Top 5 Things Every Intermediate Guitar Player Should Know

caged system nashville number Nov 01, 2023


Hello, fellow guitar enthusiasts! Today, I want to share with you what I consider to be the top five essentials that every intermediate guitar player should know. These insights come from my 35-plus years of teaching and playing the guitar, both one-on-one with students and through various online platforms. Whether you're a self-taught guitarist or have had some formal training, these five concepts will help bridge the gap between being a beginner and an intermediate player. So, let's dive into it!

1. Bar Chords

Let's kick things off with bar chords. If you've been playing the guitar for a while, you probably have a good grasp of basic open chords, melodies, and maybe even some scales. Bar chords are the next step in elevating your guitar playing. Essentially, a bar chord is any chord that can be played in an open position but is moved up the neck usually “barring” one’s finger across the neck, like a capo. This ability allows you to transform any open chord into a versatile, movable shape that can be played in different keys.

For example, take an E chord in the open position. When you move it up the neck, it becomes a different chord, but it retains the same “shape” as the E chord. While some bar chords can be challenging due to finger strength and stretch requirements, mastering them significantly expands your chord vocabulary and playing capabilities.

If you're looking for more in-depth guidance on bar chords, check out the course here. 

2. The CAGED System

Next up is the CAGED system, a powerful tool that builds upon the foundation of bar chords. The CAGED system is a concept that revolves around using bar chord shapes based on the five open major chords: C, A, G, E, and D, which conveniently spell out the word "CAGED."

With the CAGED system, you learn to play these major chord shapes up and down the neck, creating different voicings for the same chord. This technique allows you to add variety to your playing and explore different sonic textures while staying within the framework of a specific chord. If you want to learn more about the CAGED System click here.

For instance, you can take a C chord shape and move it up the neck to create variations of the C chord. By understanding this system, you'll be able to unlock the potential of playing chords and progressions all over the fretboard.

3. The Pentatonic Scale

Now, let's delve into the world of scales, starting with the pentatonic scale. The pentatonic scale is often one of the first scales guitarists learn. It's a five-note scale that forms the foundation for countless guitar solos and improvisations in various musical genres.

In its basic form, the pentatonic scale consists of the root, minor third, fourth, fifth, and minor seventh notes. The beauty of the pentatonic scale lies in its simplicity and versatility. These five notes are carefully selected to create a scale that complements almost any chord progression, making it an ideal choice for soloing and improvisation.

Learning to play the pentatonic scale in different positions on the fretboard allows you to solo confidently over songs in various keys. It's an essential skill for any guitarist looking to express themselves and add flair to their playing.

4. The Number System

Now, let's introduce a game-changing concept: the number system. This system replaces traditional chord names with numbers, making it easier to understand and navigate chord progressions in different keys. Instead of thinking in terms of chord names like G, A minor, B minor, etc., you think in terms of scale degrees.

The number system assigns a number to each chord within a major key, helping you understand the relationship between chords and how they function within a song. Here's a quick breakdown:

- 1: Major chord

- 2: Minor chord

- 3: Minor chord

- 4: Major chord

- 5: Major chord

- 6: Minor chord

- 7: Diminished chord

This system simplifies the process of playing in different keys, creating chord progressions, and understanding the structure of songs. It's a valuable tool for any guitarist looking to expand their musical horizons and communicate more effectively with other musicians. If making the Nashville Number System part of your playing is something you'd like to do click here.

5. Identifying the Tonic

Last but not least, we have the skill of identifying the tonic of a song. The tonic is the central note or chord around which a song revolves. Just as every song has a lyrical theme, every song has a tonal center that influences its musical composition.

Understanding the tonic of a song is like solving a musical mystery. It provides crucial information about the key, chord progressions, and melodies. It's the cornerstone that ties together everything we've discussed so far—the number system, pentatonic scale, and the CAGED system.

For example, if a song's lyrics and chord progressions revolve around the theme of C major, identifying C as the tonic is pivotal. This knowledge allows you to apply the number system, choose appropriate scales like the C Major/A Minor pentatonic scale, and utilize the CAGED system to create unique chord voicings.


In conclusion, these five concepts—bar chords, the CAGED system, the pentatonic scale, the number system, and identifying the tonic—are essential building blocks for any intermediate guitarist. While this blog post provides a brief overview of each topic, I encourage you to explore these concepts further through online resources, courses, or instructional videos.

By mastering these fundamentals, you'll elevate your guitar playing, expand your musical horizons, and gain a deeper understanding of music theory. So, pick up your guitar, embrace these concepts, and embark on an exciting journey of musical growth and creativity. Remember, the path to becoming an accomplished guitarist is paved with knowledge, practice, and passion. Happy playing!



Start Your Journey: Get started today with my Build a Solid Foundation mini-course!
Click Here to Get Started