Caged Systems


I assume here that the reader is familiar with 5 open major chords: A,C,D,E, and G. If not, you can go here ( http://simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/chords/openmajor.html) . It would also be a good idea to have learned barre chords (but not necessary). Info on barre chords at http://simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/chords/upneck.html

To get the most out of the lesson, one should understand moveable chords/scales and how to relate them to a specific root (try here if you need help - http://simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/chords/root.html)

To give a brief overview of the lesson ,
Caged systems:

1.) are a type of zone system.
2.) are closely related to box patterns.
3.) correspond to open major chords.
4.) always repeat through the fretboard in the same pattern.
5.) correspond to the tuning.
6.) can be used for scales/arpeggios, etc.
7.) can be tweaked to yeild more information out of chordbooks, lessons, etc.

So we begin to consider these things one-at-a-time.

1.)Caged systems are a type of zone system.

Recall, the last lesson ( http://simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/fretboard/zones.html) dealt with zone systems, and that a zone system was a systematic way to carve up a fretboard into smaller chunks.

The caged patterns are a way of carving the fretboard into smaller easier chunks.

2.)Caged systems are closely related to box patterns.

Caged patterns have not always been called caged patterns (or caged shapes, caged positions, etc.). people used to refer to them (and still do) as "box patterns" (boxes, box shapes, etc.). There are ongoing gripes about people feeling "trapped inside the box".

The term caged has been largely tauted through the "fretboard logic" books, and those who've read them. But video and transcriptions show that guitarists have been using these shapes without the name "caged" for a long time (BB King comes to mind as someone who had been interviewed , and gave away the box shapes he uses).

3.)Caged systems correspond to open major chords.

Ok. So why the name "caged"?
The shapes correspond to open major chords A,C,D,E, and G.

Recall, previously we had looked at how to create barre chords, and moveable positions from open position chords and scales (see "up the neck" http://simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/chords/upneck.html)

I'll briefly recap that information here:

open A major chord

O|---|---|---|
-|---|-O-|---|
-|---|-R-|---|
-|---|-O-|---|
R|---|---|---|
O|---|---|---|
0  1   2   3

major chords (A-shape) starting at fret X.

|-O-|---|---|
|---|---|-O-|
|---|---|-R-|
|---|---|-O-|
|-R-|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|
  X

open C major chord

O|---|---|---|
-|-R-|---|---|
O|---|---|---|
-|---|-O-|---|
-|---|---|-R-|
O|---|---|---|
0  1   2   3

major chords (C-shape) starting at fret X.

|-O-|---|---|---|
|---|-R-|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-O-|---|
|---|---|---|-R-|
|-O-|---|---|---|
  X

open D major chord

-|---|-O-|---|
-|---|---|-R-|
-|---|-O-|---|
R|---|---|---|
O|---|---|---|
-|---|-O-|---|
0  1   2   3

major chords (D-shape) starting at fret X.

|---|---|-O-|---|
|---|---|---|-R-|
|---|---|-O-|---|
|-R-|---|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-O-|---|
  X

open E major chord

R|---|---|---|
O|---|---|---|
-|-O-|---|---|
-|---|-R-|---|
-|---|-O-|---|
R|---|---|---|
0  1   2   3

major chords (E-shape) starting at fret X.

|-R-|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|
|---|-O-|---|
|---|---|-R-|
|---|---|-O-|
|-R-|---|---|
  X

open G major chord

-|---|---|-R-|
O|---|---|---|
R|---|---|---|
O|---|---|---|
-|---|-O-|---|
-|---|---|-R-|
0  1   2   3

major chords (G-shape) starting at fret X.

|---|---|---|-R-|
|-O-|---|---|---|
|-R-|---|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-O-|---|
|---|---|---|-R-|
  X

It should be noted that the A,D, and E shapes are used more often than the C and G shapes.

4.)Caged systems always repeat through the fretboard in the same pattern.

Ok. So why is it called "caged" (again)?
the shapes cover the entire fretboard and the patterns connect (overlap) always the same way.

C-shape goes to A-shape goes to G-shape goes to E-shape goes to D-shape goes to C-shape goes to A-shape goes to G-shape goes to E-shape goes to D-shape, etc.

C-A-G-E-D-C-A-G-E-D-C-A-G-E-D-C-A-G-E, etc.

Start on any one of the shapes , and the next shape on the fretboard is the next letter in the above pattern (and the previous shape is the previous letter).

An illustration using the above major chords shapes E-D-C-A-G-E

E-shape

|-R-|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|
|---|-O-|---|
|---|---|-R-|
|---|---|-O-|
|-R-|---|---|

D-shape

|---|---|-O-|---|
|---|---|---|-R-|
|---|---|-O-|---|
|-R-|---|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-O-|---|

C-shape

|-O-|---|---|---|
|---|-R-|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-O-|---|
|---|---|---|-R-|
|-O-|---|---|---|

A-shape

|-O-|---|---|
|---|---|-O-|
|---|---|-R-|
|---|---|-O-|
|-R-|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|

G-shape

|---|---|---|-R-|
|-O-|---|---|---|
|-R-|---|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-O-|---|
|---|---|---|-R-|

E-shape

|-R-|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|
|---|-O-|---|
|---|---|-R-|
|---|---|-O-|
|-R-|---|---|

connect and cover the fretboard like such.

|R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|
|O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|
|-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|
|-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|
|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|
|R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|
 E-> D-> C->   A-> G->-> E->->

The very far left of the above diagram is not meant to be the nut, but could be any fret.

3 examples of the major chord and the connected shapes follow:

A major chord
=============

O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|
 |-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|
 |-|R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|
 |-|O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|-|
R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|-|
O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T E W H
A-> G->-> E-> D-> C->   A-> 

C major chord
=============

O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|
 |R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|
O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|
 |-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|
 |-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|
O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T E W H
C->   A-> G->-> E-> D-> C->   

F major chord
=============

 |R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|
 |O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|
 |-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|
 |-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|
O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|O|-|
 |R|-|-|-|O|-|-|O|-|-|-|-|R|
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T E W H
  E-> D-> C->   A-> G->-> E->->

5.)Caged systems correspond to the tuning.

Both to the absolute tuning EADGBE, and the set of related tunings (based on P4-P4-P4-M3-P4).

The related set of tunings given by the distances from string-to-string of P4-P4-P4-M3-P4 , include tunings such as: EADGBE (standard tuning), Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb, Ebb-Abb-Dbb-Gbb-Bbb-Ebb (also written as DGCFAD), E#-A#-D#-G#-B#-E# (also written as FBbEbAbCF), etc.

All of these related tunings with the same string distances will give the exact same patterns as EADGBE; however, the tones (notes) would've shifted so if you're playing in EbAbDbGbBbEb and you play the open major chord

O|---|---|---|
-|---|-O-|---|
-|---|-R-|---|
-|---|-O-|---|
R|---|---|---|
O|---|---|---|
0  1   2   3

you'd be playing an open Ab major chord.

So the names of the shapes come out of the standard tuning (EADGBE).

I've included the root notes in the drawings (that is not usually done when discussing caged patterns) to more clearly show where the patterns connect and overlap, and also to show that the patterns are created by the tuning.

So then E-shape has root notes on the 6th, 4th, and 1st strings.

|R|-|-|
|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|
|-|-|R|
|-|-|-|
|R|-|-|

D-shape has root notes on the 4th, and 2nd strings.

|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|R|
|-|-|-|-|
|R|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|-|

C-shape has root notes on the 5th, and 2nd strings.

|-|-|-|
|R|-|-|
|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|
|-|-|R|
|-|-|-|

A-shape has root notes on the 5th, and 3rd strings.

|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|
|-|-|R|
|-|-|-|
|R|-|-|
|-|-|-|

G-shape has root notes on the 6th, 3rd, and 1st strings.

|-|-|-|R|
|-|-|-|-|
|R|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|R|

And this is the real pattern repeating throughout the neck.

|R|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|R|
|-|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|
|-|-|R|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|-|-|
|R|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|R|
 E-> D->   C-> A-> G->-> E->

If we represent the root note with a 1, the major 3rd with a 3, and the perfect 5th with a 5, we can redraw the fretboard for the major chord as below:

|1|-|-|-|3|-|-|5|-|-|-|-|1|
|5|-|-|-|-|1|-|-|-|3|-|-|5|
|-|3|-|-|5|-|-|-|-|1|-|-|-|
|-|-|1|-|-|-|3|-|-|5|-|-|-|
|-|-|5|-|-|-|-|1|-|-|-|3|-|
|1|-|-|-|3|-|-|5|-|-|-|-|1|

here we can see the pattern repeated for each note.

6.)Caged systems can be used for scales/arpeggios, etc.

So if we are cutting up the fretboard by using these shapes (octave patterns)

|R|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|R|
|-|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|
|-|-|R|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|R|-|-|-|-|-|
|R|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|R|

then we can create E-shape, A-shape, etc. patterns for other chords and scales, etc.

Take the A minor scale (minor scale =1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7)

 5|b6-|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
 2|b3-|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
b7|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|---|
 4|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|---|
 1|---|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|
 5|b6-|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
 0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10  11  12  13

We create caged positions by copying the frets that contain the octave position and the frets above or below it that are need for any "missing notes".

So A minor scale

Minor scale "A-shape" (open position)

-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
-2-|b3-|---|-4-|
b7-|---|-1-|---|
-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
 0   1   2   3

Minor scale "G-shape" (starting at 2 fret or 14 fret)

|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|---|
|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|---|
|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|
  2

Minor scale "E-shape" (starting at 4th fret or 16th fret)

|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
  4

Minor scale "D-shape" (starting at 7th or 19th fret)

|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|
|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|
  7

Minor scale "C-shape" (starting at 10th or 22nd fret)

|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|---|
|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
 10

Minor scale "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|
|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
 12

7.)Caged systems can be tweaked to yeild more information out of chordbooks, lessons, etc.

We've already talked about/shown noting where the root notes are, and learning the chromatic scale in intervals using caged patterns.

As we move twords mastery, and we begin seeing these patterns within patterns, we can tweak other people's chordbooks, lessons, etc.

We can start by:
a.) marking the root notes if they are not already marked. You could place a circle around another circle or fill in the circle, or place a square around it, etc.

Doing this alone will help point out how much filler your chord book has. Nothing against chord books, they serve a purposefor a time, but eventually, given enough dedication, a player should advance beyond it. Once you've noted the root notes you can compare chords of the same type (major, m, m7, etc.) in different keys, and see if and where they give you different voicings or the same voicings on different frets.

Good chord books exist, so do excellent ones. the good ones generally won't claim to have 22,000 chords or ALL the chords. the better ones will tell you where the root note is. The excellent ones will give tutorials on how to use the book, and what you can do with the patterns, show moveable position {as such} and not use 12 times the paper and ink to create a larger than needed book.

b.) Converting the circles in given shapes into intervals (numbers), allowing you to create your own voicings out of the given info (see http://simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/chords/voicings.html for more info on how to creatre your own voicings).

Becoming familiar with the chromatic scale in intervals in caged positions allows us an easy way of playing chords and scales we don't know (or can't find a shape for in a book ,or on the web, etc.) if we know the intervals contained in the chord/scale. this becomes useful when creating arpeggios.

ex.
We want a Cm11/G (m11=1,b3,5,b7,9,11) in c-shape (G is the 5 , 4=11, and 2=9, btw).

  |-4|--|-5|--|--|b7|--|-1|--|-2|b3|--|-4|
  |-1|--|-2|b3|--|-4|--|-5|--|--|b7|--|-1|
 5|--|--|b7|--|-1|--|-2|b3|--|-4|--|-5|--|
 2|b3|--|-4|--|-5|--|--|b7|--|-1|--|-2|b3|
  |b7|--|-1|--|-2|b3|--|-4|--|-5|--|--|--|
  |-4|--|-5|--|--|b7|--|-1|--|-2|b3|--|-4|
 0 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 11 12 13
 C->     A->    G->->   E->   D->       C->  

from which we pull out

  |-4|--|-5|--|
  |-1|--|-2|b3|
 5|--|--|b7|--|
 2|b3|--|-4|--|
  |b7|--|-1|--|
  |-4|--|-5|--|
 0 1  2  3  4  

and we can play

  |11|--|--|
  |--|--|-9|
  |--|--|b7|
  |b3|--|--|
  |--|--|-1|
  |--|--|-5|
 0 1  2  3  4  

Below is a list of URLs mentioned in this lesson.

Peace,
Christopher Roberts
snglstringtheory@aol.com


Open Major chords
http://simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/chords/openmajor.html

barre chords, moveable shapes
http://simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/chords/upneck.html

Root notes
http://simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/chords/root.html

Zones
http://simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/fretboard/zones.html

Voicings
http://simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/chords/voicings.html


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Last updated November 7, 2002
Copyright 200, 2008. All rights reserved.