The CAGED System – Introduction

C major - The CAGED System - 5 Shapes

The tuning which has through the centuries become known as The Standard Tuning for guitar, has one particular feature by which it deviates from the logical All Fourths Tuning, breaking the expected symmetrical pattern by which the notes would occur on the guitar.

Because this symmetry is broken, guitarists using the Standard Tuning are hampered in the aspect of pattern recognition and have to remember roughly three times as many shapes and patterns as guitarists who make the Tuning of Fourths their primary domain. Having to recognize three different shapes for the exact same distribution of notes, is an obstacle to an intuitive learning process.

However, the Standard Tuning has certain benefits, for which reason most people choose to stay with it, either consciously or unconsciously.

The author of this article has twice switched to the Tuning of Fourths radically, for a period of around three months, with intense, dedicated practicing, only to return to the Standard Tuning for particular reasons, mainly related to (1) the ability to create more chord-shapes with intervals containing the interval of a minor second, (2) access to basic open chords and (3) blues phrasings.

Although the intuitive pattern recognition is broken, The Standard Tuning does reveal another system entirely. This system has become known as The CAGED System.