“What does a guitar capo do?” “How to use a guitar capo?” These are common questions about guitar capos. To learn how to use a guitar capo, we must learn what a capo is and how it works.
So What is a Capo?
A capo, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary is “a movable bar attached to the fingerboard of a fretted instrument to uniformly raise the pitch of all the strings.”
What Does a Guitar Capo Do?
This is by far one of the most common questions about guitar capos. Simply put, a capo works like playing a bar chord. If the strings are clamped on a certain fret, the open notes now become the notes that are barred by the capo.
Each guitar fret is a half step. Standard tuning is E,A,D,G,B,E, and if the guitar is capoed on the second fret, those open notes now go up a whole step and become F#,B,E,A,C#,F#. The most common use of a capo is to play in a different key but with chords that are more familiar to the player. For instance a beginner or intermediate guitarist might need to play something in the key of A, but they might only be able to play the chord structures for the key of G.
If this is the case, they can capo the guitar on the second fret, which is a whole step up, and play the key of G chord shapes, and there you go, it becomes the key of A.
What Are Some Other Reasons to Use a Capo?
Some players with small hands really take advantage of using a capo because they may struggle with some bar chords or other chord shapes. Also the chord shapes get smaller as the spacing between the frets get smaller moving up the neck. Another common reason for using a capo is if your band has two guitarists.
Using a capo when you have more than one guitar player may bring a new dynamic to the song. As long as both guitars are still in the same key, doing this helps the guitars not to clash. If you want to get a really bright sound out of the guitar, you can capo really high on the fretboard and make the guitar sound more like a mandolin.
Capos are also widely used when playing guitar with wind instruments. Wind musicians like to play songs in keys that are more difficult to play on guitar. Using a capo can make these guitarists lives much easier.
Here’s 3 steps to using and applying a capo.
1. Tune your guitar right before you apply the capo. Sometimes putting a capo on and then taking it off a few times will cause your guitar to go out of tune since it may be slightly bending the strings. It is a good idea to check the tuning before you apply the capo and after you take it off. Chances are that you will be fine, but it is always good to be sure.
2. Applying the capo is easy but it is important to take a few things into consideration.
Put the capo directly in from of the fret you wish to apply it to. I have seen people put the capo in the middle of two frets; this is incorrect as it will change the pitch of the strings. You want to get as close to the fret as possible without it being directly on the fret itself. You also want to makes sure the capo is straight up and down.
3. Now that the capo is in the place you want, you can enjoy the benefits of using a capo. Experiment with different keys and chord structures, and become familiar with transposing keys so that you can use the capo to its fullest potential. Once you are done playing guitar, always remember to take off the capo because leaving it on all the time can add extra tension to the guitar neck and cause problems in the future.