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Learn how to solo effortlessly using the CAGED system.



  • Learn how to map out the neck with five CAGED shapes.
  • Create melodic lines by targeting chord tones on strong beats.
  • Discover how to enhance your phrases with chromatic notes.
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Originally published on March 15, 2015

The CAGED system is a subject we’ve explored many times before in Beyond Blues, and as you may know, it plays a big role in the way I teach. If you need a quick refresher, or if you’re totally new to the CAGED concept, read “A Guitarist’s Guide to the CAGED System." This CAGED approach doesn’t often generate resistance, but when it does, I usually find that it’s because of a misunderstanding of the system—there’s a lot more to it than just barre chords. While we’ve discussed arpeggios and scale fingerings several times over the years, this lesson will finally bridge the gap between those two.

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Learn to focus your accents and make your lines more listenable.

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Steal inspiration, vocabulary, and picking techniques from legendary acoustic players.

Chops: Beginner
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Improve your alternate picking.
• Discover how to use the “country” scale.
• Create a deeper understanding of chord shapes across the neck. Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

Those who haven’t investigated bluegrass might write it off as simply another branch on the country music tree, but there’s so much more to dig into. Born out of the Appalachian mountain regions, bluegrass is the exciting meld of Irish and Scottish folk music with gospel, jazz, and blues elements. It’s a genre dominated by high-level playing on a variety of instruments, including flattop steel-string guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and Dobro.

There have been many bluegrass guitar icons, from the pioneering Doc Watson, Clarence White, and Tony Rice, to such modern masters as Bryan Sutton and David Grier. Today, younger players like Molly Tuttle and Carl Miner keep the genre alive.

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Learn how to cop the trademark sounds of country music’s California rebels.

Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Beginner
Lesson Overview:
• Create simple, melody-driven solos.
• Learn how to expand major pentatonic scales with bluesy color tones.
• Discover how to repurpose classic country licks. Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

From the outside, it’s easy to look at any form of country music and write it off as simplistic, but like any genre, you’ll find more complexity when you dig inside. Just as there’s a world of difference between Led Zeppelin and Bon Jovi, there are many sub-genres in country music, and some are fundamentally different from each other.

Nashville has always been one of the homes of country music, but as the music’s popularity grew in the ’50s and began to fill the airwaves, Music City’s record labels and producers began to influence and change its sound with the intention of expanding its audience. While the genre has roots in cowboys, drinking, hunting, and caricatures of men, Nashville began to adopt a softer, more romantic production style that featured strings and saccharine background vocals. Put simply: By the late ’50s, country lacked the attitude of days gone by.

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