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Guitar player retuning when moving capo

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by awilkie84, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. So, our band's been getting a lot of notice lately (Top 40 covers, etc) but one thing we keep hearing in our critiques is the dead space in between songs can be too high.
    I've spent the last few jams & gigs watching the band, to see what's causing it, and the most prominent thing I can see is our lead guitarist's need to retune every time he changes his capo position (or removes it).

    We've all mentioned this to him, but his excuse is that it's the nature of the guitar and that every one he's had does this. Our rhythm guitar stays in tune through this, but our lead just seems to drop out ALL the time.

    My guess is that his capo is pushing too hard & bending the strings, throwing the tuning off.

    What can he do, or what can we have him do, that will fix this? Would changing to a heavier gauge of strings help?

    He plays a Gibson Les Paul Studio with Ernie Ball Super Slinky strings.
  2. JumboJack


    Dec 31, 2007
    Hmm. I play with a lot of guitarists that use capos. They rarely tune when moving/removing it.
  3. scottbass

    scottbass Bass lines like a big, funky giant

    Jul 13, 2004
    Southern MN
    Does he play in many different tunings or just two or three? If just two or three, it is probably faster for him to change guitars than to retune between songs. Point him to www.rondomusic.com if he needs an inexpensive guitar or two.

    OR - change the order of songs in the setlist to minimize retunings. Songs in the same key should be played one after the other if it doesn't mess up the flow of your set too much.
  4. Nick Dilley

    Nick Dilley

    Mar 25, 2012
    Yeah, I am also a guitarist and I agree with JumboJack. That's odd. The best thing you can do is have him get a tuning pedal that has a bypass. When the bypass switch is on, he can tune his guitar without the signal going to his amp (i.e. no one hears the tuning). Because it's always plugged in, and the LEDs are bright, he can retune in seconds. Boss tuner pedal is good choice. It's like $100, but the efficiency it allows you to attain is well worth it. Some "pros" are moving away from Boss tuning pedals, because some claim it isn't accurate. That's a bunch of bull, even if there are better tuners out there (which there probably are). Tell him to get a tuning pedal. Or, if you are into group investments. Have everyone in the group pitch in $15 bucks. He'll have one immediately and your problem will be solved. As soon as people start taking your group seriously, you need to address little things like dead space between songs to get that "polish" in your act. At least in my experience that has been the case.

    long and short of it: he needs a tuning pedal w/ bypass, and if he can't afford it, won't get it himself, have all the band members pitch in. it won't be much per person, and help the band a lot.
  5. Nick Dilley

    Nick Dilley

    Mar 25, 2012
    Scottbass's recommendations are good too. They can help polish your live set. But even with those changes, get him a tuning pedal.
  6. Sounds like he's being a bit picky- I can see a capo throwing tuning off a bit, but unless something's wonky, he should be able to tweak to *reasonably in tune* pretty quickly. IF something is indeed wonky, unwonk it.
  7. Standard E-to-E tuning, no exceptions. The tuning just gets thrown out when he adds his capo.

    Yeah, that was my thought, too. Our other guitarist has no issue. My only guess is that his capo pushes too tight & adds more tension to the strings, which wouldn't be equal across all strings.

    He has a BOSS tuning pedal already, but his tuning takes about a minute, each time. I've tried arranging the set list to accommodate for the capos, but that creates some ugly set lists.
  8. pbass2


    Jan 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    Sounds like he might need a set up, and also perhaps try some different capos. But if he's capo'ing really high up on the neck, yeah, it's gonna affect the tuning even on a properly setup axe.
  9. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Same here. I play guitar and none of my capo's knock my guitars out of tune.
    In my Americana band the guitarist sometimes plays only Acoustic all night 2-3 sets and rarely tunes after a capo. He just does a quick check now and then like we all do.
    Our big down time is the mandolin,fiddle and banjo that don't keep tune well.

    I think he is overstressing this, has a wacky guitar or string issue.
  10. ImageUploadedByTalkBass.com1358359510.240058. this?
  11. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    My first guess is that his nut is cut too high, which would lead to a capo stretching the strings out of tune. But it also seems that a nut that high would make the thing a real pain to play in the first place. And manufacturers are much better about this than they used to be.

    My 2nd guess is that he's just afraid the capo put him out of tune and is OCD about it.
  12. scottbass

    scottbass Bass lines like a big, funky giant

    Jul 13, 2004
    Southern MN
    I guess I should have worded it differently: How many different capo locations does he use? If just two or three, he could have a guitar for each situation. For example his second guitar could be open-tuned F# to F#, or, alternatively, his second guitar could be open-tuned E to E and then, after he puts a capo at the second fret, it could be retuned (before the set) F# to F#.

    Alas, it is possible you have a picky (or even borderline OCD) lead player who can't allow himself to change anything without re-checking the tuning on all strings.
  13. I'm a guitar player in my current band. I know guitar players who do this tuning thing every time they use the capo.

    It's totally unneccesary if done properly.

    For starters, if a guitar is not set up optimally, if the intonation is off, or if the action is high, a capo will exaggerate the poor set up.

    If you think about it, when a guitarist barres with a finger, his chords should still ring true. If they don't, his guitar is out of whack. A capo is nothing more than a surrogate finger barre.

    Second, some guitarists use the capo inappropriately in terms of placement proximity to the fret and tension. If you put a death grip on your capo, it will pull strings sharp. It should only provide enough tension to get the strings down on the fret without buzzing, no more, no less. If it's too close or too far from the fret being capo'd it will cause tuning problems. Again, these things shouldn't happen when you barre with a finger, and they shouldn't happen if the capo is used appropriately.

    I have NEVER had to re-tune my guitars after placing a capo, they stay in tune and the intonation is spot-on, on both my acoustics and electrics. Tuning instability with a capo applied would indicate a problem with the guitar set up and/or the use of the capo, and, what's worse, it would evidence itself even when using fingers to fret notes without the capo even being on the guitar.

    Tuning stability with a capo should also be independant of how high up the fretboard you go. Think of it this way: If your bass is set up well, you can fret the 12th fret and still get a true note. If you fret 12 and get a note that is flat or sharp of the open string, you have an intonation problem (or you're squeezing the piss out of your note). It works the same on a guitar. So capo'ing appropriately on a guitar, on any fret, should not throw the tuning or intonation off so much you need to re-tune. I can capo the 10th fret on my guitars and chords ring true. I routinely play "Here Come The Sun" capo'd at the 7th fret like George Harrison and have no such issues.

    Finally, one thing is for sure: Dead space is a momentum killer, is glaringly obvious to everyone in the room, and needs to be eliminated if you want to keep the ball rolling.

    EDIT: The Planet Waves dual-action trigger capo pictured above is my favorite, and I've been through a dozen designs looking for the right capo. Quick and easy to use, foolproof, adapts to any neck profile if you adjust the thumb screw properly. Highly recommended.
  14. I don't think he's had a setup since he bought it. He does get a free setup from the store, though. I've played the guitar & the action & intonation are great, even when he's noodling up past the 12th.
    The furthest up the neck he capos is the 3rd or 4th fret.

    It would stand to reason that he's OCD, but his guitar does shift legitimately out of tune when he capos.

    2-3 different tuning placements but, knowing him, he'd take just as long changing guitars. I'm sure he'd be checking the tuning each time he switched.
  15. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I'm not sure why this is YOUR problem to fix. All you guys have to do TOGETHER is tell (not ask) the guy the he can't have a minute or more between songs to tune. And then tell him that HE needs to do whatever he needs to do to fix the problem.

    Now, let's just say that for some crazy reason I just HAD to have a new piece of gum between songs. Sometimes getting out a new piece involves opening a new pack. So sometimes it takes me 20 seconds, and sometimes it takes me over a minute to get new gum. There are two ways this can go when the band has had enough.

    1) In YOUR world this is how it would play out.
    Guys in the band come to me. The guy who drew the short straw says, "Um...... excuse me but can we please talk to you for a minute? We would like to see if there are a few ways that we, as a band, could help you to trim down the amount of time it takes you between songs to get a new piece of gum. Gunter (drummer) has suggested that perhaps each of us could take turns getting a piece ready for you and just hand it to you as soon as a song ends so that you're ready to go." This, clearly, is not reality.

    2) In the REAL world, or at least any band I have been a part of, it would go something like this.

    The FIRST guy in the band who got fed up with my gum crap would say some thing like "Hey Hammer Head! You gotta quit with the gum stuff. It's taking too long. If you gotta have gum, figure out a way to do it without holding up the whole band and 100 people on the dance floor, idiot. Preshate it."

    Now, perhaps you could come up with something in the middle. But, either way, your way is pre-school touchy feely warm fuzzy silliness. You just TELL him, however bluntly or politely you see fit, that he CAN NOT have a whole minute between songs to tune, and that HE should figure out how to get around it.

    Problem solved. Glad I could help. Please feel free to consult your old Uncle TF if you need anything else.
  16. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Could heavier guage stings maybe help?
  17. Why is he using a capo on an electric guitar?

    Does he not know barre chords?

    Capos are for cowboy chord players!
  18. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Could be the song is written in the key and he solo's in it as well?
  19. It's my problem because I'm the only one in the band with previous band experience, or sees this as a flaw. Everyone else knows there's a problem with dead air, and knows he takes time doing this, but they don't realize that his tuning shouldn't fall out moving a capo around.

    He also:
    A: owns the jam space
    B: does most of our bookings
    C: sees no problem with having to retune, no matter how I've mentioned it.
    D: is best friends with the other guitar player & the 2 of them formed the band.

    That was my though. A heavier gauge string could push back against the capo better & not stretch so much.

    He knows bar chords, but they don't always fit with what he has to play.
  20. I suppose there is some merit to that, but if the song requires open chord strumming and you want the texture and voicing of open strings, but you need to move the key, a capo is a good way to do it even on an electric.

    Another thing to consider: If you think you can capo and do lead work involving string bends, think again. Once you exert the force required to bend the string, what happens next? The string moves under the capo and remains out of tune. It doesn't un-bend. And from that point on, until you manually re-position the string, you are out of tune.