CAGED for Guitar - The C Major Shape

When learning scales and arpeggios on guitar, the key to success is working on shapes that are easy to memorize and related to each other on the neck. 

With the CAGED system, you learn chords, scales, and arpeggios on top of each other, so you can move between each quickly and easily in your playing. 

As well, seeing all three devices together makes memorizing each shape much easier in your studies. 

I learned this approach originally from Joe Pass, who said, “For every chord, you learn, know a scale and arpeggio right over top of that shape.”

Though he didn’t call it CAGED, Joe Pass was on to a big idea with that learning approach. 

In this lesson, you learn the first CAGED shape, based on the open C chord, as you build a scale and arpeggio from that shape in 12 keys on the fretboard. 

Start by watching the video for background info and tips on how best to learn this shape in the practice room. 

From there, dive into the shapes below and take the technical and creative challenges when ready. 

Have fun learning these essential chords, scales, and arpeggio shapes by adding them to your solos over the backing track in the woodshed.

C Shape Chord-Scale-Arpeggio

Below, you find the open position C chord, then that shape is moved up the neck to show you how this same C shape is used to sound a D chord. 

From there, the C shape arpeggio and scale are written out from the D root note. 

Start by learning the open chord, then sliding it up to the D chord shape. 

When ready, practice the D arpeggio and D major scale shape. 

If that’s cool right now, then take this shape to other keys one shape at a time. 

So, work the chord shape from each fret, then the arpeggio from each fret, then the scale from each fret. 

When that’s comfortable, head down to the technical and creative challenges for this chapter below. 

Have fun as you explore this essential CAGED chord, scale, and arpeggio shape on the guitar. 

C Shape

CAGED C Shape Technical Workout

In this technical workout, you play the C shape chord-scale-arpeggio in that order for all 12 keys on the fretboard. 

Here’s the order for each key, which follows the cycle, to work on with this exercise. 

Start on the first key, play the chord, then up and down the scale, then up and down the arpeggio. 

From there, move to the next key and repeat. 

If it takes you more than one practice session to cover all 12 keys, all good. 

Take your time, focus on memorizing the shape and recognizing the root notes on the 5th string, and go at your own pace with this workout. 

Have fun as you dive into 12 keys with this technical workout. 

Order of Keys


Root Note Frets


CAGED C Shape Creative Challenge

In this creative challenge you solo with C shape scales and arpeggios over a backing track that moves between 4 different keys. 

Here, you’re given the chord progression, and the first chord in each line is the tonic chord so you know what keys to solo in. 

If the first chord on a line is D, then you solo in the key of D major over those 4 bars for example. 

Here’s the order in which to work this exercise. 

- Solo using only C shape arpeggios. 

- Solo using only C shape scales.

- Solo using both C shape scales and arpeggios.

Now that you know how to work this creative challenge, it’s time for the fun part, taking it to the fretboard!

Backing Track