Tuesday Wisdom: Using A Capo

A simple guide to using the capo.

Tuesday Wisdom: Using A Capo
0

What is a capo?

A capo is a simple device used to change the pitch of the guitar. Capos mostly come in handy for playing chords. For example: A 'C' chord played with a capo on the 2nd fret will become a 'D' chord.

How to use a capo?

In order to be able to use a capo you need to know the basic notes in a musical scale. They are:

C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B and then back to C

Supposing you compose a song which is on the E major chord. Say the chords of the song are E, A, C#m, B. Now, you wish to take it one whole step up (or two half steps up). So, the chords would now become F#, B, D#m, C#. Here's how you would play it:


e-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-6-6-6-6-6-6-6-6-|
B-2-2-2-2-4-4-4-4-7-7-7-7-6-6-6-6-|
G-3-3-3-3-4-4-4-4-8-8-8-8-6-6-6-6-|
D-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-8-8-8-8-6-6-6-6-|
A-4-4-4-4-2-2-2-2-6-6-6-6-4-4-4-4-|
E-2-2-2-2-------------------------|
    F#       B       D#m     C#   

Now, a capo would be used to ease the job of playing these same chords. With a capo on the first fret, you just have to play E, A, C#m, B and it will have the same pitch as F#, B, D#m, C# without a capo.

Capo - 2nd fret.


e-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-4-4-4-4-2-2-2-2-|
B-0-0-0-0-2-2-2-2-5-5-5-5-4-4-4-4-|
G-1-1-1-1-2-2-2-2-6-6-6-6-4-4-4-4-|
D-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-6-6-6-6-4-4-4-4-|
A-2-2-2-2-0-0-0-0-4-4-4-4-2-2-2-2-|
E-0-0-0-0-------------------------|
    F#       B       D#m     C#    

Let's see what happens to other chords with a capo on the second fret. A star is put on the second fret indicating the capo.

--> C major becomes D major


  0  1   2   3   4   5   6  
                            
e|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
B|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|---|---|
G|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
D|-|---|-*-|---|-2-|---|---|
A|-|---|-*-|---|---|-3-|---|
E|x|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
                   D        

--> D major becomes E major


0  1   2   3   4   5   6    
                            
e|-|---|-*-|---|-2-|---|---|
B|-|---|-*-|---|---|-3-|---|
G|-|---|-*-|---|-1-|---|---|
D|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
A|x|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
E|x|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
                   E        

--> E major becomes F# major


0  1   2   3   4   5   6    
                            
e|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
B|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
G|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|---|---|
D|-|---|-*-|---|-3-|---|---|
A|-|---|-*-|---|-2-|---|---|
E|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
                   F#       

--> F major becomes G major


0  1   2   3   4   5   6    

e|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|---|---|
B|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|---|---|
G|-|---|-*-|-1-|-2-|---|---|
D|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|-4-|---|
A|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|-3-|---|
E|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|---|---|
                   G        

--> G major becomes A major


0  1   2   3   4   5   6    
                            
e|-|---|-*-|---|---|-3-|---|
B|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
G|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
D|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
A|-|---|-*-|---|-1-|---|---|
E|-|---|-*-|---|---|-2-|---|
                   A        

--> A major becomes B major


0  1   2   3   4   5   6    
                            
e|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
B|-|---|-*-|---|-4-|---|---|
G|-|---|-*-|---|-3-|---|---|
D|-|---|-*-|---|-2-|---|---|
A|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
E|x|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
                   B        

--> Ab becomes C major


0  1   2   3   4   5   6    
                            
e|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|---|---|
B|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|-4-|---|
G|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|-3-|---|
D|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|-2-|---|
A|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|---|---|
E|x|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
                   C        

--> A minor becomes B minor


0  1   2   3   4   5   6    
                            
e|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
B|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|---|---|
G|-|---|-*-|---|-3-|---|---|
D|-|---|-*-|---|-2-|---|---|
A|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
E|x|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
                   Bm       

--> D minor becomes E minor


0  1   2   3   4   5   6    
                            
e|-|---|-*-|-1-|---|---|---|
B|-|---|-*-|---|---|-3-|---|
G|-|---|-*-|---|-2-|---|---|
D|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
A|x|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
E|x|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
                   Em       

--> E minor becomes F# minor


0  1   2   3   4   5   6    
                            
e|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
B|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
G|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
D|-|---|-*-|---|-3-|---|---|
A|-|---|-*-|---|-2-|---|---|
E|o|---|-*-|---|---|---|---|
                  F#m       

--> G minor becomes A minor


0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7    
                                
e|-|---|-*-|---|---|-1-|---|---|
B|-|---|-*-|---|---|-1-|---|---|
G|-|---|-*-|---|---|-1-|---|---|
D|-|---|-*-|---|---|-1-|---|-4-|
A|-|---|-*-|---|---|-1-|---|-3-|
E|-|---|-*-|---|---|-1-|---|---|

That's how it will be when you put a capo on the second fret. I hope you've got the hang of it. You just need to know your scales and the notes on the musical scale properly and figure out which fret you need to put your capo on. Some songs that implement the use of the capo are:

  • "Payphone" by Maroon 5 - The capo is put on the 4th fret and the chords Cadd9, G, Em7 and D are played. The chords are.... well you can figure that out!

  • "Here Without You" by 3 Doors Down - The capo is put on the 1st fret.

  • "Here Comes The Sun" by The Beatles - The capo is put on the 7th fret.

    Enjoy! :)

    By DS_rockguy
  • 35 comments sorted by best / new / date

    comments policy
      Bad Kharmel
      Wow, I really doubt how necessary an article on how to use a capo actually is, its like the beginner thing of beginner things, next week we learn C major
      Superperfex
      I never knew there were so many notes! Some notes even have number signs after them oh boy!
      steveZ86
      haha you're all so talented and knowledgeable! i'm impressed. how dare a guitar website post an article for someone learning the basics of the guitar! you're embarrassing.
      Metalxorxdie
      people are arrogant asses who think they know it all, go figure....and as easy as it may be for an experienced guitarist to know what a capo is, what it does, etc. beginners may not...so who is anyone to say anything?...pfft, people I tell ya, pathetic
      RJ13
      Shouldn't you know this stuff already if you're already here? I mean sure, a lot of people are bound not too, but it isn't rocket science is it?
      Factor13x
      hold on...so youre telling me that i can use a capo to change the pitch?? and all this time i thought i needed a porcupine for that...i mean cmon UG lets get something better then this
      Schwimmy
      It does beg one question though...why would anyone want to play "Payphone"?
      FenderBender72
      On a serious note, I appreciate the time and effort it took for you to write this, but the first two paragraphs would have sufficed. This is a very in-depth and well written article, and if you put this much time and effort into every lesson you write, I cant wait for more.
      Microcutted
      Aww, now I can't go to the bar with G minor again...
      whywefight
      Joke destroyed. Twice! But really, this is incredibly self-explanatory. You could figure this out by just looking at a guitar and using some reasoning.
      Himynameisben95
      I watched an interview with David Kennedy of Angels and Airwaves, and he said "A Capo basically changes the hey of the guitar" and my response was "Well, I... you... not real... yeah sure." Also, Payphone "follows the chord progression Esus2B5G♯m7F♯susF♯Esus2BG♯m7 F♯5"
      Tommat
      "C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B and then back to C" Flats no longer exist, guys.
      dechagny
      you may all make fun of the article, but my mom (63) has been playing the guitar for 40 years and she had no idea what a capo is until about 2 months ago when I told her... so this may seem ridiculous for some of you, but for someone like her it will be a godsend
      KTbass
      guys after this post i figured out a technique. i dont know if anyones ever done it before if there is let me know. its like a capo-thumb. like the contrabassists use their thumb to hold a fret so they can play higher one can use his thumb as a capo so he can have 4 fingers free to use for chords.for example a G shapped chord will be middle-index-thumb-thumb-ring-pinky. or u can hold down harmonics with ur thump. think about it!
      KTbass
      guys after this post i figured out a technique. i dont know if anyones ever done it before if there is let me know. its like a capo-thumb. like the contrabassists use their thumb to hold a fret so they can play higher one can use his thumb as a capo so he can have 4 fingers free to use for chords.for example a G shapped chord will be middle-index-thumb-thumb-ring-pinky. or u can hold down harmonics with ur thump. think about it