I've seen various techniques on scale patterns. Such as memorizing 5-7 different scale patterns, 3NPS, etc.

But why do all that when we can just use CAGED? If you see the picture I have in this link, I could just go from root to root using the caged system to figure out my scales. It's my current theory that caged is all someone needs for both scales and chords. But I wanted to hear some thoughts on this.

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    Why use caged when we can just use scale patterns? One isn’t inherently better than the other. Different guitarists learn and think in the way that is best for them. Aug 31, 2019 at 23:48
  • Why use CAGED and systems when you can "just" play music? That's what I did anyway, learned to see intervals and other things I needed on the fretboard in the process. Decades later I read about all these systems people use. They seem very awkward, with so much memorizing of meaningless stuff. I don't recall having to memorize stuff when learning to speak... only when learning foreign languages. (If you have a purpose for things, you'll figure out a way to learn them, but if you don't have a purpose, all the systems are meaningless mumbo jumbo. What system you use, if any, is secondary.) Sep 1, 2019 at 10:11
  • @piiperi I agree to a certain extent, I've played for years without knowing any theory. But to get to the next level requires it. Same when you go to college you learn a bunch of theory. And btw, of'course you memorized things. When you were about 1-2 yrs old and you pointed at things and those around told you the name of them. If you go through the questions I've asked in this site over the last 3 years there's no way I'd of gotten to the level of my understanding right now had I just "winged it" on my own. When I look at systems like CAGED I get amazed at how brilliant they are.
    – user34288
    Sep 1, 2019 at 13:00
  • I didn't memorize meaningless things. Everything had at least an imaginable interaction in a real-life situation or location, it wasn't a litany of things to memorize (even though I happen to be good at memorizing meaningless mumbo jumbo as poems). How can anyone really understand dominant chord or the circle of fifths, if they don't compose, arrange and improvise? Looking at how music is taught to kids, the only instances of "applying" the concepts may be a couple of home exercises and a question in an exam. The concepts should be applied all the time in real non-synthetic situations. :) Sep 1, 2019 at 13:17

2 Answers 2


I have literature that defines the CAGED system with illustrations and diagrams the are exactly the same fingering patterns as you have in your illustration of scale patterns. One of the things I have noticed is that when players study scale patterns, they often learn one or two and then choose to use them in their playing without going any further in their scale studies. Therefore they often never learn to link one pattern to the next and have trouble moving up and down the finger board fluently. CAGED is more specifically designed to teach how one scale pattern connects with another and when it is mastered, it enables a player better use of the whole fretboard. When I use CAGED, I personally don't stop to think about the chords each pattern is named for, but I learned scale patterns before I learned CAGED so I automatically think scale patterns. But I link them together as in the CAGED system. For me they are one and the same idea except that somewhere along the line someone realized there were different chord patterns included in the different scale patterns so they renamed the system CAGED.

  • I too learned about scale patterns first, but ultimately they're just bunch of dots and highly demotivating so I couldn't continue on with them. but caged, even the mnemonic itself, is so intuitive and makes everything so much easier to remember. combining the roots of each letter then becomes scale patterns. I think caged should be the main way of learning guitar. it's truly the greatest thing I've encountered so far.
    – user34288
    Sep 1, 2019 at 8:48
  • @foreyez- I am of the opinion that there is room in the study of music for both ideas and even others like 3NPS, mainly because we don't all think and learn stuff in the same manner and variety is the spice of life for me. Sep 1, 2019 at 14:13
  • I'm not a big fan of 3nps bc sometimes I play 8nps, 5nps, 1nps. I don't like it when they tell me how many notes per string I should press when playing a scale. but yes, I agree about variety.
    – user34288
    Sep 1, 2019 at 16:06

If you think of what 'CAGED' is, it's learning 5 shapes - C, A, G, E, and D - and then thinking of how those chord (and corresponding scale) shapes fit together them to give you a way of seeing the whole of a given scale pattern (or chord shape pattern) for the whole neck. So to think about chords in terms of CAGED, you do have to learn those basic chord shapes first, and to think about scales in terms of CAGED, you have to understand how those chord shapes relate to scales.

Of course If someone was good enough at visualising intervals, they would be able to just 'see' the whole of any scale along the whole fretboard without thinking in terms of individual smaller shapes.

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    IIRC, I saw an Allan Holdsworth video long ago where he was talking about how he looked at the fretboard in terms of a few (half-dozen, maybe? can't quite remember) shapes that each covered the entire extent of the fretboard. Also, as I recollect, the shapes were all somewhat idiosyncratic, or at least esoteric.
    – user39614
    Sep 2, 2019 at 2:44
  • Well, Allan did have his own way of thinking about music ^^. Excellent musician though! RIP Allan. Thank you for all the amazing music.
    – Johan
    Oct 23, 2019 at 9:07

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