Unlocking From The CAGED Guitar Theory Part 2

Author: Tommaso Zillio

The Mechanical Scales And Arpeggios

"Programming languages teach you to not want what they cannot provide" (Paul Graham). Scale systems work the exact same way.

Playing with the ability to visualize scales and arpeggios is not just fun, but a vital step for any serious guitar player. Are you one of the players that does this? If you answered yes, what method did you use to learn it? If you used the CAGED system, then you might just have spent too much time to get there.

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Perhaps the most awkward lesson the CAGED system offers is the use of arpeggios/chord notes inside a scale. Which is funny, as integration of scales and arpeggios is THE most touted benefit of using this method… in other words the majority of people who picked up or were taught the CAGED system did it specifically to learn how to integrate scale patterns and arpeggios.

So it to be expected that people critiquing the system (yours truly included) receive a lot of interesting "feedback" when they comment negatively on this point. When this happens, the key to understand both the apologists and critics is that they have different understandings when they use the word "integration".

The CAGED system DOES incorporate the memorization of scale shapes and the positions of the chord notes inside them, which we will call the "visual" integration. But visual integration works in any system: no matter which patterns I use to play a scale, I am in principle able to point to the arpeggio notes in it.

What guitar players actually require, on the other hand, isn’t simply visual integration: what is actually beneficial is called "mechanical" integration, meaning the possibility to fluidly move between a scale and an arpeggio as they play – and making sure that both the scale and the arpeggio patterns are playable. This is where the CAGED system falls short.

Of course, this is something that can be seen only when scales and arpeggios are actually played on a guitar fretboard, as opposed to just watching scale/arpeggio patterns on a piece of paper or on a computer screen. As such it is much easier to show this point practically than it is to explain in words, so be sure to watch the following video to see how this concept actually applies to guitar playing.

Here, you can see why mechanical integration is key: it helps when playing live, and keeps your consistency which in turn allows you to translate practice time into actual performance ability. Consistency, and how it helps you improve faster, was also the topic of the first video in the "CAGED sucks" series, here it is for you now in case you missed it: CAGED Sucks part 1: Right Hand Consistency.

About the Author

Tommaso Zillio is a professional guitarist and guitar teacher. Visit Tommaso’s site to know more about music theory for guitar

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