7 Reasons Why The CAGED System Sucks

WARNING: The CAGED system is crippling your guitar playing progress. By learning the scales with this system you are likely to develop these problems in your guitar playing:

Problem #1: Your Guitar Speed Is Going To Suffer Tremendously

Being a fast guitar player is difficult for a lot of guitarists because of many reasons. So the CAGED system isn’t necessarily the only reasons why your guitar speed is suffering. However, if you are using the CAGED system and you’re also struggling to play guitar as fast as you’d like, here’s why:

With the CAGED system, you are learning scale patterns that contain both 2 note-per-string and 3 note-per-string fragments. This will cause 3 problems that interconnect to kill your guitar speed:

A. Since you have to learn a brand NEW picking pattern for each CAGED scale, it takes you longer to memorize. Your speed is being limited mentally.

B. The awkward scale shapes in the CAGED system make your picking hand’s job a LOT harder so playing fast is out of the question. Your speed is being limited physically.

C. Since you are limiting yourself because of the other 2 reasons, proper right-hand picking technique will be impossible for you. Now your guitar speed has been limited in yet another way.

Instead you should start using 3 note-per-string scale patterns that use 3 notes on EVERY string. This solves all 3 of the above problems because 1) you now only have to learn one picking pattern to play every major and minor scale and 2) 3 note-per-string patterns allow you implement directional picking technique so you can increase your guitar speed exponentially.

Problem #2: You Will Struggle To Easily Improvise Guitar Solos Using The Whole Fretboard

One of the biggest problems that I see develop in my new guitar students that use the CAGED system is the ability to solo all over the neck of the guitar, fluently. This problem can be very hard to correct in CAGED system users because the CAGED system is far from a complete system of scales. In fact, it’s not even complete for just the major scales. CAGED teaches the major scales based on FIVE different scale patterns that are based on chord shapes. The problem here is that each major scale is actually made up of SEVEN different interconnected shapes. You can see how this would be problematic. By leaving out those 2 shapes, CAGED leaves you with only 71% of the available scale shapes to play in any given major key. Does that sound ‘complete’ to you? Didn’t think so.

What makes it even worse is that the 5 shapes that CAGED actually does use make it impossible for you to easily convert these scales from major to natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor or modal keys. If you want to learn these scales you are forced to abandon CAGED completely and memorize completely new patterns that are totally different from the CAGED box patterns.

Contrast these limitation of CAGED with the 3 note-per-string system of playing scales that I mentioned above. This system makes it incredibly easy to see which notes of the major scale are being adjusted or omitted to create the other scales. Using this system, your total mastery of how scales musically work becomes much easier to achieve.

Problem #3: Your Guitar Solos Will Bore People To Death

If you want to play great guitar solos, don’t use the CAGED system. Let me explain. Guitar players who solo using the CAGED system typically play in one box at a time and the result is extremely boring (worse yet, the transitions between the boxes are painfully obvious). The problem here is that, by using the CAGED system, you are limiting your view of the fretboard. Instead of just looking at in different vertical boxes (from the 6th string to the 1st string), you need to also learn to view it as one continuous horizontal from the 1st fret to the last fret.

Viewing the fretboard in the boxes is the reason that guitarists fail to play awesome solos using the CAGED system because:

  1. The CAGED scale shapes are limited to 5 patterns that make it impossible to fully map out the fretboard horizontally from the nut to the highest fret.
  2. Without the 5 shapes of CAGED the user is lost and can’t visualize the scales on the fretboard anymore.

Using the 3 note-per-string system will make playing creative guitar solos much easier. Implementing this system is one of the reasons that so many of the students that take guitar lessons with me have become MUCH better guitar players so fast.

Problem #4: Your Use Of Arpeggios Will Suffer, Regardless Of Your Musical Genre

It doesn’t matter if you play rock, metal, or blues – your ability to play arpeggios is one of the keys to learning to play seamless and creative guitar solos. Why is this? Because arpeggios are simply chords that are played one note at a time. So the speed at which you play them (or the tone you play them with) doesn’t matter. Arpeggios are used in EVERY style of music because CHORDS are used in every style. You need to be able to understand how these arpeggios fit into the scale positions you use for soloing and be able to VISUALIZE this. This will help you find the best notes to play over each chord (more on this below). This applies equally to all styles of music.

The CAGED system will NOT help you achieve either of these goals because it bases itself around the major open chords that move up and down the fretboard. While this may work for playing open chords, non-open chord arpeggios become nearly impossible to play under this system. The resulting major chord arpeggios that happen in the CAGED system are awkward to play at high speeds. You will notice this especially after you learn the standard arpeggio shapes for sweep picking.

Even worse, if you work with a guitar teacher with experience you won’t be able to use the shapes he/she teaches you within the CAGED system. Those shapes won’t work within the CAGED system because the notes in arpeggios follow the logic of how the scales WORK in music. They are not meant to fit into the random 5 chord shapes of CAGED. This creates a disconnect between your ability to visualize the fretboard and will thus limit your ability to creatively use your musical skills.

This causes CAGED users to think that music theory is useless or difficult to understand when actually the problem doesn’t lie with music theory.

Problem #5: You Guitar Solos Will Be Emotionless – And I Can Prove It

If you use the CAGED system, you will not be able to do the most important things that give your guitar solos emotion:

1. Understand your emotional options on the guitar when you are playing guitar solos over chord progressions.

2. Learn to take advantage of all of these options when you are soloing over each chord and apply them to you guitar solos.

Since the CAGED system only focuses on visualizing the major chords and it completely ignores other chord forms (minor, diminished, 7th, etc.), it is very hard to target the notes of those kinds of chords when you’re playing a guitar solo. This results in you haphazardly playing notes in a CAGED scale shape and just hoping your solo is emotional. This obviously makes writing emotional guitar solos almost impossible.

Problem #6: Your Overall Songwriting Ability Will Plummet

Another huge problem with CAGED system users is the inability to use chords in a creative way to write songs. This mainly stems from the fact that the 5 major chords that make up the CAGED system (C major A major G major E major D major) are taught as if they are musically connected in ANY way when in reality none of these chords even belong together in any standard major or minor key. You can use these 5 chords in your own music of course, but not understanding how to use them together to make GOOD songs means that your songwriting ability will greatly decrease.

Problem #7: You Will Not Be Able To Effectively Communicate With Other Musicians

The CAGED system is promoted for guitar players only. Therefore, if you are a CAGED user and you plan on interacting with other musicians to write songs or form a band, I strongly suggest you ditch CAGED altogether because you will not be able to communicate with anyone who doesn’t play guitar and they will have a really hard time communicating with you too.

Even though I have thoroughly explained all of the reasons that the CAGED system sucks to the students that study guitar with me, there are always a few that try to defend the CAGED system:

Pro-CAGED Argument #1: “It can‘t hurt to know the CAGED system because all systems of learning scales are equally valid. The more systems you know for playing scales, the better guitar player you will be.

My response: It’s not worth your time to learn the CAGED system. Just because you can learn something, does NOT mean that you should. If you want to become a great guitar player fast you need to learn to use your practice time in a very effective way and not do any unnecessary work. The limitations of CAGED are obvious. Unless you really don’t have a better way to spend your time, you should be focusing on reaching your musical goals in the most efficient way possible.

Pro-CAGED Argument #2: “I can easily modify the CAGED system so that I adjust for all of its limitations. So it is fine to learn it, if it‘s correctly taught.

My answer: Oh sure, you can do anything you want if you make enough changes, just like with enough time, energy and frustration you could turn a Volkswagen Beetle car into a Mercedes Benz S Class sedan:) Adjusting for the numerous restrictions of CAGED wastes an enormous amount of time you could have spent becoming a better guitar player by learning a far more effective and efficient system for playing scales in the first place.

Pro-CAGED Argument #3: “___________ (fill in the blank with any guitar player‘s name) uses the CAGED system all the time and he/she plays great! So the system can‘t be all that bad if he/she uses it.

My response: First of all, if you can’t prove that he/she actually does use the CAGED system then I would suggest that you stop believing everything you read. Instead, start being more skeptical of advice given by people that haven’t proven themselves to be a skilled guitar teacher. Secondly, even if you could become a great guitar player using the CAGED system, that doesn’t make CAGED the best way to get there. So make a choice: Choose the fastest, easiest and most proven method for learning scales on guitar or struggle to achieve musical greatness against a broken system.

Understanding how the CAGED system holds you back from being a great guitarist is just the first step. Let me show you how easy it CAN be to reach your musical goals and become the guitarist that you have always wanted to be. Make sure you check out these online guitar lessons and tell me more about your guitar playing goals.