Pentatonic Boxes and the CAGED System; Compartmentalizing Scale Shapes to Improve Vocabulary.

Updated: May 25, 2020

I made a diagram over the weekend to help me in practicing my minor scales. This article will not delve too deeply into the theory of these scales. One tool that is often taught to guitarists, is to think of scales in different "boxes" which are a visual way of applying the notes of various scales to the fretboard quickly and without having to learn about the music theory going on "under the hood." Anyone familiar with this has likely encountered this applied to the pentatonic scales as a means to help teach various positions around the neck.

After learning this, it's good to realize that these pentatonic boxes can be "filled in" with notes from different scales, which led me to create the following diagram:


One of the tools often used in learning is to "compartmentalize" different information together. Since many guitarists are already familiar with the pentatonic boxes, it is easy to think of the pentatonic scales as a less filled-in version of the CAGED scale's major shapes. Additionally, since the melodic minor scale can be thought of as "a major scale with a flat 3" and the harmonic minor scale as "a major scale with a flat 3 and flat 6" the melodic and harmonic minor scales can quickly fit into this schema as well. In this way, all of these scales and their respective modes can easily be memorized as being part of these pentatonic boxes.

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