Guitarists, Don't Get CAGED, Part 2

"Programming languages teach you to not want what they cannot provide‚" (Paul Graham). I've found the same is true when learning scales.

Being able to see arpeggios and scales on the fretboard in your head is an important skill for any lead guitar player. Do you possess this skill? What method did you use to learn to do it? This post is for anybody who learned using the CAGED system.

A very common and troublesome issue with the CAGED system is the way scales and arpeggios are integrated together into the system. It's ironic, because learning how to play these patterns is one of the biggest "marketing‚" reasons why the CAGED system is so popular: lots of people learned CAGED just to get an integrated knowledge of scales and arpeggios. And because of that, many people have picked up a flawed, inefficient system and spend countless practice hours to make it work.

Since this integration is one of the most publicized "strong points‚" of the CAGED system, it is just natural that when an instructor like yours truly who is critical of the CAGED system states that there is a problem, the Internet goes into a frenzy. Although, most of that frenzy comes from a simple misunder- standing of what the apologists and critics mean by the word "integration‚". Indeed, there are TWO meanings for this word in this debate, and being able to understand the difference is key to understand what is going on.

The CAGED system teaches students to memorize the scales where the arpeggio/chord notes are inside the scale patterns, which we call "visual‚" inte- gration. This type of integration is in fact used in any system: it doesn't matter which way a guitarist plays scales, one can find the chord notes within any pattern they can use.

But visual integration is not the most important feature when using a system to learn how to play: what is truly useful is something called "mechanical‚" integration, meaning the ability to easily transition from scale to an arpeggio and back when playing - not how well these patterns look when we watch them written on paper on on scree, but rather how well our hands can move between them on the actual guitar fretboard.

However, writing about it isn't nearly as efficient as showing it on the
fretboard in a video format, so here is a video for you that will clarify any question you might have:

This example shows why mechanical integration is the best feature to have rather than a simple visual integration: it doesn't just help in real playing situations, it will help make all of your playing more consistent, and will help get results from your practice efforts much quicker than other methods. My previous video also shows a prime example of this: CAGED Sucks part 1: Right Hand Consistency.

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.

Tommaso Zillio

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