Getting Out Of The Guitar CAGED System

Author: Tommaso Zillio

Part 4: Loosening the Digits

Have you been utilizing the CAGED method instead of the alternatives? Or have you avoided the CAGED system, using a totally different method instead? Hold on for a minute to think of reasons why you’re using the system you are. Does your system make sense to use?

As I’m sure by now you’ve read, the CAGED system isn’t all that consistent (CAGED Sucks Part 1: Right Hand Consistency), and it doesn’t divide the fretboard in a logical or useful way (CAGED Sucks. Part 3: The "Natural" Division Of The Fretboard). So why there are people who still use it?

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The answer might surprise you — and it took me longer to realize than I care to admit. The CAGED system patterns, despite what the proponent say, are not actually built to be accessed easily, mechanically consistent, easy to memorize, or even for arpeggio integration (see (CAGED Sucks, Part 2: Scales-Arpeggio Integration).

No, they are built precisely to avoid any kind of fretting hand stretch – nothing else.

You can see how this is perfectly consistent with the "CAGED vs the world" debate going on. Indeed this is one of the biggest objection used by people who have used the CAGED system when introduced to other systems: "I can’t stretch my fingers enough to make these shapes". But when you consider how much of a drawback the CAGED system is for new players, this just sounds as an excuse. Because it is.

Learning to stretch over four frets is actually really easy — even for people with stumpy fingers — if you use the right technique.

Take a look at the video below for a demonstration of how to stretch your fretting hand effortlessly and be able to easily play the "stretchy" 3-notes-per-string shapes easily. Doing this properly is about putting your hand in the proper position rather than hand size, so that anybody, even those with small hands like mine, can achieve it. Take a look at the video now:

As you see, it’s not advanced particle physics. Anybody can do it. Pick up a guitar, move your fingers into the proper location and feel how easy it is to stretch into these shapes. After this, you shouldn’t have any more excuses to forego the CAGED system for good.

About the Author

Tommaso Zillio is a professional player, teacher, and composer. Visit his website to know more about guitar and music theory.

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