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Beyond Blues: Understanding CAGED and the V Chord

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Beyond Blues: Understanding CAGED and the V Chord

Our first musical example in Fig. 3 uses the Bb major pentatonic scale (Bb–C–D–F–G). Starting out by approaching the major third from a half-step below, we move up the scale, and then bend from the 9 up to the 3. This is one of my favorite features of this position and is an idea I go to all the time. The idea repeats before finishing with another simple repeating motif that ends on the root.

The next lick in Fig. 4 is short and sweet, moving around the middle strings with a bop-inspired pattern (note the chromatic approach to the D). Again, when ascending through the shape, I’ve used the same major pentatonic motif—this just feels right here—though the line ends with a different idea showing you just how easy it is to take one simple idea and turn it into a handful of new phrases.

Fig. 5 begins as a simple phrase using the Mixolydian scale, but towards the end of bar one it gets a bit more classic blues with a switch to the minor pentatonic scale, a great sound over the I chord of a blues. It’s also worth noting the speed and ferocity of this triplet flurry. I would suggest economy picking, but if you have the technique to alternate pick it, by all means do. The line finishes by sliding into the major 3rd, hitting the root, and then jumping up the octave.

Now that you’re a little more comfortable with this position, lets try and put it into context. For this we’re going to look at the last four measures of a standard blues. After the V to IV movement the progression traditionally moves back to the I before hitting the V in the last bar for a very simple turnaround. In Fig. 6 we apply this starting in position one (the E shape), then the V chord (F7) fits nicely under the fingers when you’re playing in position three. Our first lick is very simple, sticking closely to the chords and using the phrase from Fig. 3 but transposed to F.

The last lick (Fig. 7) is a John Scofield-style idea using rhythmic displacement, you’ll also notice that to navigate the F7, I play the same motif we played earlier but transposed to F. Ideas like this should flow feely over the backing track with practice, so stick at it until you can freely switch in your mind into this new shape. For the backing track (Fig. 8), I’ve extended how long you would stay on the I chord—just so you can settle in musically.


Levi Clay
Levi Clay is a London-based guitar player, teacher, and transcriber. His unique approach to learning keeps him in constant demand from students the world over, and his expertise as a transcriber has introduced his work to a whole new audience. For more information, check out leviclay.com.

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