CAGED Theory

The CAGED theory is a way of revealing patterns of notes on the fretboard, therefore helping you to remember where all the notes are positioned. 'Sweep pickers' use it to find easy arpeggio patterns high up the fretboard.

Below you will see the chords that are used in the CAGED system. You should be familiar with these chords already.


If we convert the chords shown above into barre chords we can move these chords up and down the fretboard. If we convert the C chord into a barre chord we get what is called the 'C shape'.

Figure 1 (below) shows the C major chord played with 5 different 'shapes'. These shapes are called:

The C shape
The A shape
The G shape
The E shape
The D shape

Notice how the C shape is based on the open C chord, the A shape is based on the open A chord and so on.

Figure 1.

---'A'--- 'G'--- 'E'----'D'--- 'C'

The CAGED system provides various ways to play the same set of notes up the fretboard. Any of the chords C A G E and D can be played further up the fretboard by playing the next shape in the sequence.

Example - If we want to find an alternative voicing of the open A major chord we just use the next shape in the sequence, which in this case would be the 'G shape'. The lowest frets of the 'G shape' (fret 2) overlap with notes from the previous shape.


Notice how this system forces you to learn and understand the layout of the fretboard. The alternative ways of playing these chords will also provide new arpeggio and sweep picking ideas.

The rule of the CAGED system is - Whatever shape you play, the same chord can be produced by playing the next shape in the sequence further up the fretboard, or the previous shape in the sequence further down the fretboard.

Question - If I play an A major chord with the 'D shape', what is the next shape that can I use to play the A major chord further up the fretboard? Answer