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How to use a capo – Transpose a song

What is a capo?

‘A capo (short for capotasto, Italian for “head of fretboard”) is a device used on the neck of a stringed (typically fretted) instrument to shorten the playable length of the strings, hence raising the pitch. It is frequently used on guitars, mandolins, and banjos. G.B. Doni first used the term in his Annotazioni of 1640, though capo use likely began earlier in the 17th-century.’ – WIKiPEDIA

Using a Capo can be quite a difficult thing to get to grips with.

A lot of songs on the internet will state whether a capo is used a few don’t.

But besides playing a song in the way it was intended we can us a Capo for other reasons.

transposing a song to our voice without having to change chord shapes or when trying to avoid too many barre chords.

Why avoid barre chords?

The first obvious reason is that when we start playing guitar the barre chord is a deal breaker.

It’s damn hard for new guitarists to move freely to a barre chord and sometimes dammit you just want to play that song!

The other is that when finger picking we can use open chords to play more elaborately, also the preasure needed to apply barre chords while picking can be very wearing on the fingers and hand.

Below are some tables showing the transposed open chords when the capo is applied to each fret.

The ‘Black‘ letters indicate the Original Chord, mainly Open Chords apart from the ‘F‘ and ‘Bm‘ which can be Barre Chords.

The ‘Red‘ letters indicate the new chord.

I’ve used the most common chord shapes to keep things simple.

The way to use these tables is to write out your chords on a peice of paper and then look for the best solution.

Find the chords you have in the red row and then move the capo to that fret. Using the chord shapes form the black row will now give you the transposed version.

 Capo 1st Fret

Capo 2nd Fret


Capo 3rd Fret

Capo 4th Fret

Capo 5th Fret

Capo 6th Fret

Capo 7th Fret

Capo 8th Fret

Capo 9th Fret


These charts show only the basic chords so as to avoid confusion.

Only one 7th chord is used and no sus chords have been used.

If you find that your chord progression has any of these follow the chart below to replace or add.

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Updated: April 4, 2012 — 7:59 am

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