Using capos

jcs

Member
Messages
8,067
For what situations do you guys use capos in general?

I have several of the same guitars and plan to set some up for various open tunings.

I need advice on the possibilities of using capos in different situations....thanks in advance?
 

jay42

Member
Messages
7,027
I'm not sure this answers your question, but I ran into an issue with the main acoustic I use...16" radius with 12" radius capos. Anyway, I use a capo to maximize open strings and at-the-nut chords...I think some call them "Cowboy chords."
 

sixstringfuel

Hotdogs kill
Messages
14,266
Open g 2nd and 4 th fret works great with slide also exile on main st. Type sounds robert johnson, muddy waters etc.
Open e 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th, and 8 th fret also great with slide
Any open tuning really works well
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,011
For what situations do you guys use capos in general?

I have several of the same guitars and plan to set some up for various open tunings.

I need advice on the possibilities of using capos in different situations....thanks in advance?
"Several of the same guitars..." :rolleyes:

Having just one of the same guitar ;), I don't have any set tunings or capo positions.
If I had more than one guitar (of the same type), I would certainly have them set for different tunings (at the moment I would retune from song to song, if required, which doesn't take long), but capo position doesn't relate to the tuning.
Capo position is chosen according to the key of the song I'm singing (so the range of the melody fits my vocal range, while keeping open chord shapes); or - if I'm not singing (which is more likely) - then I probably wouldn't use a capo, unless the tune I was playing originally had a capo, and paying it without meant the stretches were too big.
The capo would be on (different frets) or off from song to song, depending on the individual requirements of the song. I don't understand the concept of one set position (to suit different songs).
Partial capos are another matter - where you can capo just some strings, and leave others full length: you can get some interesting tunings that way.

As guitarjazz says, you should always check your tuning after fitting the capo.
 
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NamaEnsou

Silver Supporting Member
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7,157
I don't really see the need for a capo. Yesterday I was following a friend who was playing with a capo and I showed him that all the chords were playable with the same voicing without the capo. I've still got a couple somewhere, but I never really used them and eventually forgot all about them until times like yesterday, or seeing a thread like this.

I guess they're a tool that some find useful, but depending on the player, I think it's worthwhile to get to the point that they'd be unnecessary.
 

JonR

Member
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15,011
I guess they're a tool that some find useful, but depending on the player, I think it's worthwhile to get to the point that they'd be unnecessary.
I think it's interesting that you never see jazz player use capos, but you see folk (and increasingly rock) players use them frequently.
I guess it's because jazz players like to have the whole neck available at all times, and barres and movable chords hold no fears for them.
But OTOH, folk/rock players are not necessarily less skilled. Or, even if they are, that's not the reason they use capos so much.
And some very highly skilled players will use capos. So it's not true that capos become unnecessary the better you become. They have practical purposes - usually connected with chord shapes or patterns where open strings play an important part, and usually with singers choosing keys to suit for their voices.

Just three random examples:

On Hotel California, Don Felder wrote the chord sequence in E minor, which featured no barre chords, meaning the intro pattern could easily employ open strings. But the key didn't suit Don Henley's voice, so it was raised to B minor, meaning the E minor shapes could be retained by using a capo on 7. That's the classic reason for employing a capo, and is nothing to do with the skill of the player. Glenn Frey used a capo on 2 (where one barre chord is required) and Joe Walsh none - in each case, for specific practical purposes. No doubt all of them could have played all the barres necessary with no capo, but why would they?

On Dylan's Freewheelin' album, he used a capo on all tracks except one. He was already a skilled guitar player by that time, as you can tell from Don't Think Twice It's Alright (at least) - which had capo on 4. Skilled as he was, he could not have played those patterns in that key - which suited his voice - without a capo (using barres for everything). And even if he could have, why would he have made it more difficult for himself?
Then again, on Blowin' in the Wind, a different issue applied. He used a capo on fret 7, even though the chord progression would have been as easy in the same key in open position. I.e., the key was D major, chords D G and A, but he chose to use G-key shapes (G-C-D) on fret 7. Why? It can only be because (a) he liked the higher sound, and/or (b) the precise flat-picked patterns he played sat under the fingers better in G shapes. (In later live performances, interestingly, he played in key of G in open position, singing a 4th higher. So it seems it was all down to the shapes, rather than to suit his vocal range, which was wide enough not to determine capo position.)

On Radiohead's No Surprises, Jonny Greenwood used a capo on fret 15 of his Rickenbacker. Why? Capo 3 would have given the same shapes in the same key (Thom Yorke's capo was on 3). Obviously because he wanted that tinkly music box sound. He could have played using barre shapes - but, again, why make it unnecessarily difficult? The capo - acting as an extra finger - meant that open strings could be left ringing here and there.
 

NamaEnsou

Silver Supporting Member
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7,157
They have practical purposes - usually connected with chord shapes or patterns where open strings play an important part, and usually with singers choosing keys to suit for their voices.
As noted in my post too, I completely agree that there are times that a particular player may choose to use the capo, and as you specified, to have access to open string tones.

On the second part, changing the key for a singer is something most of us can do on a wide range of material almost immediately, and for the stuff we can't do immediately, we can still do easily. In the second case I find it to be more of a laziness crutch, whereas in the first case it's chosen for player preferred tonality.
 

The Captain

Member
Messages
12,596
Nice post JonR.

Another example of a highly skilled player choosing to use a capo is Jeff Buckley covering Hallelujah. The capo lets you make chord shapes away with important open strings left to ring as you move around the walking bass line.
Capos are like open tunings and drop tunings. They are tools for a purpose, not a sign of weakness.
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,011
As noted in my post too, I completely agree that there are times that a particular player may choose to use the capo, and as you specified, to have access to open string tones.

On the second part, changing the key for a singer is something most of us can do on a wide range of material almost immediately, and for the stuff we can't do immediately, we can still do easily. In the second case I find it to be more of a laziness crutch, whereas in the first case it's chosen for player preferred tonality.
I personally haven't seen any use of a capo where I'd consider it a "laziness crutch" - although maybe I don't see making things easier for yourself as a sign of "laziness" ;). No sensible player makes things more difficult than they need to be.
(E.g., a jazz player would probably consider that using a capo at all would make things more difficult, because it cuts off part of the fretboard. It's a whole different attitude to that of the folk or rock player.)
 

metropolis_4

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,406
I don't really see the need for a capo. Yesterday I was following a friend who was playing with a capo and I showed him that all the chords were playable with the same voicing without the capo. I've still got a couple somewhere, but I never really used them and eventually forgot all about them until times like yesterday, or seeing a thread like this.

I guess they're a tool that some find useful, but depending on the player, I think it's worthwhile to get to the point that they'd be unnecessary.
There are plenty of chord voicings that are simply not possible to play without using a capo.

I'd love to know how you would recommend playing this voicing without a capo:

1
8
6
8
X
1

Or how about this one:

10
10
11
9
2
2


I don't know about you, but my hands aren't that big
 

dlguitar64

Member
Messages
5,628
Bluegrass guitar style is based on playing in the keys of G and C and capoing
up for other keys. (Playing uncapoed in D A and E is not uncommon but not the
prevailing practice). In this mode of thinking, note names become less important
and shapes and chord function reign supreme.
 




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