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I love having a capo for my guitar, alllowing me to use open string chords in different keys. Or at least thats how I understand it.

What Is A Capo?

One of the most common accessories for guitar, along with tuners, string winders, humidifiers, etc., is the capo. A capo is a device used on the neck of a stringed (typically fretted) instrument to shorten the playable length of the strings. This device allows you to easily change the key of the song while still using standard “open position” chords. By using a capo, these chords can be played in any fret position along the neck of the guitar.

What is a Capo used for?

Essentially a capo is a small clamp. When you attach it to the neck of the guitar, it depresses the strings at a specific fret. The parts that squeeze the strings are made of rubber, thus they won’t damage the wood on your guitar.

To use a capo, think about a “barre chord.” With a barre chord, you lay your index finger along all six strings at a specific fret and press down hard while playing the chord with the rest of your fingers. If you are doing it right, all the notes should sound clearly on each string and the overall pitch should be higher. Barre chords are used all the time by guitarists, but take a while to master. A capo is an easier way to achieve the same result.

How Does A Capo Work?

Let’s take fret two. Normally the notes are E, A, D, G, B, and E. When the capo is on and you play the open strings, the notes are F#, B, E, A, C#, and F#.  These notes are one whole step higher than the normal open string notes. If you were to play a C major chord with the capo on, it would sound like a D chord. As you move the capo up the guitar, the pitch becomes a half step higher with every fret. Take “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. With this song, the capo is on fret seven. The chord progression is in the key of D major, but with the capo on, it comes out in A major.

Of course, if the notes and chords in the song you’re playing have no open strings, you can simply change positions on the neck (using movable chords) to find the best key for singing. Use a capo only if the song requires the use of open strings.

Who Should Use a Capo?

Capo’s are a great way to play songs even if you have limited knowledge of chords or want to delay learning barre chords. For this reason, capos are great for beginner guitar students. However, even more, advanced guitarists can use them. For songwriters, capos are a great way to play chords anywhere along the neck of the guitar. By Moving the capo, they can easily sing songs in different keys until they find the one that works best. Flamenco guitar players use the capo to play sings in traditional keys and also to push the strings closer to the neck. This makes the chords and fast melodic runs easier to play.

The capo is a very helpful tool, but don’t use it as the easy way out. It is important to expand your knowledge of different chords on guitar! Come to Performing Arts and let us help you master some of the more challenging chords. From beginners to advanced players, our guitar instructors can help you take your skills to the next level.