Understanding and Applying the CAGED Method on Ukulele
The CAGED Method is a popular system used by many guitarists. The same concepts can be applied to ukulele, with one difference… we will be using: CAGFD.
So What is the CAGFD Method?
I’m glad you asked! The CAGFD Method allows you to take the basic chord shapes for: C A G F D and play them in five different positions up the neck. The usefulness of this knowledge, is that you are no longer restricted to playing the same basic shapes anymore.
Understanding General Theory
When applying this method, it’s important to remember a few basics of music theory.
There are 12 notes in western music, 7 of these notes are whole notes: A B C D E F G.
5 of these notes are accidentals (sharps/flats): A#/Bb C#/Db D#/Eb F#/Gb G#/Ab
Hold on, I counted 10 accidental notes above… That’s correct, but A# and Bb are the same note. This is called enharmonic. Depending on the key signature or the direction of movement in a passage, we would refer to the note either as A# or Bb.
Here’s whats important to remember for the CAGFD Method. Every whole note is a whole step apart (2 frets) except: B to C and E to F. They are a half step apart (1 fret).
Let’s Take a Look at the Basic Shapes First
These 5 shapes will be used to move any ‘base’ chord up the neck. Let’s use the C chord as our base chord for this explanation. We will be using the CAGFD method to play the C chord in 5 different positions up the neck.
The C Chord Shape
This one will be easy, but let’s demonstrate it an octave up as well.
To play the C chord in the first position of CAGFD, we will form the basic chord shape for C. Nothing new here. But, what if we wanted to play it up an octave?
One way to find the octave up, is to move the basic chord shape up the neck. For example, if we moved C up a whole step, we would have D.
As you can see below, we added 2 frets to the C chord shape to get to D. Awe man, math in music…
We could continue to move the C chord shape up the neck until we reached the octave, or we could simply remember that the ukulele repeats at the 12th fret. Meaning, the open strings (notes) are the same notes as the twelfth fret. Thus, we now have the barred chord version of the C shape, an octave up.
The A Chord Shape
So, now we want to play a C chord in the A chord shape. How to we do this? Again, we can simply form the A chord, and move it up the neck, until it becomes C.
A to B is a whole step up, while B to C is a half step up. And like magic, we now have our A chord shape of C Major.
The G Chord Shape
Following the same concept of moving the chord up until it becomes the one we want, the G chord shape can be demonstrated below.
Now, this isn’t the most ideal fingering… I’d play strings 1, 2, and 3, while leaving the fourth string out of the mix.
The F Chord Shape
By now, we have a good understanding of how to move chords up the neck. Let’s take a look at the F chord shape for C.
What’s interesting to note, is that this is the same shape as the G chord shape for strings 1, 2, and 3.
The D Chord Shape
Finally, we have arrived at our last chord shape: the D Chord shape for C.
This shape is a little tricky to fret. I would recommend playing strings 1, 2, and 3, while leaving string four out of the mix.
Applying What We Have Learned
Well there it is, the C Major chord in five different positions. This is very useful knowledge. But, how can we apply it to the real world? For example, let’s say you are at a jam with three of your friends. Two of you are going to be playing rhythm, while one person solos over the chord progression. Instead of copying the other ukulele player, who happens to be playing the basic chord shapes, let’s apply our knowledge of CAGFD.
Let’s look at ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door‘ by Bob Dylan, as an example song. The chord progression is as follows:
Let’s take a listen to how the CAGFD Method enhances a basic chord progression with harmony. The first 4 bars will be the ‘basic’ chords shown above, while the next four bars will layer our CAGFD Method chords, shown below, on top.
Take a look at bar 2, the Am7 chord. We took the basic G chord shape, moved it up a whole step to make it an A chord, but then we had to alter it to minor. This meant that the 3rd in A Major had to be flatted.
A Major: A C# E
A Minor: A C E
This is the beauty in CAGFD. With a basic understanding of chord formulas, you can alter all the major shapes to minor, diminished, augmented, or whatever need be.
* It’s important to note that I subbed out the fretted 4th string note for the open string (G) in the G, Am, and C chords. You do not always have to play the entire shape, many times I utilize the CAGFD Method shapes for just strings 1, 2, and 3.
The CAGFD Method is an effective way to add harmony to the mix, while being a great way to change up your approach to playing chords. Try and take an easy song with a 3 or 4 chord progression and apply the CAGFD Method. Have fun!
Article by: Andrew Hardel