The CAGED system is a visualization method used to learn acoustic guitar and other fretted instruments. CAGED is universally accepted as the most efficient guitar instruction method on the market, it breaks the neck up into 5 digestible chunks, each relating to the shaped of the five open chords C,A,G,E and D.
Once these have been committed to memory every scale mode and arpeggio will fit into each one of these shapes. The first step in mastering this system is to be totally comfortable with the 5 open chords C,A,G,E and D. Here are the diagrams for those chords, again take your time and relax the hand. When playing these the thumb should be placed on the back of the neck rather than over the top of the neck. This will enable you to have a more efficient grip on the neck as you hold the chords.

Once you have these chords mastered you can start to look into their bar forms. In order to visualize this you need to imagine that the nut of the guitar is a bar when in the open position, if you were to move everything up one fret you would have to re-finger the chord, but the result would be a chord that you can move around the neck to any key. Here is an example using the E shape of CAGED, this has been moved up along the fretboard and is one of the most commonly used chords in modern guitar.

When you look at this diagram you should be able to see the E form that this has come from. In the practical world we call this “position one CAGED” (so caged should actually be called EDCAG!). Why don’t you try moving each open chord up two frets and apply the bar? This is a really good left hand exercise too, so it all helps with learning acoustic guitar, but of course this can be applied to electric too. The last this we can do with these chords is to play the same chord in five different positions. To do this we need to know where the roots of each chord are.

When we do we can move each shape to the same root and suddenly we have one chord played in 5 different positions covering the entire fretboard. The hard part is knowing where one note is all over the neck, so to save you some time and illustrate my point I have tabbed it as an example and included it below. Once you have you brain around this method of guitar instruction and can visualize the shapes of the chords and also name the positions of chords you see, you can move on to the 5 corresponding minor shapes.

Father & Son

Country Road