Using a Capo to Change the Key of Your Guitar

Andrew Horun is a graduate of Phillipsburg High School in New Jersey, where he was on the wrestling team. A National Honor Society student, Andrew Horun ranked in the top ten percent of his graduating class. Away from academics and wrestling, Drew Horun enjoys playing the guitar. Though still a novice, he has mastered several chords and, with lessons, has begun playing songs.

The I V vi IV chord progression is arguably the most commonly used in all of popular music. Bands as diverse as Toto and Tool, to name just a few, have used the progression to great effect. The progression can be transposed along the neck of guitar in order to change its key, a task that can be further enhanced through the use of a capo.

A capo is a small piece of musical equipment that could be compared to a clip or clothespin. Guitarists simply fix the capo to a fret of their choosing and the device holds down every string on the fret, essentially functioning as an extra finger or hand for the guitarist.

Many songs using the I V vi IV progression use the key of C major, as the corresponding C, G, A minor, and F chords can be played using traditional chords. However, to play the same progression in the key of C sharp, one step higher, guitarists would be forced to use bar chords or power chords to avoid striking dissonant open notes. This is where a capo becomes handy.

By fixing the capo to the first fret of a guitar, all of the open notes are moved up by one step. This allows a musician to form a traditional C chord beginning on the fourth fret, rather than the third, resulting in a traditional C sharp chord. Of course, the capo can be moved to any fret on the guitar, supporting guitarists in their efforts to find a unique spin on a timeless progression.

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