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Find the root when guitarist using a capo

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by gorskkr, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. gorskkr


    Jan 14, 2013
    As the title would suggest: how do I find the root note when the guitarist has a capo on his guitar?

    i.e. I'm wanting to play along to Counting Crows - Amy Hit the Atmosphere. The capo is on 1 making it in the key of F. The chords in the main verse are as follows: E, A, F#m, A, E, A, F#m, B.

    ^^Do I play the roots as listed above? Or do I have to make some concession bc its in the key of F?

    *If the answer is simply play E, A, F#m, etc... then when I play notes in between the root, do I try to hit some supporting F notes?

    It's quite possible I could be just over thinking this...
  2. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    If the guitarist has a capo on the first fret, he is raising everything by a half-step, so you need to transpose up a half-step.

    So, your chord progression becomes this:

    Original: E, A, F#m, A, E, A, F#m, B.
    You play: F, Bb, Gm, Bb, F, Bb, Gm, C.
  3. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    Here is how I think of Capo changes...

    I play a lot of Christian music and encounter many guitarists that know only 4 or 5 chords, then just capo to a new position. They won't even know what key they are playing in most of the time.

    So remember this... count the 1/2 steps.

    If the song is in E like your example and they are capoed on 1, the half step puts you on F, that is pretty easy to remember. But what if the Song is in G and they are capo 4? Count 4 1/2 steps up from G.... G#, A, A#, B. The new key is "B"

    If you can transpose the key on the fly using the Nashville Number System that would be good at this point. If not, take each chord in the chord sheet and count that same number of 1/2 steps up.

    If you are in a band and your music is in a key and you want to go to another known key, you will inevitably have your gui**** hunt and search for the correct capo position. It is your job as a bass player to rescue them in times like this. Put your finger on the root of the key your music is in, then count in 1/2 steps to the new key. Announce that number to the gui****... "Capo x", they will be shocked and amazed that a bass player knows how to do this.

    So... If the song is in D and they want to transpose to G... D#, E, F, F#, G

    CAPO 5

    Oddly likes this.
  4. Already In Use

    Already In Use

    Jan 3, 2010
    Capo nightmares! Dont have anything more to add.
  5. Nailed it.
  6. Duckwater


    May 10, 2010
    USA, Washington
    I just use my ears
  7. OK little help --- we have a lot of songs in the key of F and I have not found an F placement I like.

    • I do not like the F position @ the 1st fret, 4th string. Little to far down the neck. I like putting the root on the 4th string, but, ...... not at the 1st fret.
    • Or the F position @ the 8th fret, 3rd string. Don't mind the 8th fret, but, prefer to not place the root on the 3rd string.
    • Or the F position @ the 13 fret, 4th string. The 4th string is OK, but the 13th fret is a little to high up the neck. I know picky, picky.

    If I was to use a capo to get a F position, where would I capo and what key would I use -- to produce F notes.

    Sorry I go JELL-O when trying to figure this out. Using the capo and a tuner I've not had any luck.

    Little help.

  8. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Always trust your ear. Try playing E, A, F#m, A, E, A, F#m, B while the guitarist is playing in the key of F with the capo on the 1st fret, and you will hear quite easily that you are over-thinking it and didn't need to ask us this question. ;)

    Simply move the progression up the neck the same number of frets as the guitarist's capo is placed.
  9. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    Buy a 5 String and fret the F on the 6th of the B string. I like to finger that note higher up the neck anyways.
  10. Still JELL-O no idea what you are telling me. Appreciate your reply, but, it shot right over my head.

    It's late, will check back tomorrow.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Sorry MalcolmAmos, my reply was directed at the OP "gorskkr," not at you. :)

    To address your specific question, you could put a capo at 1st fret, converting your open E string to an F. (and A string to Bb, D string to Eb, and G string to Ab)
  12. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    If I look over and the guitar is capoed on the third fret and the guitarist is playing a C chord, I play Eb; if it's an A chord on the first fret, I play Bb; a D chord on the fourth fret, I play F#. There's capo use out of general laziness and ineptitude, and there's capo use for a specific sound quality. Either way, if you're going to be a bass player, you should know the basic guitar chord shapes well enough to be able to do this without even thinking about it.
  13. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Yes; of course that is the goal! :) But the specific question here is, how to figure out a chord progression that a guitarist with a capo is trying to teach you?

    Feb's reply in post #2 is the correct answer.
  14. My favourite is when the guitarist with the capo calls out the chords. Only they call out the chords that go with the chord-shape they are playing, not the *actual* chord - because they have no idea what the actual chord is.

    For example - guitarist has capo on 3rd fret. Guitarist plays a G-shape chord, which is thus actually a Bb.

    Guitarist: "G"
    Me: (thinking: "ok, that's really Bb. Major.")
    Guitarist: "C"
    Me: (thinking: "Hmm, we're in Bb so that must be C minor ... oh, they actually mean Eb. Major. Ok.")
    Guitarist: "E"
    Me: (thinking: "ok so that's not really E, it's just E shape in third position, but wait that doesn't make sense because it should be E minor, oh wait it IS E minor because they don't even know the difference between major and minor!")
    .... continues ad nauseum
  15. DrSpunkwater


    Sep 17, 2012
    If this made no sense to you, you should probably sit down and learn it. It's pretty basic stuff.
  16. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    As an addendum: It's the same thought process if you ever play with transposing instruments such as trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, etc. An Eb horn is equivalent to capo 3rd fret; Bb horn to capo 10th fret, etc.
  17. Hawkbone


    Mar 23, 2009
    This is something I've been struggling with as well. Whenever someone throws out a new tune we haven't done before (frequently it's tunes I haven't even heard before), I can usually do a pretty good job of following the guitar by recognizing the chord shapes, but when they capo and I have to transpose, I quickly fall behind. Guess it's just a matter of practice.
  18. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Best solution to problems with 1st fret position. I don't have that problem, but if you do, get a 5er.
  19. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    There are 2 absolutely sure-fire ways to never be confused by capos again:

    1. Ear training. If you can hear the progression, then you can completely ignore whatever technique the guitarist uses to play this progression. Open chords, barre chords, capo---it doesn't matter. Your ears don't lie.

    2. Look at the actual position of their fingers on the frets. The capo doesn't change the location of the notes on the fretboard; it just gives the guitarist an extra "finger" to fret all the strings at a specific fret. So if the guitarist is playing a G shape with the capo at the 3rd fret, all you really need to see is that the bass note is fingered at the 6th fret, so the chord must be Bb.
  20. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    By the way, if you also play guitar and want to really know this stuff cold, google "CAGED theory." It teaches you to visualize the 5 most common open chord shapes anywhere on the fretboard, in any key. :)

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