CAGED Sucks. part 5: Why You Should Not Learn ALL Systems

Tommaso Zillio

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How many systems to visualize scales do you know? How many SHOULD you know? Is it really better to know many systems rather than one?

We have now seen many problems related to the CAGED system for guitar scales (the series starts here: CAGED Sucks Part 1: Right Hand Consistency ), and of course this series has sparked debate between CAGED users and non-users. I have noticed that there are patterns in the way CAGED users answer to CAGED non-users (that is, many of them are using the same arguments), and I want to address one of it.

A typical objection of CAGED apologists when put in front of other system is: "of course there is more than one system, and you need to learn ALL of them". This advice is wrong on two different levels.

First of all, this is simply false. No, you don't *need* to learn all systems. It is a a fallacy to think that different systems merely give you different perspectives, and they are all valuable. The reality is that some systems can do *everything* that the CAGED system does, and do it better. Systems CAN be better or worse, and not simply different.

Second, it is misleading for a guitar student. Trying to learn more than one system is counterproductive, even if the systems are of high quality: it is simply confusing. And I don't mean confusing only at an intellectual level (though this is certainly a factor), but also from a "training" point of view.

Your muscle memory gets "imprinted" with the scale system you use, so if you don't use a versatile one you will tend to think always along the same lines and sound always in the same way. In my career as a music teacher I have seen many people being started on the CAGED system before they came to study with me, and I can invariably spot them in seconds by how they sound. Which is just another way to say: they all sound the same.

In the video below I explain in detail how your mind works when you try to learn one system or when you try to learn more than one, and the various pitfalls of the paradigm that you have to learn "all possible ways to play the scales", in particular how trying to learn all systems will make you a WORSE player, not a better one:

As you see, you shouldn't have to learn more than one system to become truly flexible; not when you could simply learn a flexible system. Remember this the next time someone tells you to learn more than one system: it *sounds* as a good argument but it is, in fact, a fallacy.


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