When it comes to writing great songs, a capo is a seriously useful tool.
I mean, yes, we would say that. We’re Thalia Capos. But, we’ve got the evidence to back it up.
You’ve only got to look through the annals of popular music to discover that a significant number of songs feature the small but mighty capo. And, utilized to transformative effect, they’re part of what makes these recordings stand out from the crowd.
With that in mind, we’re running through three bona fide classics that feature guitars played with capos. And, because these are songs that every guitarist should have in their arsenal, we’re including guitar tab links as well.
Oasis – Wonderwall
(What's the Story) Morning Glory?, Oasis 1995.
“Wonderwall” – the signature song from BritPop legends Oasis – is one of those tracks that every beginner guitarist takes a stab at. But, no matter how deftly they strum those chords, it always manages to sound off, especially when compared to the recorded version.
That’s because there’s a capo on the second fret. While it’s played as if it’s in E minor, it sounds in F# minor, giving it that distinctive jangle.
It might be the band’s anthem, but writer Noel Gallagher isn’t actually a fan of it. As he noted in a 2017 interview:
“’Wonderwall’ has become a worldwide hit, and I will get stopped all over the world, in any city you care to name, and people will sing ‘Wonderwall’. I don’t particularly like that song… I think ‘Cigarettes And Alcohol’ is a far superior song.”
Check out the tab.
The Beatles – Here Comes the Sun
Abbey Road, The Beatles 1995.
The Beatles’ George Harrison was a fan of capo usage, favoring a seventh string positioning, and playing “D” formations that sound like they’re in A.
There’s a good example of this in the Beatles’ “If I Needed Someone,” but Harrison’s definitive capo piece is “Here Comes the Sun” from Abbey Road (1969).
Appropriately enough, the capo at the seventh fret really shines on this one. It gives the guitar an ethereal, almost mandolin-like quality, which perfectly compliments the dreamy qualities of the track.
As Harrison noted in his autobiography, the song was written at Eric Clapton’s house, where the Beatles guitarist was avoiding a meeting with the accountants at Apple Records:
"Here Comes the Sun" was written at the time when Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: 'Sign this' and 'sign that.' Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton's house. The relief of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric's acoustic guitars and wrote "Here Comes the Sun"
Check out the tab.
Tom Petty – Free Fallin’
Full Moon Fever, Tom Petty 1989.
“Free Fallin,’” the most popular single from Petty’s massive selling Full Moon Fever album (1989), features three guitar parts and two different capo placements. And, the track is a master class in using layered, capo’ed parts to create unique sonic possibilities.
Guitars one and two both feature a capo on the first fret. Guitar one is the lower part and the anchor to the song. Guitar two is the higher part. Both are played as if the song were in E, but sound in F.
Guitar three, meanwhile, features a capo on the third fret, and is played as if the song were in D, while sounding in F. The effect of this, as Guitar World notes, is to “ truly "sweeten up" the beefy chords.” Try playing it in an ensemble with a couple of buddies, and you’ll see what they’re talking about.
Check out the tab.
What are your favorite songs to play with a capo? Share your stories in the comments.
Cal Jam doesn’t get the same love as festivals like Monterey Pop or Woodstock. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t have the late ‘60s countercultural cred, happening a full five years after the summer of love reached its peak. Maybe it’s because it was staged to be filmed for television (as part of ABC’s legendary “In Concert” series). Why do I love California Jam so much? It is because it established the record for the largest concert sound system ever assembled? Was it because it featured the first ever appearance of the Good Year blimp at a music festival?
Guitar lessons eventually followed. But, classical guitar didn’t grab me in the same way that my own freeform compositions had. Firstly, I didn’t know any of the songs I was supposed to be learning. Secondly, it required the kind of co-ordination and finger dexterity that I was – at that time at least – far too impatient to master. “I read somewhere that there are these things you can use to hit the strings so you don’t have to use your fingers. I think they began with a P,” I once told my guitar teacher. “The thing that begins with a P is called practice,” he replied. He was right, of course, but that didn’t mean I wanted to hear it.
This week, to satisfy my yearning for live music, I’ve taken a deep dive into my record collection and rediscovered some live favourites. Given how much joy I’ve got out of these records, I thought I’d share them with you today. Putting together this list, I’ve tried to take the road less travelled. I didn’t want to put together a list of classic live albums that everyone already knows like the back of their hand. Instead, my three picks serve as alternatives to some of those classic albums, offering a new look at some legendary bands.