Learn Chords quickly and Easily with a Capo

James Elliot By James Elliot, 18th Feb 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Music>Learning An Instrument

Learning chords can be difficult and frustrating for beginners but with this approach they can learn them quicker and get to the point where they can play 'a proper song' before they give up.

Simplifying things from the start

I’m going to show you a new way to learn chords - a way that makes it far easier to get started and makes beginners less likely to give up in frustration.

Getting to a point where we can play something recognizable can be be tricky, when starting to learn to play the guitar. It takes will power to continue playing boring exercises over and over again in the hopes of being able to play something more interesting in the future. When beginners often ‘only want to strum a few chords!’ it seems a shame that so many give up before their dream is realised.

Beginners usually start by learning a few open chords which, eventually, leads to playing tunes that they recognize. Unfortunately, while opens chords are essential to most guitar playing and a good place to start they have a few downsides.

Open chords are played at the bottom end of the fingerboard where the frets are the widest and the strings are the hardest to hold down. Because beginners finger’s aren’t used to stretching and the tips are still soft it can be difficult and painful to play down here and, in some cases, impossible to produce a good sounding chord. This is especially the case for children or those with small fingers.

What’s the solution? A capo! A capo is a metal or plastic bar that fixes onto the guitar neck and holds all the strings down at a higher fret. It is a bit like moving the nut of the guitar from the end of the neck up closer to the bridge.

What this allows us to do is play the normal open chord shapes further up the neck where the frets are closer together and the strings are easier to hold down. Not only that we are able to move the capo to a fret that best suits our level of experience and the size of our hands.

Using this simple approach difficult chords for beginners like F or B become easy to learn which allows the student to move on to playing more adventurous chords more quickly. Also, because it isn’t so difficult to get the fingers on the right frets and hold the string down the beginner is able to change chords at an earlier stage and play something fulfilling rather than boring exercises.

So, get started!
Place your capo on the 5th fret and try playing a C major chord. If the stretch is still difficult then you can move it up a couple of frets and try again. As you start to be able to play chords easily at your chosen fret then you can start moving the capo down by a fret or two. Do this over a period of two weeks to a month to give your fingers time to get used to the wider stretches.

Hidden Benefits

One of the problems with the conventional method of learning open chords without a capo is that beginners have to press quite hard with their soft fingertips to get the notes to sound properly. This extra pressure makes it more difficult to change chords quickly and becomes a habit that is hard to break once our fingers have toughened up.

We always want to only use just enough pressure to make the notes sound and no more. This keeps the fingers nimble and improves our control over the tone of the notes we’re playing.

So by using a capo a student can not only learn chords quicker but also prevent pressing too hard which can have and impact on their future progression with the guitar and even, in the worst case, cause injury to the wrist and hand.


Chords, Guitar, Guitar Technique, Guitar Tips, Learn Quickly, Learning

Meet the author

author avatar James Elliot
James is a Copy Writer and English Correction specialist at www.ukcopy.co.uk.

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author avatar jpcmc
18th Feb 2013 (#)

I started playing with the guitar when I was 10 years old. It was practically self study - mostly copying other people. The only resource I had was a one-page chord guide. this makes it really easy for others to learn.

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