You might not know what a capo looks like, but you’ve almost certainly heard one being used.
They’ve long been the secret weapon of many a guitar hero. Keith Richards, George Harrison, Jimmy Page, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty have all kept one in their gig bag at one time or another, and used them on many a classic song.
Every guitarist should keep a capo handy. They’re amazingly powerful tools for unlocking your fretboard, and will help you take your guitar playing in new directions.
Today we’re going to get into the specifics of what a capo is, how it works, and what it can bring to your guitar playing.
What does a capo do?
A capo is a small device that clamps onto the neck of your guitar, shortening the length of the strings and raising the instrument’s pitch.
The further up the neck you move the capo, the higher you raise the pitch of the instrument.
Using a capo allows you to play a song in different keys while still using common, open string-chord forms. In effect, it unlocks plenty of chordal possibilities on your stringed instrument without you having to learn an encyclopedia’s worth of complex chord shapes.
How does it work?
Pick up your guitar. Below the headstock and above the neck, you’ll notice a thin strip of plastic, metal or bone, which the strings pass over. That’s your guitar’s nut. The nut is the point at which a guitar string’s vibrating length terminates and it’s this, in combination with the scale length of your guitar and tuning keys, which determines the instrument’s pitch.
A capo works like a moveable guitar nut. When you affix it to a fret below the neck joint, it provides the same kind of vibration termination that the guitar nut provides. Therefore, the capo effectively functions in addition to the guitar nut, allowing you to raise the pitch of open strings without adjusting the tuning keys.
What can it bring to your playing?
we’ve already hinted at, one of the main advantages to a capo is that it opens up your fretboard, allowing you to play lots of songs without having to learn complicated new chord shapes. It’s also very handy if you’re a singer and need to adjust the key of songs to fit the range of your voice.
But capos aren’t just about making life easier for chord strumming. They also impart particular tonal qualities.
In part, this is because first-position, open-string chord forms are more resonant than the barre chords that you’d have to use without a capo.
But capos also change the timbre of the strings, imparting a tonal quality of a shorter scale instrument such as a mandolin. It’s a striking effect, and one that can be used to impart a unique mood and feel onto a given song. (If you want to know more about the ways a capo can unlock your guitar playing, check out our blog post on the subject.
Small, but mighty, the capo is a seriously useful accessory for any guitarist looking to take their playing in new directions. Oh, and if you’re in the market, why not take a look at our range of capos today?
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.