Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD scheduled for mid-2010, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.
Click here for a printer-friendly version of "Guitarists, Don’t Get CAGED, Part 4".
Has the CAGED system made it hard for you to learn other methods of learning scales and chords? Do you dislike the CAGED method and use something else instead? What are your reasons for using the method you've learned? After taking a minute to think about it, does your reasoning make logical sense?
The answer might surprise you - and it took me longer to realize than I care to admit. The CAGED system patterns, despite what the proponents say, are not actually built to be accessed easily, mechanically consistent, easy to memorize, or even for arpeggio integration (see CAGED Sucks, Part 2: Scales-Arpeggio Integration). No, they are built precisely to avoid any kind of fretting hand stretch - nothing else.
And in fact, this is the complain I hear the most from CAGED players regarding other systems: "my fingers can't stretch enough to use these shapes". But really, when you look at the vast number of downsides and inconsistencies related to the CAGED system, this just sounds like an excuse - especially because it is really easy to learn how to perform that stretch: it takes only few minutes (yes, even for people with small hands).
Watch the video to see how any guitar player can train their fretting hand fingers to stretch across more than four frets. The "secret" is simply knowing the correct hand position, which allows even people with small hands, such as mine, to stretch properly. Take a look at the technique here:
As you see, it's not advanced particle physics. Anybody can do it. Pick up a guitar, move your fingers into the proper location and feel how easy it is to stretch into these shapes. After this, you shouldn't have any more excuses to forego the CAGED system for good.