The CAGED System

The CAGED system is a way of breaking down the guitar fretboard into 5 easy workable sections. You should have already memorised your five open chords (D, A, E, C & G). Now we are going to put those chords into bar chord shapes and then place in set order. This order is C Major, A Major, G Major, E major & D Major... or CAGED to help you memorise the order.

You must be able to play the 5 open chords (C, A, G, E & D) as bar chords. We are not looking for a great sound (although it would be helpful) but mainly trying to visualise how each one of these open chords is played as a bar chords.

After teaching this method to numerous lessons and asking them the order of their most liked bar chord shape to the least favorite, this was the order of almost all answers.

  1. E Shape (most favorite or easiest)
  2. A Shape
  3. C Shape
  4. D Shape
  5. G Shape (least favorite or easiest)

Once you can make these 5 bar chords shapes, try to piece them together. Pay close attention to the root notes of each chord and see how the next chord links together through them.

Follow the animation through a few times until you can make out the definite divisions of the 5 shapes (CAGED).


By playing these five shapes you are not playing 5 different chords, even though the shapes are different the chords are not. For example the diagram below starts from the open C position playing a C chord, this is your normal open C. The next chord is C major played as an A Shape bar chord, then a C Major Chord played as a G Shape Bar Chord and so on. It is laid out like this...

  • C Chord :: C Shape, Open Position (Pink)
  • C Chord :: A Shape, root note 5th string 3rd fret (Yellow)
  • C Chord :: G Shape, root note 6th string 8th fret (Orange)
  • C Chord :: E Shape, root note 6th string 8th fret (Green)
  • C Chord :: D Shape, root note 4th string 10th fret (Blue)

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