Pentatonic Shapes in the CAGED System

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If you’ve heard about the CAGED System and you’re having difficulty trying to understand it, well, welcome to the club.

The CAGED System is supposed to help guitar players understand the fretboard more completely. The problem is, it is confusing trying to figure out how exactly it is supposed to help you do that.

Does it help understand the location of various versions of the same chord? Does it help you with soloing. Presumably, it does both of these things when you understand it a bit better. But it offers a pretty complicated and confusing way of “simplifying” things.

A good example of what it is NOT intended to do is the G-Shape where it is suggested you play a C-Chord (for example) with your fingers spread over five frets. Virtually nobody plays a chord like that.

But what the G-Shape DOES do is help you locate the various notes of the major and pentatonic scales, and help you relate these notes to other locations on the neck. That makes this shape helpful when soloing or improvising.

Here is my own CAGED Chart showing the locations of 5 basic shapes of the Pentatonic scales for C-Major. These shapes correspond to the five different “box” shapes you may have run into in discussions of the Pentatonic Scales on the guitar.

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Some noteworthy points:
1. Most guitar solos make extensive use of the Pentatonic Scale. This chart explains the CAGED system primarily in those terms (in terms of the Pentatonic Scale).
2. Each of the five shapes is spread over 4 frets, except the D-shape, which extends over 5 frets.
3. I’ve described the shapes in terms of “head” and “foot” sections. Each of these sections takes 2 frets, except for the A-foot/G-head section (which is confined to one fret (fret 5 in this case)).
4. I’ve used this “head”/”foot” description to illustrate how each shape is related to the next. The “head” of each section is the “foot” of the previous one. For example, the “foot” of the A-Shape is the “head” of the G-Shape. So every individual note actually belongs to two shapes at the same time.

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