Capo Lane

One thing I have yet to mention in my articles is the use of capos. I use them all the time. All my playing career I have put up with abuse from those who consider the use of capos some form of cheating. What crap! I think they’re the most wonderful invention since tea bags. The guitar was designed and tuned with certain keys in mind — like A and G and C and D and E. Why would anyone bother with a chord progression like Eb / Ab / Cm / Eb / Bb when it can be played as a ringing D / G / Bm / D / A just by strapping that little capo on the first fret? My hands have never been able to do a barre C shape and make it ring. I’ve always looked for ways of making playing easier, and capos definitely help.

The tuning I use, drop D, also makes the key of E rather awkward ( I know, E is supposed to be the easiest guitar key). If I want a low root note, I’ve got to go to the second fret. So I whack the capo on the second fret and play in D.

They’re great when recording a second acoustic rhythm guitar. Say the piece is in G. First guitar goes down without the capo, playing normally in G, second guitar is copoed at the fifth fret and you play the tune as if in D. Sounds like bells when you play them both back. Or if you’re playing in a duo: one plays normal, the other capoed up.

As for which type to use? I’ve tried them all and my favourite is still the little Jim Dunlop non-adjustable-black-nylon-strap-which- levers-onto- the-little-notches affair. You know the one. I’ve tried some fancier ones — some with super strong spring action, squeeze them on like a bicycle hand brake — they work quite well if you put them on straight. If you don’t you’ll pull the tuning out. Other’s are highly engineered adjustable clip-ons. These supposedly go right on the fret rather than behind. I find them too finicky. They’re also just a bit heavy and throw the balance of the whole instrument out.

All in all, I recommend them highly. Anything to avoid the key of E flat.

By the way, one of the streets that leads off Main Street, North Tamborine, is the street where I bought my first home just a few months ago. It’s more a lane really. It’s called Capo Lane.

Regards from Capo Lane, North Tamborine.

Kirk Lorange

Originally published in Edition #51 of Guitar News Weekly

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