Trixie Whitley and Unlikely Cool Chords

I'm always looking for new chords, new voicings and sounds. And I'm convinced, if you keep your mind and ears open, you can pick up new ideas from all sorts of players. Trixie Whitley is a fantastic musician with a beautifully soulful voice. I first heard her in a little club in L.A. (with surprise guest Daniel Lanois backing her up on guitar!) and was struck by a number of things, not the least of which was her simple, funky way of moving around the guitar neck. Check out this video of her singing a cover of an old blues tune called "I'd Rather Go Blind":

Solo version (you can see the chords best here)

Version with guitar, drums and cello; dripping with groove (Bonus: you get to see Daniel Lanois dance/direct).

In E minor, she lays down a cool part on guitar, basically sliding around a power chord shape, just going with the open strings which are sometimes dissonant, and it sounds great. Lets take a look at the chords:


| Em      G      |  A5              |

Stock, open Em voicing down low on the neck. Moves a finger up to take the bass note G (kind of G chord-ish, mostly Em/G) and then slides up to an A power chord shape letting the open strings work some magic (implied Am9 chord for the theory inclined).


C5         |  G5          | B5       | F5          |

This is cool. She just slides around a power chord shape built off the sixth string. Now, there is some finesse involved so don't just nail the open strings (don't mute them necessarily either - its a feel thing), but here are the chords:


| A5         |  B5          | C5       | D5          |

Kind of the same thing going on here. Power chord shapes move up the neck. Also, there is a short section of three descending chords that happens right before this. Same shapes. Can you figure it out?

So, check it out. Its not technically challenging but a good reminder that music doesn't necessarily have to be to work well. 

Anyway, keep your ears open for unusual sounds and fresh approaches to things you think you already know. Those open strings give the simple power chords all kinds of great chord extensions and color. And go listen more Trixie Whitley.


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