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Transposition: did I miss something?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Schmorgy, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. Schmorgy


    Jul 2, 2012
    So when playing with guitarists who use a crut- I mean capo, I know I'm supposed to "transpose" (for the sake of this argument we'll say it's capo'd to the 5th fret for the key of A major) to fit what they're playing, but I've never stopped and wondered if I actually am. I memorized the fretboard early on so I can play the notes of A major anywhere that I need to and do, depending on which direction I want to take it.

    Am I already transposing without meaning to?

    I know that the capo is to let the guitarist change the voicing of his open chords without barring them, but am I skipping a step or missing something?

    I never received explicit instructions on transposition so I'm just assuming I'm doing something else.
  2. Gets complicated because people normally do not tell you all of the story.

    Capo on the 5th fret and play in A - works for sheet music written in E and you want to use key of A chord progressions. The guitarist does not like to play E chord progressions for some reason, but likes the fingering for the key of A chords -- so he/she capos on the 5th and use A chord fingering. They are, after all that, still playing in the key of E.

    For example: Sheet music is in E. Most people that capo end up using G. Some people play everything in G. OK music is in E and you want to play it in G - move up the neck 1st fret is F, second fret is F#, third fret is G. So if you want to use G's fingering capo at the 3rd fret.

    Just ask them what key you are to play in and don't get into that capo stuff.
  3. Schmorgy


    Jul 2, 2012
    So basically just play in key as written and only transpose if singer decides he doesn't like singing in the key as written?
  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Hi, first of all, the capo is not a "crutch"--it is a tool that changes the open strings (and therefore the fingerings and sound) of the guitar. Lots of serious & respected guitarists (and bassists, too!) use a capo, and not because they're stupid. ;)

    Second, it sounds like you have a good grasp of it. If the guitarist has a capo at the 5th fret and is playing in A, then all you have to do as bassist is understand the chord progression and play the notes that fit. For example if the progression goes to E (the V chord) you might go down to the open E string, even though the guitarist would have to go up to the high E because the capo doesn't allow him to play open E. But you just play what sounds good. :)

    Makes sense?
  5. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    If a guitarist plays standard C Major F Major G7 chord voicings with capo II, then the chords become, relative to A = 440 Hz, D Major G Major A7. So, if you are treating the piece as now in D Major, you're playing it correctly.
  6. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

    Aug 22, 2011
    Here's the secret: You're not transposing; the guitarist is.

    iow, Regardless of how he voices an A major chord, it's still an A major chord. If he plays it with a capo on the 5th fret and fingers it as if it were a 1st-position E triad, it's still an A major chord and it's his responsibility to refer to that chord in any communications with the other musicians as an "A major", even if he may find it more convenient for himself to think of it as an E major.
  7. Although most, in my experience, don't! :smug: I used to work occasionally with a guitarist who'd tell me we're doing a song in a given key. I'd give it a listen, and show up for the gig, only to see him put a capo on and change keys. I've gotten really good at chasing them...
  8. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    When transposing it helps to see the chords as number so you know the progression and can play it everywhere.

    Also using a capo as a crutch is very irritating
  9. funnyfingers


    Nov 27, 2005
    Just in terms of calling a guitar capo a crutch... Try playing a capo on the third fret and play the open D chord then the G chord. Now play the equivalents without the capo. You can tell the difference and should be able to understand what this difference is...

    Just a thought anyway.
  10. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    It is a crutch when you use that to play in different key using the same 3 chords ... and still call your chord and E when it is the case anymore.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Capo is a tool, not a "crutch."

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