Steps and the capo

On the previous page, you got a brief introduction to musical notes in a scale. Well, that's all well and good, but what's the use if you don't know how to apply it? Fortunately, it's very applicable and helpful when learning the guitar. In this section, I'm going to talk about how notes apply on the guitar, and you're going to get an introduction to the nifty little device known as the capo.

Notes on a guitar: Steps

In the section titled "Understanding notes," you learned that the notes in a scale are A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G and G#. The way this applies to the guitar is very simple. Let's use the sixth string as a starting point. When tuned to standard tuning, this string plays the note E when open — that is, when you don't hold the string down at any fret. When you hold that string down at the first fret, it then plays the note F. Move your finger up to the second fret and it plays F#; likewise, it plays G when you move your finger to the third fret.

This principle of each fret representing a new note is known on the guitar as "steps." Each fret you move up is essentially equivalent to a "half-step," as you move up to the next single letter note (in all cases except B-to-C and E-to-F) for every two frets.

This principle carries over into chords as well. Recall, if you will, the way that you formed the barred F chord. Forming the F# chord required the same finger positionings, only everything was moved up one fret. This principle holds for all chords. The next fret up (barring the third) makes the G chord, barring the fourth fret makes the G# chord, and barring the fifth fret makes the A chord. Also remember that A# and B used the same finger positionings; this progression holds true for those chords too.

One other tibit worth noting is the fact that notes on strings overlap at certain points. In standard E tuning, starting at the fifth fret on the sixth string, the notes begin overlapping with the fifth string. That means that holding down the sixth string at the fifth fret makes the same note as the fifth string being played open. This trend of the fifth fret of one string being the same as playing the open string below it holds for every pair except going from the third string to the second string. In this case, holding down the third string at the fourth fret, rather than the fifth, creates the same note as the open second string.

The capo

Now it's time to briefly talk about a little tool that I've really found useful called the capo. The style of capo I use (in fact, the exact one I use) is shown in the pictures below, and it's called a lever capo. The other type you can get is a spring capo. Either one should be effective.

A Capo Capo on guitar

Basically, the capo is just a tool that cuts off the playable range of a guitar's fingerboard. It effectively reduces the scale length of a guitar. Perhaps the easiest way to think of the capo is as an automatic barring tool. It works just like your finger does when you bar a chord, only now it frees your pointer finger up to do other things. The capo can be used for a lot of things. I mainly use it to try songs in new keys. You should try playing around with one and figure out new sounds for old songs.