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Thread: Capo conspiracy?

  1. #1
    Registered User CeeCee_C's Avatar
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    Default Capo conspiracy?

    I've repeatedly noted that mandolin players very rarely use a capo.

    I could come up with any number silly theories, but could it come down to "Capos? We don' need no steenking capos!"?
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    Wait, I thought it was my turn to start an very, very, long and acrimonious thread? I was going to do 'do A style and F style sound different?', but this will do just fine.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    There are lots of good things you might want to use a capo on a mandolin for. But, as my first mandolin teacher explained to me, "we don't do those things".

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    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    A gentleman does not use a capo.
    belbein

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    This one'll go on forever. Suggest you do a search on "capo" and read one of the multi-page threads. Definitely many opinions on the subject!

    However, here's mine.

    1. A capo is a tool that can be useful at times, especially if you want an "open string" effect in a key that makes that difficult.

    2. A capo is not a substitute for learning how to play in those keys, however; it shouldn't be a "crutch."

    3. Due to its shorter fingerboard, mandolin is less adaptable to the capo than longer-scale instruments such as guitar and banjo. There's not a lot of room for fretting if you cut three or four frets off the fingerboard by attaching a capo.

    4. There seem to be more noticeable intonation problems with a capoed mandolin, also probably an artifact of the shorter scale length.

    5. Larger mandolin-family instruments, such as mandola and octave mandolin, are often capoed, with little discussion.

    6. There's a fair amount of peer pressure not to use a capo (check those other threads). Bluegrass mandolinists almost never use one (you can find exceptions, but they're rare). One can draw sneers from the anti-capo crowd by using one.

    I have used a capo when I was playing in an "odd" key but wanted to sound like a first-position fiddle tune. And I felt no shame. Having said that, I doubt I capo my mandolins once a year -- but I use capos all the time on my mandolas, octave mandolins, and mandocelli.

    Summing up my position: use a capo when you feel it necessary or preferable, don't rely on it as a substitute for learning the fingerboard -- and don't make a moral/ethical issue out of it. Just my 2˘.
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    necks already short ... Irish Zouk is a whole different story.
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  9. #7

    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    I could go find the youtube video of Ricky Skaggs using a capo, and the other one with Darrell Scott using a capo (on a mando). But I will wait for this to go on a little lot longer.

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  11. #8
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post

    Summing up my position: use a capo when you feel it necessary or preferable, don't rely on it as a substitute for learning the fingerboard -- and don't make a moral/ethical issue out of it. Just my 2˘.
    Well said. The only other thing I would add is that all the audience cares about is how good it sounds.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Franc Homier Lieu View Post
    I could go find the youtube video of Ricky Skaggs using a capo, and the other one with Darrell Scott using a capo. But I will wait for this to go on a little lot longer.
    Also, Sam Bush has said he used one in the studio and the late John McGann used one to win at Winfield. But let's not let the facts cloud anyone's judgement. Bill didn't use one, so that's the end of it!

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Franc Homier Lieu View Post
    I could go find the youtube video of Ricky Skaggs using a capo...
    Here ya go:



    Both Skaggs and Gillian Welch appear to be playing in C using G-position chords, capoed up five frets.

    And you can't tell me Skaggs doesn't know how to play in C without a capo. He just wanted the sound of open-string G chords for the song, I guess.
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    Just to help out, here is every thread on the Cafe with the word "capo" in the subject line.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  18. #12

    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    CeeCee_C, judging by the previous threads it looks like you already know the best reason to use a capo on mandolin: string changes!

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    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    Let me get this straight: you've got the instrument with the most miniscule sized scale (or close to it) already, and you'd want to make it even shorter? I doubt I'd even be able to play on such an animal...

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    Celtic Strummer Matt DeBlass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    Good lord, this is bordering on politics at the dinner table, isn't it?

    Personally, I find that using a capo compounds the already-present challenge of having big hands and playing a small instrument. I bump into it all the time and knock it out of whack. For rhythm playing I've usually found it easy enough to use closed-position chords and just move around the neck. For melody... well, I flail around badly enough when I'm playing in familiar keys, what's a couple accidental accidentals among friends?
    If I call my guitar my "axe," does that mean my mandolin is my hatchet?

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    Nothing wrong with using a capo if you feel like and it sounds the way you want. Who cares what anyone else says?

    I don't use one because I forget where I put mine.
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  25. #16
    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by bratsche View Post
    Let me get this straight: you've got the instrument with the most miniscule sized scale (or close to it) already, and you'd want to make it even shorter? I doubt I'd even be able to play on such an animal...

    bratsche
    Ever hear of a piccolo mandolin? CGDA a fourth above a regular mandolin. Lots of them in the bowl-back days. Gibson made them at one time and Weber makes them now.

  26. #17
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    CeeCeeC, you've opened a serious can of worms here! Two hours and some of the "notes" have already chimed in! Buying more popcorn when I go out in a few minutes!
    I don't use a capo but, there are times when it would make life easier for certain. I don't really have much of an opinion one way or another. I like the " We don't need no steeenkin' capos" reference though, heheheh.
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  27. #18
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    I finally found the capo I was looking for for my banjo - just to have it, in case I ever learn to play the darn thing. And, my DH said to buy two. So, I put my spare in the mandolin case pocket, since it fits.
    The only time I use a capo on my mandolin is when I'm changing strings! I just can't seem to keep control of the string when it's hooked on the tailpiece while I'm adding slack and threading the string through the tuner peg. The capo gives me a temporary "extra hand."
    I haven't used it while playing the mandolin.
    However, I'm keeping it handy, in case my group suddenly decides we need to play a song I don't know well in a key that's not in our book. For example, we've used the Parking Lot Pickers book a lot. It has the lovely song, Who Will Sing For Me, and the person who requests it likes to play it in a different key for her voice. I've got the revised chords noted, but I struggle with transposing on the fly - so I have my capo handy just to try it, the next time it's requested.
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  28. #19
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flynn View Post
    Ever hear of a piccolo mandolin? CGDA a fourth above a regular mandolin. Lots of them in the bowl-back days. Gibson made them at one time and Weber makes them now.
    Not really. They are pretty rare even in the bowlback days. I have only seen maybe 6 or 7 total. Leland flatbacks were sold by Lyon & Healy -- I have one of those plus one no-name bowlback. I have seen a few pics of Italian instruments even one Embergher. I have never seen any parts for the piccolo mandolin written in mandolin orchestra scores.

    Now back to our scintillating discussion about capons. Errr....
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  29. #20
    Registered User tkdboyd's Avatar
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    I'll repeat what has already been stated, wouldn't want to change strings without a capo around!

    Having Gillian Welch in a discussion about the use of a capo, David Rawlings is a monster user of one on his guitar. During the BBC sessions he pulls out capo for a solo, then takes it back off, and starts playing again. It is the second solo, his first is at 1:11 and then at 1:50 he does the capo work.

  30. #21
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    John McGann won Winfield playing a set of tunes using a capo. If you want to use one just use it. No matter what the capo police are saying it's simply a tool and if it floats your boat have at it. I have one. It confuses the crap out of me to use it but it's there.

    I use one all the time on the guitar and the banjo.
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  31. #22
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    This one'll go on forever. Suggest you do a search on "capo" and read one of the multi-page threads. Definitely many opinions on the subject!

    However, here's mine.

    1. A capo is a tool that can be useful at times, especially if you want an "open string" effect in a key that makes that difficult.

    2. A capo is not a substitute for learning how to play in those keys, however; it shouldn't be a "crutch."

    3. Due to its shorter fingerboard, mandolin is less adaptable to the capo than longer-scale instruments such as guitar and banjo. There's not a lot of room for fretting if you cut three or four frets off the fingerboard by attaching a capo.

    4. There seem to be more noticeable intonation problems with a capoed mandolin, also probably an artifact of the shorter scale length.

    5. Larger mandolin-family instruments, such as mandola and octave mandolin, are often capoed, with little discussion.

    6. There's a fair amount of peer pressure not to use a capo (check those other threads). Bluegrass mandolinists almost never use one (you can find exceptions, but they're rare). One can draw sneers from the anti-capo crowd by using one.

    I have used a capo when I was playing in an "odd" key but wanted to sound like a first-position fiddle tune. And I felt no shame. Having said that, I doubt I capo my mandolins once a year -- but I use capos all the time on my mandolas, octave mandolins, and mandocelli.

    Summing up my position: use a capo when you feel it necessary or preferable, don't rely on it as a substitute for learning the fingerboard -- and don't make a moral/ethical issue out of it. Just my 2˘.
    Mine too. However, I get the feeling this thread was started for the purpose of making a moral/ethical issue, based on the wording of the OP. My "capo conspiracy" theory.
    Last edited by mandolirius; Dec-03-2013 at 7:38pm.

  32. #23
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    I don't use one on my mandolin (Bill did'nt) but I do use one on my fiddle.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  33. #24
    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flynn View Post
    Ever hear of a piccolo mandolin? CGDA a fourth above a regular mandolin. Lots of them in the bowl-back days. Gibson made them at one time and Weber makes them now.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Not really. They are pretty rare even in the bowlback days. I have only seen maybe 6 or 7 total. Leland flatbacks were sold by Lyon & Healy -- I have one of those plus one no-name bowlback. I have seen a few pics of Italian instruments even one Embergher. I have never seen any parts for the piccolo mandolin written in mandolin orchestra scores.
    Yep, I'd heard of 'em (sounds like it'd be a nightmare to play!); didn't think they were all too common, for obvious reasons.

    (Nothing against capos in principle, my aversion is only to cramped fingers!)

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  34. #25

    Default Re: Capo conspiracy?

    I haven't replied to any of the other "capo" threads so I guess I get to respond to this one!

    I've never needed a capo at a jam. However, I play a monthly gig with a singer/guitarist who uses one on most songs. He usually doesn't settle on a key until right before he starts the song. In that situation, I use a capo.

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