#1
I know there are literally thousands of posts, websites, dvd's, etc devoted to this topic but I have yet to find a truly legitimate explanation of A. which key the guitar is when on a said fret, and B. why is that so. Now before you lash at out me for bringing this trite topic up bear in mind I'm trying to answer this for my grandmother who got me into music in the first place so a little patience is all I'm asking ha.

I tend to accept the "magic" that is chord shapes when using a capo and not really ask questions as to why a Gmaj with the capo on the 2nd fret sounds right - which is tough because I come from the piano world where theory is everything. And the best explanation as to the capo relative to key is that if you count along your E string 1fret = key of F, second F#, third G, and so on. When I tried to explain this I got a reply of "why" and I couldn't answer that - until now (maybe). Using a minor pentatonic scale in the first/basic position (lets say G) you would play:

e--------------------------------3--6-
B--------------------------3--6-------
G--------------------3--5-------------
D--------------3--5-------------------
A--------3--5-------------------------
E--3--6------------------------------- So given I'm going off the assumption that if you put the capo on the 3rd fret, since that would be a G on the E string, then I would be playing in the key of G. Now if you have the capo on the 3rd fret and play the same G minor pentatonic scale you wouldn't have the press down the 3rd Fret Notes in the scale, playing them open instead because of the capo.
e--|-----------------------------0--6-
B--|------------------------0--6-------
G--|------------------0--5-------------
D--|------------0--5-------------------
A--|------0--5-------------------------
E--|-0--6------------------------------- where the 0's are really 3's b/c of the capo
3rd fret capo
Now when you take that into consideration it seems to add some substance to the idea of the "whatever note the E string is = Capo Key" theory. Because in the example even if you just strum all the open notes (G, C, F, Bb, D, G) those are all notes in the G minor pent scale, therefore the capo is almost forcing you to play in a G-Compatible Key. And while it doesn't fully check out b/c if you were to take the G Major Scale the only b/# is the F# - the fact that the capo allows you to play this scale without losing the "integrity" so to speak of the notes is the only way I can think to justify that logic.

So my question is am I on to something with this scale-explanation and / or do you have a better way to explain this. And keep in mind I'm not even sure that I'm right with my fret = key theory, by that logic the capo on the 8th fret would be the Key of C and that makes your D and G string both # notes and the key of C has no #'s. So it's a flawed theory admittingly, but I've yet to see an explanation as to why placing a capo and fret X makes it the Key of X. I've got to go and visit her today and I know within 5 mins of saying this will come up ha so remember you're answers are going to a good cause. Thanks
#2
Keys come from what notes are played, not where they're played on the fretboard.
Quote by dudetheman
So what? I wasted like 5 minutes watching DaddyTwoFoot's avatar.


Metalheads are the worst thing that ever happened to metal.
#3
Quote by wbc7552

e--|-----------------------------0--6-
B--|------------------------0--6-------
G--|------------------0--5-------------
D--|------------0--5-------------------
A--|------0--5-------------------------
E--|-0--6------------------------------- where the 0's are really 3's b/c of the capo
3rd fret capo

I have a problem with the way this is written. whenever I see music written with capo, using your example, itd be like, 0-3, and 0-2. the frets are in reference to the capo, not the guitar itself.

I agree with the post above me. it doesn't restrict you, because the key you play in is derived from the notes you play, not where the capo is on the guitar. it is often said that a guitar is in the Key of E when no capo is on it, because its the lowest note. but thats not true. If we are gonna go into the keys of instruments. Without a capo, and without being tuned higher or lower, the guitar is in the key of C. because when you play C, your note is C. If you were say, in halfstep, I would say the instrument is in B, because when you play C, your actual note is B. This can be with use of a capo too. If you infer that the LOWEST note is the key, and you have a capo on the second fret. Thinking the capo is your new nut, or "0" fret. when you play C, you actually play D, which I would say the guitaar is in the key of D.
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#4
yeah I didn't know how to write and illustrate that second example with the capo on the 3rd so I just kind of winged it (the 0's are really the capo 3) but I see what your saying about the notes your playing opposed to just the new notes resulting from the capo. I just couldn't think of anyway to demonstrate what the capo is actually doing in regards to the Key + I'm not 100% positive about capo/key relationship so trying to explain it to someone else is next to impossible. I came up with that scale representation while practicing (surprise) minor pentatonic scales and saw that pattern where if you start on the 1 fret your highest note would be the 1st fret. therefore put a capo on the first and you could still play the scale as you would without it and even the now open notes would be part of said scale. Thats the closest explanation I've encountered that can be demonstrated is the point I wanted to make and check with someone to see that it's somewhat accurate, which I guess it isn't ha and I was so proud of this idea.
#5
Your lowest note = key theory is incorrect. Consider a piano. Can it only play in one key? If there is no capo on the guitar, is the key always E? Of course not.

The key of a song is where it resolves to. Learn the major and minor scales, and how they harmonise with themselves to create the template of chords which belong to each of their keys.

Once you have that down, you can identify the key with the capo on as well, simply by paying attention to the notes/chords played.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#6
^What they said about keys.

Now if you were playing something in E without a capo and then put the capo on the second fret you would have raised everything a whole tone which means if you play that same thing again it would then be in the key of F♯.

Similarly if you were playing something in the key of Am using open chords and you put a capo on the second fret and play the same thing (moving it all up relative to the capo) then you would now be in Bm.
Si
#7
TS, consider this..

A simple chord progression in the key of Cmaj
I, IV, V or C, F, G

C F G
E-0-------1------3------|
B-1-------1------3------|
G-0-------2------4------|
D-2-------3------5------|
A-3-------3------5------|
E----------1------3------|

with no capo on the guitar this progression is in Cmajor right? which i've already said. However, what would happen to the key if this was played with a capo on the second fret?
Although tigers beat me to it >.<'
Last edited by greeneyegat at Apr 27, 2011,
#12
All a capo does is change the 'open' chords/notes you play at a given fret. It gives you barre chords without having to use your finger as a barre.

A key is made up the chords/notes you play. The capo has no bearing on this whatsoever. If you play in a key, you play in a key.

As far as I can see, all a capo does is change the 'open' tuning of your guitar to whatever the notes are at the fret it is positioned at.
#13
Quote by Zen Skin
But I still like calling them cheaters -- it is a bit of nostalgia for my first music teacher.

Yeah, but try to not do that with a bunch of people that aren't in on your little inside joke.
Quote by dudetheman
So what? I wasted like 5 minutes watching DaddyTwoFoot's avatar.


Metalheads are the worst thing that ever happened to metal.
#15
Quote by Vendetta V
elaborate?


He was an old jazzer and taught a lot of young students and would insist that we all learn barre chords. In fact he'd tell me to play something in a different key just to test me.

It's a term that jazz players tend to use about folk guitarists from way way back. Not to say I never use a capo -- they are handy for some things, especially on acoustic or in an alternate tuning.

But, real guitarists know barre chords ... the rest cheat.
#16
Quote by ShiningEntity
...Shutup please. Even if you're joking, just be quiet.

haha i almost said the same thing
#17
Quote by Zen Skin
He was an old jazzer and taught a lot of young students and would insist that we all learn barre chords. In fact he'd tell me to play something in a different key just to test me.

It's a term that jazz players tend to use about folk guitarists from way way back. Not to say I never use a capo -- they are handy for some things, especially on acoustic or in an alternate tuning.

But, real guitarists know barre chords ... the rest cheat.

yeah i get the point but i'd barely call it cheating!
in fact i HATE people who say tremolo bar or Floyd Rose is cheating! pfff are you kidding me?

but well there's some stuff that you cant just do with your hand only. say this gets me to think those who say it's cheating have no clue about anything but their particular genre. sure you can have barre chords but what about slides/delta blues players? like when you're in open G and want to play in the key of A. YOU cant just put your finger there all the time and you won't be going down anyways so what's the point of making the job Ultra hard? yeah it's doable but hey if there's a better way to do something then doing it the harder way with no difference in the result (may be only a worse result) is just idiocy
#18
Quote by wbc7552
I know there are literally thousands of posts, websites, dvd's, etc devoted to this topic but I have yet to find a truly legitimate explanation of A. which key the guitar is when on a said fret, and B. why is that so. Now before you lash at out me for bringing this trite topic up bear in mind I'm trying to answer this for my grandmother who got me into music in the first place so a little patience is all I'm asking ha.

I tend to accept the "magic" that is chord shapes when using a capo and not really ask questions as to why a Gmaj with the capo on the 2nd fret sounds right - which is tough because I come from the piano world where theory is everything. And the best explanation as to the capo relative to key is that if you count along your E string 1fret = key of F, second F#, third G, and so on. When I tried to explain this I got a reply of "why" and I couldn't answer that - until now (maybe). Using a minor pentatonic scale in the first/basic position (lets say G) you would play:

e--------------------------------3--6-
B--------------------------3--6-------
G--------------------3--5-------------
D--------------3--5-------------------
A--------3--5-------------------------
E--3--6------------------------------- So given I'm going off the assumption that if you put the capo on the 3rd fret, since that would be a G on the E string, then I would be playing in the key of G. Now if you have the capo on the 3rd fret and play the same G minor pentatonic scale you wouldn't have the press down the 3rd Fret Notes in the scale, playing them open instead because of the capo.
e--|-----------------------------0--6-
B--|------------------------0--6-------
G--|------------------0--5-------------
D--|------------0--5-------------------
A--|------0--5-------------------------
E--|-0--6------------------------------- where the 0's are really 3's b/c of the capo
3rd fret capo
Now when you take that into consideration it seems to add some substance to the idea of the "whatever note the E string is = Capo Key" theory. Because in the example even if you just strum all the open notes (G, C, F, Bb, D, G) those are all notes in the G minor pent scale, therefore the capo is almost forcing you to play in a G-Compatible Key. And while it doesn't fully check out b/c if you were to take the G Major Scale the only b/# is the F# - the fact that the capo allows you to play this scale without losing the "integrity" so to speak of the notes is the only way I can think to justify that logic.

So my question is am I on to something with this scale-explanation and / or do you have a better way to explain this. And keep in mind I'm not even sure that I'm right with my fret = key theory, by that logic the capo on the 8th fret would be the Key of C and that makes your D and G string both # notes and the key of C has no #'s. So it's a flawed theory admittingly, but I've yet to see an explanation as to why placing a capo and fret X makes it the Key of X. I've got to go and visit her today and I know within 5 mins of saying this will come up ha so remember you're answers are going to a good cause. Thanks


You simply aren't making the connection that a chord is comprised of individual notes, and you're not identifying what those notes are. For example, if you had then you could analyse a "G chord" played with a capo 2 and a 5th fret G shape, by looking at the notes, and you'd know why it sounded "good". This is the connection that you have to make.

If you know theory then you should be able to correctly say the notes of any chord and triad. It's not magic, it's symmetrical LOGIC.

Take the notes of that G Chord shape at the 5th fret.

5 4 2 2 5 5

A C# E A E A

You have the notes A C# and E. Knowing theory, this is an A Major triad. You don't HAVE to accept it on blind faith, you just have to know how to form your own connection. The capo is like a moving nut. When one string pitch changes, all strings change proportionally, maintaining the same intervallic properties of 4ths and a Major 3rd in the open strings.

As for your theory E string , you're way off base there as well, since any string can function as the root, and thus the key. There can be a 5th string Key of D played where the capo is at the 2nd Fret, where the chord shapes are C F and G - In actuality playing D G and A Triads. A would not be the key however, D would be, and it's at the 5th string. Keys are determined by resolution, not frets that you capo.

You may need to learn your notes, and the guitar itself, a bit more.

Best,

Sean