CAGED System for Ukulele

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    I started messing around with music theory a year ago. Scales, Chords, Chord Progressions, Intervals, Keys it’s all great stuff but in regards to stuff you can actually use (constantly) and gives you an instant performance boost I’m blown away with the CAGED system. The theory course on here touches it (which is how I got into it) but I’ve recently revisited it and I was like.. Gosh. I didn’t realise that. So in order to help others and show how to apply it here are what I’ve discovered (and you can apply if you learn it).

    So for anybody who does not know. The CAGED system is a system which uses the chords we already know to unlock the fretboard with the open chord shapes we already know. C, A, G, E & D. This system was developed for the guitar so on the Ukulele it’s been adapted to CAGFD. C, A, G, F & D. Everything else is the same.

    So what you can do with it:

    You can take an open chord let’s say C. And move it up the neck to make it into a D. You can move it up the neck again to make it into a D. You do this by barring the chord. What’s the point of it.. Well, if you want to find a chord in a higher position on the fretboard. You no longer have to look it up you can just use one of the shapes you like and shift it up a few frets to create a higher voicing. This instantly gives you access to lots of new voicings without having to learn anything new.

    This is pretty much what I used it for up until now.. But then I realised it was so much more 🙂

    So what I did not realise is that the reason why it spells C A G F D is that you can follow that pattern down up the neck to take the above one step further and create the same chord in different voicings. For example:

    You can take a C shaped chord and play it in the open position (normal C) and it’s a C. If you then bar the third fret where the open C was and also add the A chord (so basically you have an a shape barred on the 3rd fret you also have a C. So far we’ve spelt C, A. The next letter in CAGFD is G. So if we move up the fret 2 frets and bar the fret and add an open G chord you also have a C chord (you don’t have to bar the 3rd fret and just play the open G if it’s easier). We’ve now spelt C, A G. Taking this even further if we move the bar up two frets (so we are barring where the open G was being played) and add an F shape to the bar.. We have nother voicing of C. You guessed it CAGF….. Now for the final voicing.. Move up the fret board again bar the 10th fret… add the… Yup you guessed it D shape and you have another voicing in C.

    So basically you spell out all voicings of the C chord by spelling out C A G F D down the kneck. If you know the shapes it’s easier to visualise them using this.

    Now that’s really useful as basically anytime you want to know the voicing of a chord you play it in the open position… Let’s say you want a G.. And you move it up the Fretboard to spell out CAGFD. If you start on G you would therefore spell out G, F, D, C & A. If you want any other chord voicings that are not covered by CAGFD just move them up/down the fretboard. You’d basically find a C chord and then move it back 1 (barred) and you will have it 🙂 Fretboard Chords Unlocked.

    So.. Does it get any better 🙂 Yes 🙂

    So before this you may or may not be soloing/improvising with scales. You don’t need to know any scales just with the above you can create solos… How? As the above you can also use to play over any backing track in the same key and as long as you use those notes it will work. i.e C Major Chord Progression play all the notes within the C chords (these are called arpeggios).

    Getting Harder: What’s also awesome… is that each C, A, G, F , D. Has it’s own ‘box’ within the Pentatonic Scale. So anywhere you play a C shape on the fretboard you can use that ‘box’ of the Pentatonic Scale (there are five box patterns within the Pentatonic Scale within Cage). Again you can learn the Box pattern around the A shape.

    By learning this you can literally harmonise with any chord progression (strum and choose a higher voicing) and also play a melody/solo using the arpeggio shapes.

    I hope this has not sent anyone to sleep but it really helped me and I wanted to share 🙂

    • This topic was modified 2 months ago by surferjay.

    Such good stuff @surferjay. I keep spiraling back to this stuff, learning chords and fretboard a bit better as I go. One thing I try to think about is, what string is the root on for the different major chord shapes (CAGFD)?
    Since 7th chords are used quite a bit, you can do the same kind of thing playing types of seventh chords. I like practicing playing these, all C7 also called C dominant 7th.


    Now which string is the root (C) on for these 7th chord shapes?



    @recdog It’s a really great system and helps bind everything together. I also use it for 7th chords 🙂 I just didn’t want to add more stuff to my loooong message. In fact if you are going to use the arpeggios to solo by adding in the 7th note you have a greater sound range. I’m always using the stair shape in solos. I linked above to Uke Buddy all the route notes shapes you can get on there by choosing chord/chord types.

    Glad you found it useful 🙂

    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by surferjay.
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