Monthly Archives: December 2011

My Love-Hate Relationship with Capo

When I first started playing guitar, I was really into 80s metal.  I never saw any of my heroes using capos.  You know, it was all rock with heavy distortion.  A lot of power chords and open string stuff.

For a long time I thought using a capo was cheesy.  Only for people who didn’t know how to use barre chords.  And something that I didn’t like about it was that notes held by the capo didn’t sound the same as notes from open strings.  They sound muted.  And because I was playing a lot of rock, I wanted all the notes to ring as loud and as long as possible (even on acoustic).

But later on I realized that if you wanted a certain sound that’s produced by a specific way of holding a chord, let’s say for instance the G (major) using the C-shape down around the 8th fret (open G-string), but you need it in a certain key (let’s say you need this for Bb), then using a capo is really the only way to accomplish this.

In my original project, Simple Souls, some of the material is meant to sound folky.  And I noticed that a lot of folk singers use capos.  Most often, they would use a capo and then play open (string) chords.  The aha moment for me was when I realized not only does that allow them to get a certain sound and sing at a comfortable key.  But the muted sound the capo produced was also part of the feel.

So now I embrace the capo.  I also like using it in acoustic jams so that I can play chords in a different position from someone else and thicken the sound.  At the same time I can use mostly open chords and not tire out my hand.  One of my students wants to learn about songwriting.  So I’ll be showing him how to use the capo to change keys quickly.

I’ve used a number of capos.  Right now, my favorite is the one in the picture above.  A few brands make that style capo.  I’m using the one made by Keyser.

Do you use a capo?  When and how do you use it?  Leave a comment!