Capo placement

Guitar Tricks Forum > Music Theory > Capo placement

jarkko.eklund

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Joined: 09/25/13

Posts: 187

Although I've been using a capo for years, I really don't know how to determine it's placement for playing with open chords shapes in certain key. I just know "play this song using the capo on 4th fret" etc.

Is there a "formula" for calculating which fret to place the capo on?

I have a hunch an answer lies in a circle of fifts. I just can't derive the result with my current knowledge.

#1

Although I've been using a capo for years, I really don't know how to determine it's placement for playing with open chords shapes in certain key. I just know "play this song using the capo on 4th fret" etc.

Is there a "formula" for calculating which fret to place the capo on?

I have a hunch an answer lies in a circle of fifts. I just can't derive the result with my current knowledge.

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 5617

Originally Posted by: jarkko.eklund

Is there a "formula" for calculating which fret to place the capo on?

I have a hunch an answer lies in a circle of fifts. I just can't derive the result with my current knowledge.

It really helps to be able to visualize your barre chords & triads any place on the fretboard. This of course requires solid knowledge of the note locations. It also helps to really understand the triad formation of all the open chords.

You need 3 pieces of information.

1. The key signature & chords of the song.

2. The open chord shapes you want to use.

3. Location of root notes on the E, A & D strings.

Make a list of the chords. Look for relationships, common chord progressions, the interval between the bass notes.

You're usually looking for a way to use any and all open chord shapes you know. And that's where point 3 really helps everything comes together. Once you've determined the chords you need to play in the song, then you need to experiment with which shapes have root notes where you need them.

These open chords have roots on the E string: E, G, & F (sort of).

These open chords have roots on the A string: A, B, C.

The D chord has it's root on the D string, also the F (again, sort of!).

Now it's time to experiment with options! Typically any chord between B-flat & E-flat works well rooted on the A string. Let's try 2 examples.

For example, if you need an E-flat, A-flat & B-flat (I-IV-V in E-flat), then you can place the capo on the 6th fret. This effectively barres:

A string at the note E-flat

D string at the note A-flat

E string at the note B-flat

Now you can play an A major shape & it will be an E-flat chord.

You can play a D major shape & it will be an A-flat chord.

You can play an E major shape & it will be an B-flat chord.

But, say you want to use a C major shape. The root note is on the A string. So you need the 6th fret of the A string to be the root note of the C major chord shape. And that means you need to place the capo on the 3rd fret in order for your C chord shape to work, to be rooted at the 6th fret E-flat.

Now you can play a C major shape & it will be an E-flat chord.

You can play an F major shape & it will be an A-flat chord.

You can play a G major shape & it will be an B-flat chord.

So, some of this is knowledge you might already have, but need to apply in a new way. One of the tricky things about a capo is that it restricts access to certain notes (the ones below the capo!). So you have to plan accordingly.

These tutorials cover capo use.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=2359

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=2332

Hope that helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#2

Originally Posted by: jarkko.eklund

Is there a "formula" for calculating which fret to place the capo on?

I have a hunch an answer lies in a circle of fifts. I just can't derive the result with my current knowledge.

It really helps to be able to visualize your barre chords & triads any place on the fretboard. This of course requires solid knowledge of the note locations. It also helps to really understand the triad formation of all the open chords.

You need 3 pieces of information.

1. The key signature & chords of the song.

2. The open chord shapes you want to use.

3. Location of root notes on the E, A & D strings.

Make a list of the chords. Look for relationships, common chord progressions, the interval between the bass notes.

You're usually looking for a way to use any and all open chord shapes you know. And that's where point 3 really helps everything comes together. Once you've determined the chords you need to play in the song, then you need to experiment with which shapes have root notes where you need them.

These open chords have roots on the E string: E, G, & F (sort of).

These open chords have roots on the A string: A, B, C.

The D chord has it's root on the D string, also the F (again, sort of!).

Now it's time to experiment with options! Typically any chord between B-flat & E-flat works well rooted on the A string. Let's try 2 examples.

For example, if you need an E-flat, A-flat & B-flat (I-IV-V in E-flat), then you can place the capo on the 6th fret. This effectively barres:

A string at the note E-flat

D string at the note A-flat

E string at the note B-flat

Now you can play an A major shape & it will be an E-flat chord.

You can play a D major shape & it will be an A-flat chord.

You can play an E major shape & it will be an B-flat chord.

But, say you want to use a C major shape. The root note is on the A string. So you need the 6th fret of the A string to be the root note of the C major chord shape. And that means you need to place the capo on the 3rd fret in order for your C chord shape to work, to be rooted at the 6th fret E-flat.

Now you can play a C major shape & it will be an E-flat chord.

You can play an F major shape & it will be an A-flat chord.

You can play a G major shape & it will be an B-flat chord.

So, some of this is knowledge you might already have, but need to apply in a new way. One of the tricky things about a capo is that it restricts access to certain notes (the ones below the capo!). So you have to plan accordingly.

These tutorials cover capo use.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=2359

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=2332

Hope that helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

jarkko.eklund

Full Access

Joined: 09/25/13

Posts: 187

Thank you, Christopher.

#3

Thank you, Christopher.

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 5617

Originally Posted by: jarkko.eklund

Thank you, Christopher.

You're welcome!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#4

Originally Posted by: jarkko.eklund

Thank you, Christopher.

You're welcome!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory