Capo Lesson

By: Stephen Olson
sjolson@greenville.edu

This lesson is meant for the person starting out in capos. Although, this may help some intermediate and even some advanced players. To understand how a capo works, let me highlight and explain some key points first.

First, a rhythym guitar is "usually" played with a lot of open chords. This does not include power chords, etc. A guitar gets its distinctive sound from strings that are constantly ringing. For example, when you change chord formations from a C to a G, some of the strings are left ringing(ie, the G string).But, if you wanted to play Ab, Eb(for example), you would have to fret the entire guitar to be technical. This really all depends on what kind of style you are playing. If you want the guitar to have the open ringing sound, you would use a capo. The capo is the "easiest" way to go from one key to another.


Now the next point. You have to understand the steps and half steps between notes.

ABCDEFG----these are the major notes of all music. There are half steps between B and C and E and F. To write out everything, it would look like this:

A A#/Bb B C C#/Db D D#/Eb E F F#/Gb G G#/Ab



If you're new at this, all explain. A half step up from the letter "A" is A#, but
it is also Bb because its also a half step below the letter "B". This is need in order
to know how the capo works. B and C are a half step apart. There is no sharps or flats between them. The same, is for E and F.

Now, onto the capo. Every time you put a capo on a fret, it raises the guitar a half
step. So, if you put a capo on the first fret, the guitar is now up a half step. Thus,
if you play a normal G chord(according to the capo), you are playing Ab. This is the really neat part about it. You're playing G, one of the most familar chords in guitar, but it's not really "G". You're fingering G, but the sound of it is Ab because of the capo.


Likewise, if you put a capo on the second fret and played a G chord, it would actually be an A. The note A is a whole step up from "G". The second fret is raising the guitar a whole step.


So now, if you put the capo on the 3rd fret, you're raising the guitar up a whole step and a half. Playing a major G chord would now acutally be a Bb chord.


This is it. I have included a simple chart of popular MAJOR chords and what they will be with a capo on fret one, two, three, and four. This is to help you understand how this all works. The chart goes like this. It runs horizontally, as you can see. No capo means the major chord played by itself. For instance, column one is the chord A. In the next column, it shows what "A" would sound if you had a capo on the first fret. Then the second fret, and so forth. I hope I have been clear. Sawed off capo lesson is comming soon.

Chords 1st Fret 2nd Fret 3rd Fret 4th fret
A -------> Bb B C C#/Db
Am Bbm Bm Cm C#m
B C C#/Db D Eb
Bm Cm C#m Dm Ebm
C Db D Eb E
D Eb E F F#
Dm Ebm Em Fm F#m
E F F# G Ab
Em Fm F#m Gm Abm
F F# G Ab A
G Ab A Bb B

 


Here is a project you will find usefull !
I made my wife what I call a transposing wheel or a capo computer years ago. Since then I've seen something like it in music shops. You just cut 2 circles one larger than the other and then put them together and fasten them at the center so they will turn. then cut a small window in the smaller circle. divide the circles into 12 evenly spaced lines with a protractor as if you were slicing a pie into 12 pieces 360 degrees/12 = 30 degrees each. Then label the inner and outer circles the same clockwise starting with "C" label them for every note on a piano scale...
[ C,C#(Bb), D, D#(Eb), E, F, F#(Gb), G, G#(Ab), A, A#(Bb), B].
Then you turn the inner circle 1 space clockwise so that the "E" on the inner circle lines up with the "F" on the outer circle and then write the number 1 in the small window you've cut. Move it one more notch and write a 2, then another notch and write a 3 etc...
When your done you will have a way to transpose any chord to any key or be able to tell where to place a caPO TO GET WHICH CHORDS. For example with a capo on the first fret place your window number to one. Now when you play an "E" chord you are really playing an "F" the inner circle E will be lined up with the outer circle F, ... If you get used to it you can transpose any key so you are playng whereevr suits you best on the guitar and play along with a keyboard playing in a different key.... or you can move a song to fit your vocalist with your capo and then be able to tell the keyboardist what chords you are actually playing so (s)he can play also. I hope this helps you to understand the capo and its use... Jim

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