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Thread: Why use capo?

  1. #51

    Default Re: Why use capo?

    I realize I'm late to this thread, but I have to say I very rarely use a capo on my mando(lin or la), but for very different reasons than I see ascribed above. I find it physically uncomfortable to work around on a short scale neck.

  2. #52

    Default Re: Why use capo?

    I capo guitar for bluegrass all the time. I'm in awe of Michael Daves being able to play without one, but I'm not there yet.

    At the moment, I'm not willing to use one on mandolin, to force myself to learn to transpose chords and keys, but I'm not against using one on anything.

  3. #53
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Sep 2002
    Nacogdoches Texas

    Default Re: Why use capo?

    There's only one song I play with friends for which I put up with a capo and it's in G#m. Capo on the 1st fret always requires retuning before and after the song. Major hassle!

  4. #54
    Registered User Jean-Pierre WOOS's Avatar
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    May 2004

    Default Re: Why use capo?

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  5. #55
    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    Sydney, Australia

    Default Re: Why use capo?

    Get that open string sound in keys that donít use open strings.
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  6. #56
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Jun 2020
    Egersund, Norway

    Default Re: Why use capo?

    I see a lot of players have an issue with detuning when they use a capo. While I have zero experience with banjo and mandolin capos, I know a few typical reasons for similar trouble with the guitar capo:
    • Nut slots are too high
      On most guitars I have played, even ones used by really good players, I notice that fretting the 1st fret requires pressing down significantly harder than the higher frets. To me this is a symptom of too high nut slots.
      I have taken out the nut from all my guitars and my mandolin and sanded the bottom. Didn't have a string slot file, so that was my only option. Brought nut down to "zero fret level". This improves intonation for all situations, but particularly when you use a capo. This allows you to raise the action at the bridge a bit while retaining "playability".
    • Capo placed in the middle of the fret
      Put the capo just "behind the wire", which is also the optimal fretting position.
    • Capo too tight.
      If you have a spring loaded capo, there is not much to do about that. The adjustable lever (shubb style) or friction (G7th style) capos behave better. Tighten so you don't get any string rattle. Anything more is too much.

    I would think that this transfers to all fretted instruments, to some degree.
    Last edited by keme; Jun-29-2020 at 1:16pm.

  7. #57
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Jul 2012
    Blue Zone, California
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    Default Re: Why use capo?

    Capos on mandolins are expected by some people, not expected by others. It's really a personal call involving:

    1) whether a person has the ability to play in any key without a capo
    2) whether a person knows ideal locations for placing a capo for a particular song in the desired key
    2) the kind of sound a person wants to produce for a particular song (ie: fretted vs open strings)
    3) the convenience or inconvenience of using a capo

    Many of these points apply equally to other fretted instruments.

    Personally I think if a person wants to use a capo, that's fine, as long as it does not cause any delays, noises or distractions in getting to the next song. I've played in many live TV-studio situations where there is no time or sound-space for placing or removing a capo or especially for re-turning between songs after using a capo; because of that experience I've learned to play mandolin and banjo completely without capos (including without 5th string capos or spikes on banjos). Ironically I do carry capos in my instrument cases, but I haven't used them in decades.

    I'd also observe that no matter how well setup a fretted instrument is, if you place or remove a capo and are at all serious about your tuning, chances are great that either you or someone in your ensemble will have to re-tune at that time. I see people with the highest value and most well setup instruments go through this on stage between songs all the time. The only way to avoid this is not to use any kinds of capos.

    All that said, there are some songs that just don't sound traditional without a capo. If you have to have that traditional sound, you have to use a capo. In a live performance situation that does not allow time between songs, the logical choice is in advance to select a song that doesn't require a capo.
    -- Don

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  8. #58
    Dave Sheets
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    Feb 2015
    Buffalo NY Area

    Default Re: Why use capo?

    In some bands, the key really needs to be the singer's call. If the singer wants A-flat, it's A-flat. A capo really makes life easier in this situation, I backed a singer who would change keys at times depending on what shape his voice was in that day.
    Flatiron A
    Way too many other instruments

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  10. #59

    Default Re: Why use capo?

    As with most tools in any trade, the use of a capo is a needlessly controversial question. Those who don't care to use it sometimes think nobody ever should, and those who do use it sometimes think it should be used all the time for everything. So, the easy final answer is:

    Q:Why use a capo?

    A: Why not? It's a tool that makes certain things easier at the expense of other certain things. If you don't need to use it, or can't afford it, don't. If you don't want to use it, don't. It's that simple, end of discussion.

    Learn to play without a capo, but never be without a capo. It's just a useful tool and asking "why do people use a capo?" is like asking "why do people eat using a spoon and fork?" There are people in both camps and the presence or absence of a particular tool is not a measure of a person's worth. The person's effectiveness at making music is all that matters in this context.

    Chet Atkins used a capo. Good enough for him, good enough for me. Take it up with him if you have a problem.

  11. #60
    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Sep 2002

    Default Re: Why use capo?

    Varying frequency, depending on the tailpiece design. Maintains tension and alignment, when three hands would be much more beneficial, for string changes.

  12. #61

    Default Re: Why use capo?

    Probably been said already but another cool thing you can do with a capo is put it on the third fret of an octave mandolin.
    Now you can read bass notation! (At least until you’ve learned how to read it straight)
    You just play the octave while reading as though the notation in front of you was ‘standard’ treble notation.

  13. #62
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
    Upstate New York
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    Default Re: Why use capo?

    To me it is like a fire extinguisher in a car. Having a fire extinguisher in your car is a good idea. Having a car that needs a fire extinguisher, not so good.

    Using a capo is great. Having to use a capo, well....
    Indulge responsibly!

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