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Thread: Another in a long line of stupid questions

  1. #1
    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Another in a long line of stupid questions

    I've never played with a capo. Ever. So when I see something like this, I don't know what it means to me as a practical matter:

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    These are instructions for guitar, by the way.

    So my understanding is that if I'm putting the capo on the second fret on Guitar, I'm moving the 6th string tuning from E to F#, and on down the line. But then the instruction to play the G chord … I'm assuming that that would be a G chord against that second fret capo, which would (I think???) make it a G chord two x 1/2 steps up--so an A#???

    Since I don't ever play with a capo (and never play guitar) I have to translate this back to capoless mando. So the practical question is: If I'm looking at a chord chart like this on my mandolin w/o a capo,--Capo on F2, Key of G, play a G chord-- do I play a G, or an A# chord, or something else?
    belbein

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    It means to place the capo on fret 2 and play the G, D, Em, etc., chords as if you were playing normal open strings.

    The effect is to raise the pitch a whole step. The chords sound as if they were A, E, F#M, but you use the G, D, Em shapes.

    Guitar and banjo players do this all the time.

    I cannot recall ever using a mandolin capo, but I'm used to playing in any/every key on mandolin. Even so, if I wanted a certain open string sound, I might use a capo.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    Ditto David's explanation. I used a capo some when I was starting out. Many songs are written in C, but I'm more comfortable singing in D, so it was easy to capo up from C, and play the chord positions as I'd already learned them. However, the mandolin is much smaller than the guitar, and the capo is awkward to work around. For me, I was better off learning more chords, and definitely D, G, and A, if I was wanted to sing in D.
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    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    Thanks. I've never used a capo, even with banjo, because I didn't see the difficulty of just transposing the chords to another key … particularly when you realize that all of the chord forms occur in every key, but occupy different degrees in the different keys and chord progressions. I watched banjo players play around their capos for years and always wondered: why don't they just use a chord form appropriate to the real key? But most of the time when I asked, they didn't know what I was talking about.

    Thanks for the input. I just wanted to be sure I'm right about the fact that the denoted (n.p.i.) chord is not the actual chord sounded. Thanks.
    belbein

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    It means to place the capo on fret 2 and play the G, D, Em, etc., chords as if you were playing normal open strings.

    The effect is to raise the pitch a whole step. The chords sound as if they were A, E, F#M, but you use the G, D, Em shapes.

    Guitar and banjo players do this all the time.

    I cannot recall ever using a mandolin capo, but I'm used to playing in any/every key on mandolin. Even so, if I wanted a certain open string sound, I might use a capo.
    When I was having lessons with Mike Compton, I asked him if he used a capo. He said yes. Mike can play in all keys of course. But you can get those ringing open strings and open string licks in different keys. That's the idea of a capo, at least I think so.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    Are you playing with other musicians and singers who need, for some reason, to play in that key? If not, then ignore it and just lay the chords as indicated.
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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    Quite apart from whether anybody uses a capo on a mandolin is: Learning the skill of transposing keys. David answered Belbein's question, which of course isn't a trivial question at all. When playing with others, like a guitarist who capoes or uses non-standard tuning, it can help to learn how to transpose up or down a few steps. Two frets up, a G position becomes an A position. A C position becomes a D position, etc. It's not that difficult really, but can be confusing sometimes. It's a good skill to practice.

    If not playing with someone, but you're using music with use of capo noted, it's the same skill. As Jim said, if the only purpose is to play the piece alone and amuse yourself, no need even to transpose in your mind. But it's a useful skill to practice.
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    The thing about capos is this … using one versus having to use one … open strings for tone are an integral part of some music and playing styles ..... putting one on a mandolin neck or a 12 fret guitar neck you can run out of room to play quickly. First , second and third frets work ok higher than that not so much IMO. But there are always exceptions. One of my favorite songs is George Harrison's Here Comes the Sun with the capo sitting on the 7th fret ...… go figure
    P.S. It was not a stupid question... R/
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    Quote Originally Posted by belbein View Post
    Thanks. I've never used a capo, even with banjo, because I didn't see the difficulty of just transposing the chords to another key … particularly when you realize that all of the chord forms occur in every key, but occupy different degrees in the different keys and chord progressions. I watched banjo players play around their capos for years and always wondered: why don't they just use a chord form appropriate to the real key? But most of the time when I asked, they didn't know what I was talking about.

    Thanks for the input. I just wanted to be sure I'm right about the fact that the denoted (n.p.i.) chord is not the actual chord sounded. Thanks.
    Capos are used for effect. Scruggs style banjo involves figures relying on open strings, e.g., playing one string open and sliding into that same note on the next lower string. Such effects are all but impossible to transpose to a higher key without the use of a capo. The same goes for certain chord forms and figures on the guitar, e.g., the full 6 string cowboy G chord (personally, I don't need them). The capo then is not used as a substitute for developing transposing skills.

    There's a long show with Doyle Lawson's band on Youtube, with Scott Vestal on banjo. On fast numbers done Scruggs style he predictably uses a capo to reduce everything to G forms. But on slower songs, e.g., One Way Train (in Eb, IIRC) he does not.

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    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    One other thing to think about re that instruction, Belbein, and I hope I am not just adding to your confusion! It might be that the person who wrote the instructions you have printed in your post wishes the chords to be played at the 2nd fret, but still be in the key of G, so what you would actually play, with capo at 2nd fret, would be F, C, Dmin, Bb, etc.

    I often play with a capo (on guitar) and will play in the key of G but with the capo at fret 7, so my G chord will be played using the C shape, etc. In effect, I am still playing in G major, but my chords will all belong the the C scale shapes I would use in first position with no capo on the guitar. This can be very effective when there is more than 1 guitar playing in your session; One player uses open chords at the nut, say G, C, D, Bm in the key of G, and the second player capos at 7th and plays C, F, G, Em shapes. The effect can be very pleasing and it takes away that feeling of muddiness often heard when there are several guitars all playing the same chords in the same register.

    Hope this helps!
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    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    Quote Originally Posted by belbein View Post
    Thanks. I've never used a capo, even with banjo, because I didn't see the difficulty of just transposing the chords to another key … particularly when you realize that all of the chord forms occur in every key, but occupy different degrees in the different keys and chord progressions. I watched banjo players play around their capos for years and always wondered: why don't they just use a chord form appropriate to the real key? But most of the time when I asked, they didn't know what I was talking about.

    Thanks for the input. I just wanted to be sure I'm right about the fact that the denoted (n.p.i.) chord is not the actual chord sounded. Thanks.
    I've never used a capo on the mandolin and never will. But I use one on the guitar. Some songs lay out better in some chords than others so a capo is great for that.

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    There are one or two pieces our duet performed, where I'd use a capo. As said, for the open-ringing sound or to lay out the notes better (for me). One of the Bach inventions I played with a capo. That's a limitation on my fingers and ability.

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    Registered User Mike Romkey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    Compton uses a capo?!? I've known the guy 20 years and I've never seen him use a capo. But if he says so ... strange.

    Sounds like you get the basic concept, which is also amplified above. I don't own a mandolin capo. I wouldn't say I would never use one, because there might be some strange orchestral thing where a capo is called for to exaggerate pitch difference, but I seriously doubt it.

    Learning to transpose is, as suggested, part of the complete toolkit. On guitar, sometimes it'll say a song is played in G but with the capo at the 2nd fret or whatever. I'll play it where I can sing it, or where the singer can sing it. I'll start by playing the chords as written on the lead sheet -- but in the open position, without a capo. Does it really matter what key the original artist did a song in? (Instrumentals are different.)

    Even on the guitar I generally try not to use a capo, though there are times when the chords and flat picking lines don't work without using a capo and playing it in the original key. But on the mandolin? Never.
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    I jam with folks who are constantly adjusting capos to better suit their voices. So I’ve been forced to learn transposition on the fly, becoming better at it over time. Now, when learning a new tune, I’ll practice in at least 2 keys, ie: D and A. From there, I can pretty much go anywhere on the neck according to the whims of the capo users.
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kelly View Post
    One other thing to think about re that instruction, Belbein, and I hope I am not just adding to your confusion! It might be that the person who wrote the instructions you have printed in your post wishes the chords to be played at the 2nd fret, but still be in the key of G, so what you would actually play, with capo at 2nd fret, would be F, C, Dmin, Bb, etc.
    There is that ambiguity, John - but putting on a capo to play a closed chord like F makes no sense, so I just concluded they meant play a G shape with capo on 2nd fret, therefore sounding like A.

    I was looking at the We Banjo 3 site the other day, and one of the Howley boys was using a capo on his mando so if it's good enough for him ...! But I just get disoriented.

    I'm fairly good at looking at guitarists fingers in sessions and counting the frets to their capo and trying to figure out the key before they change. Next challenge is to read the GDAD bouzouki player in the band from my position behind him.
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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another in a long line of stupid questions

    Index finger barre and using the other 3 fingers to form your chord is an alternative..
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