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Upgrade your solos by learning CAGED scales

How to play CAGED scales
(Image credit: Future)

Okay, stick with us here! We all know that scales aren’t that exciting, but the CAGED system will transform the way you play. 

You already know open C, A, G, E and D chords, right? The CAGED system plots these beginner-friendly shapes across the fretboard as barre chords, helping you play all the way up and down the neck. 

To transfer this to lead guitar, you’ll be linking a scale with each chord, and that’s not as hard as it sounds. The chords are relatively easy and the scales have similar finger patterns, so you’ll soon be blazing around the fretboard.

1. C Shape

2. A Shape

3. G Shape

4. E Shape

5. D Shape

Rock-style CAGED lick

(Image credit: Future)

If you still don’t quite get why the CAGED system is so transformative, take a look at this lick. The backing chops away on a D chord. It could get dull, but the lead guitar covers the whole fretboard, expanding on the scale shapes we’ve looked at. Like we say, link a scale with a chord you’re soloing over and you’ll never run out of licks!

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Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible.