The CAGED System Antidote Part 3

caged system guitar

If you’ve ever tried to employ the modes via the CAGED system then you probably ended up tearing your hair out. The big problem here is that the CAGED system is a guitar-only concept while the modes are a music theory concept, and cannot be chopped up to fit into the confines of the CAGED system. If you haven’t been following this series of posts you might want to check out Part 1 and Part 2 to get up to speed before diving into the dreaded modes.

We’re going to look at this from two angles: diatonic and parallel modes. If you know your CAGED shapes in the key of C major and can move around the fretboard quite fluently then this approach will hopefully turn some light-bulbs on as far as modes are concerned.

In Part 1 we looked at the CAGED pattern from the point of view of the C major triad. If you could do this quite comfortably and throw in some notes from the CAGED patterns then you were actually playing in C Ionian, which is just the modal name for the C major scale.

In Part 2 we played off a selection of A minor triads and threw some notes in from the same CAGED shape. Here you were actually playing in the A Aeolian mode, another name for A natural minor.

So that’s 2 modes down and 5 to go! There are 7 notes in the C major scale and therefore 7 modes:

C Ionian
D Dorian
E Phrygian
F Lydian
G Mixolydian
A Aeolian
B Locrian
Next up is the Lydian mode which is a major mode and can be used over major and major7 chords. In the key of C major we have F Lydian, and by far the most interesting notes in the Lydian mode are the #4 and the 7.

Let’s start with a few F major triads:

Here’s one chord backing track with a jazzy feel for you to practice them over.

Before you start running up and down the CAGED pattern, we need to add in the interesting notes.

Here are the #4 and the 7 in the first triad:

You’ll notice the instant Lydian sound when you add in these notes and play them off the major triad. You get a far more convincing Lydian sound than when you just run up and down a Lydian scale pattern. Don’t worry if the CAGED shapes start appearing, it’s okay now that we know where the good notes are and we’re not just going to blow up and down the scale and hope for the best, are we?

In the second triad we’re going to put the #4 on the top E string so that it’s within easy reach. Repeat the exercise and you should get some interesting, and above all, melodic results.

Note that the CAGED pattern that appears, or should appear, here is the C major scale. We’re just looking at it from a different ‘angle’, as it were. The advantage of looking at modes this way (diatonically) is that you’ve already learned the scale patterns; the disadvantage is playing in F while thinking C.

The third triad features the #4 placed nicely on the B string and the 7 is also within easy reach just behind the root.

When you get comfortable with the location of the triads and the interesting Lydian notes, try linking them together and moving around the fretboard. The trick here is to see the triads and not the CAGED patterns.

If the CAGED patterns are ingrained in your head they’ll appear around the triads, just make sure you stick to the perspective of triads rather than mindlessly running up and down the scale pattern.

In Part 4 we’ll look at the Mixolydian Mode.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4

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

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