The CAGED system contains five patterns, one for every chord shape, and the 3NPS system boasts seven patterns—one for every starting note of a seven-note scale. These make for great, though somewhat tedious, technical exercises but aren’t very efficient for learning scales unless you’re some kind of masochist.
Why Learn Scales?
A lot of guitarists just blindly learn scales without too much of idea as to why they’re doing it, or what the goal of spending hours upon hours getting these well-worn patterns down might be. Here are a couple of good reasons:
SCALES will lead to understanding; the ability to know and recall relationships between notes; this leads towards understanding the relationship between chords and how this sets an emotional mood; this leads towards understanding good composition and song writing; this leads towards good technique and more interesting rhythm work; this leads towards a roadmap for soloing and knowing various melodies to play over the right chords at the right time; this leads to complete mastery of the guitar.
At the end of the day, scales are a good way to get to know your fretboard. What you should avoid is mindlessly running up and down scale patterns you already know, as this becomes a technical exercise rather than a musical one. There’s a great book by guitarist Carl Verheyen called, ‘Improvising without Scales: The Intervallic Guitar System of Carl Verheyen’. I must warn you though, the title is incredibly misleading; this is not some kind of system for learning to improvise without learning scales (our Soloing Without Scales eBook does do this however). This book would be better described as what to do AFTER you’ve learned a bunch of scales, the basic premise being to practice constructing lines, or things you might actually play.
Anyway, back to combining the 3NPS and CAGED patterns.
Why Combine Them?
The two systems offer a different kind of work-out for your hands and brain. The 3NPS system involves some nice stretches, and is probably a more consistent way of dividing up scales and maintaining note-finger location across the fretboard. The CAGED patterns, on the other hand, have varying amounts of notes on a string and no real consistency. This is not so bad as not everything you play is going to be consistent note-wise, so it’s better to get your fingers used to random patterns. By combining these patterns, we also reduce the amount of patterns there is to learn. Let’s see how it looks in the key of F:
We start out with a nice 3NPS position, probably one of the most memorable ones.
The next pattern is a CAGED one. It’s actually the C shape one, and again it’s quite easy to learn and fits nicely onto the back of the 3NPS pattern above.
This pattern is actually the E shape one from the CAGED system, check it out:
You’ll need to transpose these patterns to different keys, well, the five keys guitarists play in, and work out the open positions if you like playing down at the nut. Have fun with this and let me know what you think in the comments. Please also download the handy PDF file below with the four patterns so you can print it out and work from it.
If you like this idea, then you’re in luck as these four patterns are the basis for our latest eBook, ‘Hacking the CAGED System‘. Check it out here.