C.A.G.E.D. Scale Positions

Introduction

Thus far we've explored the CAGED Chord system and have learned how to create a Major Scale. We've looked at the Major Scale in C and how it look on the fretboad. Just to recap...

Lots of Notes

This may all seem like a lot of notes to memorise the position of. However, we can break it down into 'bit-sized-chunks' using the CAGED System. We'll stick to the Key of C and use the C Major Scale for now, and later, I'll let you into a little secret about the way in which the guitar works. C Major contains no sharps or flats (the black keys on a piano), therefore it's a good starting point from which to learn.

CAGED Scale Positions

For each one of the following CAGED chords, there is also an associated Scale shape. Remember the scale remains the same, in this case C Major (C,D,E,F,G,A,B) but the shape changes as we move along the neck. Here are the chord shapes again...

Let's look at the Scale Shapes that relate to each Chord Shape above, staring with the C Shape...

C Major scale in the C position

Here a close up of the fretboard for the C Shape (left) and the Scale built around this position (right), note the C Chord Shape contained within the scale. The root notes are denoted by a red halo.

Let's have a look at the tablature for this position, ascending through the notes...

e ||-----------------------------0-1-3----------------||
B ||-----------------------0-1-3----------------------||
G ||-------------------0-2----------------------------||
D ||-------------0-2-3--------------------------------||
A ||-------0-2-3--------------------------------------||
E ||-0-1-3--------------------------------------------||

Once you have mastered this scale ascending, try the scale descending back through the notes, like so...

e ||-3-1-0--------------------------------------------||
B ||-------3-1-0--------------------------------------||
G ||-------------2-0----------------------------------||
D ||-----------------3-2-0----------------------------||
A ||-----------------------3-2-0----------------------||
E ||-----------------------------3-1-0----------------||

The only way to memorise each of these scales fuly is to keep practising it until you know it. This can be a bit boring, just running up and down the notes in the scale, so try creating a backing track or, better still, asking a friend to play this chord sequence as you play around with each of these Scale Positions: C, F, Am, G. Every single scale on this page will fit over those chords, we'll talk about why in a later section of the web site.

C Major scale in the A position

Once you have memorised the C Position of C Major, we're ready to move onto the A Position and the C Scale built around it (below left). Note the A Chord Shape contained within the scale (below right). Again, the root notes are denoted by a red halo.

For those of you who prefer tab, here it is...

e ||-----------------------------3-5------------------||
B ||-----------------------3-5-6----------------------||
G ||-----------------2-4-5----------------------------||
D ||-----------2-3-5----------------------------------||
A ||-----2-3-5----------------------------------------||
E ||-3-5----------------------------------------------||

And descending back through the notes...

e ||-5-3----------------------------------------------||
B ||-----6-5-3----------------------------------------||
G ||-----------5-4-2----------------------------------||
D ||-----------------5-3-2----------------------------||
A ||-----------------------5-3-2----------------------||
E ||-----------------------------5-3------------------||

It's important to link these scales togther. So practice the C Position and then the A Position, work out which notes are shared by the two scales and how you can move from one to the other. Here's a quick exercise for moving between the C and A Shapes...

e ||---------------------------------3-5--------------||
B ||---------------------------3-5-6------------------||
G ||---------------------2-4-5------------------------||
D ||-------------0-2-3-5------------------------------||
A ||-------0-2-3--------------------------------------||
E ||-0-1-3--------------------------------------------||

C Major scale in the G position

Next we move onto the C Scale in the G Position (below left). Note the G Chord Shape contained within the C scale. Root notes denoted by a red halo.

Here's the tab...

e ||-----------------------------5-7-8----------------||
B ||-----------------------5-6-8----------------------||
G ||-----------------4-5-7----------------------------||
D ||-------------5-7----------------------------------||
A ||-------5-7-8--------------------------------------||
E ||-5-7-8--------------------------------------------||

And, descending...

e ||-8-7-5--------------------------------------------||
B ||-------8-6-5--------------------------------------||
G ||-------------7-5-4--------------------------------||
D ||-------------------7-5----------------------------||
A ||-----------------------8-7-5----------------------||
E ||-----------------------------8-7-5----------------||

Again, look at which notes are shared by the last two scales and think about how you can move between them. To help you, here's a triplet (3 notes per string) run that moves between all three scales.

e ||-------------------------------3-5-7--------------||
B ||-------------------------3-5-6--------------------||
G ||-------------------2-4-5--------------------------||
D ||-------------2-3-5--------------------------------||
A ||-------2-3-5--------------------------------------||
E ||-1-3-5--------------------------------------------||

C Major scale in the E position

Only two positions left. This is the C Major Scale in the E Position (below left). Again, not the E Chord Shape contained within the scale (below right)

The tablature ascending...

e ||----------------------------------7-8-10----------||
B ||-----------------------------8-10-----------------||
G ||----------------------7-9-10----------------------||
D ||---------------7-9-10-----------------------------||
A ||--------7-8-10------------------------------------||
E ||-7-8-10-------------------------------------------||

Descending...

e ||-10-8-7-------------------------------------------||
B ||--------10-8--------------------------------------||
G ||-------------10-9-7-------------------------------||
D ||--------------------10-9-7------------------------||
A ||---------------------------10-8-7-----------------||
E ||----------------------------------10-8-7----------||

C Major scale in the D position

Here's the last position in the CAGED Scale System, this is the D scale shape (below left) and the D CHord Shape is on the right.

Here's the ascending tab...

e ||-----------------------------------------10-12-13-||
B ||--------------------------------10-12-13----------||
G ||------------------------9-10-12-------------------||
D ||----------------9-10-12---------------------------||
A ||----------10-12-----------------------------------||
E ||-10-12-13-----------------------------------------||

Descending tab...

e ||-13-12-10-----------------------------------------||
B ||----------13-12-10--------------------------------||
G ||-------------------12-10-9------------------------||
D ||---------------------------12-10-9----------------||
A ||-----------------------------------12-10----------||
E ||-----------------------------------------13-12-10-||

CAGED Animation

Here's an animation of those positions to illustrate how they join togther to span the fretboard: