How to play the D shape

Hopefully you’ve completed all our previous posts in this series, if not go back and check them out!

For those that have been following along – well done! We've reached the final shape of the CAGED system: the D shape. By mastering this, you'll unlock the ability to play all the open major chords anywhere on the neck. 

In this article, we'll go over how to play the D shape as a moveable chord, find its root notes, and transpose it to any key. Let's complete the set 💯

Understanding the D shape

The D shape is familiar to most guitarists as an open chord. However, it’s much less commonly thought of as a “barrable” chord. Today we'll show you how it’s just as valid as the E and A bar chord shapes.

Playing the D shape as a moveable chord

Once you get the hang of the D shape, you can slide it up and down the neck to play different chords. Here's how:

  1. Fret the open D chord without using your index finger.
  2. Now, imagine using your index finger to take place of the nut on the guitar.
  3. Move the shape up the neck by one fret and use your index finger to bar the first fret. 

Congratulations! You’ve just moved the D shape.

Locating the root notes

To navigate with this shape effectively, you need to know where the root notes are:

  1. The D string is your primary root note.
  2. The B string offers a higher octave root.

Remember, wherever these strings land on the fretboard gives the chord its name. 

For instance, if you’re playing the 5th fret on the D string (which is G), you’re playing a G major chord using the D shape.

Transposing the D shape to any key

Changing the key using the D shape is simple:

  1. Identify the desired chord's root note on the D string.
  2. Slide the D shape up so the root note aligns with the desired chord's root note.
  3. Ensure your bar (your index finger) is pressing down on the correct fret to complete the chord.

For example, to play an A chord using the D shape:

  1. Find A on the D string (it's on the 7th fret).
  2. Position your D shape so it centers around this note.
  3. Bar the appropriate fret to lock in the chord.


What's next after mastering the D shape?

Once you've grasped the D shape, here's what you can explore:

  • Combine shapes: Seamlessly transition between different CAGED shapes.
  • Scales and solos: Apply CAGED system knowledge to create melodies.
  • Advanced techniques: Introduce hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides within the shapes.
  • Music theory: Although not essential, understanding the theory behind what you play can be enlightening, and the CAGED system is a great way to learn it.

Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you play around with the shapes of the CAGED system, the more fluid your playing will become.

This is just the beginning – there's so much more to explore within this amazing navigation system.

If you're curious about going back and refining your skills, or perhaps missed out on the earlier shapes, make sure to check out our previous articles. And stay tuned for our next piece that delves deeper into combining these shapes and adding some flair to your playing!

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