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Thread: mandolin capo?

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    I am accompanying a group who need to raise the key of a particular song up a half a step, to aid #the singers lower vocals. #I am not relishing the thought of learning the mandolin part up a half a step, and time is running short. #Tuning up a half step is not an option, as other songs are in "normal" keys. I tried a banjo capo on my mandolin, and it partially works. #It doesn't quite hold down the strings, and I find the loose capo troublesome. #Is there a capo built especially for a mandolin? #If anyone has a clue, I would appreciate your reply. #Thanks




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    A Paige banjo capo or other yoke-style capo -- where you can screw it down tighter until the strings quit rattling --works fine on a mando. A Shubb banjo capo may have to be "adjusted" so that it fits the smaller mando neck. Hint: crank down the adjustment screw, and put it on over the top of the neck, not from underneath. Any ol' guitar capo made for a radiused fingerboard won't work well on a flat mando or banjo fingerboard. Because of string diameter & other effects, you may have to retune after you get the capo on good & tight.

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    Hi,

    I've used both a Kyser and a Shubb capo on my mandolin. #Below are links to both at FQMS.

    Kyser

    Shubb

    I liked the Kyser out of convenience (can clip it to the headstock when not in use), but the Shubb works fine as long as you fiddle with the tension knob. #I also found that the Shubb works much better on radiused fingerboards. #

    -Jacob Wegner

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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    In the long run, if you learn the song in the different key you will become a better player. Guitarists and banjo players capo to get certain sounds that the music needs. Mando players need the sounds the other keys provide.

    A quote stolen from my friend, the excellent swing fiddler Paul Anastasio, "There are no hard keys, just unfamiliar ones". He was right, as soon as I spent enough time any key became much easier to play.
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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Eureka! The thread I have been waiting for! A long time ago, I wrote a "consumer reports" article on mando capos. I offered the article to the Cafe' and it was going to go in the FAQ, but that kind of got stalled. The article is really specific to radiused fretboards, but there is a lot of info in there on capos in general, including my vote for the ultimate capo and a link to the online Capo Museum, which is a must see. Here it is, I hope you get some use out of it! Let me know what you think.
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    At our mandolin class taught by John Rieschmanlast year at the California Bluegrass Association music camp, when I asked about using the capo on the mando, he replied, "it's OK, but people will laugh at you." The pretty much did it for me. I'm learning ALL the keys.

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    "#I'm learning ALL the keys. "

    A capo is damn handy to have around in certain recording situations...

    For instance, a cross-picking solo with a few fretted notes up at around the 12th fret complimenting those open ringing strings in the key of A is very effective and straightforward, but try doing it in the key of B-flat...

    A capo makes this pretty easy to pull off, and rather impossible without one...

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    jflynnstl,
    That was a great read, thanks for putting that article together!

    petimar,
    I've played violin for fifteen years now, and feel quite comfortable in all the keys. #I echo your (and others posting in this thread) sentiment that learning all the key signatures on a mandolin will be good for your long term skills.

    When I'm playing in our church group on my "D-sound hole" Weben Aspen #1, I'm playing mostly open chords that are left ringing. #For the keys we play in and the playing methods I use, a capo makes more sense.

    If and when I pony up the cash for an f-holed mando (a Collings MT) the style and approach I'll take when playing that instrument won't be needing a capo.

    -Jacob Wegner

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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    There is no denying that learning to play in all keys would make someone a technically better mando player and I strive to do so when I can. I am sure it also builds my character and strengthens my moral fiber, LOL.

    However, my first priority is the sound I can make and the amount of time I have to invest to be able to do it. When I play church music, a tune may be in the key of A flat and have 12 different chords in it, including highly modified chords such as dimished, minor 7th flatted fifths, etc. Often, I don't see the music until the morning of the service. A capo often makes the difference between being able to easily play a piece on a given Sunday or not. In old-time, I never need to use a capo, because fiddlers generally prefer keys that allow them to use a lot of open strings. In bluegrass, however, I occasionally use a capo when I have to solo in a key like B flat because I like to use the open strings in double stop slides, etc.

    As far as the "people will laugh at you" factor, well they might, but they can kiss my tailpiece. The long, long list of things people will shun you for in bluegrass is one of my pet peeves and one of things that sours my enjoyment of playing in that genre. Just MHO.




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    i use a capo to cross tune AEAE. I tune the E and A strings down one note and capo at the second fret. this reduces the stress of trying to tune open AEAE.
    Mike McManus

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    I will echo the sentiments of Mando Johnny and jacobw. A capo is a neccessary addition to the compartment in your mando case. #I too play church music on sundays. #and I use it for the same reasons. #Some chords are easier to manage is one key than another. #some chords (within the context of a particular tune) require open ringing strings. #or perhaps you've got quick changes, so you need easier familiar inversions. #And like MJ sez, there's that one time it all goes up ( or down !) half a step. and you only have a few minutes to accomodate for it. #

    Mando Johnny, i havent read your article yet. #but i anticipate a good read. thanks for your effort.

    i've got several capos. #the Shubb mando FLAT capo, Shubb Mando Radius capo. #and an 'elastic' type.

    as for being laughed at... that should be reserved for playing poorly and over your head when you instead should have been smarter and used a capo to play it simple and clean.
    Eric H

    Aloha a hui hou
    mandolin no ka 'oi

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    Let 'em laugh, they're already supposedly laughin' at my PacRim mando anyway, right? I ain't playin' to impress anybody anyhow, just to share a tune or two, and it sure does come in handy when yer not quite up to speed in a particular key without one. It's about the music, not what yer usin' to make it, IMWO!
    mandollusional Mike

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    The grief most people will give you will be if you use one in order not to learn keys, etc. There are definately worthy situations (especially if you are playing in styles besides bluegrass), but you do hold yourself back if you just slap one on instead of learning some basic keys. Some of the non G keys can seem hard at first but you can learn to see things real quick. Trust me.

    My wife and I play together. She doesn't really know much outside of G, D, or A. She'll capo the crud out of the guitar to find a key to sing in. Usually I'll just have something worked out and then here comes the ol "cheater bar" as someone else called it. I've found not putting mine on right away has forced me to try new things out and I've discovered a bunch of different runs, etc. because of it. Get one, but play the song a couple times before you pull it out. There's no shame is using one (well...depends where you're at...first time I pulled mine out the fiddle player in our group about fell on the floor...it was just the key of A, but then I started doing a bunch of open ringing things and he understood).
    Paul

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    A few years ago, I saw Ricky Skaggs use one one TV. I know he can play in all the keys. In bluegrass you want to do chop chords and make do without open strings, but there are other kinds of music. They are also handy when someone changes the key a half-step at the last minute, and your brain doesn't have time to adapt.

    I've noticed that good musicians never laugh at you - and they play with you when you play together. Then there are others who have to pick on you or your equipment, or have to race ahead of you at jam sessions. Many are seen only at jams because they don't get to play in bands.

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    Thanks for all the replys to my questions. I enjoyed Mando Johnny's web link to the capo museum. Very good reading, and interesting. I found that I had several of the models listed myself! I now feel confident that I am not the first person, nor the last, to use a capo on the mandolin. I got a good laugh from the pencil and rubberband capo, which I actually used once at a Christmas program, on my bass guitar. Hey it worked!
    I thank those with their advice to learn how to play without the aid of the capo, and in most circumstances, I will work at playing without one. But there is always that one moment when time is a factor, and I am looking for that certain sound from an instrument that I can't imitate without the aid of the "cursed cheater."
    I will do more research from what information has been given to me. Thanks again to all who responded to my question.

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    hey johnny- i'm goin out and buying one in solidarity-long live the capo!!!!

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    I actually used a capo on my mando on stage at a good-sized bluegrass festival once, and you should have seen the people in the audience pointing at me. Who knows what they were saying, but the break sounded great, and I continued to play it that way until the band broke up years later. Just one tune in a key I never used before or since. Oh, and just for your info, it was a Shubb banjo capo. Worked just fine.



    Fred

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    i wa at a nickel creek concert early this month. the opening act was mindy smith, and she played with a mandolinst named LEX PRICE. he was an awesome mandolinist, it looked like he was playing a brentrup, but i wasnt sure. i know that he knew how to play anything he wanted too, but he used alot of open notes. so on the last 2 songs i saw him pull out a shubb capo and use it. i thought it was wierd at first, but he could kick my but on the mando anyday, so i really respected him for doing what he wanted to do instead of being so stressed about what everyone was thinking. so i think that i would say, just do whatever you want. its your mando, and not everyone elses to judge.
    "A mando is a terrible thing to waste."

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    Lex is an awesome mandolin player! I was having a lot of fun watching his technique; I'd never seen a mandolin player plant their ring and pinkie just during their tremolo before. I didn't even notice him putting on a capo though!
    "wait until someday, 'cause when I know what to say, I'll say it in the best way you've ever heard..." ~nickel creek

  20. #20
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Another aspect of capo use are partial capos which cover only 2 or 3 strings. Placed on either the bass or treble side, at various frets, you are able to generate all sorts of alternate tunings. #Full article exploring the various possibilities in MD#26. ($5.00 plus postage)

    Mandocrucian's Digest issue #26 - RADIM ZENKL interview, Velcro For Pickers, Onstage Hand Signals, <span style='color:red'>Partial Capo Tunings for Mandolin & Bouzouki</span>, Cajun Mandolin w/Tommy Comeaux, ("Je M'endors"), Mandos From Finland w/Arto Järvelä ("Pinnin Polska" scored for 2 mandolins and octave mandolin), Solo Mandolin w/Radim Zenkl (Czech & Slovak trad. tunes: "Blue Eyed Girl", "Dance, Dance, Twist"), Doublestops Up The Neck, Jacob do Bandolim, record reviews.

    Back Issue information/contents etc.

    Niles Hokkanen

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    o yes. lex was amazing, i loved his style of playing on the mando....yeah
    "A mando is a terrible thing to waste."

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    Apropos of a thread currently running on piccolo mandolins:
    Weins Piccolo Mandolin

    Just a thought, but if you are short on cash, and can't afford a Weins or Gilchrist piccolo mandolin, LOL, you can have a "poor man's" piccolo by putting a capo on your third fret, for Bb tuning, or fifth fret, for C tuning. I am sure it won't sound quite as good, but it's a whole lot cheaper! I have experimented with this quite a bit and there are lot of great tonal possibilites with all the higher open strings, especially on the fifth fret. it's like a whole other instrument.




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    Thanks Mando Johnny---Do all churches operate the same way??
    I played in a wedding yesterday and the worship director wanted to modulate from D to E flat for "Be Thou My Vision." I didn't have a capo and I just had to "fake" it or tremelo on a few double stops that I could safely do......Thanks for the Capo article...they a have a place......!!!!!!

    Andy
    Madison, WI

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    Coincidentally, I was playing my mando at church yesterday (I play guitar and mando). Anyway, I'd unplugged the guitar and plugged in the mando ready for a particular song, when our minister decided to do a different song (which I usually play on guitar). It was in a very odd key, so I just grabbed my Kyser Quick change capo from the guitar, stuck it on the mandolin and it worked fine! Looked a bit odd, but who cares?

    Cheers,

    Simon

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    I have come to the mandolin sfter 38 years of playing guitar and about 35 years of playing banjo so I had no idea that a capo was a no-no on the mandolin. Now that I know, I'll be sure to continue to do as I have always done. I figure people will be too busy talking trash about my cheap mandolin to make fun of my using a capo.
    Gary Blanchard
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