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How to Play in Any Key With Basic Chords With a Capo

Most beginner guitarists face a challenge when they’ve learned the basic chord shapes. Those work, but only fit in a very limited number of keys. One easy way to solve this problem is to use a capo. A capo is a guitar tool that presses down all the strings in on fret. Two different types look like this:

You mount them on the guitar in different ways. The easiest way is a spring based mechanism as used in the black capo on the left.. To apply this to your guitar you press on the lever, so that the lower part moves back and clamp it on the guitar like this:

The capo in this image is clamped to the second fret. That means strumming the guitar openly produces the notes F# B E A C# F#. This may not seem useful but look what happens to the open chord forms when we play them relative to the capo:

 

Chord form

New chord with capodaster in second fret.
Open G major A major (I)
Open A minor B minor (ii)
Open C major D major (IV)
Open D major E major (V)
Open E minor F minor (vi)

 

From the most played open chord forms we could get the most important chords of the key A major.

This works for all keys. Find the base note of the key you want to play in on the third string and place your capo on that fret. Now you can use the open strings to play most of the chords of the major scale belonging to that note, using the shapes you know as “A”, “B minor”, etc (listed in the second column on the right above).

For your convenience, here is a table with all notes on the third string here:

 

Open 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
G G#/Ab A A#/Bb B C C#/Db D D#/Eb E F F#/Gb

 

You should try this yourself. Find your favourite major song and look for the last chord. Place your capo in the fret relating to that fret and try to play your song only with open chords. Enjoy!

About the author:
René Kerkdyk is a guitar teacher in Hildesheim, Germany. If you are looking for innovative guitar instruction in Hildesheim be sure to give him a call.