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Thread: The capo conundrum

  1. #1
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default The capo conundrum

    Before we start, I rarely use a capo on my mandolin, I live with them on my guitar. It's not that I'm all that adverse it's just that they get in the way on the little neck and I get confused as to where I am. YMMV.

    I've been carrying a G7 banjo capo for a few years. I think I've used it twice in that time. One time was last Saturday night when someone called a tune I knew in a higher key. I grabbed the capo and things were fine.

    I started thinking about why the capo gets in my way and I finally figured out it's the part below the neck I get tangled in. I think I found the answer.

    I just bought an old school elastic Bill Russel banjo/uke capo for a total of six bucks with the shipping. I'm thinking this might actually work for me. I'll still get confused so I have no plans to use it all the time but when I need it, it will be there and it will take up a whole lot less space in the pick pocket.
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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    Didn't he play for the Celtics?

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    I kept asking myself that same thing.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    This Unique Guitar page offers some capo history. It stages that the elastic capo was invented by "W. H. 'Bill' Russell," and manufactured by the Dunlop Co.

    Further Googling has elicited no info on this Bill Russell, though William H. Russell was one of the founders of the Pony Express. Doubt it's the same dude, though.
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    Hang on the the G7 - they stopped making them a couple of years ago.

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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    I remember those elastic type capos. I still have a banjo capo of that style. I wore several out on my D 28 before I encountered Shubb capos in the 70's .... I think that capo is on it's fourth rubber sleeve. Tempus Fugit ...... R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    I was using those elastic capos in the 60's, I probably still have some around here. I may have one of these old mandolin capos that was signed by Lloyd. I'll have to look. Sometimes the old stuff might be better than the new stuff
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    One advantage of learning a tune without striking any open strings is that you can move up and down the neck with out using a capo, I have only used one once and that was 50 years ago....When I practice I try to play every thing with out hitting any open strings, its not easy at first but after a while it becomes the normal thing to do, now of course you mandolin has to have perfect intonation...

    Thats just my advice...Willie

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie Poole View Post
    One advantage of learning a tune without striking any open strings is that you can move up and down the neck with out using a capo, I have only used one once and that was 50 years ago....When I practice I try to play every thing with out hitting any open strings, its not easy at first but after a while it becomes the normal thing to do, now of course you mandolin has to have perfect intonation...
    The intonation issue is interesting with capos.

    In theory, the intonation shouldn't get worse with a capo, because you're just shifting the area of potentially worst intonation (halfway between the nut and the 12th fret) up a few frets. But you're also reducing the scale length. And if there's anything I've learned by moving from mostly guitar to mostly mandolin playing in recent years, it's that dealing with intonation gets squirrelier as the scale length gets shorter.

    Maybe not a reason to avoid capo on mandolin (there are better reasons), but at least something to think about.

  10. #10
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    I knew we'd get to this point, I love it when a plan comes together.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I've been carrying a G7 banjo capo for a few years. ...I started thinking about why the capo gets in my way and I finally figured out it's the part below the neck I get tangled in.
    I ran into this issue initially on guitar when playing very close to the capo. It stands to reason that mandolin would be even more prone to this, as the frets are even closer together.

    For guitar in those situations, eventually went with a Victor capo from Dunlop.

    Since I had already discovered the possible issue before getting a capo for mandolin, I wound up trying a few capos before buying one, and would up getting a Planet Waves NS Mandolin Capo. The screw mechanism is farther to the side than on the G7, and the bar on the backside of the neck is thinner than the G7. Those two factors kept it out of the way, in a way that the G7 doesn't achieve.

    I just like being able to apply only as much pressure as needed, which an elastic can't. It's a personal preference.

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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    Doncha know when somebody starts a Mandolin capo thread God kills a kitten?






    Just kidding. I have & love cats.

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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    The old elastic capo's had several holes for different necks and or different tension, or most likely when the elastic started wearing out.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by Explorer View Post
    I just like being able to apply only as much pressure as needed, which an elastic can't. It's a personal preference.
    That's why they make eyelet kits.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  17. #15

    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by Explorer View Post
    I just like being able to apply only as much pressure as needed, which an elastic can't. It's a personal preference.
    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    That's why they make eyelet kits.
    You're absolutely right. I meant to say, only apply as much pressure as needed across numerous situations (neck/fret positions, different instruments) without having to dial such in beforehand.

    Avoiding all that fuss and preplanning is my personal preference. I have no problem with someone else making different choices and having different preferences.

  18. #16
    Registered User Paul Cowham's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    Interesting question, I use a capo loads on the guitar (especially when playing fingerstyle) but have never used one on the mandolin. I think that a guitar's greater sustain probably lends itself better to a capo as does its longer neck which may explain why this is, or perhaps it is just that you very rarely see a mandolin player with a capo so it is less socially acceptable?

    I do use a capo on the octave mandolin though...

  19. #17
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Cowham View Post
    Interesting question, I use a capo loads on the guitar (especially when playing fingerstyle) but have never used one on the mandolin. I think that a guitar's greater sustain probably lends itself better to a capo as does its longer neck which may explain why this is, or perhaps it is just that you very rarely see a mandolin player with a capo so it is less socially acceptable?

    I do use a capo on the octave mandolin though...
    It depends on who you ask. There's at least one video of Ricky Skaggs using one, the late John McGann won Winfield with one on his mandolin. He made a comment in this old thread. It's a tool.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    It depends on who you ask. There's at least one video of Ricky Skaggs using one, the late John McGann won Winfield with one on his mandolin.
    I've seen Sierra Hull use one, as well. If it's not cheating on guitar or banjo, it's not cheating on mandolin.
    "There ain't too many folks, who can play too many notes... on the mandolin"

  21. #19
    Scroll Lock Austin Bob's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    I've never tried the elastic capos on my mandolin. My only experience was trying an old, worn out one on a guitar once. It didn't work very well, so i've avoided them since.

    I use a slightly modified Shubb. I stuck it in a vise and gently bent it to accommodate my radius fretboard. It gets in the way a bit, but I've learned to live with it.

    I only use it on the first fret playing songs in Ab or Eb, and unfortunately there's a fair amount of liturgical music written in those keys. I can read music at a grade school level, but when you stick a piece of music in front of me in Ab, I'm gonna screw up. It's easier for me just to stick a capo on and play arpeggios around the open chords.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

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    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    If a man needs a crutch to walk,we don't call him a cheater...
    I know, I'm bad. IMHO

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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by Explorer View Post
    I ran into this issue initially on guitar when playing very close to the capo. It stands to reason that mandolin would be even more prone to this, as the frets are even closer together.

    For guitar in those situations, eventually went with a Victor capo from Dunlop.

    Since I had already discovered the possible issue before getting a capo for mandolin, I wound up trying a few capos before buying one, and would up getting a Planet Waves NS Mandolin Capo. The screw mechanism is farther to the side than on the G7, and the bar on the backside of the neck is thinner than the G7. Those two factors kept it out of the way, in a way that the G7 doesn't achieve.

    I just like being able to apply only as much pressure as needed, which an elastic can't. It's a personal preference.
    I also picked up a Planet Waves NS Mandolin Capo, works great.

  25. #22
    Registered User Chris Bowsman's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by Frogstar View Post
    I also picked up a Planet Waves NS Mandolin Capo, works great.
    It's a perfect fit for banjo, also.
    "There ain't too many folks, who can play too many notes... on the mandolin"

  26. #23
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    I don't normally use a capo, but I've been playing recently with a folk/punk band that has written most of their songs in C#. By capo-ing up one fret, it has been much easier to play.

  27. #24
    Registered User Hallmark498's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    I like the sound of guitar capo-ed in in A - B. (using the G cord)

    I just don't like the sound of the mandolin with a capo, sounds thin.

    The reason I learned not to use a capo was a deal I made with my father. He handed me a new (at the time) 2003 Gibson "fern" (another topic LOL) and said if you learn to play this without a capo you can have it. I still thinking any day he might come pick it up!

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    Celtic Strummer Matt DeBlass's Avatar
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    Default Re: The capo conundrum

    I've got one of those nice Paige capos that I've had in my case forever and rarely use for just that reason (well, yes, partly out of "I can transpose on the fly, durnit, I don't need no capo!" stubbornness, but mostly because it gets in the way of my big gorilla hands), the elastic version looks like it might avoid that, and it's a cheap enough experiment.
    If I call my guitar my "axe," does that mean my mandolin is my hatchet?

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