Capo Strategy that makes sense

Using a Capo

I suggested in another post that using a capo can be disorienting and confusing because there are so many different configurations. In this post I suggest a way to limit and make sense of the capo.

My first and most important suggestion is to limit your use of the capo to just two shapes: the open G-shape and the open-D shape. In other words, play as if you are in one of these keys (either G or D).

Here’s a Simple Strategy:

Rule 1. – Only play as if you are in either G or D.
– Use whichever one works best using the following technique…

Rule 2. – Find the Root Note
– Find the root note of the desired key. Look only on the B and E strings.

Rule 3 – The Three Fret Rule
– Put the capo three frets below the root.
If you found the root note on the B string, play as if you are in D. If you found the root note on the E string, play as if you are in G.


Example 1 – Say you find the root note of a song on the B string at fret 4. According to our rule you should put your capo three frets lower at fret 1. Then play as if you are in the key of D. You’ll be playing in Eb, but whether you realize that or not doesn’t matter.

Example 2 – Say you decide the root is at E7. Put the capo on the 4th fret (3 frets lower) and play as if you are in the key of G. You will actually be playing 4 frets (2 full tones) above G. That’s B.

These examples should help you see the importance of limiting your shapes to these two, and also of limiting your “root pecking” to just the E and B strings.

And that’s all there is to it!

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