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A shameful electric guitar technique

I was recently asked in email if I could write some articles on guitar technique. In my reply I said that's a somewhat complicated request because describing technique in words isn't exactly easy.

However, I thought about what kind of technique I could describe, and decided to record a quick video (seen above) of the most "shameful" electric guitar technique, the use of a capo.

Why shameful?

Many guitarists consider the addition of anything to a guitar neck or strings to be "cheating." Such examples are fret wraps, Finger-Ease, and of course, the capo.

What really rustles the jimmies of guitarists something awful is when you use a capo on an electric guitar. It's supposedly heresy or some such.

Do I care what other guitar players think? No. I use a capo when I feel like it because it brings about new and interesting sounds that you couldn't otherwise get without one.

Does a capo damage an electric guitar neck?

Short answer:


Long answer:

A capo will not bust through a modern urethane finish on a guitar neck no matter what anyone tells you.

A capo will not damage frets unless you do wild bend notes like a shredder idiot while the capo is on.

A capo will not damage the nut unless, once again, you bend notes wildly like a shredder idiot while the capo is on.

Where I find a capo most useful

Alternate open string chording is where the capo really makes things sound good.

In the video above I have the capo on the 2nd fret, which changes the tuning from E A D B G E to F# B E A C# F#. I start on what is normally an open D which is now an open E, and to me it sounds cool.

Even though what I play is a pick/pluck style, you can take any any cowboy chord riff and change it to something that sounds entirely different when you stick a capo on the neck.

How far up the neck can you use a capo?

In my experience, the highest you can go before things start sounding weird is the 7th fret. And by sounding weird I mean a tone that just doesn't work because the strings won't be ringing out as they should. The fret hand also has to get into rather uncomfortable positions to chord because the frets are closer together up there.

More often than not, you will find the best capo use on frets 1, 2 and 3. And your fret hand won't have a problem chording with a capo in those locations.

Does a capo open up new ways of playing?

Yes. You will get sounds out of your guitar you'd never get without one. Simple things like those cowboy chords I mentioned above take on a whole new tone, so it's totally worth it to get yourself a capo.

The best part about the capo is that you don't have to relearn the guitar to use one. In fact, you don't have to relearn anything. Take the open chords you already know, play them in a different location with the capo, and ta-da, totally new sound.


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