Monday, June 16, 2008


How do you use a capo? For most people this means " where do I put it on the neck"? There are a couple of ways to figure this out. If you're primarily a singer who's trying to figure out the right key to play in, you may just need to move the capo around until it sounds right. This is especially true if you're learning the song from a recording.

Another way to use an acoustic guitar capo is when you're learning a song from a piece of sheet music. This may be a case of figuring out the key that best suits your vocal range. When you've figured that out, you may may decide not to use the capo. Here's how that works.

Play the first note in the melody as it's written in the music (you can read a melody line, can't you? If not get a basic music book and learn how. It will really help). Find that note with your voice. Place the capo where the nut would be in relation to the fretted nut. What? Here's an example. Let's say that the first note of the melody is a C at the 3rd fret of the 5th string. When you try to sing that note you sound like a hungover frog. You need for the note to be a higher pitch. You play the 5th fret of the 5th string and it sounds perfect. So the whole point of reference has shifted up the neck by 2 frets. Place your acoustic guitar capo on the 2nd fret. It's like the nut of the guitar has been moved 2 frets closer to the body.

Let's say that our song was originally in the key of C. We now have a choice of playing it in the key of D without a capo or we can use key of C chord shapes with the capo at the 2nd fret. That will be a matter of your personal preference.

An acoustic guitar capo can also be used to create different tonal textures. If you're playing in a group you may want to capo up the neck so there's more variety in the sound. Say the song's in the key of C. The chords used in the song are a C,F and G. There are 3 other guitar players besides you. It can get pretty boring if everybody is chopping away down at the 1st fret. Try this instead. Place your capo at the 8th fret. Use the chord shapes of E,A and B. The same chords as everybody else but with a brighter, punchier sound.

If you are an instrumentalist you may decide to change keys by using a capo. This allows you to use open strings in your arrangement. The use of open sustaining strings can be a big help for the soloist. It allows you to change positions on the neck without there being silence while you're doing it.

How do you know where to put the capo on the neck? It helps to know a little music theory.

There are 12 notes in each octave. The names of the notes are E,F,F#,G,G#,A,A#,B,C,C#,D,D# and E. The sharp notes also have a flat name. For that name go to the natural note above the sharp note and add a flat to that name. For example a F# is also a Gb. Two names for the same note.

The distance between each note is 1 fret. So if you place your capo at the 1st fret and play an E shape you are really playing a F chord. This is true for any chord. To continue with our example, play an C chord shape and you're playing a C# chord.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Guitar Strap

When practicing I prefer to stand up and use a guitar strap so I decided to upgrade to something wider made out of a suede material that I felt would be more comfortable. I had been using the ubiquitous nylon guitar straps usually thrown in free with any gear purchase. On my next practice session, it seemed my speed and accuracy was up a bit.

I marked that down to it was just a good day. However, I noticed improvement on subsequent practice sessions as well. What I conclude is that the suede material on the strap keeps the guitar from sliding around like a seesaw effect. My fret hand doesn’t have to chase a moving target. I switched back to the nylon strap as an experiment and I definitely noticed a difference.