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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19 Responses to “How To Transpose Chords With a Guitar Capo”

  1. jimmy April 17, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    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 April 17, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

      Thanks Jimmy!

  2. Bob April 30, 2010 at 10:27 am #

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

  3. Jesse James July 12, 2010 at 8:12 pm #

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

    • Jonathan Boettcher July 12, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

      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.

  4. Ted Kroll July 22, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    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.

  5. John Pechacek November 30, 2010 at 7:19 am #

    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.

  6. Kettle December 16, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    Thanks for the tips Jonathan.

  7. tom January 6, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    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!

  8. Chuck February 19, 2011 at 1:48 am #

    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?

    • Jonathan February 23, 2011 at 11:19 am #

      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.

  9. marco May 15, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    soopper !!!!

  10. Dennis Newell June 29, 2011 at 11:17 am #

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

  11. James McKnight June 1, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    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.

    • Jonathan June 1, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      Hi James, welcome to the site! Glad you're learning something here...

  12. Anne July 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    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 . . .

  13. michael May 11, 2013 at 10:16 am #

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

  14. Douglas September 5, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    In a way it sounds confusing,but,its all about learing how a guitar works and the comfusion will start to disapear.I try not to rush things,I like to take it slow and everything that I have taken in so far is paying off. Thanks and rock on.

  15. Randy September 6, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

    Great Capo Lesson!
    As a plus:
    I didn't realize that the minor chords in the key are the relative to the majors in the key (Except for the 6th).
    World of knowledge. Thanks!

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