February 9, 2013

Tim Lerch's alternative to the CAGED system

 I feel that the CAGED system is flawed and incomplete and ultimately causes more confusion than it should. So I thought rather than simply complain about it, I should propose a better system. 
So here goes. I call it T.I.M. Triadic Integration Method. Its a simple fretboard organization system similar to CAGED but with out the shortcomings.
It allows the player to see the fingerboard completely via 2 sonic structures and 6 major triad fingering shapes.
The Sonic Structures are 1351 and 1513. Each Sonic Structure has three fingering shapes, one on each of the 3 sets of four adjacent strings. The only reason there are six shapes rather than two is the tuning of the B string. Once we can adjust for the B strings tuning and see the fingerboard in light of it, the entire fingerboard opens up. The Shapes come in pairs and pivot on a single root note, in other words the 1351 shape lives adjacent to the 1513 shape and both shapes share a common root. The 1351 shapes live on the nut side (left) of the root and the 1513 shapes live on the bridge (right) side of the root. So if we look at the 6th, 5th and 4th strings as root locations and see each root as common to two Sonic Sructures we have six shapes that cover the board with no dark spots.
So what are these 1351 shapes? To most players the 1351 shapes will be better known as the lowest 4 notes of the Cowboy G, C and F chords. The open position G,C and F chords all have the same structure! 1351.
The 1513 Structures are the lowest 4 notes of the common E, A and D chords which also all have the same structure.
The big difference with The T.I.M. system is that the structures only have 4 notes each on adjacent strings. So rather than call them by the shape names of the arbitrary open string chords (G,C,F,E,A,D) I call them by there actual structural quality. 1351 or 1513 plus the string that the root lives on.
Once we realize that these two Sonic Structures give us a workable view of the fingerboard that is complete and leaves no dark areas the whole thing opens up both harmonically and melodically. The Sonic Structures themselves are integrated with each other and flow into each other up and down the fingerboard as well as across the fingerboard. I realize that this written description may be a bit convoluted since we guitarists tend to be visual creatures so I will do some expanded explanations on the T.I.M. system and post it on my website for those who want to go into it more deeply.

You might have noticed that because the Sonic Structures are only 4 note groupings, there are a few places on the graphic where there are notes in the chord above or below the root that have been left out. This is basically for the sake of clarity, it make it a bit easier to see the relationships. But have no fear we can fill the picture in and that is where inversions of each of the main triads integrate the entire fingerboard. The inversions actually can still be described as one or the other of the 2 Sonic Structures we just have to see the shape without the benefit of having the root as the lowest note. There is also an interesting feature to this system, if you imagine that the high set shapes slide around the back of the neck and come out onto the low side the Sonic Structure switches from one to the other and continues from there. Crazy but true.


  1. I would like to know more about this system

    Thanks in advance.

  2. I like this idea a lot. There a 9 basic triad shapes (using 3 adjacent strings). This system nicely incorporates 8 of them. It would be useful to find a way to adjust this system slightly so that it could also include the 1-3-5 triad that sits on the 3 high strings (that's the only omission). Basically, that triad is part of a 1-3-5-1 sonic structure ... but we lack an extra-high 7th string. :-)