Want to be a good rhythm guitarist? You need to know your 7th chords – and the CAGED system can help you find them all over the neck

John Frusciante plays a Fender Stratocaster onstage at Lollapalooza 2024
(Image credit: Erika Goldring/WireImage))

The fretboard can be a complicated terrain to navigate. Many notes can be played at the same pitch in multiple positions, and the third and second strings are tuned a major 3rd apart, whereas the rest are tuned to the interval of a 4th.      

With this in mind, the CAGED system is a useful tool to help the fretboard make a little more sense. This system is based on any chord being able to be played in five different positions, based upon the five main open-position major chord shapes of C-A-G-E-D. In essence, each one of these chords can be moved up the guitar neck, most commonly utilising the first finger to barre across the fretboard.

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Simon Barnard

Simon is a graduate of the UK's Academy of Contemporary Music and The Guitar Institute, and holds a Masters degree in music. He teaches, examines and plays everything from rock to jazz.