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Understanding Capo please

Jon Mills (744)

Guitar Theory Forum · 11/20/2007 7:57 PM
Hi there i have used the capo before but what I want to know is this.

If a song is in these keys


And I wanted to play the song using the D chords like D, A, G, Em, C as its easier

Where would i put the Capo on the fret

So for example lets start with someone giving me a song and the song is in F which fret would i put the capo behind which would allow me to play the song using alternative chords starting with D?
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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/20/2007 8:05 PM

Jon Mills (744) wrote:

Would this be right?

Key is in F

I put my capo behind Fret 3 and play D

Key is in C

I put my capo behind Fret 4 and play D


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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/20/2007 8:13 PM

Jon Mills (744) wrote:

Man this is confusing

Someone said if its in F, play E by capo first fret.. but what if i dont want to play E and i want to play D??

Or what if the Key is in E and I want to play D? Do i place the capo on the 2nd fret?

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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/20/2007 8:19 PM

Ken Richardson (9051) wrote:

Take it one at a time!!

If you want to "hear" F... capo on first fret, and play an E chord.

To use the "D shape" - capo at 5th fret.. make the D shape at 7th

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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/20/2007 8:31 PM

Ken Richardson (9051) wrote:

uh-oh !

make that capo on 3rd fret... make the "D" shape on frets 5 & 6 !!

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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/20/2007 11:32 PM

David Mackie (11072) wrote:

The first example is correct, the second isn't. to use the "D" shape to play a C chord, you need to capo at the 10th fret.

Think about it; when you play a C chord in the open position, the top three intervals make the same geometric shape as the "normal" D chord in the open position. If you analyze the voices, you see that they match; fifth - root - third. So to do that and still be able to play the root on the D string, it has to go way up at the 10th.

It's one of those things that hides in plain sight; the kind that makes you slap your forehead and say "doh!" when it finally dawns on you. It's also the kind of connection that the CAGED system is really good at highlighting.

For the key of A, you'd need to capo at the 7th fret. To figure that out (I don't have that info memorized, it's quicker for me to figure it out every time rather than wracking my feeble memory) I merely think of the various various ways to play an A chord. I know I want the root on the D string, so that immediately suggests an E chord shape, because in that shape the root is doubled on the low E and D strings. The A chord using that shape is played at the fifth fret, which puts the A on the D string at the seventh fret. I want that note to sound unfretted, so that's where the capo goes. That thought process sounds really convoluted, but it's automatic and nearly instantaneous for me because of the CAGED view of the fingerboard.

I hope this helps; I find it easier to demonstrate in person than describe in print.

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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/21/2007 7:38 AM

Andrew Ells-O'Brien (563) wrote:

CAGED knowledge seriously helps when thinking about capo
Since most folks don't realized that the "open D" chord is
actually a "C" shape barre chord.

Also, most folks never really think about using an "open G"
shape in a barre chord format.

Using those states of mind you can get a real sense of where to
place a capo, if so inclined.


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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/21/2007 1:22 PM

Robert Strait (6660) wrote:

Your right about that "open G" shape...I find it very useful,
especially for embellishments.

I often bar and hammer on the other scale tones in that shape
Hendrix-y fills and voicing there in particular that I


Being in that "bar state of mind" is handy when using a capo and
also when you are not, because by barring your first finger you
can get open string-like fills and embellishments.



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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/21/2007 11:03 PM

Shon Moore (14) wrote:

I agree 100%, If one is going to be serious about learning the guitar then one must understand the CAGED system, What helped with me was pretty much what you said always know where the root lies, and always relate a scale pattern wether it be blues or major or penatonic to a chord shape up and down the neck why move around so much for soloing if you don't have to, if you understand the caged system then you'll understand the capo that's where I would start.

Be cool.

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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/21/2007 7:28 AM

Andrew Ells-O'Brien (563) wrote:

What you want to do is pick up a copy of:
"The Guitarist's Guide to the Capo: The Ultimate User's Guide" by
Rikky Rooksby
Book Description (from the back cover)
The capo is one of the most useful devices ever invented for
guitarists. Whether you're a capo novice or a pro looking for new
ideas, this book will have you clamping your way to guitar
heaven in no time! It covers: choosing your capo, with a listing
of the benefits and drawback of all the most popular brands;
essential capo effects; capos and tunings; advanced techniques;
and much more. Fully illustrated with over 100 photos and
diagrams, the book also includes a CD with 64 tracks
demonstrating the cool sounds you can make with a capo.

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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/22/2007 4:02 AM

Craig Lindsey (5518) wrote:

I'll try to make a simpler answer for you.

Everyone else is right, but confusing depending on your level of play.

Say the song is in F. You enjoy playing D shapes and the associated G's, Em's A's etc.

Place the capo on the third fret, near the fret bar. When you play a D shape, that will correspond with, say, your bass player playing in F.

Your G shape will actually be a Bb, your Em shape will be an actual Gm, your A shape will be a CMaj, etc.

If you want to use D shapes in the key of C, yeah, you'll have to capo way up on the tenth fret.

For songs in A, using a D shape, the seventh fret. Just to use your specific examples.

I like the capo myself, but tend to use it more often in alternate tunings. The Celtic tunings particularly lend themselves to those higher registers.

There are certain other chords in standard tuning, such as

that can be especially nice when capo-ed up, into say a C or A tune.


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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/22/2007 4:19 AM

Craig Lindsey (5518) wrote:

Here's another example in the key of C Maj.

Lets say you are pretty comfortable with the G shapes, as in

Now, you can capo up to the fifth fret, if I have that right, and play that same shape, and make a nice "C". You'll be playing that form on the eight fret, of course. But here's that Am7th with you capoed on that 5th fret.....

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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/22/2007 4:26 PM

Jon Mills (744) wrote:

Its still dont make sense

I was told that you count backwards and that determines how many frets before you put the capo on.. so in the example of the song is in F and i want to play D chord for F

I was told.. ok go back in the

E F F# G G# A A# B C D D#

So If its in F and I want to play D going back its

E D# D which equals 3

So you put capo just behind the 3 fret and now play the D chord

I was told if you are given the key of E and You want to play D you go back again

E# D equals 2

So put the capo just behind the 2nd fret and play the D

Man this is confusing stuff

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Re: Understanding Capo please

11/22/2007 4:51 PM

Adriano Parmiggianno (6926) wrote:

Capo on 3rd fret: