How to play the A shape

You’ll often hear guitar enthusiasts speak about the CAGED system, an ingenious way of understanding the fretboard. Today, we dive into the "A shape", one of the foundational stones of this system.

The Basics of the A Shape

Every guitar player starts with basic open chords – one of which being the A major chord. The beauty of the CAGED system is that it takes these familiar open chords and transforms them into movable shapes.

Turning A into a Movable Shape

When we speak of a 'movable shape', we're talking about a group of notes that can be shifted up or down the fretboard to play different chords without changing the shape. As you may already know, the A shape can be turned into a movable barre chord.

Here's how:

  1. Play the open A major chord without using your index finger – use your middle, ring, and pinky fingers instead.
  2. The idea is that your index finger will work like a capo, forming a "bar” across the strings.
  3. Move everything up by one fret – your index finger should now bar the first fret, and your other fingers should form the A shape on the third fret.
  4. You’ve just played a Bb major using the A shape! Move the shape up another fret, and you get B major, and so on.

Finding the Root Note

To make the most of this movable shape, you need to know where the root note is – for the A shape, it's quite simple.

  • The root note always determines the name of the chord you're playing. 
  • With the A shape the root note is on the 5th string (A string).
  • If you're playing the the A shape on the 3rd fret, the root note is C so the chord is C major.

Is it all starting to click into place? Learning the CAGED system in full of those eureka moments!

Transposing to Any Key

Transposing is just a fancy term for moving a chord shape to a different place – we just did it with our by turning our A shape into a C major chord. Let’s try to really lock in the idea by moving it up to D major. Can you figure out how?

  • Find the D note on the 5th string (It’s on the 5th fret).
  • Bar this fret with your index finger.
  • Form the A shape using your other fingers as you did before.
  • Voilà! You're now playing a D major chord with the A shape.

Try moving it to different positions and naming the chord based on the root note that your index finger is on.

In Conclusion

The A shape offers versatility and familiarity for guitarists looking to expand their chord vocabulary. By understanding this shape's movable nature, the entire fretboard opens up with possibilities. Practice the A shape in all over the neck and soon, you'll be playing with ease.

Remember: The CAGED system is about visualization. The better you can picture these shapes and their root notes, the more efficiently you'll navigate your guitar.

Stay tuned for our next post on the D shape!

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