In this week’s guitar lesson, I’ll explain a unique way of looking at the CAGED system, which allows you to play chords in multiple locations up the neck of the guitar. Once you understand this system, you’ll be able to enhance your rhythm and lead playing by being able to easily identify all of the chord shapes throughout the entire neck of the guitar. This lesson comes with 3 practice compositions (at 3 different levels) to help you incrementally build up your understanding of this system. Also, if you’d like to learn the minor chord positions using the CAGED methodology, here’s a link to that guitar lesson.
Part 1 - Free Guitar Lesson
Slow Walkthrough - Level 1 - F Chord
Slow Walkthrough - Level 1 - Bb Chord
Slow Walkthrough - Level 1 - C Chord
Slow Walkthrough - Level 2
Slow Walkthrough - Level 3
Video Tablature Breakdown
Add to "My Favorites"
You need to login or register to bookmark/favorite this content.
David M says
That’s a lot of content for one lesson. How about a lesson on the “Tramp Groove” via Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, song “Tramp” ? Stax Records.
I know this is a bit off topic but, That is a really cool guitar!
I notice you have an interesting collection, I would love to see a picture of all your guitars lined up.
I know off topic…
Michael R says
I agree about the guitars. A brief intro of each guitar at the beginning of each lesson would be interesting to me–short and sweet.
Marco M says
Hi , well that is what he does in every video where he introduces a new guitar … so not every lesson video …
Brian, this lesson is “Hugh”. Great piece of applied theory.
Great lesson Brian – the use of bottom and top sections of chords (when combined with anchor points) has really opened up the application of this method for me. I have never learned the notes on the neck and would appreciate your take on a similar practical approach to learning same.
John R says
Same for me! Perfectly stated! Yes – Excellent lesson!!!
Phillip S says
This is awesome. Finally I understand how I can use and apply the CAGED.
Claude R says
Agree about top and bottom versions of the shapes. I would add that learning the notes up the neck isn’t that daunting. Just go slowly – learn the C’s, then G’s, E’s etc and it all falls into place.
Michael Allen says
Great idea! Thanks Brian
Aussie Rick says
A really excellent lesson thanks Brian. What sets this lesson apart, is that I’ve not only gained a better understanding of CAGED than I had before, but – and this is the breakthrough – in just an hour or so, you’ve got me actually using the CAGED approach to play rhythm all over the neck. No other lessons I’d seen actually helped you make this leap from understanding CAGED, to actually using it in your playing.
Looking forward to using this newfound skill to lift my rhythm, and lead, playing to the next level.
Thanks again Brian.
David W says
A great lesson session Brian. I get so tired of all the blues lessons. I guess I’m stuck on old country music and can’t find enough truly helpful lessons in the note by note style you do. I love some of the blues stuff by you but it’s just too much for me. I do spend a lot of time on your country sessions and I would love to see more of them. No one, and I mean no one goes into note by note detail like you do. From finger placement, to the way we make every move, you cover it all. Great sessions that are so helpful to me as a struggling beginner to the professional player, you provide something for all of us. I really loved this session.
I have yet to go through this fully but it looks to be a great idea and be very useful. Brian one point that I think of from my days of old is:- simply the A shape you use takes its name from note of the 5th string where it is fretted. These were always know to me as root 5 barre chords and like wise when the E shape is used the chords are known to me as root 6 chords. You may mention this but if so I have overlooked it so far and it seems to be a very simple way to recall the names of the chords so long as you know which string t take the name from. i hope that’s right with you thanks
Jim M says
It has taken me a lot of noodling to fully understand the CAGED concept. This information that Brian has presented, is so vital to any level of a growing guitarist. It will open many musical doors. Thank you Brian !!!
I’ve been playing guitar for six years and have been a member of active melody for about three years. I have taken lessons from four instructors and have watched hundreds of online lessons. Your lessons have been the most helpful. This lesson in particular has helped me better understand the caged system. I was using partial notes but never paying attention to the other partial notes played within the chord shape. This lesson will be filed in my “favorites “. Also, I would encourage your viewers to join the premium membership. In my opinion, it is one of the best values out there. I look forward to your lesson every week. Keep up the good work.
Bill Cheek says
Thanks for continuing with chord theory and rhythm, Brian. I’ve learned the various chord inversions before, but it’s been a while since I have worked with many of them. Still working on the previous lesson, EP 272, which is great practice at getting a full sound with minimal notes in play. I find switching to different inversions of the same chord adds variety and interest to the rhythm pattern (as opposed to strumming the same one over and over). Another thing I have always loved hearing is fill chords or transition chords. Maybe you could show us how to do that. Thanks again for the great lessons.
Don B says
Greta lesson It is like you put a spotlight on the CAGED System. Thanks.
Raymond P says
What great presentation of the CAGED System. It’s brought me from a vague understanding of it to a clear understanding of it and how to use it up and down the neck. Very cool.
Allen M says
This is the best break down that is understandable of the CAGED system I have see. This is something that is usable to me. Most of the CAGED systems I have seen before were too confusing . Thanks Brian for making this simple and usable.
John R says
This was great timing for this lesson! I had just started to go a bit “deeper” on my own in this area… and I was a bit stuck… this was perfect!
(by the way… I really need to “post my praises” more often… I often “praise” many of the lessons in my head, and then I don’t “get around” to posting… sorry about that!! )
William D says
Great lesson. Very helpful thank you.
Frank M says
when you are on the G shape C cord 5th fret why isn’t that A7?
Frank M says
nevermind, mutting E
Alex B says
Thank you for another great lesson. As you said there isn’t any practice material related to the CAGED system, until now. Thanks again.
Art M says
I’ve seen the CAGED system demo’d in other means, which seems easier to be honest. First the C in the 5 positions, then the A and so on. This was a bit harder for my personal peep brain I suppose to grasp as easily. Not sure I still understood. Will have to come back to it.
Great introductory lesson on the CAGED approach. Ripe for a follow up on how the major/minor pentatonics fit around each chord. You’ve already covered playing round the chord in many lessons but bringing it all together would complete the picture.
M R says
Good – I look forward to that lesson as well.
It’s useful to see how these different shapes can be employed – maybe in future, show how a smooth progression from one to the next can be used, eg sliding notes up to a different position. However, I would say that the G shape is really just the same as the A shape, but with a different root note – i.e. it’s a first inversion of the A shape.
Pierre D says
Brilliant lesson! Always had trouble fitting the dreaded G-shape into the CAGED patterns, but here, you’ve tied everything together for me nicely! Thanks a million, sensei!
Gilles C says
Another great lesson Brian… I played guitar, (mostly Blues for the last 15 years) for quite a long time on and off, got many books and courses, but it’s nice to see a new or slightly different approach, and yours is refreshing… when I stop playing for a while, I like to change my approach for a new beginning every time, and I adopted yours for these years. Thanks for your work, and the nice melodies I get to listen to every week 🙂
Hugo J says
I do appreciate so very much this lesson on the C-A-G-E-D system, which is really helpful. However, it would be even more helpful if you could post another lesson on the scales for each shapes. Thanks
Hugo, I did everything I could to cram information into this one – it doesn’t mean that I can’t make other lessons that get into scales for those shapes as well… i can’t cover EVERY possible aspect of how CAGED can be used in a weekly lesson though. 🙄
Hugo J says
Hi Brian, thanks so much for replying! You did a tremendous job in this lesson my friend, and it’s very useful to me. Still, i’ d like to received another lesson, if possible, on scales that go with those shapes. I do understand the effort you put to make it possible, and I commend you. Take good care.
Dean M says
Once I’ve grasped the caged system and can navigate around the neck in major would my next step be minor caged system? Is there a lesson on that? Of course the 1,4,5 is all major but what if there’s a minor chord in the progression. Thanks
Check this MicroLesson for Minor shapes – https://www.activemelody.com/microlesson/microlesson-021-learn-the-minor-chord-positions-guitar-lesson/
adrian c says
Hi Brian, i have a comment along the same line; it is obvious to me now that there is no coincidence that your “Patterns” and the CAGED system are connected;
i’ve been trying hard to learn the patterns in your blues course, but i keep forgetting them probably because they are not connected to the CAGED;
if you could do lesson showing which pattern is connected to which chord shape that would make things so much easier (visually);
you are great man, keep rocking!
Thanks Brain great lesson. As a new player I have a better understanding of the CAGED System. Very practical.
Ken L says
Brian, i am just a mug on the guitar but you make me feel like i have a future.
You are the perfect teacher in my veiw.
Ken L says
Brian on this caged system tab ep273 do the x’s on strings represent muted strings regards Ken.
John G says
Thanks Brian. Your approach is practicable and really makes sense. Thank you.
Mike R says
I also think this is an excellent lesson. Different inversions all over the neck just becomes a roadmap of where we can go. I would like to see follow up lessons to this one helping us to connect the inversions in different cool ways within the standard blues progression. Thanks Brian
San Luis Rey says
I was reviewing favorite lessons and going through EP 250. There is a practical application of the caged system in C that made a light bulb go on. I have a better understanding of playing chords in different positions now. Thanks Brian!
Craig F says
I’ve tried to study the CAGED system before, but, like you said, I just couldn’t bring the teaching into the real world. One guy was showing you how to identify every note on the fretboard, but that was just too much and at the same time, too little. I wish I had run across this lesson a couple of years ago. Exactly what I was looking for. Maybe a second CAGED lesson could be in “enhancing” (showing my ignorance here) the different chord shapes– like the C chord shape that you talk about, the one Keith Richards likes to hammer on. How could the other chord shapes be enhanced with relatively easy hammer ons, pull-offs, slides, etc.? Obviously, I’m playing around with them myself, but quite frankly, 1, my ideas are limited and 2. the ideas I do have aren’t nearly as cool as yours– that’s why I’m here.
And since I’m already being that annoying guy who’s always saying, “What about…?” , how about a full lesson like the “Level 3” exercise? One thing I’m still struggling with is simple chord change embellishments– especially in the CAGED system. I know you have one or two lessons on this subject, but I remember thinking that they really weren’t chords or timing I would normally use, seeing that the songs I play are of the simpler variety. i.e. CAGED with some Am, Em, Dm s thrown in; the most complicated being an F#m or a C#m. I’ve looked for this kind of lesson, and maybe I’ve just looked in the wrong places, but I still can’t find a “Chord Change Embellishments for Morons” in the CAGED system. Well, just a thought.
At any rate, thanks again.
Pat G says
Love your work, thanks for all you do. Great and simple explanation of what can be a complex issue. My understanding was that the D shape is simply the C shape moved up one step on the fretboard, and that they are in fact identical. Is this correct”
christopher R says
Brian…great lesson…….can you give us some jj cale…….call me the breeze type?
Matt C says
Hey mate. Take a look at lesson EP188 its a nice cruisy number and may be your cup of tea .
M R says
Thanks Brian – know and practice the scales with the cage system. First time hearing the lower and higher – makes sense – thanks
Have been trying some James Taylor style, playing the base line with the chords etc.
Could you do a lesson on it, or is there an existing lesson you could suggest?
Thanks again – great approach
Jack B says
I have tried the caged system before, but there was never an end goal for what I was learning. Your method puts it to use where you can get comfortable playing chords anywhere on the neck. It’s great!
Mike D says
Thanks very much Brian for posting this lesson on the ‘Caged’ system. It was very helpful to listen to how you can simplify the fingering to get the chords, and to still remember what shapes are being used. I’ve always had a hard time pulling of the shapes with my fingers, and therefore resorting back to the chords I’m used to. I’m going to put this in my practices every day now. 🤘🏻😆🤘🏻
Harold Y says
I’ve read and watched a number of CAGED lessons and tutorials. Yours is the first one that made sense.
An interesting break away from the usual tune lessons I would like more of these lessons that explain the music theory and practical solutions for guitar.
I am going through a lull at the moment i have been here before where i don’t want to or can’t be bothered to play i must get through it this lesson just relit my fire .
This lesson is one of the most comprehensive and imaginative that you have done to date. I found it extremely useful and informative.
Thanks for your efforts.
bo brown says
jam tracks are really fast, something to shoot for I guess.
Arnold M says
I’ve gone over caged shapes a few times and have gotten to understand them. The E and A shape I used but the difficulty of the others I stayed away from. The real revelation for me was after watching this video and getting the idea of usingjust portions of the shapes, ie for the G and D shapes that I had ignored because of the difficulty. Playing around with this idea and then applying it to the popular 1,4,5 chord Blues music I enjoy was where I found the real benefit of caged (something I’ve not seen shown anywhere)- the aspect I can place finger on just one set of frets and place a song!
Take the key of C, on the 3rd fret you can use an A shape C, D shape F and an E shape G all on that fret. The 5 fret is even better as you can even add in an Am to the other parts of the other three ( lower portion of the A shape for C again, C shape for F and D shape for G). And it work for all other keys of course. This is now the real power of caged for myself! (Maybe a microlesson on this Brian?).
Frederick B says
Good lesson. Could you do a run through of this using 7th chords. I can see how you would do it with some of the chords but others appear too hard to play. It might even be done as a micro lesson.
Jimmy W says
Brian, thank you putting this all together. You really created a great resource to learn this concept. I can finally understand how to do these chord inversions.
Thomas N says
Wow. What a fun lesson. Thanks
How does this relate to modes and arpeggios?
John B says
After a year as a member I finally watched the CAGED lesson. Answered all my questions and now I get it!! Thanks Brian
Charles B says
Please put a log in button on your lesson screens. If there is one already, where is it hiding?
Charles B says
I have to go to your initial lesson screen, then, hunt for each particular lesson. I guess I just wanna make things easier since I use your great lessons all the time.
Thanks Brian for this very relatable approach to the CAGED system.
I am very thankful for that, but…. I have to say… the Jam Track is crazy fast! Especially if you want to be accurate with the strumming.
On Level 3, how you kind of delay the rhythm, you know the part. It feels like you drag the rhythm and than jump back into it. With this upwards motion.. not so easy, for a not so versatile player. 😀
Really cool, I will spend some time with this.
This is a great lesson….very few players will pick this up on the first pass…but stay with it and it really makes sense……new way for me to approach rhythm chops….thanks😎
Wow! This was kind of a eureka moment for me. I may be exceptionally thick, but the concept of the CAGED system finally dawned on me.
In my previous attempts to grasp it I may have been confused by the terminology, I don’t know. But finally it’s so very clear to me.
Ken E says
What happened to the settings icon that used to enlarge the tab sheets so we can print them out ????
william s says
Sorry Brian I Will try to remember
THANK YOU so much for this. I spent hours on lessons, and it took me a while to understand it, but you have helped me to understand. I began playing 20 months ago, and I have learned to play about 30 of your songs. I can sit and play all the songs in their entirety, something I always wanted to do and now this CAGED system finally makes sense to me. I learned the C and I can “see” the other chords in my head. Now it is only a matter of practicing each one. and I must say the backing tracks are excellent. They are the right tempo. I absolutely love all the lessons. You have made a guitar player out of me. I cannot thank you enough. I appreciate how you explain things. You are what I want to become. For the cost of membership, this is waaaaaaaay worth it and more. I also noticed you are always positive and stick to talking about the lessons only. No unnecessary talking, just great information all the time. If anyone wants to become a guitar player, Active Melody is a perfect place to start I was not able to play any of this before, now I am jamming all time and it makes me happy to unlock these achievements. Thank you Brian!
I’ve recently discovered Guthrie Trapp who is an awesome player from Nashville. He preaches about using CAGED and Arpeggios, and you provide the perfect lessons for learning this. Thanks for everything you do and its amazing how you come up with such great lessons week after week!
richard c says
I just joined with the intention of learning the Caged lesson, download the tabs and then quit. But, I have to admit, Im blown away at the sheer amount of interactive material. The video tabs are worth the price alone. You can set them to loop whatever piece you’re trying to learn. I think Im gonna stick around awhile!
Barry W says
Great lesson. I especially like the one chord backing tracks to help break the practice into bite size chunks at first. I just drew up 8 chord block diagrams to reference while starting. After about 5 minutes, I didn’t need them anymore. Thanks!!
The one cord backing track is a great learning tool…….your whole teaching concept works…my rhythm chops are getting cool…I even like listening to them😀
Dario D says
This lesson alone is worth the price of the premium membership! I now understand the CAGE system! I am amazed how clearly you helped me visualize the cords’ connection points up the neck by your “bottom and top” approach.
Thanks for the very clear and practical lesson on CAGE!
Israel U says
Bob F says
Awesome Lesson Brian, Thanks!
Winfred W says
Brian nice lesson. Is there a lesson in this group where you go over level 3 in detail?
Hi Brian- Been a subscriber for a long time, but the first reply ever. Another benefit to the CAGED is that speed of changing chords is so much more efficient than moving your fingers up and down trying to keep up and not make mistakes. Reason is that the whole key board becomes you playground and takes much less mental and physical effort knowing the CAGED system and that very little finger repositioning is used. Thanks again. Been playing since 1964 but still have so little time to practice.
Allan D says
Hey Brian, (or anyone else), just trying to get my head around the CAGED system and have managed to follow the C chord example in every position but may I ask a stupid question, please?
Why does the lesson only consist of the 3 (C, F and Bb) chords? In my ignorance I was expecting tabs for C A G E and D all over the fretboard (told you it was a stupid question). Or is it; now that we have the “how” we go on to work out the rest??
Any help greatly appreciated.
Chris O says
I’m not sure why he chose those chords but I’m guessing it doesn’t matter what chords he chooses. He’s demonstrating the pattern for playing any chord (at least major chords) using the CAGED system. What I’m seeing and slowing beginning to do, is to see which CAGED pentatonic pattern correlates to each chord pattern. He briefly goes over this in EP367.
charles m says
I was once blind, now I am beginning too see. Thank you
and….as an added bonus any chord shape you get above the 5th fret on the d g b e strings equals a ukuleles cgea standard tuning (the c is an octave lower though on the guitar – doesnt matter!!). what does that mean you ask? any chord you can play on a guitar from the 5th fret onwards is the same chord shape on a normally tuned CGEA ukulele (fyi – baritone ukeleles are tuned like a guitar – dgbe) ) but the shape you use on the guitar will only use the guitars top 4 strings obviously….i kid you not. capod from the 5th fret on a guitar the strings dgbe become c g e a. so any chord shape you use above a capod fret 5 on a guitar IS the shape you will use on a ukulele! therefore you can practice ukulele on your guitar (top 4 strings only) with a capo on the 5th fret before you think about buying a ukulele… 🙂 . so any practice you do like that instantly allows and transforms you to now have the ability to play the ukulele – all because of CAGED 🙂 cool hey!!!
typo..normal tuning of uke is gcea…apologies LOL
robert q says
Admittedly, I’m sometimes a slow learner, but the light finally went on.
Martin A says
Brian, once again thank you for this content, i have been trying to wrap my head around the CAGED system for quite some time and the penny has dropped finally.
Kevin L says
I now fully understand how to find chords all over the neck easily.
How does it work with minor chords though mate?
Bill O says
A stunning practical application of the CAGED system!
You are the Bill Bryson of guitar teaching!!
Chris O says
I’m trying to play all the F chord shapes. When I get down the neck to the G shape (bottom position), my ring finger is deadening the 4th string; doesn’t seem long enough to reach over. Any suggestions or is this fairly common.
john p says
Hello Brian. For some reason, the first video won’t play for each lesson. I get an error message to try again later. This seems to be an on going issue for about a few days now. Is there something you can do to assist me or is it an issue with my phone? Thanks
john p says
When I first saw the C-A-G-E-D system, I thought how is this going to enhance my playing. Well, everything Brian teaches enhances my playing. And the caged system is no exception . Also check out the lessons on Triads. What helped me understand both caged and Triads was learning the major scale. I think everything is built from the major scale. Thanks B!!
Leonard C says
I’ve always avoided the G shapes when moving up the guitar neck: Being able to visualize just playing the top portion or the bottom portion of the chord instead of the full six strings opens up so much. Thank You, for the lesson.
If you ever do any lessons like this for a 7 string guitar with a low B string; I will get it.
Jerry G says
Brian, great lesson and Very Practical. I always had problems with the D & G Shapes but you show a very useful form. I tried to download your Tab but won’t download. Any suggestions?
Tom N says
Brian you have a real way of making things accessible and easily understood. I was learning this on another site previously, but struggled a bit to put it into use. I really hated the D shape and probably wasn’t that keen on the G shape either, but after studying this for about half an hour using the modified and additional shapes I am able to play all of the F chords rhythmically and understand what I am doing. Also seeing the triads associated with each bigger chord.
I can’t wait to reach level three as I know this is going to be really useful and will change how I play and see the fretboard. You have no idea how long I’ve been trying to do that. A bit of work ahead, but I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Great lesson, great teacher.
Kevin D says
Wow, the way you taught this concept has made so much sense! I was familiar with the concept from watching various other lessons on it, but this lesson is SO clear. I just signed up for yearly subscription last night and already have noticed a change in my chording and my understanding of how it all connects. Thanks!
joseph p says
that was confusing
Michael Z says
Do you have a video that teaches the scales associated with each CAGED shap?
Matthew K says
In the pure sense, this is a transformative lesson for me. Deeply grateful.
Chuck M says
I’m still confused but I’ll spend more time with it. What do I do with it? My question is a little facetious — do I need to know how to play the same chord up and down the neck?
Robert G says
I feel the same way!
Joh V says
After seeing many explanations of the CAGED system, I finally start to understand what it is and how it works. Thanks Brian.
Aaron P. says
A light bulb finally went off for me after working through this lesson…thanks Brian!
I recently viewed and practiced Ep444 an acoustic work in Bm. There is a part where you go from the 3rd fret to the octave with triads. So, Ok move along… Later on I reviewed and played along with your rendition of the CAGED system. Well, bingo, lights went on. The triads were the cords I had recently played, only in minor key flat 3rd. I realized that I now had all the cords, both major and minor on the top three strings! There they were all along and when you went through the CAGED reasoning it came to light for me. I have been with Active Melody for awhile now and I just want to say to you and all that that is the reason I stay here. The most important part of the lesson is to have your guidance. l learn the piece, but get so much more from your breakdown and simplifying everything. It leads to progress and clarity for me more quickly with your input. Staying with Active Melody. Thanks Ken
ANDREW W says
Brian can you now give a quick lesson on the pentatonic scale shapes to the Major chords and then the same for the Minor Chords? Its probably been done a thousand times but I want to make sure I have them correct for both Maj and Minor, and Id apprecaite your take on it and your unique way of looking at things.
Jason W says
Hey @brian – not to nitpick but I found an error in the Soundslice tab thing.
I’m following this along and it looks like the tab for the Level 1 C chord is wrong – where it shows the “E Shape” it shows barring the 6th fret instead of the 8th.
Also the “C shape” at the beginning shows tab for the “G shape”
Jason W says
ah never mind – It was definitely wrong and I got a screenshot but when I opened it again it was correct. Must have been my browser somehow only half-way updated from when I had the Bb chord exercise open just before opening the C chord… Seems like a browser cache issue
Gene S says
I really like what you have created on teaching guitar lessons. I can play over and over till i get it. Thank you
Philip D says
Very Good Content here……. Will take me a while to learn this but will well be worth the effort