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The CAGED System (Guitar Lesson)


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Orville Johnson

The CAGED System

Orville Johnson takes a beginner's look at the CAGED system.

Taught by Orville Johnson in Beginner Acoustic with Orville seriesLength: 8:14Difficulty: 2.0 of 5


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Member Comments about this Lesson

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freefly8freefly8 replied on July 29th, 2017

Cool system and more clarity about learning the neck and progressions. Thanks

spengelspengel replied on September 20th, 2016

If only my finger were more like spaghetti than rebar. ;-)

jossbahiajossbahia replied on January 8th, 2016

Hi in the E d shape and E c shape can I play the 6 strings? since the 6th string is E.

kyowoonleekyowoonlee replied on December 22nd, 2015

Thank you for the clarity...You brought it to where I'm at as a musician

pbaehrpbaehr replied on November 7th, 2015

A very clear summary, but I miss a feature that was here in earlier lessons: the textual summaries that appear on this page

Lilac LionLilac Lion replied on December 29th, 2014

Thanks Orville. this was very helpful.

juscajusca replied on June 17th, 2014

one of the best explanations of this system.

jlnmyrjlnmyr replied on January 4th, 2014

Wow! Mind blown! Thank you, thank you, thank you for this lesson. Mr. Johnson, when you say "inversion", do you mean "voicing"?

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on January 4th, 2014

Yes, I think inversion and voicing would be interchangeable. Basically, they both refer to the order in which the notes appear. For instance, the open G chord notes appear as such- root, 3rd, 5th, root,3rd, root. The E shaped G chord at the third fret has-root,5th, root, 3rd, 5th, root. Both G chords but different grouping of the notes, which could be called different inversions or different voicings.

tommylamtommylam replied on April 22nd, 2013

very well explain ,the best jamplay teacher

bungalowbillbungalowbill replied on March 2nd, 2013

Yes I'd like to know that too. For instance to make a C chord with the e shape you went all the way up the neck. How do we know where to fret?

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on March 4th, 2013

To know where to place the chord, you need to know on which string the root note (the 1) is located. In the E shape, the root is on string 6, your open E string. When you make your barred E shape at the first fret that note is an F and you have an E shape F chord. Count up on the 6 string to a C note and you'll find your barre is at the 8th fret. To summarize, you need to know on which string the root is located and be able to name the notes on that string so you can get to the correct fret for the chord you want to play.

frwyguyfrwyguy replied on February 21st, 2013

I am just getting started with the caged system. Thanks for the great primer!

tarregatarrega replied on February 18th, 2013

Not an word needed; not word wasted in the clear presentation of the CAGED system. This lesson is a must. Thank you Mr Johnson.

hansghansg replied on October 21st, 2012

super useful, and very well explained!

topflyertopflyer replied on August 1st, 2012

so, is there a pattern to know which fret to bar? the two examples the bar is on different frets. thanks.

hgb8956hgb8956 replied on May 26th, 2012

explained very clearly, thanks

Beginner Acoustic with Orville

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Discover the essentials with Orville Johnson by learning some of the most popular topics and techniques in beginner guitar.



Lesson 1

Overcoming Beginner Challenges

Orville talks about some challenges you will likely face as a beginner and offers some advice that will help you overcome them.

Length: 13:05 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Flatpick and Strumming

Orville talks about flatpicks, how to hold them, and how to strum with them.

Length: 13:29 Difficulty: 1.0 FREE
Lesson 3

Fingerpicking and Patterns

Orville Johnson introduces some basic fingerpicking patterns.

Length: 6:58 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Metronome and Practicing

Orville Johnson explains why it is important to practice with a metronome. He also covers some practice strategies that will help minimize your frustration.

Length: 21:35 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Practical Theory Part 1: Intervals

Orville dives into part 1 of his beginners' guide to practical theory. In this lesson, you will learn the basics of intervals.

Length: 17:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Practical Theory Part 2: Scales

Orville Johnson takes a look at scales in part 2 of his practical theory mini-series.

Length: 18:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Practical Theory Part 3: Chords and Construction

Orville Johnson jumps into part 3 of his practical theory mini-series. This lesson is about chords and their construction.

Length: 21:08 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Practical Theory Pt. 4: Modes

It's now time to tap back into the practical music theory portion of this series. Continuing on with part 4, Orville now discusses what modes are and how they are really just scales with Greek names.

Length: 19:50 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Basic Blues Shuffle

Orville Johnson demonstrates a basic blues shuffle. This incredibly easy rhythm piece will have you sounding like a blues great in no time!

Length: 12:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Connecting Chords with Bass Runs

Orville Johnson demonstrates how simple chord progressions can be spruced up with bass runs. The classic song "Oh! Susanna" is used as an example.

Length: 12:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Voice Leading

Orville Johnson talks about the concept of voice leading. This concept will help you play chord progressions that flow better and sound more harmonious.

Length: 10:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 12

Major Chords

Orville Johnson teaches the basic major chords in this lesson. He also explains the best way to change from chord to chord, a challenge for many beginners.

Length: 19:23 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Note Values

Orville Johnson jumps into some light theory with a lesson on note values.

Length: 7:51 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

The CAGED System

Orville Johnson takes a beginner's look at the CAGED system.

Length: 8:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

Open D Tuning

Orville Johnson introduces open D tuning and encourages exploration of its possibilities. This tuning is great for a broad range of playing styles.

Length: 24:04 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Open G Tuning

This time, Orville Johnson introduces open G tuning. This tuning is great for a broad range of playing styles and sounds pretty without even fingering a chord.

Length: 21:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Beginner Fingerstyle Techniques

This lesson is perfect for the beginner looking to develop dexterity and independence in the right hand fingers. Orville guides you step by step through basic rhythm concepts and fingerstyle exercises.

Length: 26:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

How Does a Capo Work?

This lesson presents any beginner with the information needed to understand how a capo works. This tool enables you to change the key of a song without learning any new chord voicings.

Length: 22:07 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Beginner Lead Techniques

Orville introduces basic techniques that can be used to play lead guitar. This lesson includes a primer on hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends and harmonics.

Length: 22:14 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Orville's Guide to Practicing

Orville dispenses a lifetime of accrued wisdom on the subject of practicing and learning. This lesson is only 16 minutes long, and it will not only change how you learn the guitar, but can also be applied...

Length: 16:38 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Creating New Chords

This lesson is all about creating different types of chords. This does steer the lesson towards music theory, but the information is invaluable and infinitely applicable.

Length: 23:05 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only

About Orville Johnson View Full Biography Orville Johnson was born in 1953 in Edwardsville, Illinois and came up on the St. Louis, Missouri music scene, where he was exposed to and participated in a variety of blues, bluegrass and American roots music. He began singing in his Pentecostal church as a young boy, in rock bands in middle school, then took up the guitar at 17,with early influences from Doc Watson, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Chuck Berry. In the early 1970's, Orville spent several seasons playing bluegrass on the SS Julia Belle Swain, a period-piece Mississippi river steamboat plying the inland waterways, with his group the Steamboat Ramblers.

Orville moved to Seattle, Washington in 1978, where he was a founding member of the much-loved and well-remembered folk/rock group, the Dynamic Logs. Other musical associates include Laura Love, Ranch Romance, File' Gumbo Zydeco Band, Scott Law, and the Twirling Mickeys. Johnson, known for his dobro and slide guitar stylings and vocal acrobatics, has played on over 100 albums. He has appeared on Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companion, Jay Leno's Tonight Show and was featured in the 1997 film Georgia with Mare Winningham. His musical expertise can also be heard on the Microsoft CD-ROMs, Musical Instruments of the World and the Complete Encyclopedia of Baseball. He teaches as well at the International Guitar Seminar, Pt. Townsend Country Blues Week and Puget Sound Guitar Workshop.

Orville released 4 recordings in the 1990's: The World According to Orville (1990) Blueprint for the Blues (1998) Slide & Joy (1999) an all-instrumental dobro tour de force and Kings of Mongrel Folk (1997) with Mark Graham. He also appeared on 4 discs with the File' Gumbo Zydeco Band and produced Whose World Is This (1997) for Jim Page and Inner Life (1999) for Mark Graham. In the 21st century, he has released Freehand, a new Kings of Mongrel Folk disc, Still Goin' Strong, and been featured in the soundtracks of PBS' Frontier House and the Peter Fonda flick The Wooly Boys as well as the compilation cd Legends of the Incredible Lap Steel Guitar.

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