For the Church guitarist: Using a Capo Live

Orlando guitarist church musician - Capo 1 Capos? Yes, capos.

In the context of church playing, we use them all the time. They often have a bad rap for allowing players to "cheat," but I would argue that for the type of chord voicings most used in this context (open chords, open strings, etc) they can be a great tool.  Of course, it could be kind of cheating if you only know chords in the key of G and just move that around with a capo (but, hey, sometimes we just do what works). However, you can use a capo intelligently, for instance:

  • Choose a particular sound you want for a song anywhere on the neck
  • Help you get a bigger sound when playing with multiple acoustic players
  • Use it for cool voicing tricks, i.e. cut capos
  • As an electric player you can give yourself open strings for drones, etc. in keys that wouldn't normally have them
  • Also, as an electric player, though you don't really need to use one, you can get unique, ringing sounds from a chord voicing that wouldn't be possible with out a capo

So anyway, they're useful.

I'll link soon to more detailed ideas for capo use in other posts, but for now I want to take a quick look at the capos and tricks I've found particularly helpful in live use.


Using a capo live

That tends to mean quick release style capos and ones that are easy to manage. Sure, in a studio something like a Shubb can be perfect to dial in the ideal tension for in tune playing and if you're a flamenco purist, you'll use one of these but often, we have about .24 seconds to make a capo change and start the next song. So, quick release is key.

In this context I tend to see people using the kyser capos . I tend to use them as well, in a live context, as they are quick and simple to use. The pain about these is that that tension is often so strong that it easily can take your guitar out of tune because its presses down so hard (especially higher up the neck)!

Orlando Guitarist Church Musician Kyser Capo Black

So, here's a tip on always getting a Kyser to not manhandle your guitar out of tune: put in on the fret wire.  OK, not right on the fret wire or else you can get a muted, thuddy sound, but right on the back of the fret wire. Mess around with it. Much of placement depends on how strong the capo actually is (some are ridiculous) so sometimes you may be on the back edge of the fret and sometimes closely behind. Use your ears.

The above is what I do with a kyser capo on an acoustic. For an electric guitar a kyser is almost guaranteed to take the lower string tension and mangle it wildly out of tune. So, here's what I found to help: if I have to use a kyser on electric I put the kyser capo right on top of the fret wire. Right exactly on top of the fret. Seems odd, but it works well with strong kyser capos and the sound stays clear (not muted). Again, play around with placement a bit but putting it right on top of the fret wire can keep an electric perfectly in tune as it doesn't get to press down, or pull, as far (as it would in the middle of the fret). Another benefit of the keyser capo is that you can turn them upside down and use them as a cut, or partial, capo (more on that soon).


So, you can use a kyser for acoustic and electric and still stay in tune. Try messing with your placement. It really helps.


Orlando Guitarist Church Musician Planet Waves Capo

Now for electrics, I much prefer these planet waves capos (again, for live use). They are weird looking, but they are quick release AND you can adjust the tension quickly . . . with a big wonky looking spring on the bottom. Anyway, they work well and I prefer them for electric. Yes, there are other options and others that work well, but for speed, I like these. I can set the tension perfectly for the guitar and its still have the benefit of quick release.





Orlando Guitarist Church Musician G7 CapoHonorable mention goes to these G7 capos. Though I've never used one they have some lower profile designs that look like they would work really well (and not hang so far below the neck). They apparently are pretty quick to put on and they even make a kyser-esque looking one. They are about twice the price of the kyser capos though.




The above tips prove to be really really important when using cut capos, or a capo AND and cut capo. Things can get annoyingly out of tune otherwise. Granted, on a recording I'll tune with the capo already placed to make sure everything is perfect, but for quick, live use I've found the above to work very, very well. Keep the capo as straight across the strings as possible and experiment with placement to, or on, the fret.


More on creative capo use in other posts soon but try out the ideas and keep practicing!



P.S. Want a capo that will haunt your dreams at night? Try the spider capo. Never used it but it looks really intriguing and supposedly woks well for  altered tuning type tricks.


Orlando Guitarist Church Musician spidercapo