Playing an open tuning like DADGAD leans heavily upon incorporating droning notes… notes that ring constant through most or all of the chord shapes. They create a pad-like resonance underneath the musical patterns. Being that playing guitar with the Short-Cut capo creates DADGAD up a full step (EBEABE), this technique also centers around droning notes, but with much easier to learn chord shapes.
I’ve often said that playing with the Short-Cut capo is not for every single song. We need to make sure that we are serving the song well when we play. What if the note(s) that are droning are not the notes we want highlighted in our progression?
A quick review of the Short-Cut capo: 1. The capo covers strings 3/4/5; 2. It forms an “Esus” chord by itself; 3. Strings 1 (E) and 2 (B) are open and droning through most chord shapes; 4. The chord shapes used are modified from playing in the key of “D” (D, A, G, Bm) and the key of “G” (G, C, D, Em)… and because we’re playing a full-step up, these are now the keys of “E” and “A.”
Playing in standard position, with the Short-Cut capo on the 2nd fret, adding the droning notes from the open “E” and open “B” strings is pretty natural to playing in the key of “E” or “A.” Talking in Nashville Number System in regard to the droning notes: String one (E) is an octave to string six and is the 1 of the key. So, looking at it by chord… to the “E” chord it is the 1; to the “B” chord it is the 4(sus); to the “A” chord it is the 5; to the “F#m” chord it is the 7; and to the “C#m” chord it is the 3. String two (B) in regard to the same chords… to the “E” chord it is the 5; to the “B” chord it is the 1; to the “A” chord it is the 2; to the “F#m” chord it is the 4(sus); and to the “C#m” chord it is the 7.
Here’s a way to incorporate a different droning note in the key of “E” which could fit a variety of different songs or playing styles… or could be a creativity catalyst that helps in writing a new song! Place a Drop-D capo on fret 2. This capo covers all strings except the 6th string (Low-E). If you don’t have a specific Drop-D capo, place your normal capo on from the bottom and don’t cover the bass string. Next, place the Short-Cut capo in what would be standard position (2 frets) in front of the Drop-D capo. Now, the note configuration you have is E/C#/D/B/C#/F#. We have retained the root note in the bass with the “E” string remaining open. Now, to match the key of “E” being 4-frets up the neck, we’ll need to use chord shapes from the key of “C” (see chord diagrams).
We’re still playing in the key of “E” (chords E, B, A, F#m, and C#m), but we can now more easily play the “G#m” chord. Because of the fingerings, the main droning note we now have is the 1st string at the 2nd fret which is an “F#” note. Looking at it in the same way as above… to the “E” it is a 2; to the “A” it is a 6; to the “B” it is a 5; to the “F#m” it is the 1; to the “C#m” it is a 4(sus); and to the “G#m” it is the 7. It creates a different feel when the droning note comes from one of the minor chords of the key!
So, get your guitar tuned up and your capos on. Gently strum and pick through the shapes shown and listen to the new variations in these chords. Then, try some of the tricks that you do with those chord shapes… maybe hammer-ons or pull-offs or slides. You’ll quickly find things that work and rule out things that don’t. It just may be an answer that you’ve been looking for!