In the last post I referred to a capo. Although the last post was mostly a joke, I was not joking about using a capo, they can be quite useful. A capo is a bar that clamps over the fretboard and is held in place with elastic or a spring clamp in most cases, although I have seen other ways (cams, screws, whatever). I clamp it down as close behind the desired fret as I reasonably can, 1/8-1/4 inch (so I can still make chords). At this time capos cost anywhere from 5$ (elastic) to 50$ and up (the specialty kind I’m not interested in), the average spring clamp capo you see in music stores runs about 10-15$. I like the elastic kind, they’re easy to use and cheap, but they wear out in a few years and most music stores don’t stock them (too cheap to sell). Most guitarists use capos for 3 different tasks;
- Easy Key Change- It’s easy to make a key higher, just put a capo on 1 to 4 frets higher and play the same chord shapes as before, it changes the actual chord names of course, but who cares? If you do care, or really have to change the key (more than 3 or 4 notes up), I have a table on page 34 of my book, No Fail Guitar, that shows how to play the main 4 chords in all 12 keys using only 6 open chords; G,C,Em,D,Am,and F using a capo. If you need more than this, it’s time for bar chords.
- Easy Drop Tune- If you like to drop your tuning down to D, do so, and then clamp the capo on the 2nd fret and you’re back in E! Clamp the capo on the 1st fret and you’re in Eb. Handy if you play in multiple tunings and only have one guitar. ( Now the fretboard markings will be wrong, don’t freak out!) This also allows you to change keys down a couple of notes (task 1 above) if you need to, and still get back to normal.
- Different timbres/tonalities- The reason I limit capo use for key changes to the first 4 frets or so is because the guitars’ tone starts to change and become more like a mandolin (especially with a 12 string) with the capo on the 5th fret or above. You can hear this effect on “Here Comes the Sun” or “Hotel California” which are both played with the capo on the 7th fret. So if you need this tone, and don’t have a mandolin, you know what to do!
As you can see, a capo will allow you play in multiple tunings or sound like a mandolin without purchasing a couple of extra instruments and let you easily change keys without learning a lot of pesky bar chords or theory. Pretty good for 5-20$! I’d get one if I were you.