Capos

What is a Capo? How do I use one? Which fret do I place it on? What else can I do with one?

What is a Capo?

A capo (most pronounce it (Kay'-Po) is a device that allows you to play chords/scales/progressions/arpeggios/etc. in another key/tonal center while still using the same same shapes as if played open. The capo acts as a temporary barre thus rasing the pitch of all the "open" (unfretted) strings it acts upon.

How do I use one? - Physical placement

Whether one is using a capo attached by a spring, screw, or elastic band; the capo should be placed directly behind the desired fret (be sure to retune if necessary).

Fret selection

Knowing which fret to use the capo on requires a knowledge of the tuning you're using (let's assume standard; standard = EADGBE), the context you're in (keys, tonal center, functionality), and the chromatic scale (chromatic scale = A,A#/Bb,B,C,C#/Db,D,D#/Eb,E,F,F#/Gb,G,G#/Ab,A)

ex.
If you place the capo on the 1rst fret, it raises all the open strings by 1 semitone (1 halfstep). So playing the same shape as an A major chord with the capo on the 1rst fret will sound an A# major chord (or Bb major chord; same type of chord as open 1 semitone higher).

*note: compare with chromatic scale above, A#/Bb is 1 place (1 semitone) higher than A. Placing the capo on the nth fret will transpose the chord/scale/etc. n places higher in the chromatic scale.

ex.
Let's suppose you're playing in a specific key. The following shows which notes are in all keys in the open strings.

Key  |  open strings in key
     |  #  | pitches
---------------------------
  A  |  5  | A,B,D,E
A#/Bb|  3  | D,G,A
  B  |  3  | B,E
  C  |  6  | D,E,G,A,B
C#/Db|  0  |
  D  |  6  | D,E,G,A,B
D#/Eb|  2  | G,D
  E  |  4  | E,A,B
  F  |  5  | G,A,D,E
F#/Gb|  1  | B
  G  |  6  | G,A,B,D,E
G#/Ab|  1  | G 

So we can assume that open position (no capo) is a good place to play the keys of D (6 open strings available including the root), G (6 strings including the root), C (6 strings, but no root in the open strings), A (5 strings including the root), F (5 strings but no root), and E (4 strings, 2 of which are roots).

Similarly, placing the capo on the 1rst fret raises which keys are favored 1 place in the chromatic scale. Keys favored by a capo in the 1rst fret are: D#/Eb, G#/Ab, C#/Db, A#/Bb, F#/Gb, and F.

Keys favored by a capo on the 2nd fret are:
E, A, D, B, G, and F#/Gb.

Capo at the 3rd fret favors the keys of:
F, A#/Bb, D#/Eb, C, G#/Ab, G.

Capo at the 4th fret favors the keys of:
F#/Gb, B, E, C#/Db, A, G#/Ab.

Placing the capo in one of these 1rst four frets will give a position to play a particular key with all 6 "open" strings being in the key.

NO Capo or Capo 12th fret (E,A,D,G,B,E)
=======


Key    		Open strings in Key
        	#	Name
---------------------------
A		5	A,B,D,E
A#/Bb		3	D,G,A
B		3	B,E
C		6	D,E,G,A,B
C#/Db		0	-
D		6	D,E,G,A,B
D#/Eb		2	G,D
E		4	E,A,B
F		5	G,A,D,E
F#/Gb		1	B
G		6	G,A,B,D,E
G#/Ab		1	G


Open shape	Actual
----------------------
E-shape		E
D-shape		D
C-shape		C
A-shape		A
G-shape		G





Capo 1st fret (F,A#/Bb,D#/Eb,G#/Ab,C,F)
=============


Key    		Open strings in Key
        	#	Name
---------------------------
A		1	G#
A#/Bb		6	Bb,C,D,Eb,F
B		3	D#,G#,A#
C		2	C,F
C#/Db		6	Eb,F,Ab,Bb,C
D		0	-
D#/Eb		6	Eb,Ab,C,F,Bb
E		2	G#,D#
F		4	F,Bb,C
F#/Gb		5	G#,A#,D#,F
G		1	C
G#/Ab		4	Ab,C,F


Open shape	Actual
----------------------
E-shape		F
D-shape		D#/Eb
C-shape		C#/Db
A-shape		A#/Bb
G-shape		G#/Ab



Capo 2nd fret (F#/Gb,B,E,A,C#/Db,F#/Gb)
=============


Key    		Open strings in Key
        	#	Name
---------------------------
A		6	A,B,C#,E,F#
A#/Bb		1	A
B		5	B,C#,E,F#
C		3	E,A,B
C#/Db		3	Db,Gb,
D		6	E,F#,A,B,C#
D#/Eb		0	-
E		6	E,F#,A,B,C#
F		2	A,E
F#/Gb		4	F#,B,C#
G		4	A,B,E,F#
G#/Ab		1	Db


Open shape	Actual
----------------------
E-shape		F#/Gb
D-shape		E
C-shape		D
A-shape		B
G-shape		A



Capo 3rd fret (G,C,F,Bb,D,G)
=============


Key    		Open strings in Key
        	#	Name
---------------------------
A		1	D
A#/Bb		6	Bb,C,D,F,G
B		1	A#
C		5	C,D,F,G
C#/Db		3	F,Bb,C
D		3	D,G
D#/Eb		6	F,G,Bb,C,D
E		0	-
F		6	F,G,Bb,C,D
F#/Gb		1	A#
G		4	G,C,D
G#/Ab		5	Bb,C,F,G


Open shape	Actual
----------------------
E-shape		G
D-shape		F
C-shape		D#/Eb
A-shape		C
G-shape		A#/Bb



Capo 4th fret (G#/Ab,C#/Db,F#/Gb,B,D#/Eb,G#/Ab)
=============


Key    		Open strings in Key
        	#	Name
---------------------------
A		5	B,C#,F#,G#
A#/Bb		1	Eb
B		6	B,C#,D#,F#,G#
C		1	B
C#/Db		5	Db,Eb,Gb,Ab
D		3	F#,B,C#
D#/Eb		3	Eb,Ab
E		6	F#,G#,B,C#,D#
F		0	-
F#/Gb		6	F#,G#,B,C#,D#
G		2	B,F#
G#/Ab		4	Ab,Db,Eb


Open shape	Actual
----------------------
E-shape		G#/Ab
D-shape		F#/Gb
C-shape		E
A-shape		C#/Db
G-shape		B



Capo 5th fret (A,D,G,C,E,A)
=============


Key    		Open strings in Key
        	#	Name
---------------------------
A		4	A,D,E
A#/Bb		5	C,D,G,A
B		1	E
C		6	C,D,E,G,A
C#/Db		0	-
D		4	D,E,G,A
D#/Eb		3	G,C,D
E		3	E,A
F		6	G,A,C,D,E
F#/Gb		0	-
G		6	G,A,C,D,E
G#/Ab		2	C,G


Open shape	Actual
----------------------
E-shape		A
D-shape		G
C-shape		F
A-shape		D
G-shape		C



Capo 6th fret (A#/Bb,D#/Eb,G#/Ab,C#/Db,F,A#/Bb)
=============


Key    		Open strings in Key
        	#	Name
---------------------------
A		2	C#,G#
A#/Bb		4	Bb,Eb,F
B		4	C#,D#,G#,A#
C		1	F
C#/Db		6	Db,Eb,F,Ab,Bb
D		0	-
D#/Eb		4	Eb,F,Ab,Bb
E		3	G#,C#,D#
F		3	F,Bb
F#/Gb		6	F#,G#,A#,C#,D#
G		0	-
G#/Ab		6	Ab,Bb,Db,Eb,F


Open shape	Actual
----------------------
E-shape		A#/Bb
D-shape		G#/Ab
C-shape		F#/Gb
A-shape		D#/Eb
G-shape		C#/Db


Capo 7th fret (B,E,A,D,F#/Gb,B)
=============


Key    		Open strings in Key
        	#	Name
---------------------------
A		6	A,B,D,E,F#
A#/Bb		2	D,A
B		4	B,E,F#
C		5	D,E,A,B
C#/Db		6	Gb
D		6	D,E,F#,A,B
D#/Eb		1	D
E		5	E,F#,A,B
F		3	A,D,E
F#/Gb		3	F#,B
G		6	A,B,D,E,F#
G#/Ab		0	-


Open shape	Actual
----------------------
E-shape		B
D-shape		A
C-shape		G
A-shape		E
G-shape		D


Capo 8th fret (C,F,A#/Bb,D#/Eb,G,C)
=============


Key    		Open strings in Key
        	#	Name
---------------------------
A		0	-
A#/Bb		6	Bb,C,Eb,F,G
B		2	D#,A#
C		4	C,F,G
C#/Db		5	Eb,F,Bb,C
D		1	G
D#/Eb		6	Eb,F,G,Bb,C
E		1	D#
F		5	F,G,Bb,C
F#/Gb		3	A#,D#,E#
G		3	G,C
G#/Ab		6	Bb,C,Eb,F,G


Open shape	Actual
----------------------
E-shape		C
D-shape		A#/Gb
C-shape		G#/Ab
A-shape		F
G-shape		D#/Eb


Capo 9th fret (C#/Db,F#/Gb,B,E,G#/Ab,C#/Db)
=============


Key    		Open strings in Key
        	#	Name
---------------------------
A		6	B,C#,E,F#,G#
A#/Bb		0	-
B		6	B,C#,E,F#,G#
C		2	E,B
C#/Db		4	Db,Gb,Ab
D		5	E,F#,B,C#
D#/Eb		1	Ab
E		6	E,F#,G#,B,C#
F		1	E
F#/Gb		5	F#,G#,B,C#
G		3	B,E,F#
G#/Ab		3	Ab,Db


Open shape	Actual
----------------------
E-shape		C#/Db
D-shape		B
C-shape		A
A-shape		F#/Gb
G-shape		E


Capo 10th fret (D,G,C,F,A,D)
=============


Key    		Open strings in Key
        	#	Name
---------------------------
A		2	A,D
A#/Bb		6	C,D,F,G,A
B		0	-
C		6	C,D,F,G,A
C#/Db		2	F,C
D		4	D,G,A
D#/Eb		5	F,G,C,D
E		2	A,B
F		6	F,G,A,C,D
F#/Gb		1	E#
G		5	G,A,C,D
G#/Ab		4	C,F,G


Open shape	Actual
----------------------
E-shape		D
D-shape		C
C-shape		A#/Bb
A-shape		G
G-shape		F


Capo 11th fret (D#/Eb,G#/Ab,C#/Db,F#/Gb,A#/Bb,D#/Eb)
=============


Key    		Open strings in Key
        	#	Name
---------------------------
A		3	C#,F#,G#
A#/Bb		3	Bb,Eb
B		6	C#,D#,F#,G#,A#
C		0	-
C#/Db		6	Db,Eb,Gb,Ab,Bb
D		2	F#,C#
D#/Eb		4	Eb,Ab,Bb
E		5	F#,G#,C#,D#
F		1	Bb
F#/Gb		6	F#,G#,A#,C#,D#
G		1	F#
G#/Ab		5	Ab,Bb,Db,Eb


Open shape	Actual
----------------------
E-shape		D#/Eb
D-shape		C#/Db
C-shape		B
A-shape		G#/Ab
G-shape		F#/Gb

The next lesson is on Alternate Tunings.

Peace,
Christopher Roberts

snglstringtheory@aol.com


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Last updated february 27, 2003
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