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Working out the root notes from sheet music

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by matt120282, Jan 3, 2013.

  1. matt120282


    Jan 3, 2013
    Hi all

    I am new to this forum and new to playing bass too. I've been playing the drums for about 2 years and decided I'd like to branch out.

    So I tend to play root notes to songs at the moment, preferring this to learning bass tabs off by heart as I can pick up and play a song pretty quickly this way (to a basic standard).

    My problem comes when the sheet music has an instruction for a capo to be put on, say, the second fret.

    If the sheet music then has a B chord, and I play a B (say 2nd fret of A string) it doesn't sound like the right note. So I guess this is because a guitar player would have the capo and this would change things.

    What I need to understand is how to transpose the chords that are written to the notes I need to play bearing in mind I don't have the capo.

    Any help would be really appreciated.

  2. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    1/2 step apart from the fret next to it.

    If a capo is on the 1st fret, you need to transpose up 1/2 step. C becomes C#, F becomes F#, etc.

    If capo is on the 3rd fret, transposition interval is 3, half steps or 1 and 1/2 steps. C becomes Eb (or D#) etc.
  3. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    Ah, one of the silly guitar player antics ;)

    It's not that hard when you're accustomed to it. In the case of the B, you play a C#, the note two half steps up from the B. That's all there is to it, if you see a chord, add the number of the capo'd fret to it and voila, B + 2 half steps =C#. If you see an E, play F# and so on.

    I don't quite understand why they do it that way though. Sometimes throws me off when playing guitar as well!
  4. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Simply, slide your note up the same number of frets as the capo is from the nut. Simple math: 2=2 etc.
  5. obimark


    Sep 1, 2011
    The good thing is your using your ear because many of the "chord" charts out there are wrong, just like quite a few of the tabs. Especially the ones with capos, be wary.
    I don't think they are quite that simple though, I've seen my guitarist capo on his 3rd fret for Old Apartment, and that song is primariy in F, B flat, and E Flat, so why wouldn't the capo be on the first fret?? Go figure...
  6. matt120282


    Jan 3, 2013
    Thanks for the replies everyone, that really helps. Not as complicated as I'd feared it might be :)
  7. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Here is my old memory peg for the capo:
    Sheet music is written in the key of F and you do not like the F chord. Would rather play using the G chords.

    Visualize F at the nut, now walk up till you get to what you want to use (G). What fret is that? The 2nd fret, so capo there. For example F @nut then, F# @ 1st fret and G @ the 2nd fret.

    Songs written in D and you want to play using G's chords.
    D at the nut, D# @ the 1st fret, E @ the 2nd fret, F @ the 3rd fret and F# at the 4th fret. And that puts G @ the 5th fret. Capoing beyond the 5th fret gets to sounding like a mandolin.

    EDIT - should have mentioned - you ask what you need to do when the guitar guys capo. Just ask what key they want the song played in. First example you play in F. Second example you play in D. You do not care what tricks they do to get the song into something they like to play in. All you need is what key is the song to be played in.

    Some guitar guys capo everything into the key of G. Song called out to be in C, out comes the capo and they capo so they can play their old standby key of G. Ask them why and you normally get an answer like; "G, C, D is simple, I decided a long time ago to just learn the chords for the key of G and capo everything else".