Practicing the CAGED Chords

In my last article, we learned about the CAGED chords. Learning the chords is the first part of the lesson, but putting them into use is where things get fun. Hey Joe, the rock standard made popular by Jimi Hendrix, is a great song to use for practicing the CAGED chords because the progression of the Hey Joe chords uses all 5 open-string major chords. These are my favorite types of exercises—the ones that aren’t exercises—but, instead, are an actual song that you can play along with.

What’s a chord progression?

Music is a language, so, let’s use the English language as an analogy:

  • The letters of the alphabet are used together to form words
  • Words are used to form sentences
  • Sentences are strung together to tell stories

In music:

  • Notes are used together to form chords
  • Chords are used together to form progressions
  • Progressions are strung together to tell the story in the song


A chord progression is two or more chords used together. Just like there are noun-verb, noun-verb-noun sentence structures that repeat in language, music has chord patterns that repeat in songs. So, in simple terms, a chord progression is a chord pattern or cycle of chords that repeats throughout the song.


Open-String Major Chords in the style of “Hey Joe”

The Hey Joe chords progression uses the CAGED chords in the following order: C-G-D-A-E. Each chord receives two beats, except the E chord which receives eight beats (or two bars). Take a look at the example below and you’ll see a chord chart that illustrates this in a typical way that musicians notate music.


hey joe chords




Begin with quarter-note strums:


Hey Joe quarter notes tabs




Then add eighth-note strums:


Hey Joe eighth notes




Finally, mix quarter-note and eighth-note strums:


hey joe rhythm



There’s also a backing track for you to practice with. Have fun!


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