Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

PG Explains: CAGED

PG Explains: CAGED

Understand key facts and definitions of the popular CAGED guitar chord system with our simple guide.


What is the CAGED system?

The CAGED system is based on five chords—C, A, G, E, and D—and provides a way to organize a guitar’s neck into five different sections, which can be linked together to play melodies, major scales, and arpeggios across the entire fretboard. The shapes of those chords can also be used anywhere on the fretboard to play any major chord in any key.

Why is it called the CAGED system?

For starters, that name contains each of the five chords used in the system, but it also helpfully alludes to the order in which the chords connect up and down the neck.

Is the CAGED system hard?

If you can play basic C, A, G, E, and D chords, you’re essentially all set. It involves some manipulation and extra fingerwork to make the chords as you move up the neck, but you’ve already got the essentials.

Why is the CAGED system useful?

The CAGED system lets you create and explore different, unique chord voicings up and down the neck. It introduces new sounds to your repertoire, and gives you new ways to be expressive in your playing.

How is the CAGED system different from barre or power chords?

In the CAGED system, your index finger often forms a barre, mimicking your guitar’s nut in relation to your open C, A, G, E, and D chords. But while barre and power chords are discreet, individual units, CAGED chords link directly and logically to one another. They can also sound more dynamic and open than traditional barre or power chords.

Can you do the CAGED system in open tunings?

No, the CAGED system only works in standard tunings.

While Annie Clark was named the 26th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone in 2023, she couldn’t care less about impressing an athletic stamp on either her sound or her image.


Photo by Alex Da Corte

On her eighth studio release, the electroacoustic art-rock guitarist and producer animates an extension of the strange and singular voice she’s been honing since her debut in 2007.

“Did you grow up Unitarian?” Annie Clark asks me. We’re sitting in a control room at Electric Lady Studios in New York’s West Village, and I’ve just explained my personal belief system to her, to see if Clark, aka St. Vincent, might relate and return the favor. After all, does she not possess a kind of sainthood worth inquiring about?

Read MoreShow less

This 1968 Epiphone Al Caiola Standard came stocked with P-90s and a 5-switch Tone Expressor system.

Photo courtesy of Guitar Point (guitarpoint.de)

Photo courtesy of Guitar Point (guitarpoint.de)

The session ace’s signature model offers a wide range of tones at the flip of a switch … or five.

Hello and welcome back to Mod Garage. Not long ago, I came home late from a band rehearsal, still overly excited about the new songs we played. I got myself a coffee (I know, it's a crazy procedure to calm down) and turned on the TV. I ended up with an old Bonanza episode from the ’60s, the mother of all Western TV series. Hearing the theme after a long time instantly reminded me of the great Al Caiola, who is the prolific session guitarist who plays on the song. With him in mind, I looked up the ’60s Epiphone “Al Caiola” model and decided I want to talk about the Epiphone/Gibson Tone Expressor system that was used in this guitar.

Read MoreShow less

The GibsonES Supreme Collection (L-R) in Seafoam Green, Bourbon Burst, and Blueberry Burst.

The new Gibson ES Supreme offers AAA-grade figured maple tops, Super Split Block inlays, push/pull volume controls, and Burstbucker pickups.

Read MoreShow less

Mdou Moctar has led his Tuareg crew around the world, but their hometown performances in Agadez, Niger, last year were their most treasured.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

On the Tuareg band’s Funeral for Justice, they light a fiery, mournful pyre of razor-sharp desert-blues riffs and political calls to arms.

Mdou Moctar, the performing moniker of Tuareg guitar icon Mahamadou “Mdou” Souleymane, has played some pretty big gigs. Alongside guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane, drummer Souleymane Ibrahim, and bassist Mikey Coltun, Moctar has led his band’s kinetic blend of rock, psych, and Tuareg cultural traditions like assouf and takamba to Newport Folk Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival, and, just this past April, to the luxe fields of Indio, California, for Coachella. Off-kilter indie-rock darlings Parquet Courts brought them across the United States in 2022, after which they hit Europe for a run of headline dates.

Read MoreShow less