Is the CAGED System Crap? (Part 2)

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Read Part 1

Let’s continue with our look at one of the most famous scale systems around.

Who actually uses the CAGED system?

Not even Google knows the answer to this though it seems that it’s the mainstay of a plethora of guitar teachers as well as an endless selection of books, DVDs and so forth. I don’t seem to recall any noteworthy players being die-hard fans of the system which only adds to the suspicion.

Wading through the blurb of some CAGED system purveying websites, what the system claims to do is to divide the neck into manageable chunks thereby simplifying it. I found the opposite to be true and abandoned it along with its distant cousin the three note per string (3NPS) system. I mean, I imagine it works for some people but marketing it as some magic solution is a little deceptive in my opinion just because of the sheer amount of work the CAGED system requires.

So what are the alternatives?

It would be wrong not to shamelessly promote my own 2 Position System. This system actually came out of the frustration created by the CAGED system and 3NPS system among others, so I should be grateful. The basic idea is to use 2 patterns per scale in order to reduce memorization to virtually nothing and concentrate on actually making music and being able to use the entire neck confidently.

On the subject of the 3NPS system, which is not as flawed as the CAGED system, I do have a recommendation. There’s a fantastic variation on it over at Uncle Tim’s Fine Guitar Books which makes it far more musically accessible. The book is called Uncle Tim’s Building Blocks and is well worth checking out.

The more the merrier

If 7 positions aren’t enough for you, check out the 12 Position System. The 12 positions are of course the 12 keys and this scale system basically involves playing all 12 keys in the same place on the neck, as you can see here. If you do a lot of sight-reading or play a lot of music involving rapid key changes I can see this system being useful.

If you’re hungry for yet more patterns I’ll leave you with Pebber Brown’s 14 Position System, which looks fantastic on paper, but can it be practical?

All in all you can learn something from all of these systems, a big part of which is finding out what you don’t like and what doesn’t work for you. Try them all!


About Graham Tippett 301 Articles
Compulsive guitar blogger and writer of many innovative guitar books.

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