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.
“Jim Marshall & Son” opened in July 1960 at 76 Uxbridge Road in Hanwell, England. For the aspiring instrument seller, it was a case of right place; right time. Within a few short years, the London rock scene was burgeoning. Soon, the likes of Mitch Mitchell, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton and John Entwistle flocked to the renamed “J & T Marshall”, by now the de-jour supplier of guitars and amplifiers for the new breed.
Arguably rock’s greatest producer, nobody captures those sounds better than Eddie Kramer. Even if you don’t know the name, you’ll know the records he helped make: Led Zeppelin II, Frampton Comes Alive, Physical Graffiti, Kiss Alive!, The Woodstock Soundtrack, All You Need Is Love and pretty much the entire discography of Jimi Hendrix. Given his near sixty-year career behind the mixing desk, Kramer has a thing-or-two to impart about the ins-and-outs of the recording process. Today, we’ve selected some choice observations from our favourite Eddie Kramer interviews.