Monday, April 12, 2010

Playing guitar in church? You’d better get a capo, bub.

KyserCapoA few weeks ago, I was invited to play my guitar regularly in my church.

I was thrilled to do so, but I learned something in a hurry – piano players just love playing in keys that are completely unnatural for guitarists.

As odd as it may seem, piano players tend to love playing in odd-ball keys such as B-flat, F-sharp and, well, just strange stuff. Guitarists, meanwhile, tend to stick to conventional keys such as A, C, D, E and G. Why? Because it’s a lot easier to grab the chords in those keys than it is in say, B-flat (unless you’re playing barre chords, but those tend to not come out real well on a 12-string guitar like the one I bring to church on Sundays).

The solution to this problem is to get a capo. Yes, they’ve been slapped with the derogatory term of “cheater” over the years, but that’s not exactly fair. A capo allows a guitarist to easily shift to those wacky keys with ease. It’s the very device that allows pianists and guitarists to get along and I use mine extensively.

Here’s an example. Yesterday, we played “The Old Rugged Cross,” which is in the key of B-flat. Rather than throwing a fit about the key, I simply slapped my capo on the guitar on the third fret and played the chords for the key of G. The pianist didn’t have to bother with transposing chords and I was able to get through the song with ease. Everyone was happy.

In case anyone's interested, I've used Kyser capos for years and have had a lot of luck with them. They last forever (the one I've got for my electric guitar is over 20 years old and still working) and are very easy to use (one-handed operation for everyone but weaklings). If you've got a 12-string guitar, you want to buy a capo specifically for one of those. A standard, common capo for a six-string is too short for that wide fretboard on a 12-string and you'll have a lot of nasty buzzing on the high "E" strings (and perhaps the "B" string, too).

By the way, I got my 12-string back in February. My wife came home with a beautiful Fender acoustic 12-string guitar that I had my eye on for a few months.

Sure, she bought that because she got tired of hearing me make racket on my electric guitar. Still, that was a pretty cool move on her part.

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