What is a capo

What is a Capo? Everything You Need to Know Here.

What is a capo

A capo is a helpful device that allows you to easily change the key of a song while using the standard “open position” chords that every guitarist knows. With a capo, you can play those same chords in any fret position along the neck of the guitar. Keep reading to find more answers to all of your capo-related questions!

What is a Capo?

A capo (pronounced “cape-oh”) is a small clamp that you can attach to the neck of the guitar at a specific fret. What does a capo do? It keeps all of the guitar’s strings depressed at that specific fret, all of the time. The parts of the capo that squeeze the strings against the fret board are made of rubber, so they don’t damage the wood on your guitar. 

Let’s say you attach the capo at fret two. It will squeeze down all of the strings at fret two and keep them pressed down. So it’s like you’re playing a note at fret two with your finger, but on all six strings simultaneously.

If you were to lay your index finger across all six strings at fret two and press down hard enough so that all the notes at fret two sounded clearly on each string, that technique would be called a “barre.” This barre technique is used by guitarists all the time, but if you are just beginning you may not have tried it yet and when you do, it will take a few weeks to master.

Attaching a capo is a much easier way to achieve the same result. You could say that the capo produces a permanent barre at a specific fret. Now let’s look at what exactly happens when you have a capo attached to your guitar.

How Does a Capo Work?

Let’s use the capo attached at fret two as an example again, although you can put the capo across any fret. Once the capo is on, when you play your strings open, the notes that sound are not E, A, D, G, B, and E (the notes of open strings six through one). Instead, they are F#, B, E, A, C#, and F#.

We say these notes are “one tone higher” or a “whole step” higher (the distance of two frets) than the normal open string notes. If you think of fret three as if it were fret one, and form a C chord as you normally would (but above the capo), it will sound as a D chord.

If you played a song with Am, G, and C chords (which would be in the key of C major), you will hear Bm, A, and D chords (which would move the song to the key of D major). Every time you move the capo one fret higher, you have raised the music by one key. The most common reason for changing the key of a song is to make it easier to sing in your vocal range.

To hear the sound of a guitar with a capo on, listen to “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. The capo is on fret seven and it gives the guitar a bright, mandolin-like quality. The chord progression would be in the key of D major, but with the capo on, it comes out in A major.

Who Should Use a Capo?

For beginners, using a capo means that you can play more songs with a limited knowledge of chords and delay learning those difficult “barre chords” you may have heard about. But capos are not just for beginners.

Many songwriters use capos so they can play chords in the style they’re accustomed to anywhere along the neck of the guitar. By moving the capo, they can easily try singing a song in different keys until they find the one that works best for their voice.

In fact, flamenco guitar players routinely use a capo in the first few frets for two reasons – to play songs in the traditional keys, but also for the way the capo tends to push the strings closer to the neck, making chords and fast melodic runs easier to play. Try this if your guitar is a beginner model that is a bit more difficult to play.

SEE ALSO: 5 Guitar Gadgets That Will Change Your Life

Which Capo is the Best?

There are a few different capo designs. One of the best capos is the Shubb, which retails for about $16 on Amazon. It’s made of rugged steel and clamps on very securely. This is handy because if you accidentally bump the capo while playing, it won’t pop off and ruin your performance.

If you’re on a budget, one of Amazon’s best sellers is the UGY plastic capo which retails for about $7. This capo uses a spring action and can be attached or moved very quickly by squeezing two levers together. There are many manufacturers making capos in this style.

A third option is the Dunlop elastic capo, starting at around $3. It uses a stretchy elastic cloth that attaches to a rubber coated, pole piece. Several holes are provided along the elastic to allow for different tensions, as the neck gets wider the higher you go.

Whatever style you prefer, you need to make sure you order the right one for the type of guitar you have. If you order the wrong one, it won’t squeeze the strings correctly. A “steel string” guitar capo has a slight curvature to the part that lies across the fret board, as the fret board on a steel string guitar is slightly convex. A “nylon string” guitar capo is wider and very flat.

Many beginning guitarists often ask their instructors, “What is a capo?” Now that you know what a capo is and how to use one, you’ll be on your way to playing more songs than you thought you could! You’ll also be able to more easily play and sing along at the same time.

Although the capo can be a very helpful tool, try not to rely on it too much. It’s still very important to expand your knowledge of different chords on the guitar. Need some help mastering some of the more challenging chords? Check out TakeLessons. Our expert guitar instructors can help take your skills to the next level!

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Mike J. teaches acoustic guitar, bass guitar, blues guitar, classical guitar, as well as country guitar in Ogden, UT. He received his Applied Music Degree from Mohawk College and has gone on to receive many certifications and awards since then. Mike is a full time music instructor with over 30 years of experience teaching, performing, and writing music. Learn more about Mike J. here!

10 Things Every Great Jazz Guitarist Knows

10 Things Every Great Jazz Guitarist Knows

10 Things Every Great Jazz Guitarist Knows

Be the next great jazz guitarist with these tips from guitar teacher Zachary A.

To quote the late Frank Zappa, “Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny”. Jazz may not be as big and popular as it once was but if you learn how to play jazz you will be set up to successfully play any genre of music. The great jazz musicians all have numerous things in common, things that set them apart from the crowd and make them legendary.

In this article, I will be going over ten of those most important things that anyone playing jazz guitar must know. Remember that as a jazz musician, and really any type of musician, you should be listening to as much music as possible. Listening to great performances really is vital for becoming a great performer yourself.

1. Timing is everything

Timing in music is imperative, and especially in jazz. Music itself is the manipulation of time. When you play music with people and you don’t have a good sense for time, the music you create will most likely be a jagged, clustered mess. The people you play with will not know what to play or when to play. Timing is everything.

2. Practice with an external time source

A good tip to obtain a little bit more of a jazzier feel to your music is to use a metronome or even a drum sequencer.  If  if the time signature fits, practice playing on the 2nd and 4th of the beat. The more you play with a metronome the better your time will be. It is that simple.

3. All jazz musicians have a great ear

The most common trait in every jazz musician is that they have an impeccable ear for music. Developing a musician’s ear, as it is referred to, takes time and lots of practice.

To help build a better ear for music there are numerous exercises that you can do. Training your ear can involve hearing intervals, lines, chord qualities and chord progressions, and learning all of this in every key, with the ability to decipher what change, what interval, what progression is in what key.

Jazz guitarists should also have a great ear while on the bandstand. It is imperative to listen to your band mates while on stage. The better your ear is on stage, the more people will want to play with you.

4. Take every opportunity for a session or gig

Take every opportunity for a session or a gig. Every time you play a session or gig it is a learning experience. Through these experiences be sure to take the opportunity to learn from other successful musicians. Always keep an open mind; I am sure that there is something you can learn from just about every musician out there.

At times it is easy to get stuck in a narcissistic mind set, trying to find your own solutions to your own problems. Having a handful of trustworthy musicians to go to when you get stuck can be very helpful when you’re studying music.

Another reason that it is important to take every session or gig you can is because you never know who you will run into at these events. It has been said that music is about being in the right place at the right time. For that luck to strike, you actually have to be out playing and engaging with other musicians. You never know which gig or session will be the one that could change your career.

5. Practice everyday

This is pretty self-explanatory. To be a great jazz guitarist, it takes practice – and lots of it. Practicing daily, even if it is just for an hour, is way more beneficial than practicing for 8 hours one day and not at all for the rest of the week.

6. Have an extensive amount of heads and changes memorized

All great jazz musicians have a back log of themes and heads memorized with the ability to recall them at any time. This knowledge of heads will be extremely beneficial when playing at a jam session or playing a gig.

When deciding on what to learn, I recommend start off by learning some of the more well known jazz standards. For example, “Autumn Leaves” is a well-known song which is played in the key of g minor.

Another well-known jazz standard that is essential to have in your repertoire is the song “Summertime”. A George Gershwin classic, the jazz version was made famous by John Coltrane and has since been covered by many other legendary musicians. Summertime utilizes the major and minor pentatonic scales. Learning this song will help you be a master at these scales.

A few more common jazz standards you should learn include “Cherokee“, “All the Things“, and “Stella by Starlight“. When learning these songs transpose them for all 12 keys for complete mastery.

7. Always go back to the fundamentals

Jazz is a complex genre, and it is always important to revert back to the fundamentals when learning jazz guitar.This means spending time reviewing the major and minor scales and practicing the pentatonic scales before breaking out in Frank Zappa’s solo in “Black Napkins“.

It is important to know a multitude of chord progressions and phrasings as well as the different forms these phrases can be arranged. Again, it is important to know all these phrases and chord progressions in all of the 12 keys. Another helpful way to learn and master the fundamentals for anyone playing jazz guitar is by learning and getting a general sense of the piano.

8. Talent is great but determination and perseverance win every time

Talent is great but perseverance and determination will triumph every time. Being naturally talented at anything is always a nice thing. The one thing that every jazz musician has in common is that they have spent many dedicated hours in the shed practicing and perfecting their trade. Remember the path to learning one hundred songs begins with learning one.

9. There is no set formula for becoming a jazz musician

There truly is no set formula for becoming a jazz guitarist and musician, but there are many different formulas out there that you can pick and choose from. In the end, use what works best for you.

With jazz there really is so much information out there. There is always room for improvement. You could always be brushing up on changes, learning old jazz standards, or perhaps learning new scales.

It is important to steer clear of the mind set of being overly confident in your abilities. This bottomless pit of a mindset can cause you to become complacent and lose that drive every dedicated jazz musician has. One common thing in jazz is that it will take you years to learn, a challenge that I just love.

10. Set goals and stick with them until completion

To avoid getting stuck in a rut, it helps to set goals. Both short and long term goals will help you grow as a musician. Your goal could be as simple as learning one new song a week.

There is something though, that is even more important than setting the goals, because in reality setting the goals is the easy part. The hard part, and the most important, is to finish the goals you set. Working with a guitar teacher is the best way to meet your goals and achieve your dreams!


Zachary AZachary A. is a guitar instructor in Katy, TX specializing in beginning and intermediate students. He is currently earning a degree in music theory. Learn more about Zachary here!




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blues guitar

5 Blues Guitar Secrets That Will Make You a Better Player

blues guitar

Learning how to play blues guitar? Pay extra attention to these five things from guitar teacher Mike B.

1. In Tune Bends

The blues guitar style is full of bending strings. Bends, as well as hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides, give guitarists the ability to imitate the way singers use various inflections while singing melodies. However, unlike hammers-ons and slides, bends are not guaranteed to be in tune. Since there is nothing worse than an out-of-tune bend in the climax of a great solo, we need to pay special attention to training ourselves to make sure our bends are in tune.

When you bend a string, it is supposed to be bent up to a specific pitch. The most common bends are up a whole step (the distance of two frets), or up a half step (the distance of one fret). For example, if you are on the 8th fret of the B string (the note is a G), and you bend up a whole step, it should sound like the 10th fret of the B string (the note is an A). If you are going to bend up a half step from the 8th fret on the B string, you bend it up to make it sound like the 9th fret (the note is an Ab or G#). Here are a few ways to practice being in tune:

  • Play the note you are going to bend to first, get the sound of the note in your ear, then bend up to it, and try to get it to be the same exact note.
  • Plug in to a tuner, and practice bending from one in-tune note to another, either a half step or a whole step away.
  • Practice unison bends. Unison bends involve playing two notes, the note you are bending and the note you are bending to, on two adjacent strings. When doing this, take special care, and make sure that they are exactly the same two notes. To get started, practice the examples below:

Blues Guitar Secrets Bending Strings

Be sure to practice this all over the neck of your guitar, since it will take different amounts of strength to bend in tune in various parts of the neck. We want to train our muscles and our ears to be in tune no matter where we are on the neck.

2. Learn Entire Solos

A lot of players tend to overlook this aspect of learning, and just end up digging into individual licks they enjoy. The importance of having a lot of licks and ideas available to you cannot be overstated, but there is a lot to be gained from learning the entirety of a solo.

Learning an entire solo gives you a chance to see how the soloist paced themselves, and how they built their solo from the beginning to the end. It also gives you a chance to see how the soloist utilized space. When we look at just individual licks, we don’t get to see what led up to them, and what came after them. It’s these aspects of a solo that really make you stand out from the rest.

3. Serve the Song

Typically, a solo should serve the song it is within, and should be viewed as your turn to speak and convey how you feel. What you choose to say in your playing should serve the song in some way. For example, if its a slow song, it may not be the time to unleash your fastest licks, back-to-back. In other instances, a song may need all of your fastest licks. Keep your ears open, and think about what it is that you are trying to express. Does it add to the song, or are you simply letting your fingers speak? Don’t forget that the song has a melody. You can quote it in your solos, or simply just use the rhythm of the melody to relate your idea back to the melody. Leave space. Sing along with your playing.

4. Repetition

Repetition can be viewed in a few ways: repeating your idea verbatim, repeating the rhythm but changing the notes, or playing variations on your original idea and allowing them to morph into new ideas.

This is such a crucial tool for crafting a good solo. If we think about it, do lyrics typically have a bunch of unrelated ideas through the duration of the song, or are the lyrics all along a central theme? Typically we will find the lyrics are all around one idea, but when a lot of people go to take a solo, they tend to play a bunch of unrelated ideas stringing them together one after another. Sometimes it works; a lot of times it doesn’t. Wouldn’t it make more sense if instead of playing 100 ideas or guitar licks in a solo, we played three or four, and got as much out of them as we could?

Here are some ideas on how to practice this:

  • Play the lick, and have a different ending each time.
  • Vary the rhythm a few different ways.
  • Keep the rhythm the same but change the notes.
  • Play an idea, then “respond” to it (“call and response”).

5. Listen to the Greats

This probably doesn’t need to be said, but always be listening to guitar players (and other instrumentalists) who you enjoy, and learn from them. If you haven’t already, you’ve got to check out these great blues guitar players:

  • B.B. King
  • Freddie King
  • Albert King
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • Everyone that ever played in the Allman Brothers Band
  • Eric Clapton
  • Mike Bloomfield
  • Muddy Waters
  • Robert Johnson
  • Robben Ford
  • Larry Carlton
  • Charlie Christian
  • Tinsley Ellis
  • Albert Collins

There are many, many more tips worth mentioning, but this should get you started as you continue to learn blues guitar. Hopefully there are a few names here that you don’t yet know. Keep practicing!


Mike B. teaches acoustic guitar, blues guitar, and guitar in Arcadia, CA.  He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Guitar Performance from University of Redlands, as well as his Master’s Degree in Studio and Jazz Guitar from University of Southern California.  Mike divides his time between performing live, doing recordings, and being an educator.  He has been teaching students since 2004.  Learn more about Mike B. here!


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guitar barre chords

Guitar Essentials: How to Play Barre Chords

Learning to play barre chords on the guitar is a big step for many beginning guitarists. Guitar teacher Joe L. breaks down the basic things you’ll need to know in order to play barre chords and shares tips for practicing them…

First off, if you don’t know the basic open guitar chords you will have tremendous difficulty with these chords. Learning basic rhythm patterns with simple open chords gives you familiarity with different types of chords, how to play chords, and how they sound. Once you’ve mastered your basic, simple guitar chords, you are ready to take on the challenge of learning to play barre chords.

Barre chords are based around the familiar shapes of open chords, but they are fingered in a different way. Barre means you lay your index finger across an entire fret pushing down all the strings, using your other fingers to fret the rest of the chord shape. Barre chords can prove to be difficult to play at first because of the awkward hand position that you’re not used to.

Yes, they can hurt a little bit but the payoff is huge and very rewarding. These chords are also crucial to playing guitar as they are a major part of learning some songs and part of the technique of guitar playing. Without them you may never fully develop the muscle coordination and strength to play other techniques.

Getting Started With Barre Chords on Guitar

Another beautiful thing about barre chords is that once you learn one you can play the same figure across the fretboard, giving you a huge array of chords to play. When you’re playing your first barre chord, just hold one down and strum it for a while, adjusting your fingers to make the strings ring out better.

You’ll want to practice this way at first for two reasons. Firstly, you need practice pushing your fingers down on the strings correctly.  Second, you need to build endurance holding these chords down. Many popular songs use barre chords throughout the entire song so for that reason alone you need to be able to endure holding them down. After a while it gets very easy and becomes second nature to use barre chords.

Learning barre chords also opens up your ability to play music up and down the fretboard. It shows you how the frets align with one another and gets you to venture out of the comfort zone found in playing open chords.  One thing you can do to improve your ability to play barre chords is to switch between barre and open chords. This gives your fingers the dexterity that they need as you progress to becoming a guitar great.

Another thing that you can do to improve your ability to use barre chords is to play a barre chord all the way up and down the fretboard. This gives you the muscle strength you need and the coordination to be able to play them on frets that are closer together. It’s important to do that as the frets that are higher up the neck are  closer together and you need to be able to be comfortable playing these chords in any position on the neck. Learning barre chords can be work but the payoff is huge. Good luck!

For more help with barre chords or any other guitar techniques, studying with a private guitar teacher is the best way to learn. Find your guitar teacher now!

Joe L.Joe L. teaches guitar lessons in New York, NY. He has been teaching guitar for 15 years and in his teaching he focuses on breaking down music theory to make learning music easy and accessible for all his students. Learn more about Joe here



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10 Basic Guitar Terms You Should Know

10 Basic Guitar Terms You Should Know

10 Basic Guitar Terms You Should Know

When you’re learning to play guitar, there are a few terms you need to know. Brush up on these guitar basics with Grosse Pointe, MI. guitar teacher Jerry W

You can advance quickly from a beginner to an intermediate guitarist by studying and mastering these guitar terms.

1. Tuning

Nothing says amateur like an out-of-tune guitar. Take the time to learn how to tune your guitar quickly and accurately. With modern technology, you can even have a tuner on your phone, so there’s really no excuse for playing out of tune.

2. Chord

Learning guitar chords is relatively simple, and you will feel a great sense of  accomplishment once you’ve mastered the basic chords.  A chord is when more than one pitch sounds at a time.  (To be technically correct, a two-note chord is called a diad.)

3. Chord Symbol

C     G7    Am7   Esus

Guitarists know which chords to play in a song by reading the chord symbols.  Chord symbols can be quite simple or very complex. The chord symbol includes the letter that represents the chord.  That letter can be followed by other symbols to designate variations.  You can learn how to play a chord by looking at a fretboard diagram.

4. Fretboard Diagram

Fretboard Diagram

You can find fretboard diagrams for almost any chord by searching the online for “guitar chords.”  In a simple fretboard diagram, the top parallel line represents the nut, and the lines below represent the first four frets.  The vertical lines represent the six strings of the guitar.  The dots show you where to place your fingers.  The “o” represents an open string.  Fretboard diagrams can also include fret numbers and barre symbols.

5. Tabs (Tablature)


Tabs indicate where to place your fingers on the guitar.  Tabs are a little more complex than fretboard diagrams, and they can be used to show melodies and more advanced techniques.  In short, the lines represent the strings and the numbers indicate where to fret the string. Learning to play tabs will open up a whole new world of music.

6. Strumming

Strumming is the most common way to play guitar chords.  Strumming is the act of drawing your fingers or pick across the strings so that all or most of the strings sound at once. The simplest strumming pattern is a top-to-bottom movement that strikes the strings on each beat.  To be a well-rounded musician, learn to play a variety of strum patterns.

7. Picking

The act of using a pick or your fingers to play individual notes on the guitar is called picking.  It’s called fingerpicking when you do this with your finger.  Use picking to play a melody or to play the individual notes of a chord one after another, which is called an arpeggio.  The tab below has a familiar melody followed by a chord arpeggio.


8. Open Chord

An open chord is played using open strings on the guitar. These are the simplest chords to learn, and are a great place for beginners to start.  Here are some of the most common open chords.

open chord

9. Barre Chord

You can play a barre chord by laying your index finger over all or some of the strings. You will see a curved line on the barre chords in a fretboard diagram.

Barre chords allow you to play many more types of chords, but they’re much harder to learn and may take some practice before you gain the strength and skill to play them well.

barre chord

 10. Capo

A capo is a simple device that clamps down on the strings to create a permanent barre over the strings.  A capo allows you to play open chords in the higher frets.  Learning to use a capo will help you play in many more keys without having to learn all of the barre chords. A capo can also make some keys much easier to play.

If you learn these guitar terms and practice the basic techniques, you will be a well-rounded player ready to take on greater challenges and more difficult music.

Need some help mastering these techniques? Find a guitar teacher in your area.


Jerry W. teaches classical guitar, composition, trombone and trumpet in Grosse Pointe, MI.  He received his Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition from Cornerstone University and went on to receive both his Masters and PhD in Music Composition from Michigan State University.  Jerry has been making music and teaching students for over thirty years.  Learn more about Jerry W. here!


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