Thinking Outside the Capo Box on Electric Guitar

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have guitar techs at church? I’ve become friends with Clay Cassie (who techs for Chris Tomlin and many others) and Andrew Malloy (Steven Curtis Chapman and many others) and it’s really fun to watch them work. It’d be so nice to have someone who would keep the guitars well maintained, tuned, and ready. Someone who could indiscreetly trade guitars with you between songs so that worship would not be interrupted… However, since we do not have such a luxury, it’s up to us to find ways to make things smooth.

For me, capos help keep things flowing. I can easily play in any key or tuning that I need to without causing a distraction in worship. I would encourage you to go check the Worship Musician archives online for past articles. Specifically, I’m thinking about an article I wrote several issues ago explaining how to adjust the capo so that it does not negatively affect your guitar’s intonation (so your guitar remains in tune). There are all kinds of ways to use capos beyond their traditional or designed uses.

Take for instance, using an Ukulele/Banjo/Mandolin capo on your electric guitar. This capo was designed to cover all of the strings on the above instruments… However, I find it extremely useful on my electric. I’m playing a James Tyler Mongoose and it just so happens that my guitar neck is so thin that the Uke capo can cover all six strings up to the fourth or fifth fret. The tension is light, but ample for my low action. I’ve tried it on a few other electric guitars without as much success, however the reason that I’m writing is not to encourage its use as a six-string capo, but as a five-string capo.

The Uke capo works really well to create Drop-D tunin when placed on the neck from underneath (like Crowder likes to use his capo). Use it to cover the first through the fifth strings at the second fret, play a “D” shape, and you’ve got Drop-D in the key of “E.”

Whether you are accustomed to playing in Drop-D or not, using a capo to create the tuning keeps all fingerings the same as standard tuning because of the fact that no string notes have been changed. Keep using standard chord shapes for “D,” “A,” “Bm,” and “G.” The speed of getting in and out of Drop-D tuning without having to change guitars or re-tune really makes the tuning accessible/useful on the worship platform.

Changing keys is as simple as adding a standard Electric capo behind the Uke capo (2 frets) and transposing UP by ½ steps. So, placing capos on frets 1 and 3 would be the key of “F” and placing capos on frets 3 and 5 will create the key of “G.” Worship leaders, try this out or suggest this technique to your electric players and I would bet you’ll quickly find a song that would sound great played like this. It’s another tool that can inspire creativity and, at the same time, can simplify some things that would normally be more difficult.

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