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Modes and the CAGED system

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by nothingman0088, Jul 18, 2007.

  1. nothingman0088


    Apr 25, 2007
    I am having trouble utilizing modes correctly, and understanding the caged system, any help would be much obliged.
  2. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I never heard of the CAGED system before you mentioned it. I found this link. It's for guitar but you should be able to adjust for bass.

    Guitar CAGED stuffage

    Remember Google is your friend took me about one minute to find the info.
  3. Nice!
    Never heard of it either.
  4. TheBassBetween


    Jun 25, 2005
    Haven't heard of it, but I think I understand it from that link. Basically, you're using the open voicing of the chords C A G E and D, and realizing that they can be used up and down the neck. It's useful because you can easily see which notes you can use to improvise if you put one of the chord shapes into it.

    That didn't make too much sense, but read the website.
  5. MagicMedicine


    Sep 27, 2005
    Iv heard of the CAGED system, as I played Guitar before Bass.

    It is a very usefull tool to use for bass just as it is for guitar, I think it should be incorperated into everybody's practice routines.

    Very usefull if your looking to become very fluent with improvising or chords, and its very good to use when you are just starting out to reallllly learn the fretboard.

    Here is a link.


    The lessons on this website are for Guitar, but they are very usefull to somebody just starting out on bass and want to learn the basic theory, they organize the lessons into levels.

    All the easyest levels are White belt, then they get a little more advanced with Yellow Belt, untill you get to the most advanced at Black Belt.
  6. BassGuyNL


    Jul 20, 2000
    The Netherlands
    I played guitar before starting bass, too. The CAGED system seems to work fine for guitar. However, the main difference between guitar and bass is the B string on guitar which introduces an interval of a third when going from the G to the B string, while the rest of the strings are tuned in fourths. Interestingly, this makes the CAGED system less complicated for bass.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but on bass the C and G shapes are exactly the same. Also, the A and D shapes could be considered the same as the E shape, only adapted to accommodate the G to B string and B to E string intervals, right? So all we have left are only two shapes, which repeat over & over on the neck, hence the self-invented term CA system instead of CAGED system.

    Unfortunately, while the more logical arrangement of the bass neck should make things easier, I actually find this "same-ness" more confusing, while the guitar neck is more condusive to "seeing" chords and their derivative scales, arpeggios, altered tones, etc.
  7. I'll address modes. Two ways to play modes, 1) relative modes where the notes are the same you just start them on a different tonic. And then 2) parallel modes where the notes change.

    As we are used to playing bass line riffs, i.e. R-3-5-3 or R-b3-5-b7 parallel modes are very easy for us to understand and use. Parallel modes are based upon:

    The major modes have the major scale as their home base and the minor modes have the natural minor scale as their home base.

    Major scale = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
    Ionian =........1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
    Lydian = .......1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7 one note different.
    Mixolydian = ..1, 2, 3,.. 4, 5, 6, b7 again one note different.

    Natural minor scale =.. 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7
    Aeolian = ..................1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7
    Dorian = ...................1, 2, b3, 4, 5, ..6, b7 one note diff.
    Phrygian = ................1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7 one note diff.
    Locrian being the diminished scale has both the b2 and a b5.

    Now if you want the mixolydian mood, grab the major scale and flat the 7th. Yep, it's that easy. Want the exotic Spanish mood of Phrygian grab the natural minor scale and flat the 2nd. Stay in the song's key just flat the 7th for mixolydian or sharp the 4th for Lydian. Yep, piece of cake.

    Course the chords used under the mode notes is what gives the mode it's mood. Another story.

    Good luck.
  8. Minotauros


    Nov 23, 2009
    I could never quite get my head wrapped around CAGED for guitar. I can easily use E and A shape chords. They are your typical barre chords rooted on the 6th and 5th strings of the guitar. But I never got the jist of C G D. I have material to review, and maybe should give another look, if for nothing other than edumacation. Knowledge is good.

    Modes are just "displaced scales". Any major scale can be placed/played under any mode. Here's a good simple explanation of modes:


    That's all they are.
  9. Don't bother no reason to use all of them.

    C and G are hard to finger so I don't use them. I do like D and use it along with E and the A fingering. I often modify the A and sound only the middle strings for a "cheat" barre to take up the neck.
  10. Minotauros


    Nov 23, 2009
    I like the way you think! :D

    With an A-shape I cannot get my ring finger to bend enough to not let the high e string ring at that fret instead of properly at the index finger fret. So I just mute the high e string. And my sound is none the worse for wear for it.
  11. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    I find the C, D, and G to be VERY useful parts of CAGED. It's nothing exotic nor new, as Howard Roberts explained it very well in his columns in Guitar Player Magazine back in the early '80s. There are five basic open chord shapes (picture the nut in each of them). And there's a corresponding fingering for the major scale for each of these shapes. So, it's an effective way to find the diatonic major scale at any part of the neck for any key. You find the roots, identify the chord shape for that part of the neck, and you know where the scale tones are. This allows you to get out of playing on only certain positions for different keys. It also allows you to transpose very easily.

    For example, "The Star Spangled Banner" lies quite nicely in the "C" shape. So, to play it in E, you find the C shape E chord (first finger at the 4th fret, your roots are on the 7th fret/5th string and the 5th fret/2nd string). Find the melody there (one note is out of the scale, but it's a simple stretch on guitar). Now, you want to play it in G? Find the "C" shape G chord and you've got the melody

    See, CAGED isn't about FINGERING the chords, it's about building a frame of reference. So even though the "G" and "D" shapes are awkward, the SCALE fingering for them is very very useful.

    However, I've found little utility for this application on electric bass. And adding modes into this just obscures so much about music- modes are NOT the solution that they're too often presented as. I think one should learn to see the major scale not as a simple fingering pattern, but a continuim along the entire neck. Just as you don't start every word in alphabetical order, don't think of music as being only from the root.

    Again, using "The Star Spangled Banner" as an example. The "C" shape scale fingering starts with the 3rd on the sixth string. The melody starts with the 5th. But there's no reason at all to consider modes in this context at all. Most purported applications of modes (as presented as tools for instruction) are also totally inappropriate. If the chords are all in the same key, think in the same key, not three different modes. See, the point of modes is that each mode has a sound and function. If I'm playing an Amin7/D7 vamp, that's going to be A Dorian. But if I'm playing changes and I see Amin7 to D7, it's much more useful for me (especially as the bassist, but also as a guitarist soloing) to understand that I'm dealing with ii V in the key of G and to THINK in the key of G instead of A Dorian to D Mixolydian. The notes may be the same, but the connection and the flow is totally different. And, in that Amin7 to D7 vamp, I'm still not going to be thinking of changing from A Dorian to D Mixolydian when the D7 chord comes up- I'm still thinking A Dorian, just my primary target notes change.

  12. BassGuyNL


    Jul 20, 2000
    The Netherlands
    Neither could I. However, while my bass playing was in a rut, I went back to playing guitar for a few weeks. I found some great videos by Guthrie Govan on YouTube, and purchased his book Creative Guitar (http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Guit...=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266853741&sr=1-1). Guthrie is an excellent teacher. While I have been messing around with the CAGED system for years, but never quite digging deep enough, after working from this book I feel I finally started to benefit, linking chord shapes to scales and arpeggios. E.g., on guitar, I now see major pentatonic scales over their related major chord shapes, and minor pentatonic scales over their minor chord shape brothers. I now try to translate what I've learned to my bass playing.

    Guitar tuning has developed the way it is to accommodate chord playing. As I mentioned earlier, some CAGED chord shapes can be eliminated because the bass is tuned in fourths. I suppose the only way to circumvent the lack of different chord shapes on the bass fingerboard to memorize scales and arpeggios is to really memorize the names of the notes on the neck.
  13. Minotauros


    Nov 23, 2009
    I'll check him out on Youtube. Like I said, I've never really needed to use CAGED, but I'd just like to learn. As far as pentatonics, playing them over chords on guitar is exactly what's done. It can be done with bass, as well. I'm nowhere near that level yet. I'm just doing R or 3 or 5 of the chords or combos of those.

    I haven't given this too much thought, but I'm sure almost any chord can be played on bass also, just by playing it's triad (or an inversion), maybe even a 7th and min7b5. Fmaj can be 533xxx, A C F (2nd inversion of the triad). I know someone can chime in on that. I'm waaaay too nooborn on bass to think any further than that. :D
  14. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    So...I just wanna make sure I got this right..

    The "CAGED" system is just a way of saying "you can move these chord shapes anywhere on the neck and it works" kinda thing?

    If that's the case, I can't really see many (if any) advantages applying it to bass..
  15. Minotauros


    Nov 23, 2009
    Pretty much, as it applies to guitar. I just don't know the shapes off the top of my head. Moreover, in the different positions on the guitar, the chord can have several different names.

    As I keep saying I'm a nooborn on bass, but even I know you can't make a Dmaj xx0232 or Cmaj x32010, much less move them around on a 4 string instrument. It's those 2 high strings, the B and E that kind of mess things up. :p
  16. BassGuyNL


    Jul 20, 2000
    The Netherlands
    Nope...:rollno: It offers a clever way of connecting scale patterns all over the fingerboard by linking them to well known chord forms.
  17. Minotauros


    Nov 23, 2009
    That's part of it. But unless I miss my guess, it's useless on bass. And to my way of thinking, to too many people, scales become an end in themselves.

    Justin Sandercoe has a section devoted to explaining CAGED.

    I just went back over Justin's lesson. While he makes it easy to understand, I realized why I reject the C G D shapes out of hand (no pun intended): I can't make the 4 fret stretch across strings. It's the same reason I cannot play Come Together with this shuffle:


    I have to play it


    So you know, whatever gets the job done for you.
  18. BassGuyNL


    Jul 20, 2000
    The Netherlands
    Clearly, some of the "cowboy chord" shapes generate more convenient scale patterns than others. E.g. the "E" shape yields the all too familiar minor pentatonic scale that every budding blues guitarist plays ad nauseam, because it's so easy too play and supplies notes that sound right. The C and G shapes require more practice, I guess because they start with a weak finger, i.e. your pinky. Scale patterns based on the D shape are even more awkward. However, to get a complete grasp of the fingerboard, you'll need to learn them all. Even if you can't make some of the streches, at least you have to know them visually.

    As I said earlier, the bass tuning screws things up for us. To clarify, do this mental exercise: Picture the shape of an open E guitar chord (fingered notes on the A, D, and G strings). Now move that shape to one string higher (D, G, and B strings). To keep it a major chord, you have to finger the note on the B string one fret higher: voila, you have just arrived at the A shape. Now one string higher, again (G, B, and E strings). Again, you have to adjust the note on the B string up one fret: presto, the D shape. On bass, you don't have to make these adjustments. This obviates the need for 3 of the guitar chord shapes. On first sight, you might think this arrangement will make things easier. As I said earlier, I feel the "same-ness" of the bass fingerboard actually makes it more difficult to really get a grasp of the fingerboard.
  19. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    That's the problem with how the scale shapes are taught then. When you look at CAGED, you're supposed to see the whole scale, not just from root to root, but from lowest note in the pattern to the highest one. It's merely a visual over-lay to facilitate understanding where the notes of the major scale are. From that you can extrapolate or condense. It's not about petatonic minor wanking, unless you also know what scale degrees you're using.

    If the gui**** only learns the E shape and the box for the pentatonic minor there, without learning that the E shape includes the whole scale AND that the pentatonic minor is 1, b3, 4, 5, and b7 it's been taught wrong. If however the guitarist learns that the E shape has the whole scale starting at the 7th as the lowest note and ending with the 2nd on the first string, AND they know the arpeggio for the major chord within the E shape (all of them, not just ones you finger to strum the chord) THEN they've learned it in a way that's highly useful.


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