The Short-Cut to Nylon

I’ve written and taught about the Short-Cut capo now for fifteen years. Wow! A lot of folks are familiar with it, but yet, I keep finding people whom I consider to be “players” that have never even heard about it. For the majority of these years that I’ve been playing with the Short-Cut capo, I played more like a one-trick-pony. In fact, it makes me chuckle to read the instructions I wrote and copyrighted back in 2001 where they read, “can only be used on the 2nd fret.” It’s true… I wrote that and I was wrong.

When I write these articles, my prayer is that you will not settle for what you already know. That you won’t put yourself into the boat that I had put myself in… thinking I had it all figured out. We have not arrived! Our guitar playing should be a sermon illustration in that we continue growing, learning, and “pressing toward the prize” as we continue trying new things.

Our guitar playing should be a sermon illustration in that we continue growing, learning, and “pressing toward the prize” as we continue trying new things.

For years, I have wanted a nylon string guitar but would never spend any money on one and I really did not want to play a two-inch fret board. Recently, I got a great deal on a thin-body Ibanez (GA35TCE) that has a fairly narrow neck. The neck is not much wider than my guitars and in fact, the Short-Cut capo will fit on it all the way up to the seventh fret. This opens up another world of opportunities.

Several magazine issues ago, I wrote an article describing how my friends Tom Lane and Dave Cleveland will use the Short-Cut capo in studio for guitar layers when they are tracking a new song. Well, I have been taking that idea in recent months and adding extra tracks in Ableton to blend with my guitar during worship. I’ve added tracks with the guitar having a capo way up the neck to give a hi-strung effect. I’ve had the guitar with and without the Short-Cut… rhythm and finger-style. I’ve even added some mandolin on which a capo is super helpful!

Now, it looks like I’ll be adding some tracks with the nylon-string guitar. Just placing the Short-Cut capo on the guitar and playing a bit, I can feel and hear some of the differences and will need to lighten my approach. The Short-Cut capo lends itself on this guitar to more finger style playing and is very fitting for some mellow-melodies. A lighter pick and strum really makes the nylon sound come alive. Even as I write this article, I can hear a variety of songs that I’d like to add this sound to.

I keep picking up the guitar as I write this… trying to best express all that I hear. The soft attack of the strings does not really have a long sustain. The tone dies off quickly, which gives you more room for some quick changes… thus, some finger picking is in order. Hammer-on’s and pull-off’s can really add texture and movement to your finger style rhythm. I prefer to keep these movements on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th strings. This is also where you’ll find some cool melodic riffs. It’s helpful to try copying some of the vocal melody phrases. If you’re laying down enhancement tracks, it’s really good to work on one little piece at a time and not have to think about too much. When I add a layer of rhythm, I’ll often use a simple down strum so that it won’t clash with what I play live. Embedded in this article is a video of this process that I made just for this article. Please watch and see what ideas you may come up with. Email me if you have any questions!

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