The CAGED system is a method for quickly and logically learning all the potential chord inversions for the guitar’s fretboard. Ordinarily the basic shapes are taught to you and for playing in bands or basic accompaniment, this is fine. However when you want to push your playing and delve deeper into harmony, the CAGED system is a perfect way to do so.

Any chord can be played in any of the 5 shapes that we learn in open position: C, A, G, E and D. This is particular helpful if you’re playing solo guitar, outlining a melody or using extensions to colour the harmony. If you have dabbled in blues or jazz you may have come across a ‘9th’ chord (i.e in D, x 5 4 5 5 x) which is, in fact, built on a ‘C-shape’ shifted up to the D note on the 5th fret.

The Shape of Jazz To Come

Looking at C, here are its 5 inversions according to the CAGED framework.

C shape A shape G shape E shape D shape
Cshape Ashape Gshape Eshape Dshape

Minor chords are similar to major chords in that they share 2 of the 3 notes used to generate them, the root and 5th (if you are unfamiliar with building chords, I’ve covered it here). The note that differentiates them is the ‘3rd’: in the case of C major this is E, and C minor it is Eb.

Before we move on, here’s a table of the chord symbols I am going to be using:

Chord name Symbol Alternate names Common usage
Major 7 Δ maj7, M7 I, IV
Minor 7 m7, minor 7 ii, iii, vi
Dominant 7 dom, x V, VI, III
Augmented + aug V
Diminished ° dim V, vii
Half Diminished ø m7b5, half dim vii

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