C-A-G-E-D in a NutShell

So, you’ve learned some open chords on your guitar. You’ve stuck with it through the sore and freshly callused fingers that marks the rights of passage for every beginning guitarist. Don’t fret though (pun intended), your reward is having open chords mastered and songs like “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Bad Moon Rising” on lock. That’s all nice on ice, but what now? Well, it may be time to start noodling around the neck. Yes, it could be the perfect time to take the training wheels off and unleash yourself from the shackles of the open chord position! If you’re ready to embark on the never-ending road trip up and down your fretboard, a journey that could bring you everlasting joy, the C-A-G-E-D approach might be your starting road map.

While it’s important to remember that the C-A-G-E-D approach to guitar theory is only one of many, it’s deemed a keen place to start and benefits from; 1) its specificity to the guitar’s fretboard layout and 2) its ability to bridge the open beginner chords to a broader context. This approach allows you, the beginner guitarist, to build upon what you’ve already learned with open chords by expanding that foundation across the fretboard.

CAGED chord shapes laid over the positions of the pentatonic scale.....

CAGED chord shapes laid over the positions of the pentatonic scale.....

Named after 5 common open major chords (take a look below for a look at the C major, A major, G major, E major and D major open chords), the C-A-G-E-D approach takes 5 positions of the pentatonic scale and overlaps these commonly used open shapes on top to give each of the pentatonic positions context. This is how our above road map is built.


To start, it’s best to think of each of the five individual positions of C-A-G-E-D as blocks that fit together like puzzle pieces. Each major chord shape connects and overlaps with its neighboring chord shape. Keep piecing these blocks together across the fretboard and what you get is a mapped grid of the chord’s notes within the pentatonic scale. Where one major chord shape ends, the next begins.