In his article, 7 Ways The CAGED System Hurts Your Guitar Playing, Tom Hess criticizes the so-called “CAGED system” that is a popular feature of many instructional guitar methods. Since I highlight the CAGED system in my guitar theory books and DVDs, and I often receive questions regarding Hess’ critical analysis, I would like to offer a response.
First off, I don’t teach the CAGED system as a method of learning scales. Instead, I teach chord forms and scale patterns separately, then show guitar players all the different ways that the two can be combined. The reason for this is because there is no one scale pattern that fits with one chord form all of the time. Different scale and chord combinations occur in music. For example, you mix a G chord with a G major scale pattern to produce Ionian mode, but the same chord is mixed with a C major scale pattern to play Mixolydian mode. In some cases a chord is mixed with a major pentatonic scale pattern, and in others a minor pentatonic scale pattern. In addition to how scales and chords are mixed, lead lines often cross over positions and use pattern combinations, three-notes-per-string, and horizontal movement, so you can’t confined them to any one type of pattern. In this way, I agree with Tom Hess that the CAGED system poses some problems as a method to learn scales, however his article is still very misleading. Below are four important points to consider.
- The CAGED system is first and foremost a method for learning chords, not scales. Hess does not fully address this.
- Hess seems to be strictly talking about his particular style, which emphasizes distortion and speed, not typical guitar playing.
- Hess is really outlining the disadvantages of confining yourself to specific positions and patterns, which isn’t necessary and not a rule of using the CAGED system. Furthermore, there are disadvantages to confining yourself to Hess’ preferred patterns too.
- Though I use a variety of scale patterns myself, I can play fast, fluently, and creatively in the CAGED positions.
With all this said, Hess’ program may still serve a good purpose for those who are interested in his style of guitar playing. Like anything else, try it out and see what results it produces for you.
Guitar CAGED Chord System Resources
Before you write off the CAGED system based on one person’s opinion, visit my page on learning the guitar CAGED chord system and determine yourself whether or not it is relevant and useful.
You can also listen to my Guitar Music Theory Lessons podcast episode from 10/25/07.
Watch my free CAGED guitar songs videos posted to YouTube.
Read the reviews of my book Fretboard Theory, which covers the CAGED system in Chapter 3.
Read the reviews of my DVD CAGED Template Chord System.
The CAGED system is also taught in my book Guitar Theory For Dummies Chapter 4.
Play Until Yer Fingers Bleed!
Mr. Desi Serna