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Using The CAGED Guitar System With Minor Chord Progressions

Updated: May 18

So you have learned a little bit about the CAGED system and you are looking into how to apply it to your minor chords but you don’t know where to turn…. Well that’s where this article comes in to sweep away your worries and inform you on how to use the CAGED system to your advantage.

In this article we will be going over:

· What is a minor chord?

· What are the minor CAGED shapes?

· How to play them

· Using CAGED Minor with typical Chord progressions

What Is A Minor Chord?

When you think of a melancholic or a sad and thoughtful moment, minor chords are used to portray that feeling or sentiment.

The intervals of minor chords are the root (I), minor/flattened third (b3), and fifth (5).

We create minor chords by flattening the major 3rd from the major chord by one step, creating the minor 3rd and the minor chord.

What Are The Minor CAGED Shapes?

The minor CAGED shapes are a way to visualise minor chords across the neck.

Usually when referring to the CAGED system we are thinking of major chords but in this article I will show how to generate the minor chords at the open position and across the neck.

This is useful because where ever you place your finger you have two options to choose from, by that I mean you can go forward towards the body in one CAGED shape or go backwards towards the nut in another CAGED shape.

Here are the CAGED shapes in the open position in Example 1

In Example 1.1 we can see how the notes need to be changed from the major CAGED chords to the minor CAGED chords.

In Example 2 we can see them across the neck linking the CAGED shapes in sequence.

It will be important to memorise and practice these shapes so that in the later exercise on chord progressions they become easier to use.

How Do I Play them?

What you may find is that with the minor chord shapes, a few of them may be tricky to play. Which is very true! Namely the C and G shapes as they can be a stretch for people being introduced to these shapes.

You can see these shapes in Example 3.

So what we can do with these shapes is break them up into two shapes of their own as seen in Example 4.

In Example 4.1 you can see them side by side and what is being changed from the full shape to the split shapes.

There is also a good reason to break up any of these chord shapes, other than making them easier to play.

As a guitarist, you may want to play only parts of the shapes, or to use the triads within the shapes. This way, you get the full sound of the chord, but without taking too much sonic space when playing with other people - say, in a band.

If you play all 6 strings on the guitar, you may take up space where the bass or the vocalist sit (depending on the vocalist), and playing partial voicings allows the other instruments to breathe, as well as giving you an opportunity to stand out.

Playing partial voicings allows for your guitar to sound more like a guitar part, and cut through a mix of a band, rather than be trying to cover all frequency bands with all the strings.

Using CAGED Minor With Chord progressions

Now we take a look at applying these CAGED minor shapes within chord progressions, a lot of these chord progressions presented will sound similar to a lot of popular songs.

The aim of this exercise is to try and utilise the CAGED system to stay as close as you can from one chord to the next on the fretboard.

The reason why we are doing this is because the closer the voicings are, the smoother the transition sounds.

Alternatively, you can ignore this and make huge jumps from one chord to the next which has a different vibe, but generally for this exercise, we are trying to keep them as close as possible to demonstrate how powerful it can be to be able to generate the next chord needed from your starting point.

Each Exercise will have the “typical” way guitarists play their chord progressions, namely using the E and A shapes, and then a follow up exercise with the new information learnt in this article.

Here are 5 typical chord progressions:

Example 5: i – iv - biii - bVI (Fm – Bbm – Ab – Db) in the key of Fm

Now instead of playing it like the example above, try this:

Example 6: i - v –iv - bVII (Am – Em – Dm – G) in the key of Am

And now to the better example:

Example 7: i - v- i - iv (Dm – Am – Dm – Em) in the key of Dm

Example 7B uses the lower C shape for dm, the higher G shape for Am, and the D shape for Em

Example 8: i - bIII - iv - bVi (Gm – Bb – Dm – Eb) in the key of Gm

With Example 8B you will see that you can create different voicings but still use the same chords!

Example 9: bVI - bIII - V - i ( Ab – E – Gm – Cm) in the key of Cm

Youll find that with Example 9B below that you dont really have to move your fingers as much whilst still hitting the chord changes


Hopefully with each example you try, you get used to using the CAGED system in a more fluid way.

Combining the different ways you can link chord progressions from starting on different root notes, finding the easiest way to transition from one chord to the next in the closest space possible, for a smoother sound.

Learning about making partial versions of each chord shape to provide a more “guitar part” piece and defining your place in a band.

My hope is, with this article you are more experienced with using CAGED minor chords and their variations and that you too can have more voicings available to you to create your own versions of popular chord progressions.

If you have stumbled across this article but need an introduction to the CAGED system please check out this very informative article on the subject by clicking the button below

Written by GuitarGuyNick

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