Often overlooked—and sometimes disparaged—the capo is a powerful tool for creating rich, ringing guitar parts. Classical and jazz guitarists typically regard the capo as a crutch (calling it a “cheater”), but bluegrass, folk, country, blues, and roots-rock pickers all embrace the device as a way to add shimmer and sustain to their music. Essentially the capo is a clamp that acts as a moveable nut, allowing you to take advantage of open strings at any given fret position. Instead of playing barre chords in the higher registers, you can clamp a capo behind a designated fret and gain access to first-position voicings anywhere on the neck. Because your index finger doesn’t have to hold down the strings, you can embellish the harmony with hammer-ons and pull-offs that would be difficult or even impossible to wrangle without a capo.
Ever accompany a singer who loves to croon in the key of Ab or Bb? Armed with a capo, you can abandon stiff barre voicings and instead recycle more fluid moves from the key of G or A. And as we’ll see in a moment, the capo also lets you create stunning layered guitar parts in the studio. It takes practice to get the conceptual hang of using a capo, but you’ll find the sonic magic is worth the effort.
Ex. 1 illustrates the capo’s musical potential. You can play a four-bar Cm9-Bb-Ebmaj7-Cm9 progression using barre forms, but that approach won’t yield the chime of this particular passage. By clamping the capo at the 3rd fret, you can play Cm9, Bb, and Ebmaj7—all of which normally require serious barre grippage—using familiar and easy-to-play fingerings. Try it—though your ears will hear the music as written, your fingers will recognize the Am, G, and C forms (now each raised by three half-steps) lurking within. Notice how the various slurs let you create ear-grabbing tension and release. These moves would pose a real challenge to play sans capo.
When recording (or playing with another guitarist), the capo lets you stack several guitar parts that feature open strings in completely different fretboard positions. Ex. 2 revisits the chords from the previous example, but with a fresh twist. Capoed at the 8th fret, your guitar’s voice shifts to a higher, quasi-mandolin range replete with open-string jangle.
But the real payoff begins when you layer these two examples. Record Ex. 1 (or have someone play it for you) and then accompany it with Ex. 2. Listen to how the parts dovetail rhythmically and harmonically without getting sonically tangled. And notice how at all times there are open strings ringing. By forcing you to find new voicings and fingerings for the same progression, the capo will enhance your understanding of the fretboard while opening new doors to guitar orchestration, something we’ll continue to explore in the next lesson.
Next time: More capo wizardry.
Mitchell Guitars Unveils Their TB Series of Basses
International Society of Bassists Announces Headliners For ISB 2017
Rainbow Bar and Grill Patio Dubbed "Lemmy's Lounge" in Memory of Lemmy Kilmister
Kirk Hunter Studios Releases Virtuoso Ensembles
Zoom Introduces the Q2n Handy Video Recorder
Austra Announce North American Tour Dates
Piano Giants of Jazz — Aaron Copland on Jazz
Vienna Symphonic Library Releases Historic Winds I & II
Cat Scratch Fever: 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR Coupe
Daniel Lanois’ Obsessions: Pedal Steels, Motorcycles, and Recording Tech
The Ultimate Sustain Contest: The Gibson Les Paul vs. All Challengers
Stone Sour Premiere Video, "Zzyxx Rd."
Interview: Black Label Societyâ€™s Zakk Wylde on First Gig with Ozzy, Tips on How to Survive a Festival and Upcoming Plans
Suicidal Tendencies/ex-Slayer Drummer Dave Lombardo to Appear on 'Late Night with Seth Meyers'
Heartâ€™s Nancy Wilson Talks 'Live at the Royal Albert Hall' CD/DVD
No Frets Allowed: Rob Scallon's New Song Is Whammy Bar Only
Megadeth to Headline 2016 Epiphone Revolver Music Awards
Copyright ©2016 by NewBay Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. 28 East 28th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10016 T (212) 378-0400 F (212) 378-0470