When you are a beginner guitar player. The first thing you learn are the basics of the guitar. Then you learn open chords. The open chords are on the first 3 frets. What if you have to play a chord further down the neck? Then you will want to know what’s the use of the guitar capo.
What’s the use of the guitar capo?
So if you want to know what’s the use of the guitar capo? Let me tell you the primary function of a guitar capo. It is to be attached to the guitar fretboard. It is a movable bar, and is used to uniformly raise the pitch. With a capo you can play in different keys. Using the same fingering that you use with the open chords.
That is the short version of what a capo is and does. But if you want an eye-opening explanation of how to use the guitar capo. Continue to read this article to unlock all the secrets.
How to Use a Guitar Capo for Beginners
When you clamp the guitar capo onto the guitar fretboard. You can still play the fingerings that you learned with the open chords. With the capo in place it bars all the strings. As if you were playing a bar chord. Then where ever the guitar capo is barred, this changes the key that you are playing in. That’s what is great about the capo. It is easy to change keys. All you have to do is move it up or down the fretboard.
Reason’s you might want to use a capo. Other than being able to play the open chords all over the guitar neck is. If someone is singing, and they sing in a higher or lower key. You can use a capo to move into the same key. If you have a song that is a lot higher up on the guitar neck. Instead of using a weird chord voicing you can use your capo.
You will find that after you learn how to use a capo. you will be using it all the time. So let’s get into the basics, and learn how to use a capo the correct way.
In music there is an alphabet. It’s just like the alphabet you learn in school. A B C D …. The difference between the musical alphabet, and the one you learned in school is. The musical alphabet goes from A to G. That’s it! No W, W or Z, just A-G. Here is what it looks like on paper.
A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G#
If you follow the frets up the guitar neck. You will find that there are notes that change keys. To get a clear look at how the notes are positioned on the fretboard. Get this Downloadable.
In order to use a capo. You at least need to know the notes on the 6th string. So lets review what they are. The 6th string, which is the thickest. When played open is E. Which is also the name of the string.
When you put your finger behind the first fret. Then pick the note. This is a F. Move up a fret it becomes F#. Every time you move up a half step or fret. The key changes. Here is what the 6th string notes look like:
E F F#/Gb G G#/Ab A A# Bb B C C#/Db D D#/Eb E
Those are the notes on the 6th string up to the 12th fret. They continue on past the 12th fret. The notes repeat at a higher octave.
If you are playing a song, and the chords that you are playing are G C and D. Say you want to change the key that you are playing. So you want to go from the key of G. Which is what the song is in right now. To the Key of G#. Which is one half step up from G.
You will place your capo on the first fret. Remember the capo is acting as a bar. When it is clamped on the first fret. All the strings are raised up at the same time, They are now at a higher pitch.
In this case the capo is on the first fret. So the pitch is raised up one fret, or half a step. You are still playing the chords as you learned them. The same chord shapes. Which in this example is a G C and D.
TIP! When you place the capo at the first fret. You must also move your fingers up half a step or a fret.
Playing the same chords with the capo on the first fret. Then your fingers are moved up a fret you are now playing the G# C# and D#.
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An Inside Look at the Fingers of the Barre Chord vs the Capo
Okay if you were playing a G sharp. You would be playing a barre chord. Here’s what it would look like. You would have your first finger across all the strings at the 4th fret. Then your 2nd finger is at the 3rd fret of the 5th string. Your 3rd, and 4th finger are both on the 6th fret. At the 5th and 4th fret respectfully.
Playing a Barre chord is something that every guitarist needs to know. In the beginning though. As a beginner guitar player a barre chord is difficult. Because your hands have not built up strength to play the barre chord. This is one good thing about knowing how to use a capo. It limits the amount of barre chords you need to play. If you need some finger exercises, and you want unbelievable results. Take a look at these strengthening exercises.
Playing the G# with the capo on the first fret. Your fingers are on the 6th string at the 4th fret. Depending on how you play the G chord. This will determine your finger position. If you are like me your fingers are as such.
3rd finger is on the 6th string of the 4th fret. 2nd finger is on the 5th string. At the 3rd fret. Pinkie is playing the 4th fret of the 1st string. Maybe you use your 2nd finger on the 6th string. 1st finger on the 5th, and 3rd on 1st string. In either case there are strings that are left open.
Do You Need a Capo to Play Guitar?
This is where the capo comes into play. Let’s say you played the G chord. Which the G is found on the 3rd fret of the 6th string. Then you just moved it up half a step. Which is one fret to the G Sharp.
You would think using the same chord shape. Then move it up one fret to the G# would get the job done. But look at why you need to use a capo.
The notes that would be played are:
- Third or 2nd finger is playing the G# on the 6th string.
- Second or first finger is playing the C on the 5th string.
- The fourth, third, and second strings are open. (D G B)
- First string is playing a G#.
If you were to play the G# like this it would sound terrible. Because the notes of the G# are: G# D# G# C D# G#. The notes listed above in the example is G# C D G B and G#.
When you play the G# Barre chord. The notes are
G# D# G# C D# G#. What if we play a G chord with the capo on the first fret? Which is now a G#. Lets see what notes are being played.
Get your guitar out and follow along so you can truly grasp it. Place your fingers in position, and really take a look. Start with the sixth string. Then Go up to the first. Picking one note at a time, and finding out what note it is.
They are as follows, G# C D# G# C D# G#. So you see how the capo works. To barre across the open strings, and raise the pitch. Changing it to the correct note that is in the chord.
The C chord, and the D chord are affected in the same way. If you were not using a capo and you were going to play the G# C# and D#. You would be playing 3 barre chords. Which even if you have been playing for a long time is no fun.
What key is Capo on the 3rd fret?
Tip! Playing in the key of G. If you are playing the G chord. The C, A and D chords. When you place the capo on the first fret. The key changes half a step or one fret.
You also move your fingers up a fret. So now you are playing the G# C# A# and D#.
Moving the capo up to the second fret. You have moved into the key of A. When you play the same chord shapes as G C A and D. Now you are playing A D B and E.
Move the capo to the 3rd fret, and you are playing in the Key of A#. Can you see how using a capo works? If you have a singer that sings in a different pitch than what the song is in. Viola you can use your capo to play the guitar in the same key as the singer is singing the song.
Playing the A D & E Open Chords with a Capo
To play in the key of B. If you don’t want to play way up on the guitar neck. Which is at the 7th fret. You can play with the capo on the second fret. You would need to know the notes on the second string to move them. Up to the key that you want. But for this example the B is on the 2nd fret of the A string. The 5th string is the A. Place your capo there.
When you play the A D and E chord shapes. You are now playing the B E and F#. Your in the key of B. Move the capo up to the third fret. Then play the E chord Shape you are playing a G major chord. Since the Capo is on the third fret. The Key on the third fret is G. Get the Downloadable above to learn all the keys.
Likewise if the capo is still on the third fret and you play the D chord shape. You are playing an F chord. Because the third fret of the D string is the F. As well with the C chord shape. When you play it, and the capo is on the third fret. Then you are playing an Eb because again the lowest root note. Is your third finger and it is playing an Eb. Click the link If you need help with making chord shapes.
Practice Finding the Guitar Key
This is where you get your guitar out. Try to find the Bb flat on the 6th string. You will be in the key of Bb. Use the G shape. Did you find it? Where did you place your capo?
First you want to find the lowest root note. Which if you are using the G shape. It is located on the 6th string at the 6th fret. The capo would be on the 3rd fret. If you learn about 5th and 6th string root chords. It will help you really get where the capo goes.
Practice using the Key of C Major. We are still going to use the G chord Shape.
Step 1. Find the C note on the 6th string. Which is going to be at the 8th fret. This is where the G shape chord will start. The root note is C. We need a capo. It goes on the 5th fret. Notice that the Capo is a fret before where the G is placed. One of the tips is when you move the fret up. You also move your hand up a fret.
Now let’s find the D Major on the 5th string. We want to use the A shape for this one. First where is the D on the 5th string located? If you said on the 5th fret of the 5th string. Then your following along. The capo goes on the 5th fret. Then you are going to play the A chord shape. This is the D Major chord.
5 Shapes for the E Major Chord Using a Capo
You Can use the different shapes and the capo and go down the guitar neck. For instance E Major open chord. E Major chord using the capo on the 2nd fret. With the D shape. E Major with the capo on the 4th fret, and the C shape.
Move the capo to the 7th fret, and play the A shape of the. Which is an E chord. Then if you place the capo way on the 9th fret. Play the G chord shape. You can play the E Major chord. Start the G on the 6th string of the 12th fret.
You can see why learning how to use a capo can be beneficial to your guitar playing. To transpose the chords, and play in different keys. Up and down the guitar neck.
Does a Capo Make it Easier to Play?
After learning how to play with the use of the capo. It allows you to play in different keys. Which opens up the fretboard. Letting you play a bigger selection of songs.
As far as a capo making it easier to play. I would say easier in the sense that you don’t have to use barre chords as often. It doesn’t completely eliminate all barre chords. Unfortunately you will still need to learn how to play barre chords.
Even with the capo you still need to know all the fundamentals of the guitar. So really the capo is just a tool that will help you transpose the chords. Whether that makes it easier to play is another story.
How to Put on a Capo
There are capos that simply clamp onto the guitar. I like this style because if you are playing a song that changes keys. You need to be able to move fast. Like in the song He stopped loving her today, by George Jones. It starts off in the key of G and Quickly moves to the G#.
Below is a Quick change capo this is the one I use so I can recommend it. Kyser Capo. They also make this style capo that works for electric guitars too. Which is rare that you see someone using it on an electric guitar. But it works the same way as with an acoustic guitar.
This style capo you grip it. When you squeeze it the capo opens up. One side of the capo is a little longer than the other. It goes on the strings. You place the capo as close to the fret wire as possible. Even closer than is in the picture.
See in the picture the metal bar going vertical down the neck. This is the fret. Remember the capo is like your finger. When you are making a bar chord. Your finger goes directly behind the fret. In the same way you place the capo. Making sure your not on the fret. This will impede the vibration of the string. There are a lot of different styles of Capos. Click to see the best capos for electric & Acoustic guitars.
Tip! When using a capo your guitar can become out of tune. After you use a capo tune your guitar.
What Does a Capo on the First fret Do?
On the guitar You have open chords. These chords are the ones played on the first 3 frets. Chords like the G A D C, and lots more. If you want a complete list of open chords click this link.
The chords are called open for a few reasons. One because the Nut of the guitar is what holds the strings. The strings have a name, and the name is the pitch of the string. When the string is in tune. The 6 strings from thickest to thinnest. Are named as follows. E A D G B e.
Now when you play a G chord. The chord has open strings that make up the chord. The notes in the G chord are G B D G B G. As you can see from the picture there are 3 open strings. The D G and B are open. Making this an open chord.
With the use of a capo you can play easy open chords further up the fretboard.
If you want to play in another key. Say you are going to a birthday party. Your going to play Happy Birthday, and someone is going to sing it. You have learned the song. Practiced how to play it in the key of G. The person who is singing the song for you. Has a higher voice when they sing.
No one told you this until 2 minutes before your going to play Happy Birthday. Your not sweating it though. Because you brought your capo. You place your capo on the first fret. Move your hand up a half step. Which is a fret. Now you can continue as planed.
You can still play the song using the chords that you practiced with. Now your singer can still sound great. Because you are playing the song in the key of G#.
To make a long story short. By placing a capo on the first fret you can raise the pitch of the strings. Which changes the key. While you are still playing the open chords that you love and know.
Capo Guitar Chart
All this talk about a capo has got my head reeling. What about yours? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a chart. One that you could just glance at, and know what key your in. When you place the capo in the different positions on the finger board.
First let me explain how to read the Capo Guitar Chart. Place the Capo on the fret number . Play the open chords. You can see what key you will be playing in.
For instance if the capo is on the first fret. When you play a C chord. Looking at the chart you are now playing a C#. If you put the capo on the third string. When you play the C open chord. If you look at the chart you are really playing a D#.
To learn all the notes on the fretboard would really help you. This way you can figure it out step by step. 11 tips for learning the guitar notes.
Beginner Guitar Chords
With the basic beginner guitar chords, and a capo. You can play 1000 even millions of songs. First you need to know how to make a chord. Chord transitioning, and the basic technique of fretting the strings. Also strumming the guitar. Here is a link to the Ultimate Guide How to Learn Guitar Chords.
Why do we use a Capo?
There are a few reasons why you would want to use a capo. Here are 3 reasons why you would want to use a capo.
Reason number 1 is to change the key. If you are playing the guitar, and someone else is singing the song. You play the song in the key of A. The singer has really high vocals. They sing in the key of D#. In this case you have a couple of choices.
You could chews to play the song using barre chords. Another choice would be play a different song. But the best choice would be to pull your capo out of your guitar case. Clamp it on your guitar, and play the open chords. The chord shapes that you have already practiced the song with.
This will work in any key. If the Singer has a low voice or high voice you can move the capo up, and down the guitar neck. To get to the right key. That will work for the singer,
Second reason is so that you can play open chords. All over the guitar neck. You can learn basic chords, and with a capo. Just play the same chords, but in different keys.
The next reason to use a capo is to transpose the chords. Instead of having to figure out what chords you need to change to. When you are playing in a different key. You can just place your capo at the fret that is in the key you want. Then play the same open chords. Without worrying about what the chords are. It’s quick and easy.
Another reason if you are a beginner guitar player you might want to use a capo. This will allow you to play open chords in different keys. You won’t have to worry about playing barre chords just yet. If you are a beginner guitar player you have hit the jackpot! Click for a list of 58 beginner guitar tips you should know.
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