Guitarists, Don't Get CAGED, Part 5

When searching forums, have you come across the idea that you need to learn more than one scale system? Is there any real benefit to learning more than one? and what benefits, if any, are there for players who know multiple systems?

After reading this series, you've heard many reasons why the CAGED system sucks (if you've missed it, you can start reading here: CAGED Sucks Part 1: Right Hand Consistency). This argument has certainly created some debate between CAGED-system apologists and their opponents, and one thing I noticed, was that all CAGED users came to similar conclusions.

One of the solutions CAGED users present when shown other systems is saying that players should learn a number of systems, rather than just one. But this kind of advice just doesn't work on a number of different levels.

First, it's just not correct. Logically speaking, if the systems were of the same value, then learning them all might make a difference. The truth is that not all systems are created equally, some can do the job better, others aren't as good — but they cannot be cannot be considered equal.

Second, it doesn't work for students learning to play guitar. Learning a number of different systems isn't a productive use of time, even with high-quality systems. And that confusion comes not just from a visualization level, but also when it comes down to actually teaching these to students.

Think about the way your muscle memory works: you repeat an action over and over again, and it becomes natural, you can do it without thinking. So if you learn a couple systems that aren't versatile, then you'll be stuck working with them for years to come. As a teacher, I'm always able to pick out the CAGED users the first time they pick up a guitar, because they all sounds exactly the same.

In this next video, I delve into detail about how the brain works when learning different systems, along with what happens when people try to learn every last system - as well as how trying to learn them all can actually make you worse at playing guitar.

There is no need to learn multiple systems to become a flexible player; at least, not when there are flexible systems available. Next time you hear you need to learn many systems to become a good player, just think back to this video, and you'll know that learning bad systems won't make you better.

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio