Capo positions, tunings, chords and other wonderful things

Marsha Elliott
Marsha Elliott
@marsha-elliott
3 weeks ago
15 posts

All of this is very helpful. I am understanding better now. And I’m excited to try it out at practice on Monday. 😁

Lisa Golladay
Lisa Golladay
@lisa-golladay
3 weeks ago
95 posts

If the songs in G require only the four chords you mentioned, you don't need a capo.  Chances are you already know how to play two (maybe three) of these chords:

G = 013 or 335

C = 666 or 346 -- if you have a 1.5 fret then 1-1.5-3

D = 234 or any of the other D chords you know

Em = 113 or 545

For me it's easier to learn new chords without the capo, rather than transposing in my head with the capo.  When the sheet music says play a G chord, I play a G chord -- no matter what key the song is in.  But the capo/transposing chart approach works, too.  I guess the only problem is forgetting which method you're using in the middle of a song!  Not that I have ever done that... whistle

Skip
Skip
@skip
3 weeks ago
227 posts

No need to retune. A 'D' chord in DAD sounds the same as a 'D' chord in any other tuning, the fingering changes when you retune. 

Look at it this way, a capo changes the order of the notes available in a tuning. It does not change the notes available in that tuning. Retuning changes the notes available on the instrument. You can prove this to yourself by checking the notes on each string with/without a capo and retuning and do the same thing. 

Tuning and note order [capoing] are not particularly relevant to playing chords. They may change the fingering.  As long as you have the notes available for a chord, and they are reachable, you can play that chord. Chording is very focused, it is playing 2-3 [or more] notes at a specific point in the tune.

For your own information try writing down the chords you need for each of the songs you will be playing. Then do the same for the chords you can play in the DAD tuning. If all the songs are in D or G, then you need to know the chords D, G, A, C. The notes needed for those are D, F#, A, G, B, C#, E, and C. Note that I only specified notes, not tuning. Find those on your dulcimer, they are all available in DAD. It is acceptable to use only 2 of the three notes of a chord, the first one and the last one [called power chords].

When the capo is used to change the tuning/key it is changing the first, lowest, or root, note of a scale. It is not changing the notes available on the dulcimer.

Just a note, if you have  1+ on your dulcimer, you can play the chords [C, F, G] in key of C. The 1+ adds the C and F in DAD

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,106 posts

Marsha Elliott: So if I am tuned in DAd and put the capo at 3

and the key of G music guitar chords are:

G  C  G  C  G  D  Em  D  C  Em  D  G  C  G  C  G  D  Em  D  C  Em  D

Then Would I play:

D  G  D  G  D  A  Bm  A  G  Bm  A  D  G  D  G  D  A  Bm  A  G  Bm  A 

 

That is correct. You are using the transposition chart correctly.   Over time this will become more obvious.  We know that a 0-0-2 chord is a D chord, correct?  If you put the capo at 3 and then play your 0-0-2, you are really playing 3-3-5, which is a G chord.  Does that make sense?

 

Marsha Elliott: And do I try to play versions of those chords that do not include pressing the melody string, or does it matter?

(for instance playing the D Chord with 200 instead of 002, and playing the G chord with 310 instead of 013) 

 

Marsha, if you are only playing chords and not the melody, it does not matter what voicing of a chord you use. 

 

Skip: If you are going to play chords only, no capo is needed.

Skip is correct here, at least for the keys of G and A.  You can play the most important chords in those keys out of you DAd tuning with no capo necessary. The chords you list for that song (G C D Em) are all available to you without a capo. So you don't have to use the capo for that song.  You might, however, find it easier to use the capo and then play the simple chord shapes using open strings.  But that is a matter of your preference, not a necessity.  The capo may only  become necessary when you start playing melodies or even filler licks as well, but as long as you are only strumming chords, you should be able to play the chords for your songs in G without a capo.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 06/27/19 12:21:34PM
Marsha Elliott
Marsha Elliott
@marsha-elliott
3 weeks ago
15 posts

@skip

If I play the chords as G  C  G  C  G  D  Em  D  C  Em  D  G  C  G  C  G  D  Em  D  C,    Wouldn’t I need to retune to G?

The tunes in D and the tunes in G are all mixed up in the lineup. I am trying to prevent retuning for each song. There will not be time to do that, so I want to remain tuned to D except for the one song that is in key of C, and I am used to retuning fast to C. I was thinking that is the reason to use the capo is to adjust to a new tuning faster????? 

Now I am really confused!

Skip
Skip
@skip
3 weeks ago
227 posts

If you are going to play chords only, no capo is needed. A chord has the same construction regardless of the key of the tune. Actually all the information you need, when there is a vocalist, is the chords and when a chord is played. So having the words with the needed chord just above is sufficient to chord along with the tune. I think it's actually easier that way.

If the music you are looking at shows the chords as

G  C  G  C  G  D  Em  D  C  Em  D  G  C  G  C  G  D  Em  D  C, 

and the music key is G, play the chords as shown. Your second set of chords is the chords transposed for the key of D, as if you were going to play the melody + chords in the new key of D, not G. You would be playing the chords for a D melody, everyone else would be playing chords for a G melody.

Play the chords either way, which ever sound best or is the most natural feeling. You can play the D as 000, 002, 200, 030, 777, etc or just one note, 0 on the base string [like a standup bass player does, one note at a time]. The G the same, 310, 013 or just a 3 on the base. 

 


updated by @skip: 06/27/19 11:06:08AM
Marsha Elliott
Marsha Elliott
@marsha-elliott
3 weeks ago
15 posts

Thank you so much @dusty-turtle and @skip

So if I am tuned in DAd and put the capo at 3

and the key of G music guitar chords are:

G  C  G  C  G  D  Em  D  C  Em  D  G  C  G  C  G  D  Em  D  C  Em  D

Then Would I play:

D  G  D  G  D  A  Bm  A  G  Bm  A  D  G  D  G  D  A  Bm  A  G  Bm  A

 

And do I try to play versions of those chords that do not include pressing the melody string, or does it matter?

(for instance playing the D Chord with 200 instead of 002, and playing the G chord with 310 instead of 013) 

The really difficult thing about this is that the songs they are playing are obscure tunes from their Episcopal song book, and I AM Presbyterian and have never heard any of these songs before nor can I find them on YouTube to listen to.

I could just sit out the songs that are not in the key of D, but this is a good chance for me to try out playing in the other keys using the capo, since they are a really friendly group and will tolerate my mistakes.

Skip
Skip
@skip
3 weeks ago
227 posts

Since chords stay the same regardless of the key the song is, you only need to play the chord required by the notation. A 'D' chord is the same all the time. With this in mind, song in 'D', the chords are D, G, and A [which you already know. In 'G' the chords are G, C, and D. You will need to learn to play a 'C'. Song in 'A', the chords are A, D and E. All of these chord cam be played in the DAD tuning [the C is easier with the 1+]. No need to transpose or retune as long as what you're looking at has the chords/key displayed. If a chord is required you don't know or can't play, air strum that chord. For 7ths, use the major, eg., for an A7, play an 'A'. It's one of the benefits chording only, no melody. You can play along in many keys as long as you know how to make the chord called for.sun

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,106 posts

@Marsha-Elliott, if you scroll down below in this discussion, I wrote a long post here addressed to Dana.  It includes a link to a document entitled "Strumming in various keys out of DAd."  That document has a transposition chart for the most important keys of C, D, G, and A.  Take a look at that document.  It might answer your question.  And if it doesn't, by all means speak up.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 06/27/19 12:24:00PM
Marsha Elliott
Marsha Elliott
@marsha-elliott
3 weeks ago
15 posts

I need help with something. I am to play my Dulcimer with a group of other instruments for a church gathering (sing-along). They are doing a few of the songs in key of D so I can play with them. But I think I can also play the ones that are in G if someone can answer the questions I have. I know how to use the capo to change the key and how to renumber the frets to the right of the capo and play the chords that I would normally play for key of D. The problem here is that literally all of the songs except for two are songs I have never heard and there are no arrangement in D for them. For those songs I want to just strum backup using the guitar chords shown on the arrangements that they have given me. 

 

So here is the question.... since the guitar chords shown in their key of G arrangements are chords for the key of G, then I am assuming that I cannot play them as I would if the arrangement was in the key of D. So assuming I use the capo at the 3rd fret, Is there a chart somewhere that will show me what to transpose them to?

 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
1,106 posts
Yes, Dulcinina, I am playing a Blue Lion dulcimer on that video. It has Cherry for the back and sides, and Western red cedar on the top.


--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
dulcinina
@dulcinina
2 years ago
54 posts

Just watched your you tube demo of the capo.  What a great educational video for novices like me.  And I loved the sound of the dulcimer you are playing.  What is the wood and is it by any chance a Blue Lion? Dulcinina

Cindy Stammich
Cindy Stammich
@cindy-stammich
2 years ago
59 posts
Dusty Turtle - what a great quote!!! I think we need a tshirt with that on it!
hugssandi
@hugssandi
2 years ago
252 posts

Dusty Turtle: The dulcimer takes 5 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master.

Such a great quote!!!!

 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
1,106 posts
Yes, the dulcimer takes 5 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master.


--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
hugssandi
@hugssandi
2 years ago
252 posts

This is one of the things I love about the dulcimer.  It can be simple, and yet I know I will also be learning new things and advancing my whole life!!!!

D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
2 years ago
141 posts

This thread is great! I can't wait to dig in!

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
2 years ago
76 posts

 Bing Futch also has a short you-tube video on using a capo to change keys.  

 

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
2 years ago
76 posts

Let me try that again with the link.

 

http://www.jcdulcimer.com/CapoesInstructions.pdf

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
2 years ago
76 posts

Joe Collins has the following handout available for free online.  It may help you in understanding which keys are available with a capo.  I hope it is helpful.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
1,106 posts

Dana, instead of trying to read and understand, just play and feel.  Play a simple song on your dulcimer. Then put the capo at the third fret and try to play it again. It will work, but you will be in a higher register.  Then, perhaps put the capo at the first fret and try again. It won't work.

In the same way that you need different fingering when you switch tunings, you need different fingerings when you use a capo, with the (partial) exceptions of the third and fourth frets.

Sometimes this stuff makes more sense when you play and get a feel for it rather than try to understand it first. And even if you decide you don't like playing with a capo, you should still have a feel for how it works.

 

Why would you want to know this?  

reason 1: Dulcimer players almost always play in D, but other folk musicians often play in C, G, and A as well.  If you are in a multi-instrument jam, you will want to know how to play in those keys as well. What if you're in a playing circle and someone calls out "Angelina Baker" in the key of G.  You could try to figure it out in your regular tuning, you could retune to DGD and try to figure it out there, or you could slap on the capo at the third fret and play the song exactly the way you played it before, but you will now be in the key of G, just like everyone else.

reason 2: Do you sing?  Despite what some people say about certain keys rather than others working for their voices, it is the tonal range of the melody that determines whether a tune fits your voice.  I can sing some songs in D.  Other's I can't for the life of me.  But if a song doesn't work for my voice in D, it probably will in G or A.  Truth be told, I have a baritone dulcimer that I tune to G or A, but if I'm not home and want to sing one of those songs, I just put the capo on 3 for G or 4 for A and I can sing the song.  Again, the fingering for the chords is the same that I would have used in D, but the capo puts me in a different key.  If I get a chance I'll put a video together to demonstrate this.

A while back I wrote this piece that I've attached called "Strumming in Various Keys out of a DAd Tuning."  I'm sure it was in response to a question here or one posed by my local dulcimer group, but I can't remember.  Maybe you'll find it helpful.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
2 years ago
141 posts

Oh dear, now my head hurts. wasntme

But....I do get what you are saying. It's just a lot to take in for someone who has never been taught this.

I printed off some of what we have talked about....and i intend to study it. But just a little at a time, as to not overwhelm.

I'll go back and reread what you are saying. I guess my initial question in the midst of my confusion (not utter, but mildly)...would be, so the reason I would want to know this is to somewhat play a song, with just the music and chords? 

 

 


updated by @d-chitwood: 04/09/17 12:56:55PM
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
1,106 posts

You're close, Dana.  Before we get to capos, let me explain something that didn't occur to me until I had been playing a year or two.  

First, we call the open DAd (or DAA, but when we get to chords I'll be referring to DAd) as a D chord.  Technically, it is missing the 3rd, so it can be D major or D minor.  But if 0-0-0 is a D, then 1-1-1 is an E, 2-2-2 is an F#, 3-3-3 is a G, 4-4-4 is an A, 5-5-5 is a B, and so forth.  And again, those "chords" can be major or minor, so a 1-1-1 will be an E in one harmonic context and an Em in another.  The listeners' ears will fill in either the major or minor 3rd. But that principle alone will allow you to play all kinds of chords that you might not have thought possible.

Second, once we see that pattern, we can say that yes, when you put your capo at the first fret your open strings are in an E chord.  And if we were playing a guitar or banjo, that would be enough. We could move the capo to any position and play as though the capo weren't there, making wonderful music in any key.  But the dulcimer's diatonic fretboard means that even if our open strum is a given chord, we may nor may not be able to play a song we want because the frets are in different places.

However, there are two places the capo (mostly) works: the third fret for the key of G and the fourth fret for the key of A.  Play a simple song you know toward the nut.  Now put a capo on the third fret and play it again, using exactly the fingerings you are used to.  You will see that you are now playing the same song, but in a higher register and in a different key (G instead of D).  This will also work if you put the capo at the 4th fret, but you will have to be aware of the 6+ fret, which is now playing the role of the 1+ fret.  It is also fun to put the capo at other frets and see the sounds you get. For example, many songs that are played in a DAC tuning can be played instead with a capo at the first fret (I am not suggesting a capo is preferable here, just pointing out the similarity).

For another discussion here recently I made the following video to demonstrate how I use the capo: https://youtu.be/MR-T9l7KiEg.

Again, what makes this complicated, Dana, is that on a dulcimer with a diatonic fretboard, a capo not only changes the key but also the mode, so when the capo moves to different frets you cannot necessarily play the same song in  a different key.  You have to find a different song that fits the mode created by the new fret spacing.

As for chords, please refer to that transposition chart I posted in the other discussion.  IN the key of D, we use mainly the D, G, and A chords. When you put the capo at the third fret to play in G, you will be using the G, C, and D chords. However--and this is the beauty of the capo--you don't have to change fingerings. Just pretend you are playing in D, and your chords will magically be transformed (or transposed) to G, C, and D.  That is what my video linked to above tries to demonstrate.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 04/09/17 12:25:14PM
D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
2 years ago
141 posts

In light of the recent fantastic conversation we just had about the chords, I wanted to speak about capos.

(Preface: I am 2 years in, play like a crazy woman time-wise, but have zero music theory knowledge so grace grace if this question makes you laugh.)

I was lying in bed early this morn, when suddenly I had an epiphany. If the  1 0 1 is an A chord, then if you place a capo on the 1st fret, are you now tuned to A? And if 0 1 3 is a G chord, when you place a capo on the third fret, are you now tuned to G?

Again, please don't laugh...I'm just now getting into this. If this is correct, then it would explain all the choices of chord for each A, G, D etc because you might be tuned into something where you need a higher fret. (Am I embarrassed at this point? Yes, yes as a matter of fact I am. But I feel safe here so yall go easy on me if this is not right. ) sun

And...does anyone have a capo tuning chart that showed what key each capo creates?