'Wonderwall' With a Capo on 7?! A Brief Lesson About the Capo

The capo, for some a mysterious device used on the guitar. What can you do with it, and how does it work? In this lesson you'll learn to use the capo whilst playing 3 different songs in 4 different ways!

Ultimate Guitar
The capo, or capodastro, is a device used on the neck of a stringed instrument to shorten the playable length of the strings, hence raising the pitch.

When you use a capo you raise the pitch. Every fret is a half step up, so the chord raises by a semitone.

→ 1 fret/semitone up 
← 1 fret/semitone down
C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C | In sharps
C Db D Eb E F Gb G Ab A Bb B C | In flats
When reading from left to right, every next note is just one fret higher. An easy way is to start on a note that corresponds with the open string name.

For instance the low E string: you start on the E (open string), after the E, the first fret, lies the F. So the first fret on the low E string is called an F. After the F you find a F#, which is the 2nd fret, 3rd fret is the G, then the G# and so on.

Here are four ways of playing the exact same chord progression:

Example 1: "Stir It Up"

Open: A - D - E

Capo 2: G - C - D

Capo 5: E - A - B

Capo 7: D - G - A

We start on a A chord.

If we want to play the same chord on a different position using the capo, we need to lower the chord by the same amount the capo makes the guitar sound higher. The guitar becomes higher pitched, therefore we need to play a lower pitched chord to compensate for the capo. If you want to hear the A chord, and you put the capo on fret 2, we need to lower the A chord, two semi-tones. That means two half steps down in our note order, that would make a C!

So we now played the same chord progression in four different ways.

Do you think that they are all different chords? Nope, different chord shapes, but when you close your eyes they all sounded like A D E. The biggest difference is the sound of the various shapes and the different in sound of the chords played higher up the neck.

Of course, when you just play by yourself you can just call it D G A (Capo 7), but if you play with other musicians you should always refer to them by their real name or else things could end up in a cacophony.

Example 2: "Save tonight"

Open: Am - F - C - G

Capo 3: F#m - D - A - E

Capo 5: Em - C - G - D

Capo 7: Dm - Bb - F - C

Example 3: "Wonderwall"

Capo 2: Em7 - G - Dsus4 - A7sus4

Capo 4: Dm7 - F - Csus4 - G7sus4

Capo 7: Bm7 - D - Asus4 - E7sus4

Open: F#m7- A - Esus4 - B7sus4

As you can see, the options you've got with a capo are close to limitless. And who doesn't choose an open chords above a barre chord?

Try to experiment a lot with a capo and before you know it the capo is an essential piece of your gigging gear!

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7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    DUDE...In your first example, you say that lowering an A chord two half-steps gives a C. It is a G. Even if it were two half-steps up, you'd have a B, not a C. Up or down, you're wrong. Get shit straight homie! It's just pitch modulation.
    Thanks for the lesson. Shoot, I've been playing for 20 some years and only used the capo on the rare occasion. Lately though, I have to have one within arm's reach. I don't use it one every song, or even half. But I have discovered a few songs where it is fun to use in place of down tuning my guitar via the tuning machines. And like it was said in the lesson, playing open chords are more fun to play rather than barre.
    Great job on the video, I like how you put it together. I think it would be good to teach the proper placement of the capo. If you do not have good placement, it will affect your tuning. You also want to get a decent capo. I have found cheaper capos do not always work as well. I highly recommend the G7th performance 2 capo.
    This is a well produced, short and informative video which helped me understand how the capo can be used to change the sound content of a guitar using the pitch of a chord as a tool, thank you. The split-screen content is an imaginative solution to shortening the duration while clearly illustrating the subject.