Coming from a piano background, I have decided to give a try to the guitar and I have started learning some chords. Looking for a cheat sheet on Google, I have found this: http://www.princessdesign.net/wp/wp-content/files/cheat-sheet/guitar-cheat-sheet-1-1.pdf guitar cheat sheet I can't figure out how to read this. The top part is obviously the fretboard, but what do brackets mean around the names of the notes and why are the Cs coloured? And how should I read these "patterns"? What do the x, [x], [0] signs mean? I've tried to compare them with usual chord tabs but I couldn't find any similarities.

  • 4
    There are hundreds of things like this on the 'net. If this cannot be understood easily, scrap it, and choose one that is clearer.Don't think the brackets have any relevance, and why caps/lower case? No need to have so much 'detail' n the nursery slopes.
    – Tim
    Jun 25, 2019 at 10:29
  • 1
    The red notes are the tonic or root. Or Do in solfeg. The brackets don’t mean anything as far as I can tell. The x and the o are the same but the o again is the root but they are also red so that’s redundant. I don’t find that is a particularly good cheat sheet. I’d find a different one
    – b3ko
    Jun 25, 2019 at 11:35
  • 1
    Hi, and welcome to music.SE. You are likely to get some pushback on this, simply because as Tim commented, it's too easy to find better tablature, as well as explanations of tablature, all over the intertubes. Jun 25, 2019 at 13:08

2 Answers 2


It's probably obvious, but firstly, it is a chart of the C major scale.

The top part is the guitar neck. Tone letter are given on the neck.

Below that, patterns 1-5 are the pentatonic scales of the CAGED system. In those patterns [0] is the tonic, [X] are pentatonic scale tones, and [x] are the diatonic tones that 'fill in' the pentatonic scale for a full major scale.

The next "fret|scale|chord" lists aren't clear to me. Personally, that part feels like information overload. I can't immediately tell what it is and so it isn't helping.

Below that are the four basic triad types. The are arranged in columns under the CAGED patterns to show the triad's relation to each of the CAGED patterns. For some reason in this section the chord roots are designated by [0] instead of C as on the guitar neck diagram. I suppose the point of this is demonstrate the chord shapes can be moved to roots other than C. Also notice that b and # are used to modify the chords from a major triad and those modified tones (like b3 in the minor chords) are not listed on the guitar neck diagram. This part is inconsistent in that some patterns are notated to go over all the strings, but others aren't. I see no reason for that inconsistency, it should cover all strings for all chords IMO.

That's what all the stuff is. But, how to use it?

  • Obviously, you can practice the C major scale and the C pentatonic scale.
  • You can see the interlocking patterns of the modes of the pentatonic scale (the CAGED system) and indirectly you get the modes of the diatonic major scale (but the chart doesn't label them.)
  • You can practice chromatic modifications of the tonic chord.

Drawbacks of this particular chart:

  • I don't think it does a good job of showing how the patterns repeat at the octave at the 12th fret. If you look closely you can find it, but the chart doesn't really visually make it clear.
  • Most of this stuff is moveable by just sliding patterns up or down a few frets, but the chart - which basically an elaboration on the CAGED idea - doesn't show scales and chords in open position. But, I suppose that isn't a problem, open position should probably be a separate chart.
  • The CAGED patterns 1-5 split the difference between 2 notes per string and 3 notes per string with a combination of pentatonic scale tones and diatonic scale tones. I think it would be better to show them as separate but related patterns: show the CAGED pentatonic patterns for 2 notes per string, and then the related diatonic scale as a 3 notes per string pattern.
  • The big problem is the harmonic perspective. It looks like the chart has lots of chord information, but as presented the chord stuff is all rooted on C. But playing C+, C, Cm, Co isn't practical. What the chart doesn't show is that all the functional, diatonic chords are hidden in those patterns. Common progressions like ii7 V7 I are within the chart's scale, but not labeled.

I think it's an OK chart. But look for some others: open position stuff, 3 notes per string, functional chords, etc.


The top row is scales:

  • x = this note is in the major scale
  • [x] = this note is in the pentatonic scale
  • red = this note is the tonic

The second row gives you the transpositions: if I play the pattern at fret x, y is the tonic. Because the chart you found is based on the "CAGED" system, the root of the chord in a give finger position may not match the position - you'll shift up one fret to play some of the chords relative to the scale

The next four rows show you chord voicings based on that major scale fingering.

I don't care for the chart... but then I don't care for CAGED in general. It's a major simplification of what the guitar can do, and if you start there (as opposed to learning the note names on the fretboard) you end up overlooking some really useful patterns.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.