There are a couple different ways I use to figure out how to use my capo properly. I like to call them the hard way and the easy way.
THE HARD WAY – The hard way is to figure out the chordal structure of the song you’re wanting to play. For instance, let’s say I wanted to play a song that is in the key of B Major. B Major would be my I chord, E Major would be my IV chord, and F# would be my V chord. Yikes, not the easiest key for beginners. So I want to use a capo….so I work backwards by half-steps. Back one half-step would be A#, D#, and F. If I played those three chords with my capo on the first fret, the sound coming out of the guitar is actually B, E, and F#. The problem is…that’s not any better for me in terms of chords…so I have to keep going. Capo two would be me playing A, D, and E. AHHH…much better. So now if I have capo 2 and play A, D, and E ….I am actually playing B, E, and F#. I make the correct substitutions and now I can play with the original recording! If I didn’t like that key, I could obviously keep going until I got to the key that I was looking for. That’s the hard way (really not that hard, but when you see this next way, you’ll understand why I call it the hard way).
THE EASY WAY- The easy way involves using an incredible website called http://www.ultimate-guitar.com . You can look up nearly any tune and someone has been nice enough to write out the chords to the song for you. Here is an example of a song that I played with my class called Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show (made famous though by Darius Rucker).
As you can see, the song is in the key of A major. My students are were not really skilled in that key yet so we used a capo. Here is what makes it easy. If you look over to the left hand side it says transpose and there is a down arrow and an up arrow. This is going to do all the work for us! If I click the down arrow, it’s going to take all the chords down by a half-step (essentially capo 1). I ended up going to capo 2 to get it to the key of G, and now my students are rocking out to the original key by using their capos. Much easier!
Now many songs on ultimate-guitar may already be written out for the use of a capo, and if so they will explain that at the top. If not though, this is an excellent way to really take songs and make them attainable for your entire class.
Hope you learned something from my series on capos. Please feel free to e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org with question or comments. Hope you will continue to visit my guitar blog at http://gerrysguitars.wordpress.com/. Good luck with those capos!
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