A chord shaped the same as the C Major played using a capo at the second fret becomes a D Major.

How to Use a Capo

A capo is a great tool to have and can really open up opportunities for growth as a player and musician. What is a capo? A capo is a clamp that fits onto the guitar neck. You can place it anywhere on the neck. Just put it close behind a fret and it will block off the strings so that each one will sound the pitch at that fret without having to hold down any of the strings. This allows us to use chord shapes that are familiar in a variety of different keys and positions on the neck. If you have a limited reach the capo can be a big help because it allows us to use chords further up the neck where the frets are closer together.

Most chord shapes can be played in a variety of positions further up the neck. This is an interesting and useful thing to know about chord shapes in the first position; those same shapes also work further up the neck. For example, the C chord shape in the first position with the root note being played on the third fret of the fifth string is a C, but if you move that same chord shape up the neck two frets (one whole step) the chord becomes a D. “But what about the open strings?”, you may ask. That is were the capo comes in handy. Use it to close off the portion of the string between the nut and the second fret and you will have the full D chord without any odd notes or open strings.

Here we see the C Major chord played in the first position.
Here we see the C Major chord played in the first position.

 

A chord shaped the same as the C Major played using a capo at the second fret becomes a D Major.
A chord shaped the same as the C Major played using a capo at the second fret becomes a D Major.

 

A chord shaped the same as the C Major played using a capo at the fourth fret becomes an E Major.
A chord shaped the same as the C Major played using a capo at the fourth fret becomes an E Major.

There are several different types of capos that operate slightly differently. They are all intended to do the same job. When choosing a capo the main thing is that you are comfortable using it. A heavy capo can slow down the fretting hand because it has to make an extra effort to hold up the neck. A big capo may get in the way. A capo that does not have a way of adjusting the clamping pressure that it applies to the strings may pull the strings our of tune. A capo that is not padded well may not be able to secure the strings evenly, allowing some strings to buzz against the fret.

The Shubb capo has an adjustment screw that allows for different amounts of pressure on the strings.
The Kyser capo is spring-loaded.

 

The Shubb capo has an adjustment screw that allows for different amounts of pressure on the strings.
The Shubb capo has an adjustment screw that allows for different amounts of pressure on the strings.

 

The Jim Dunlop elastic capo.
The Jim Dunlop elastic capo.