How to Use a Guitar Capo

by | Sep 4, 2019 | Folk Guitar User Guide | 0 comments

Before I get into “how to use a guitar capo” I need to explain a few fundamental facts about what a guitar capo is, what it does and why use one in the first place.

What is a guitar capo?

The guitar capo is a device which clamps down on the guitar strings behind the fret which it is placed upon. There are many types and designs of guitar capos. The one you see here is the Kyser Quick Change Guitar Capo. It’s the one that I use and works very well.

What a guitar capo does.

A guitar capo shortens the length of the strings between the guitar’s nut and saddle which in turn, raises the audio frequency or pitch that you hear coming from the guitar. For example, you can place a capo on the first fret and any note or chord you were playing before (in the open position) will now be 1 fret higher in pitch.

Imagine that you are holding an E chord; when you place a capo on the first fret the E chord becomes an F chord. Similarly, if you are holding a C chord and you place a capo on the second fret while using the same left-hand fingering as before, the C chord becomes a D Chord.

Hence, the primary function of a guitar capo is to raise the pitch of the notes or chords it is used upon.

Why use a guitar capo?

By changing the pitch, the capo changes the key that the music was written in which can be helpful for singing purposes. Other reasons for using a guitar capo include:

  • Reducing the distance between frets which can make it easier to switch chords.
  • Creating harmonic voicing of guitar chords with another guitarist. Think-Peter & Paul of “Peter, Paul & Mary.
  • Because you tune your guitar below standard tuning.

How to use a guitar capo

If you are playing a song in open position and want to raise the pitch just a little bit, try placing it on the first or second fret. This may be just enough to make the song easier to sing if it was too low. You may have to place the capo higher on the fretboard or even play in a different key if the song is way out of your vocal range.

To really understand proper use of the capo you may need to learn more about music in general, especially understanding the musical alphabet. interval and varies from a whole step which is 2 frets and a half step which is one fret. Below is a picture which illustrates The Musical Alphabet. (See picture below.)

Another thing that is good to know is that if you are going to be using a capo frequently it would be good to know the notes on the guitar. The notes on the guitar are arranged according to the musical alphabet. You should memorize the name of each guitar string which will give you a starting point for finding all of the notes on the guitar fretboard. Look down at the strings while holding the guitar in a playing position. The fattest string is called the E or 6th string. The thinnest string is called the E or 1st string with the A, D, G, and B strings between them. As the name of the 4th string open is D, when you place a capo on the 1st fret it becomes a D sharp which is 1 fret higher than D. Opening the following link will bring up a diagram which shows all of the notes on the guitar. Studying this diagram will help you to know where to put your capo to get a higher pitch. Guitar Fretboard Diagram

Capo Conversion Chart

If all the above information seems too confusing, you can use the Capo Conversion Chart below. Click below to see enlarge image.