing the chord shapes.

Here is a diagram of the chord shapes:

Start with the Chord and practice each Shape. You could go through the musical Alphabet and play the 5 shapes with each chord. This is going to take some practice and getting used to. But like everything new it may seem like a lot. Just take it slow and the more you practice you will slowly be using the CAGED SYSTEM.

Set up the Chord play one string at a time to make sure the strings are ringing out. That your fingers are not muting any notes. When it all sounds good strum a couple of times. Then go to the next chord shape, and proceed in the same manor. Before you know it you will have the Shapes memorized.

What is the Caged System on Guitar
CAGED Finger Position

Get the PDF to get the finger positions of the CAGED System.


Playing the G Shape F chord

The G Shape of the F chord starts with your first finger barred at the tenth fret. Then the second finger is on the second string at the eleventh fret. Your third finger is on the fifth string. At the twelfth fret. That is what you can think of as the “Top Part” of the G. Then there is the Bottom Part of the G.

The finger position for the bottom part of the G is: First finger is barred at the tenth fret. Covering strings 4, 3, and 2. Then your pinkie is on the first string at the thirteenth fret.

CAGED System in A Nut Shell

How to think about the Caged system, and take the basic fundamentals to play all over then neck of the guitar. Here are some fundamentals:

  1. Start with the Chord that you want to play. Example C Chord.
  2. Know that there is a “Top” of that Chord, and a “Bottom” of that chord.
  3. Play that chord, then the next chord shape is the next chord in the System. Which in the example of C the next chord shape is A.
  4. Know the 5 Shapes.
  5. Know that the system starts over. Example if you are on the D chord. The next shape is the C.
  6. Remember what chord you are playing. In this example a C chord. Even though it is in a different shape.
  7. Practice to learn the shapes.

How to Use the Guitar Chord Shapes

By now you should have a good understanding of the Caged System. This is how you would use it. Say you wanted to play the D chord. But instead of playing the D open chord you are going to play the D A shape chord. Which the root is D and it is found on the 5th fret of the 5th string. Then your third finger is covering strings 4, 3, and 2. You are only playing strings 5, 4, 3, 2.

Then you need to think to yourself if you want to play the D chord in the next Caged system Shape. Which after the A chord shape is G. So you need to use the G shape. To know Where the root of a chord really will help in this process. If you need help learning the notes here are 11 tips to learning the guitar notes.


How Many Notes are in a Guitar Chord?

This is a question that is often asked, and that is how many notes are in a guitar chord? A basic chord consists of 3 or more notes. The 1 3 5 of the Major Scale. This is the steps of the Major scale. The 1 is the root note. Which is also the name of the chord. Then the 3rd step of the Major Scale and the 5th step of the Major Scale. When all three of these steps exist together it makes up a Major Chord. If you want to learn all the secrets to Major barre chords. Click this link: What are the Major barre chords on Guitar

There are also minor chords that have at least 3 notes in them. Even though you can have more notes. Like in the seventh chords. The Seventh chords consist of a 1, 3, 5, and 7. Which are also steps in the Major Scale.

There is also a (min7). Which is spelled out minor 7. This Chord has a 1 b3 5 b7. The symbol (b) Means flat. Then there is a dominant 7th chord. Which is the 1, 3, 5, b7, steps of the Major Scale. If you want to learn more about how the Major Scale and chords work click this link: How do you know if a Chord is Major or minor?


What is Root Note Guitar?

The root is the Tonic or the fundamental note of the chord. That is how the musical dictionary describes what the root note is. Let me try to explain it to make it a little easier to understand.

When we say “Tonic”, this is the first note of a scale. It is also the first note of a key. Which makes it the Key note. The note is the duration of a sound. Which is also a symbol used in music notation. The note symbolizes the duration of the sound.

The Scale is a series of notes in order that represents the key. The scale can be going up in pitch or going down in pitch.

All that being said here is an example of the root of a chord. Lets take the G chord, that’s a popular chord. Here it is in it’s open position.

What is the Caged System on Guitar
G chord diagram

First off the G is the key note. Which means it is the Tonic, or root note of the key of G. Which the Key of G has these notes in it. G A B C D E F#. On the guitar fretboard the root of this chord is found at the third fret. See in the Chord diagram the root note is the G on the 6th string. The chord has the notes that are in the key of G.

The 5th string has a B at the second fret. Then there are open strings. Which when played have an inherent pitch to them. Which makes the note sound of the string. The open strings in order are D G B.

Root Notes

Notice still more notes out of the Major Scale. Also another G root note. Then there is another root on the first string at the third fret. A Chord needs at least three or more notes to be a chord. A Major chord has a 1, 3, 5, steps of the Major scale.

The G chord has a 1 which is also the root. Which is the G note. Then the third of the Major Scale is the B note. Now we just need a 5th step of the Major scale. If we have that we have a chord. The 5th step is the D note.

I hope this has made things a little clearer for you on what a root note is, and how it works on the guitar.

If you like that guitar lesson, maybe you would like these guitar lessons.


Related Questions

CAGED System Guitar PDF

To really learn how to play all over the guitar neck. Using the CAGED System really opens it up. The article above really shows how the chord shapes work. Here is a free PDF to help you learn the CAGED System.

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