The CAGED System Antidote Part 7

caged system alternatives

So far we’ve looked at how to use the CAGED patterns along with diatonic triads to actually create some decent-sounding lines, and even start using the modes within the CAGED system (Check out: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6). One of the major disadvantages of the CAGED system is that changing scales on the fly becomes very cumbersome, as well as somewhat confusing when you try to think it through…

Let’s say you want to play the E Phrygian mode. This is your thought process using the CAGED system:

‘Ok, E Phrygian is the third mode of C major so I need the C major pattern, wait… let me find a C major chord shape, ok, the A shape pattern will do… so that’s the A shape pattern in C major, now I need to start the C major scale on E to get E Phrygian… wait, let me find an E, ah ok so it goes A shape chord, C major scale pattern starting on E… oh, f*** this…’

I’ll admit I’ve never gone far enough with the CAGED system to know if this kind of thinking becomes second nature, but I suspect it doesn’t. To my mind it seems simpler to either go straight to E Phrygian using my own scale system, or find an E minor triad and add in the classic Phrygian intervals (b2, b7) as we did in Part 6.

At this point it would be useful to think of the CAGED patterns as generic scale shapes i.e. try not to associate them with chord shapes, just think of them as generic movable structures (I’m assuming you know the CAGED patterns well).

Our refined line of thinking should go something like the following:

I want to play E Phrygian – Locate E Minor Triad – Add in b2 and b7 – Generic CAGED scale pattern appears.

Here it is in pictures:

E Minor Triad:

Add in b2 and b7:
Generic CAGED pattern appears as if by magic:

Can you see which CAGED shape should appear around your triad? Yes, the first one on the left (the ‘C’ shape), only we didn’t have to do the confusing scale mathematics to get there!

After a little practice this process should be become seamless, but while you’re in the process of making it seamless, each step buys you time to find the next one. If you’re soloing over Em or Em7 you can’t go wrong with the minor triad—3 of the strongest notes—then when you’ve found the b2 you’ll invoke the Phrygian sound in combination with the b7 and the minor triad. By the time the generic CAGED pattern appears you’ll be able to widdle to your heart’s content as you’ve already established a strong Phrygian tonality.

Let’s say you want to choose E Aeolian instead. You simply go through the same process:

Locate Em Triad – Add in b6 and b7 – Generic CAGED pattern appears.

Or E Dorian:

Locate Em Triad – Add in 6 and b7 – Generic CAGED pattern appears.

If you look at the above CAGED patterns you’ll find the Dorian scale in the ‘D’ shape pattern and the Aeolian scale in the ‘G’ shaped pattern, and if you study the patterns carefully you’ll begin to see all the other triads we’ve covered… Happy soloing!

Go to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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

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