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How To Use A Capo - Part 2

Now that we know a bit about the theory (see Part 1), let's try applying it. The chord progression for the verse of Yellow by Coldplay is |B |B |F# |F# |E |E |. If we convert these chords into chord functions, we get |I |I |V |V |IV |IV |. Now, let's look through our chart of all major keys and find a key(or keys) that, when we play this progression, uses only open chords. You will notice that there are four keys that fit this criteria: C, G, D and A major. This means that you have multiple choices of where to put the capo for this song. Depending on what key you want to play the song in, any or all of them can work. This usually depends on the singer and what key he or she sounds best singing the song in. Capos can be great for easily changing the key of a song while preserving the way it's played on guitar. If the song is too high for the singer move the capo back a fret or two. If the song is too low, move it up a fret or two.

Now, if you would like to play the song in it's original key, we have to bring in one more element to proceed. To figure out what fret we need to put the capo on to make sure that our new chord shapes are in the correct key, we must be familiar with the names of the notes on the E, A and D strings. I recently wrote a post about this. You can find it here: How To Start Learning Your Fretboard.

If we pick the chord shapes from the key of G, we can use the E string as our guide as the root of the G chord is found on this string - the note on the third fret of the E string in an open G chord is G. What we have to do next is find the note B on the E string.

Using the above chart, we see that B is on the 7th fret of the E string. When we capo a G shape open chord, the capo is put on three frets lower, so at the 4th fret. Now we can play Yellow with only open chords in it's original key. The chords shapes are now |G |G |D |D |C |C |.

Using the chord shapes from the key of G is actually the best choice for this song as the chorus uses the G#m or vi chord in the original key of B. In the key of G, this becomes an Em. In the key of D however, this would become a Bm chord and in the Key of A, this would become an F#m chord - both are bar chords. The chord shapes from the key of C could also work but you would have to capo at the the 11th fret, which isn't very practical. So as you can see from this example, you can have many options but usually there are only one or two that will make it so only open chords are used. The only other thing that can come into play is if the song changes keys at some point. If it does, that can make things more complicated.

Here is a chart with all the open chord shapes used for capoing, what string their root is on and where to place the capo when using them:

C major - root is on the A string - capo three frets below the root

A major - root is on the A string - capo on the root

A minor - root is on the A string - capo on the root

G major - root is on the E string - capo three frets below the root

E major - root is on the E string - capo on the root

E minor - root is on the E string - capo on the root

D major - root is on the D string - capo on the root

D minor - root is on the D string - capo on the root

I realize that there is a a lot of information packed into these last two posts. It may take a few reads and a little bit of experimentation to really get a good grasp of all of it but it will be well worth it. If you have any questions, please put them in the comment section or contact me. I am happy to help. Happy capoing!

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