Partial Capo
Introduction & Tutorial

There are many possible ways to use a partial capo. We'll explore four partial capo techniques in this article. You can apply the 3-string Shubb partial capo (model C7B) in at least three different ways (read more about partial capo ...

Explore Partial capo chords and scales visually and interactively with Sound Thinking.

 

This article is an introduction to capo concepts. It teaches how to use and understand a capo from an informed standpoint. The article assumes you know some basic guitar chords, such as A, Am, C, D, Dm, E, Em, F, G.

Welcome to Capobility

A wealth of information about
using a capo and partial capo

and transposing music with a capo.

Much more coming soon. Thanks for visiting.

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Using the "Grip" Section

Using the "Key" section

Guitarists are generally most comfortable playing in keys like C, G, D, A, and E. The remaining sharp keys (B, F# and C#) and most flat keys are definatley more challenging.

A capo offers asimple way of dealing with keys that are awkward on guitar. The solution is combination of a capo and a "friendly grip".

We use the term "grip" to refer to chord or scale fingerings you're likely use in a particular key— the term is apt term, so we'll use it in this article.

The capo chart

The Capo Guide (provided here) organizes possible grip/capo combinaitions :

1) to help you determine what key you're in when using a particular grip with a capo on your guitar

2) to help you find the "friendly" grips you can use when you want to play in a specific key, and where to set the capo to "transpose" you pitch to that key.

We'll use the term "friendly grip" to refer to easy keys like G or D.

 

 

 

you can use the chord fingerings of the keys you already know (or 'grips') to challenging keys like Ab or C#by using a capo

The Capo Guide helps in finding freindly grips for awkward keys. Here's an example.

Let's say you want to play in C#, but without all the trouble:

  1. Look up C#in the Key area (the blue area)
  2. Scan to the right (through the cap-fret locater area—the brown column.)
  3. You'll find the number 4 in the first column. Note that it is in black. (Black numbers indicate good choices. Light graynumbers indicates poor choices, which suggest either an unfriendly grip, or that the solution requires capoing at a fret higher than desireable.)
  4. Look straight up the column and you'll find the 'grip' which is A.

In otheGbFr words, to play comfortably in C#, capo at the 4th fret and play in the key of A. When you do so:

  • an A major scale at the 4th fret will sound like a C# major scale.
  • an A I-IV-V chord progression (A-D-E) will sound like C#-F#-G#.

There's one answer. For the key of C# there are two other reasonable possibilities, indicated by black numbers:

  1. If you scan further to the right you'll find the number 1 in black. If you look straight up the column you'll find that the indicated grip is C. This means that you can also play in C# by capoing at the 1st fret and playing in C.
  2. The other recommended choice for the key of C#. In the furthest column on the right, you'll see the number 6. Looking straight up the column indicates that the grip is G. This means that you can play in C# by capoing at the 6th fret and playing in G.
  • a G major scale at the 6th fret will sound like a C# major scale.
  • a G I-IV-V chord progression (G-C-D) will sound like C#-F#-G#.

 

 

so we have three essential items of information: Grip, capo location, and key. For a moment, let's think of them in that order.

If you play an A grip, capo 4, you get a C# chord. If you play chords for the key of A, capo 4, you get the chords for the key of C#.

 

 

As a guitarist you'll frequently encounter situations where the key of a song has been identified, but because of the nature of the guitar, you know that's troubled terrain for your left hand.

There's usually two or three "capo and grip" combinations that provide a familiar and comfortable approach, and that allows you to be stylistically appropriate.

For instance, someone's about to play a folk song and announces, "I sing this in is Bb." You may already know that Bb is an awkward key for guitar—or maybe you don't know a thing about Bb—but the song sounds easy enough to play along with, and you know that singers have clout. They pick the key.

If only it were in a familiar key ... like G, D or A.

you're not sure what to do about it. What grip should you use, and where should you capo?

Here's capo instructions so you can easily play along in Bb:

  • look up the key in the blue column of the Capo Guide. (It's the second row down, where it says, A#/Bb.)

  • look across the row into the brown area. You'll see three black numbers 1, 6 and 3. These identify 'reasonable' capo positions that work well for Bb: 1st fret, 6th fret and 3rd fret.
  • from any one of these reasonable capo positions look straight up the column to determine the letter name of the necessary Grip. Here the possibilities for Bb:
  • capo 1 requires an A grip
  • capo 6 requires an E grip
  • capo 3 requires a G grip
  • your choice is a matter of preference, governed by familiarity and style.
  • You might notice that D is a perfectly comfortable grip, but the fret number is displayed in light gray, meaning that it is not a 'reasonable' choice. The grip IS good, but you'd have to capo at the 8th fret, which is really the upper limit of capo positioning, and not recommended.
  • The white numbers indicate keys that are

 

 

(The actual key of the song is called concert pitch)

 

 

 

Understand a "grip."

How to change keys with a guitar capo

Guitar Capo Guide

 

When to use a capo.

There are two basic reasons for using a full guitar capo:

When you know how to play a song, but you want to play it in a slightly higher key. For instance when you play in the key of G, placing a capo on the 2nd fret raises the key 2 half steps to A. People also common capo at the 3rd fret for Bb, 4th fret for B and 5th fret for C; occasionally people will go even higher to the 7th fret for D and even the 8th fret for Eb, but the guitar sounds pretty tiny

• When you what to play in a 'guitar awkward' keys like F, Bb, Eb Ab ... These are flat keys—keys with flats that fall counter clockwise on the Cycle of Fifths. Flat keys are challenging on guitar. Read more about the trouble with flat keys ... (Jazz and swing players may disagree, and indeed I very rarely use a capo when playing jazz or swing, except when finger-picking— because the style doesn't require open ringing strings, if fact it usually requires that

 

the key in which you intend to play, but playing in that key would take you into unfamiliar territory, and you would like to avoid using difficult chords and fingerings.

Understand a capo "grip."

Using the "Grip" Section

When you know the key in which you intend to play, but you want to use a familiar or comfortable "grip," start by looking up your chosen grip-key in the Grip section of the chart.

For instance, if you use a D grip with a capo at the 3th fret, look up the intersection of column D and row 3. The answer is the key of F. This logic applies to keys as well as individual chords. With a capo on the 5th fret an E chord sounds an A.

For instance, let's say you want to play in the key of Bb, but you don't want to play the actual chords associated with Bb chords. Look in the "grip" section and locate B§ – it's in the second row from the top, where it says A#/Bb. The chords listed to the right in that row, A, G, F & E, are the various "grips" you can use to play in B§. After you choose a grip, look to the top of the column to determine the fret at which you'll need to place your capo. Example: For B§, use a G grip and capo at the 3rd fret.

Using the "Actual Key" section
when you know the "grip" you want to use, and the fret you want to capo, and you want to determine the "actual key" that will sound. When is it a good idea to use a capo?

• When you know how to play a song, but you want to play it in a higher key.

• When you know the key in which you intend to play, but playing in that key would take you into unfamiliar territory, and you would like to avoid using difficult chords and fingerings.

Understand a "grip."

Using the "Grip" Section

When you know the key in which you intend to play, but you want to use a familiar or comfortable "grip," start by looking up your chosen grip-key in the Grip section of the chart.

For instance, if you use a D grip with a capo at the 3th fret, look up the intersection of column D and row 3. The answer is the key of F. This logic applies to keys as well as individual chords. With a capo on the 5th fret an E chord sounds an A.

For instance, let's say you want to play in the key of B§, but you don't want to play the actual chords associated with B§ chords. Look in the "grip" section and locate B§ – it's in the second row from the top, where it says A£/B§. The chords listed to the right in that row, A, G, F & E, are the various "grips" you can use to play in B§. After you choose a grip, look to the top of the column to determine the fret at which you'll need to place your capo. Example: For B§, use a G grip and capo at the 3rd fret.

Using the "Actual Key" section
when you know the "grip" you want to use, and the fret you want to capo, and you want to determine the "actual key" that will sound.

 

 

Concert vs. Grip

A capo is all about transposition. Once you've placed a capo on your instrument two perspectives exist, and you have a foot in two worlds, concert or grip. Grip is the simplest:

  • One world—the real world—is the "concert" perspective, called concert pitch, which I'll explain later. "Concert" is a term used in classical music theory. (This can be confusing because there are two commonly used definitions of "concert pitch.")
  • We'll call the other perspective by the colloquial term "grip" — which as we'll see, refers to an imaginary chord or a key.

    A "grip" is a useful, untransposed, point of view. From this perspective you refer to chords and notes as if the capo were not transposing them to a new pitch. Of course, the capo always does transpose pitches, so this is merely for our convenience, to remove the thought required in refering to notes, chords and scales by their transposed names.

The concept of grip is equally important as concert pitch, so let's look closer at what "grip" means.

When you play a uncapoed D chord, your hand position is called a D grip. It's the finger positions required to sound a D chord

If you play the a D grip with the capo at the second fret we hear an actual E chord, because the resulting sound is transposed upward a whole step (2 frets). The grip is still a D grip, and sometimes you can safely refer to it as a D, but resulting sound is a "concert" E chord A real E chord with the notes E G# and B.

When you play a D grip with the capo at the third fret, you sound a concert F chord.

More on concert pitch soon, but suffice it to say, whenever some type of transposition is involved concert pitch identifies the actual sounds produced. Now back to grips.

The world of your grip insulates you from the transpositional realities that occur when you capo your instrument. No matter where you capo, you can think of you D grip as a D chord, when in reality, it will never sound a D chord (unless you capo at the 12th fret, which is highly unlikely.)

It's easy to think this way, and it's a perfectly useful perspective.However the term grip has a larger meaning as well.

Key Grips

Grip can refer to the larger notion of Key. For instance we might say were using a D grip to play in the key of Gb. Capo 4 does this for us. We can play D G and A chords (for a I-IV-V progression) which is much simpler guitar fingering than Gb, Cb and Db chrods.

Similarly, with a capo on the 4th fret, we can use a D grip to play a Gb scale.

ecause the logic of D chord progressions *** all the chord and scale re ** are still "relatively" useful. apply.

 

 

 

It's kinda of like referring to sunrise and sunset. We know these events are caused by earth spin, not the movement of the sun. But we see the sun rise in the morning and it goes down in the evening.

In many instances there is no necessity to think beyond this limited perspective, particularly when playing alone, or with another guitarist who has capoed their guitar in a similar manner. We said earlier "sometimes it is safe to refer to capoed chords by their grip name. Indeed these are instances.

However, if you are playing with someone who is capoed at a different fret, or you're playing with a non-transposing instrument

 

Generally you will come upon factors that leave you clear about the grip you want to use, and the fret that you want to capo to. You may decide on the grip because it provides simple or appropriate chord fingering. You may pick the capo fret to bring an accompaniment into your vocal range.

When you know the "grip" you want to use and the fret you want to capo, you should probably also know the resulting "actual key" (often referred to as "concert pitch.")

You can use the chart to determine this.

If you use a D grip with a capo at the 3th fret, look up the intersection of column D and row 3. The answer is the key of F. This logic applies to keys as well as individual chords. With a capo on the 5th fret an E chord sounds an A.

For instance, let's say you want to play in the key of Bb, but you don't want to play the actual chords associated with Bb chords. Look in the "grip" section and locate Bb – it's in the second row from the top, where it says A#/Bb. The chords listed to the right in that row, A, G, F & E, are the various "grips" you can use to play in Bb. After you choose a grip, look to the top of the column to determine the fret at which you'll need to place your capo. Example: For Bb, use a G grip and capo at the 3rd fret.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

----- stuff below may be unimportant

 

When you know the key in which you intend to play, but you want to use a familiar or comfortable "grip," start by looking up your chosen grip-key in the Grip section of the chart.

 

For instance, let's say you want to play in the key of Bb, but you don't want to play Bb chords. Look in the gray area and locate Bb – it's in the second row from the top, where it says A£/B§. The chords listed to the right in that row, A, G, F & E, are the various "grips" you can use to play in B§. After you choose a grip, look to the top of the column to determine the fret at which you'll need to place your capo. Example: For B§, use a G grip and capo at the 3rd fret.