Trace Bundy's Creative Capoing

August 19, 2014
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TRACE BUNDY’S SOLD-OUT GP PRESENTS SHOW at Slim’s in San Francisco spotlighted the solo-acoustic marvel’s musical—and highly entertaining—use of gadgets and gizmos. The way Bundy applied multiple capos was particularly imaginative, so we asked him for some insights.

What brand of capos do you use, and why?

Other capos do secure well, but I use Kyser capos because you can change them quickly. The Kyser’s spring will eventually loosen—which might be an issue for some—but it works well for me, because it becomes even easier to move. I prefer a really low action on my guitar—a custom McPhearson similar to the MG-4.5—so I like a lighter clamp.

How did your capo obsession develop?

At first, I would put a capo on, say, the second fret simply to brighten up the sound a bit. Then, I filed a big notch out of one in order to let the thickest string through. When I placed that at the second fret, and played a D chord shape, it would render an E chord with the low E string ringing out. Kyser now manufactures and markets such a capo as the Drop D capo because it allows you to get a sound in the vein of dropped D tuning—albeit a step up—without having to detune your guitar.

Similarly, I used to flip a Kyser capo around so that the back pad became a three-string capo on the third, fourth, and fifth strings, while allowing the bottom and top two strings to ring open. Kyser now manufactures such a capo as the K-Lever Short- Cut. Its nickname is the “DADGAD capo” because in DADGAD, you drop the top two strings and the bottom string down a whole step. This capo does the exact opposite if you place it at the second fret—it raises the middle three strings up a step. In essence, you get the DADGAD sound without having to turn a tuning peg. Multiple capos come into play when you want to achieve that sound in a different key. For example, you could move the DADGAD capo up to the fourth fret, and then place a full capo at the second fret.

What other capos do you use?

I customized another capo by routing it out like the Drop D capo, and then hacking off the tip to allow the top string to ring open, as well. It’s essentially a four-string, double Drop D capo. The highest and lowest strings ring open. I’ve also got a silver colored capo that I hacked off with a hacksaw to create a straightforward, four-string clamp.

You used several capos on the fly during “Love Song.” Can you shed some insight?

“Love Song” is in DADGAD, and I use three different capos. I put the Drop D capo at the fifth fret. Next, I place a full capo at the fourth fret. Finally, I put the silver, four-string capo on the headstock easily within reach. I basically use the capos to help facilitate the descending and ascending bass line of the song as I play, remove one, and then position the next. On the chorus, I also use a capo a bit as a percussive device. “Love Song” is more difficult to describe than it is to demonstrate.

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