It’s a tradition at every Teaching Guitar Workshop to give attendees sticky notes so they can write down questions as they arise. When there is a critical mass of stickies the TGW Clinicians answer all of them. Not surprisingly lots of attendees ask questions about the same subjects – no matter how much we try to demystify classroom guitar. Here’s a collection of questions and answers from teachers like you – and clinicians like us – on capos.
How do you introduce students to the concept of the capo and what happens to the fretboard when one is clamped down?
Explain the mechanics of a capo and how it’s like using your 1st finger to play barre chords. Students seem to pick up on how to use it easily but to get them to understand how the transposition works is a higher concept.
How do you put a capo on and what about tuning?
Always place the capo a bit behind the fret and fasten it on the guitar tightly. Never slide the capo from fret to fret with out loosening it as this can scratch the guitar neck. Check your tuning after the capo is placed on the guitar neck. If a string should go sharp, loosen it at the peg and tug on the other side of the capo then tune the string up to pitch. If the strings are flat, carefully tune them up to pitch in the new key. Go up five frets from the capo and check your tuning in the traditional way.
What’re some of the less obvious benefits to using a capo?
It is important to understand that a nylon/classic guitar fingerboard is flat while a steel string fingerboard is slightly convex. You need to purchase the correct model for the guitar you will be using. If you play up the neck with a capo the frets are closer together (higher up the neck) so some finger exercises will be easier. If students are playing a simple I-V7 song and singing along (if the melody is too low) you can use a capo to raise the pitch and still use the same chord fingering.
What are the aesthetic benefits that using a capo can have?
If you have two guitar players the sonority gets richer. Have them play in different positions on the neck and you will may add a lot of color!
Can you think of popular songs that showcase the aesthetic benefits of using a capo?
Too many to name! Here’s a start: Hotel California, Eagles: 7th fret, Free Falling’, Tom Petty: 3rd fret, Hey There Delilah, Plain White Ts: 2nd fret, Kiss Me, Sixpence, None The Richer: 3rd fret, Under the Bridge, Red Hot Chili Peppers: 2nd fret, Friends in Low Places, Garth Brooks: 2nd fret, Ends, Everlast: 3rd fret.
What types of capo do you find most effective?
There are so many different types of capos. Go to a music store and check out what is available. If you are buying a set for your class the “elastic band” type are the most inexpensive, but they wear out quickly. The quickest to put on are any of the type where you squeeze to put it on and then release your grip so the spring applies the pressure to the fingerboard.