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The Capo

There are so many times when I have written about either a product that is new on the market, an updated model, or discussed the purpose of whatever the little (or big) device is that I gave myself the ultimate out by saying, “This is from a players perspective.”

It’s actually not quite the out after all since I am not an inventor, designer, luthier, or handyman. I was pretty good at making card houses as a kid, building fires in the cub scouts, and in my opinion the best at working a coloring book or connect the dots. That’s where my organic competitive skill set ended. I believe I was about 9 or 10 years old.

Ninety years later here I am with the same answer I’ve had for the last two decades on precisely how and why I use a capo. I also realize why there are some other purposes which don’t quite apply to me. Forever the student, I welcome any avenues I am failing to cover here which for now I believe can simply be covered in a paragraph or two. There is no reason to have a cocktail party or late night discussion over the topic.

Simply put here is my brief and itemized list concerning this musically life saving device.

1.For singing in a different key or pitch. Right out of the gate this does not apply to me since rumor has it I sound like Will Ferrell when I’m attempting to sing.

2. Playing in a different key – This is not even crucial but required if you choose to accommodate a player who might know a tune in a different key without having to change your fingering. Ex. – If I play St. Louis Blues in the Key of D, but my friend likes it in the Key of E, then Capo fret 2 solves the problem. I’m now in E.

3.Ease of fingering – Let’s say that some of the stretches are difficult or even unachievable early on in your playing. By placing a capo at Frets 2, 4, 5 or even 7, you can greatly simplify not only the finger stretching required but also lower the action a bit making it easier to press down the strings.

4.Voicing – Often will just like the way a tune sounds with a capo in different locations. People have asked me why I capo if I’m not singing or there are no other players involved. It’s the nature of the tune that can be changed with a capo in various locations. OR – sometimes a tune you might want to learn was written that way. I believe “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison was created with a capo placed at the 7th fret.

5.Artistic approach – I have played a guitar with two other players simultaneously and one of us had no capo used and the other two players placed a capo in 2 different locations. The two using the capos had to change their keys to accommodate the individual who was not using the capo, but the resulting sound was beautiful and reminiscent of a small symphony. An example might be the player with no capo performing in the Key of E, another player with the capo at fret 2 but playing in the Key of D, the 3rd player with a capo placed at the 4th fret but playing in the Key of C. With these capo placements all three players are producing music in the Key of E to the ear.

Gilewitz_Shubb capo Musikmesse 2014 The capos that I have preferred to use for years have been the Shubb capos; mostly for the precision available with the built-in mechanism allowing for exactly the amount of pressure required without over-squeezing the neck and running the risk of the instrument going sharp.

Shubb has such a wide variety of capos for 6 and 12 steel string guitars, classical guitars, and even banjos, and ukuleles. Since musicians love gear, you can have your pick of a Capo Noir model in black chrome or styles in an Antique Finish, stainless steel, brass, nickel plated or aluminum. There is an array of colors and my female students are fond of the violet one. I can never have enough capos as I keep one in each guitar case whether it’s a lightweight model or the standard. Plus, rumor has it that they even possess an invisible talent enhancer component complete with antioxidants.

Take a listen as Richard jams with Tim May.

Richard Gilewitz – March 2015

About the author

Richard Gilewitz

For over three decades fingerstyle guitarist Richard Gilewitz has charmed audiences with road tales and right-hand wizardry, creating a sparkle of mood mastery and wonderment during each performance. Recognized world wide as a performer who has a quirky take on everything around him, Richard lives up to this depiction with rousing shows filled with offbeat observations and 6 & 12-string gymnastics. As a youngster, Richard Gilewitz embraced such diverse artists as The Beatles, Andres Segovia, Kraftwerk, Leo Kottke, J.S. Bach, Arlo Guthrie, John Fahey and Flatt & Scruggs. With Richard's signature playing style delivering a technical diversity of banjo style picking patterns, classical arpeggios, tapping and harmonics, along with a rhythmic and percussive approach, he shares a fresh impression of sound to the listener during his concert performances and at his annual 2-day GillaCamp Guitar Workshop. Students around the globe also attend Richard's roving GillaCamp Guitar Workshop, a 1 to 4 hour interactive experience that provides players an avenue to renew their love of the guitar. In between touring, Richard conducts private lessons and also teaches students through Skype. Catch Richard's tour schedule at www.richardgilewitz.com

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