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Naming chords for capoed instruments

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Zebedee 14 Jan 01 - 05:18 PM
GUEST,ALBO 14 Jan 01 - 05:45 PM
Rick Fielding 14 Jan 01 - 06:55 PM
Sorcha 14 Jan 01 - 06:56 PM
sophocleese 14 Jan 01 - 07:41 PM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Jan 01 - 07:48 PM
Mark Clark 14 Jan 01 - 08:21 PM
Sorcha 14 Jan 01 - 08:25 PM
Mark Clark 14 Jan 01 - 10:18 PM
Sarah2 14 Jan 01 - 10:41 PM
GUEST,Jeremy J Woodland 14 Jan 01 - 11:09 PM
Sorcha 14 Jan 01 - 11:15 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 15 Jan 01 - 01:42 AM
Mooh 15 Jan 01 - 12:43 PM
Murray MacLeod 15 Jan 01 - 12:55 PM
John Hardly 15 Jan 01 - 05:25 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Jan 01 - 06:53 PM
John Hardly 15 Jan 01 - 08:09 PM
dick greenhaus 15 Jan 01 - 10:24 PM
rangeroger 15 Jan 01 - 10:50 PM
GUEST,Dino 35 years playing 23 Feb 14 - 03:55 PM
GUEST 23 Feb 14 - 04:40 PM
GUEST,DTM 23 Feb 14 - 06:27 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Feb 14 - 06:48 PM
PHJim 23 Feb 14 - 09:43 PM
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Subject: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: Zebedee
Date: 14 Jan 01 - 05:18 PM

I'm putting together a few song sheets, where the guitar is capoed.

I'm not sure how I should notate the chords. I've seen several different ways of doing it.

If for example, I have a song in Eb, which uses the D shape chords, with a first fret capo, should I include the Eb chords in brackets, write it all in D or what?

Is there any sort of convention here?

Thanks

Ed


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: GUEST,ALBO
Date: 14 Jan 01 - 05:45 PM

I probably would notate "Capo on first fret" and then write the chords named according to the position.

If I am not clear, let me expound. If you capo first fret, then the D position is actually E-flat. I would still write it as D, being sure to include the capo position, (First fret).

Others may disagree. But to each his own.

Leon Albo


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 14 Jan 01 - 06:55 PM

Hi Ed.

For many years when I've been writing out charts for people I just put C-3 (for the key of Eb when you want folks to play out of C position)

The trouble with that is that if the person is strictly a lead player they won't WANT it written that way. Guess the time consuming (but all inclusive) way is just write the real chords over the capoed ones.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: Sorcha
Date: 14 Jan 01 - 06:56 PM

I am not a guitar player, but ALBO is correct, I think. Even if capoed, you use the shape name, but you have to say "capo to...." That's the way Joan Baez did it in the song book I have. Then, the "actual" chords are given, with a / mark to denote the capo'd chords. That is helpful for a keyboard player who does not want to play in Eb.


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: sophocleese
Date: 14 Jan 01 - 07:41 PM

I figure its easier if you tell me what fret to capo and then the chord shape I have to play. Its easier when I'm playing to think D and have my fingers form a D-chord rather than think D, play a D chord, have it sound screwy, suddenly remember that I've got the capo on and frantically try and figure out where my fingers should go.


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Jan 01 - 07:48 PM

What used to piss me off was songbooks in which people would put down the actual chords without mentioning the capo.

You'd break your fingers trying to play the damn stuff in silly keys, and then you'd see them on a stage or on the box, and finds they were just playing easy stuff with a capo.

Strictly speaking Rick is right. But I'd just put at the top "C chords, but I'd probably sing it it Eb with the capo on the third fret".

Actually it's not just with difficult keys that this comes in - you might be singing something in a key where the chords are perfectly straightforward, but the accompaniment you want just sounds better with different chord chapes and a capo.


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: Mark Clark
Date: 14 Jan 01 - 08:21 PM

Some people set their clocks ten minutes fast so they won't be late for things. Others prefer knowing the correct time and are willing to set out ten minutes earlier in order to be punctual. I guess I'm in the second category.

I prefer seeing a chart written in the intended key with proper key signature and chord names chosen to match the actual key. Then I can choose to play the suggested chords anywhere on the neck, substitute my own chords, or use a capo and appropriate fingerings. I prefer to think of a G pattern capoed at the second fret simply as an A chord. I never think of it as a G. If the piece is a song I plan to sing, I'll probably wind up changing the key to fit my voice anyway. As I play, I probably think of chords in the relative nomenclature (I, II, IV, V, etc.) more often than in absolute names (G, A, C, D, etc.).

I think one should know the names of the notes on the fingerboard and learn the spelling of chords independent of any instrument. That knowledge will free the player from having to remember capo positions.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: Sorcha
Date: 14 Jan 01 - 08:25 PM

Mark, I'm with you on the clock thing, but you have to be "capo literate" to do the capo thing like that........meanining, understand capos, and what they do when you put them "where".


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: Mark Clark
Date: 14 Jan 01 - 10:18 PM

Yes, you do need to know what the capo does but that isn't very hard to know. The capo creates a false nut at the chosen fret and has the effect of giving you an instrument with a shorter neck but tuned higher.

Because most of us here play a lot of traditional material and that material often depends for it's sound on open strings, we like to use basic open or first position chord patterns when we play those tunes. We could play using closed patterns but it wouldn't sound "right."

If a chart is written in Eb (three flats), for example, and you'd like to play it using first position chords, you need to choose open patterns that are below the desired key by some interval up to a perfect fifth or so (seven frets). For Eb that probably means you'll choose D patterns or C patterns since open A patterns are generally less adaptable---unless you're playing blues---and G patterns will force you to capo up too high for most instruments. Once you've selected the open patterns you'd like to use, just place the capo up the neck by the same interval that separates your chosen tonic chord patterns from the key in which you'll be playing. Since D is one half step lower than Eb, you'll want to capo up one fret to use D chords. If you choose to use C chords you'll capo up a minor third (three frets) since that is the interval between C and Eb.

If you're picking up tunes from recordings, just figure out what key they're in without using a capo, then listen to find the lowest note they're playing, usually a fifth or sixth string note. That will help you figure out where the recording artist placed the capo. To figure out what set of open chord patterns the artist might be using, just subtract the interval indicated by the capo position from the actualy key. If that doesn't give you a realistic set of open chords, then the lowest note played may not be an open string so try patterns pitched a step or so lower.

The important thing to remember when capoing at the third fret and playing C chords is that your tonic chord is Eb, not C.

Of course, for the solo performer, it works to say you're playing in C capoed at three; just as it works to set one's clock ten minutes ahead. It's just that the more you interact with others, the less satisfactory either of the mind trick strategies becomes.

Still, it's really a matter of what an individual can handle and what works for them.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: Sarah2
Date: 14 Jan 01 - 10:41 PM

Our trio has a guitar/tenor banjo, a keyboard and a viola. The keyboard has a "capo" on (in?) it, so we can wind up playing three different progressions if the keyboard moves up three and plays a G progression, the guitar capos at the first fret plays an A progression, and the viola is in Bb (she just loves that). So we're constantly transposing chords, depending on the sound we're trying to get.

Well, at least we always know whose songbook is whose...

Sarah


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: GUEST,Jeremy J Woodland
Date: 14 Jan 01 - 11:09 PM

Ed,

I think it all comes down to what you are planning to use the sheets for. If they are going to be used by a musician on a non-fretted instrument, the player would definatley prefer the real chord names instead of the capoed chord positions. Remember a pianist or sax player is probably really comfortable playing in Eb.


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: Sorcha
Date: 14 Jan 01 - 11:15 PM

Jeremy, in my experience, keyboardists LIKE Eb--saxists and violinists don't tho! (*BG*)


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 15 Jan 01 - 01:42 AM

In the edition W.C Handy's book "Blues, An Anthology" edited by Jerry Silverman, the piona parts are given in actual key. The usual pair of clefs are used for this.

Above the piano part is the melody clef with chord symbols on top. On top of the melody line appears first the capo information eg "CAPO III'. Following this over the bars of the melody line are two sets of chord symbols one set in parenthesis. The ones in parenthesis are the actual chords that would be played with the capo in place. The ones without parenthesis are the ones that actually tell you where to put your fingers.

This gives the maximum amount of information. I think the chords in parenthesis are technically redundant because you can deduce them from the piano music, but not everyone reads standard musical notation.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: Mooh
Date: 15 Jan 01 - 12:43 PM

The convention should be to make it as straightforward as possible.

To answer the original question: notate the chords relative to the capo. If a chord is the familiar C open chord shape for example, call it C, wherever the capo is. If the actual key is Eb but you're suggesting that a cpo be used at the third fret, there are several options. I sometimes like to see the actual chords (to follow this example) like Eb notated in smaller/italic/grey/highlighted/etc print so that a non transposing player might be able to use the same sheet music, though it may cause too much clutter. A small transposing chart in the margin also is helpful, and it might give other alternatives like chords for other capo positions.

The idea I think is to not confuse the player with different names for familiar chord shapes. A C is a C, even if it's a Eb, because the shape makes it so. Yes I know the difference, but if you don't cover the simple approach, the technical approach will loose people before they've figured it out. It would be nice if everyone could transpose without all these aids, but the reality is it would take the joy out of playing for many people, and it's more about joy than being technical.

My two cents. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 15 Jan 01 - 12:55 PM

As always in guitar-related questions, I agree 100% with Mooh's posting.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: John Hardly
Date: 15 Jan 01 - 05:25 PM

I agree with Mooh too.

But it's because, in a way, the capo is making the writer's intent clear that, while he DOES want an Eb in pitch, the inversion created by the capo is integral to the arrangement--therefore it isn't JUST and Eb--it's a new thing--an Eb that is arrived at by capoing at the first fret and playing a D shape.

If that fingering wasn't integral to the arrangement then simply putting Eb would have sufficed.

JH


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Jan 01 - 06:53 PM

Then on top of all that there's the complications of different tunings, with capos, and tunable capos...


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: John Hardly
Date: 15 Jan 01 - 08:09 PM

...furthermore,

in the same manner that "all beeches are birches but not all birches are beeches", A player astute enough to know that a "D" capoed up one fret is an Eb can adjust easier than the player who knows his songs and chords by shape only. It's obviously more inclusive to say where the capo is and name the chord shape.


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 15 Jan 01 - 10:24 PM

...and then there's Bach's G-minor Mass (capoed up 4)...


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: rangeroger
Date: 15 Jan 01 - 10:50 PM

How do you capo an organ? Could be painful.

But of course that's what stops are for.

And we all know that Bach had 21 children because his organ didn't have any stops.

rr


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: GUEST,Dino 35 years playing
Date: 23 Feb 14 - 03:55 PM

I would suggest just using the Nashville Numbers system
In my band we have ME on acoustic tuned down half step and using a capo and the keyboard guy transposing songs a lot plus the electric player also using the effect that he can lower tuning and raise it digitally. So we just use NUMBERS SYSTEM to communicate. I say 5 chord and everyone gets it. But in your case I would just do as others said ... Set the KEY then set the CAPO fret number and just use the shape names.


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Feb 14 - 04:40 PM

It's all to do with the chords relative to the key. Unless you're doing something really weirdly modal, most stuff will at some point live in the 3-chord trick, the tonic, third and fifth above it. Wherever the key, the relationship to the tonic remains the same.
So if the tonic is C, the third is E and the fifth G (C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, A=6, B=7). The chord of C is C-E-G-C, E is E-G-B-E, G is G-B-D-G. Shifting the nut using a capo changes the key upwards a semitone per fret but the shape of the chords remains the same. It's why we talk about diminished fifth rather than GDim, you can transpose easily.
The downside is that not every key sounds the same. Some are brighter, others sadder, it's the price you pay for shifting a tune from the key it was intended to be in to one you can sing it in.

Another approach to it is using solfege, so we're talking about Doh-Mi-Sol and the chords thereon in whatever key. Doh is the tonic, Mi the third, Sol the fifth. By default on the key of CMaj, but not necessarily. Solfege describes the relative intervals, which is important when using modal keys (ie using the notes of one key but with a scale running from a note other than the tonic).


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: GUEST,DTM
Date: 23 Feb 14 - 06:27 PM

Under the song title I type the key (related to the chord shape) followed by the fret location of the capo.

i.e.
If I am playing a song in Eb (true key) but using the D chord shape, the notation would be D1.
The chord changes over the lyrics would be D, etc.

For a tune in true key of Bb and using a G chord formation, the notation would be G3.
The chord changes over the lyrics would be G, etc.

However, it's really whatever works for you.


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Feb 14 - 06:48 PM

Typically if I'm playing with others, and there are several guitars, they'll be capoed at different places. Widens out the sound and works better. As often as not I've no idea what key I'm actually playing in. If its a good session I'll likely not know what chord shapes I'm playing till I look down at my fingers.


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Subject: RE: Naming chords for capoed instruments
From: PHJim
Date: 23 Feb 14 - 09:43 PM

Since I play in a jug band with mandolin, banjo, guitars and fiddle and sometimes a trombone or Dobro, (jugs, kazoos, mouth harps and washboards don't use charts) when someone introduces a new song to the group, if it has complicated chord progressions the chords are written as they sound and if someone wants to capo, they will either write a chart of their own or transpose by ear. For rehearsals, we will often write the charts on large sheets of paper in marker, large enough for everyone to read.

If I write something for a student, I will write it using the names of the shapes rather than the actual pitch of the chords. For songs, the singer will decide on the key/capo placement. For fiddle tunes, there is usually a standard key; Red Haired Boy, for instance, might be played using G shapes on the guitar, but a capo would be used to put it in A to play with others.

I see from the fact that Rick Fielding, the one who introduced me to Mudcat many years ago, has posted, that this thread has been here for quite a while.


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