If you count the number of patterns in both the CAGED scale system and the pentatonic scale system for guitar, you are probably going to end up with roughly the same number (5 of them). Does this coincidence mean that practicing them will provide you with the same results? The answer is no. In fact, using the CAGED scale system will usually do more to hurt than help.
Before I continue, I would like to make clear that I am not trying to exaggerate this argument in any way. I recently had received a message from someone that said quote, “Don’t you know that the pentatonic scales and the CAGED system fit together perfectly together?” (together was in fact written twice)
Yes, the CAGED scale system and the pentatonic scale system both do have the same amount of patterns. However, this does not prove that they are identical systems. If this was the case, your hands and feet would be identical body parts by having the same number of fingers as toes.
Learning how to play and improvise using the pentatonic scale is completely achievable without ever knowing a thing about CAGED. This demonstrates just how the two systems are certainly different.
If you are looking to make the argument that all things played on the fretboard of the guitar are some version of CAGED, please wait until my next video is posted!
If you are a person well versed in CAGED you are probably about to point out how many of the patterns in each system overlap and, because of this, must be related. Well you are right, they are related. However, not exactly in the way you might think. It is a great first step to recognize how the two relate in order to see where CAGED falls short.
Whether you are someone looking to get better at using the pentatonic scale system, or you are someone who believes that pentatonic is the same as CAGED, go ahead and watch the following video. I discuss how exactly the CAGED and pentatonic scale system are related, and how you can use this information to better your future practice.
So that just about sums up everything “good” about the CAGED system. It’s never really been more than an okay system at best. As you can hopefully see, there are much better options out there for you. So quit trying to compare CAGED to other systems, and go out and find one that actually works.
Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.