Feb 05, 2016
If you have played guitar even for a short amount of time, you've probably discovered and used one of the guitar's coolest gadgets, the Guitar Capo. For those who might not know, what exactly is a guitar capo and why do guitarists use it?
A capo (short for capotasto, Italian for "head of fretboard") is a device used on the neck of a stringed (typically fretted) instrument to shorten the playable length of the strings, hence raising the pitch. Musicians commonly use a capo to raise the pitch of a fretted instrument so they can play in a different key using the same fingerings as playing open (i.e., without a capo).
In effect, a capo uses a fret of an instrument to create a new nut at a higher note than the instrument's actual nut.
Would you like to hear what others have said about the guitar capo—from other musicians as well as other guitar players?
Here are 3 Myths About Using a Guitar Capo: Busted
Let's break this one down a bit. Before we dispel this myth though, let's talk about guitar chords.
Most chords on the guitar are 1 of 3 types:
1. Open Chords: Chords containing at least one open string;
2. Movable Chords: Chords with no open strings;
3. Barre Chords: Chords with one finger (or fingers) pressing down at least two strings.
For guitar players, usually the best sounding chords are the open chords. Why? Because the open strings in these chords can ring and sustain. Although we can and do play movable and barre chords, guitar players love the beauty of open chords.
Recently my band was performing a song in the key of Ab. In this key 6 out of 7 chords are barre chords.
If I were to play this same song in the key of G though, 5 out of 7 chords are open chords.
You may be asking, "But how can you make the song in 'G' sound like 'Ab'?" Simply put the capo on the 1st fret, and all the chords in 'G' will sound like the chords in the key of 'Ab'.
We can play the often-difficult, non-ringing, non-sustaining movable or barre chords, but we usually make the song and the band sound better when we play beautiful open chords.
So, using a capo is not cheating.
Sure, we use one to make our job easier, but again, the music often sounds better when we use a capo.
This one ties into the one above. This myth usually comes from other guitar players. As much as I wish it were not true, some guitar players can be a little competitive. Some guitarists feel as if they can play barres and someone else cannot, they are somehow better than the other guitar player.
There is a joke about how one can spot other guitar players in a crowd at a concert.
The joke says that the guitarists are the ones standing in front of the guitar player who is on stage, with their arms folded, shaking their heads and saying "He's not that good", or "I could play that better". Funny, huh?
Again, often the guitarist can play barre chords (which are tough) but choose not to so they won't have to slave away at the song, and yes, also have fun while playing.
So just because someone is using a capo, it certainly does not mean they can't play barres—they simply could be choosing not to.
This is our last myth we'll dispel here today. While some may think using a capo is a lazy approach to playing, the opposite is actually true. For the guitarist to use a capo during a song, he or she has to be able to transpose a song.
Often he or she has to transpose on the spot. Transposing refers to moving a collection of notes or chords up or down by a constant interval (or distance) to a new key.
This is not so easy for many guitar players. There is often a high degree of thinking going on in the mind of the capoing-guitarist. Others perhaps underappreciate that.
Lazy? No way. Industrious instead.
Now that we've debunked these 3 myths about the capo, you should be proud of yourself for being able to use one.
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