The easiest way to navigate the fretboard is to use a few basic shapes as landmarks. These form an imaginary map which you slide along the neck based on the chord or key.

Everything you play -- chords and scales, riffs and licks -- can be related back to this map, known as "CAGED".

You don't need to memorize dozens of individual chords, scales, or note names. Instead, you memorize one basic shape and relate everything else to it, first visually, eventually musically.

How to find your way around the neck

Start with what you already know

Some basic chords, scales and licks live at the same place as these two common shapes.
the A and E shapes

Fill in the gaps

The "consonants" (C, G, and D) live in between the "vowels" (the A and E shapes).
the C, G, and D shapes

Use it to build your vocabulary

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Example: reverse-engineering "Red House"

From shapes to tones

How to make the leap from thinking in shapes to thinking musically.
relative pitch (playing by ear) and CAGED