How To Transpose Chords With a Guitar Capo

Kyser Guitar CapoLast time I made a lesson on how to use a guitar capo, I left out an important bit of information: how to transpose properly so that you remain in the same key as the rest of the band.

Today that’s what we’re talking about.

Random Fact: Did you know ‘capo’ also means a mafia boss? Ok… back to guitar.

So the rule of thumb that I get into in the video is basically this:

If you move the capo UP X number of frets, you need to transpose your guitar chords DOWN by the same number of semitones. Follow that? Each fret is a semitone, right? so in order to maintain the balance, if you go up with the capo, you need to go down with your open chords.

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This might be a bit confusing, but keep in mind you’re not actually changing keys. The only sense in which you’re changing keys is in that you’re changing to the open chord formations of a particular key. The whole idea is to remain in the same key right?

Hopefully that becomes more clear in the video. Any questions… you know what to do.

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  • jimmy

    Your delivery of the material is very cool. Learning alot. Very relaxed and to the point.You make learning enjoyable and relaxed while at the same time motivating. I don’t feel intimidated at all by the material because of how you present it. Thanks alot.

  • Jonathan

    Thanks Jimmy!

  • Bob

    Thanks Jonathan! That was a really useful lesson on a subject I hadn’t given enough thought to in the past. Thanks again

  • Jesse James

    This video keeps stopping and then goes. What is causing this problem? It is irritable.

  • http://playguitar.com Jonathan Boettcher

    Hi Jesse – that’s probably a function of your internet connection. I’d recommend pausing it, allowing the full video to buffer, and then viewing it – that should allow the whole video to transfer before you go to play it.

  • Ted Kroll

    Thanks Jonathan, but why use the capo if the chords sound the same as what U were playing? I get the capo for use to obtain another key using chord configurations that I’m more familiar with.
    Ted

  • John Pechacek

    In the capo lesson, when you use the terms up and down, it would help to indicate if you are talking in terms of scale (up = higher frequency notes) or the neck of the guitar. I guess it is the scale.
    John

  • Kettle

    Thanks for the tips Jonathan.

  • tom

    This is a great intro into transposing, which is so important to really getting a grip on what the guitar can do. The concept of up means down using a capo is very clearly demonstrated. Thanks, Jonathan!

  • Chuck

    Great Lesson, thanks. Only thing missing is a real world example. If someone said, “I sing in the key of “B”, and you are playing “Sweet Home Alabama”, a normal D-C-G, what do you do?

  • http://www.GuitarTipsWeekly.com Jonathan

    Hi Chuck, In that particular case, I’d probably take the G, and move it up so that you’re now playing it coming off the 7th fret, where you find a B (6th string). This would mean putting the capo on the 4th fret… and you’d be able to use the exact same chord patterns you’re used to playing (D C G), and yet be in the key of B. Basically you’re just identifying the root note that you want to move, and then move it to the new key, and capo appropriately (ie open G root note is on the third fret, so you need to capo appropriately leaving yourself 3 frets until your root note, in this particular case. Each key looks different, but the principle is the same.

  • marco

    soopper !!!!

  • http://yahoo.com Dennis Newell

    Thanks Jonathan I had never heard of that way before how easy go up one go down one good job thank you

  • James McKnight

    this is the first time that i have seen your site and i have learnt more about a capo than the crummy little guitar teacher i have.

    thank you so much.

  • http://www.GuitarTipsWeekly.com Jonathan

    Hi James, welcome to the site! Glad you’re learning something here…

  • Anne

    Thanks, Jonathan.  Your teaching style is so refreshing, without all the noisy hype so many favour.  Much appreciated by an Englishwoman!  I have your scale patterns course and so much of the mist has cleared.  You have a lovely smile, too – it reminds of one of my sons . . .

  • michael

    Thanks Jonathan it was a great lesson most teacher would not even go there so
    again thank you.