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Get Out of the "Drone Zone"

It's easy to forget that since your partial capo makes you sound like you are in an open tuning, you don't have to sound that way all the time. A great advantage to writing and arranging music for the partial capo is that you can lean hard on the open strings and get a very "tuning-like" sound, but then in the same song you can also use standard-tuning flavored chords and barre chords. This gives you more versatility in what you sound like, and you can get out of the "drone-zone"  just as easily as you can get into it. You can switch back and forth between the verses or chorus, or in different sections of your music.

Tips for Slide Players

It's easy to think that because a partial capo makes an open-tuning sound that you can also play slide guitar the same way you do in open tunings. Unfortunately, if you keep the guitar in standard tuning, you won't get a chord when you put the slide across all 6 strings. There are, however, some clever ways to use special tunings or to add a partial capo to an open tuning that change what happens when you put the slide down. In fact, the first partial capo piece I ever recorded was called The Albatross (which you can hear on this site), and it was a slide guitar instrumental played in Open A tuning, with a partial capo in what I called "A-Minus" configuration (1 1 1 1 0 1) It was on my first vinyl LP, and then I re-recorded it for my 1989 CD Solo Guitar Sketchbook. I devoted quite a bit of time and many pages to various ways to play slide with a partial capo in my comprehensive partial capo book The Big Book of Partial Capos, and I may collect all the slide ideas into a smaller book.

Tips for 12-String and Wide-Neck Guitar Players

There are a number of problems and considerations involved when you use a partial capo on a 12-string guitar (or banjo!) or a wide-neck 6-string. You may need to cut your own Esus capo from a Shubb c8b, though the Liberty FLIP Model 43 Third Hand works fine with even a wider 12-string. SpiderCapo now makes a special XXL model for wider-neck guitars, but SpiderCapos don't work with pairs of strings. Partial capos generally work great on 12-string, and are a wonderful way to get an even bigger sound from a big-sounding instrument, but a few things might trip you up. Here are some tips for 12-string players.

Tip for Drop E Capo Configuration (0 2 2 2 2 2)

Start a song in C position, with C, F, and G shapes as your basic 1, 4 and 5 chords, and they all play and sound normally. Remember that your song actually sounds in D because of the capo. Then in the midle of the song, modulate (change keys) up to D. It sounds as though you didn't just change the key, but the tuning as well. Your D chord now has the big low 6th string root, and the G and A position chords (these are the 4 and 5 chords in the new key, that are actually A and B chords because of the capo ) also play normally. This is a way for someone who has never used a partial capo to immediately get a bigger sound, without learning any new chords at all. There's nothing confusing about it except reading this paragraph.

Tips for "Third Hand" Capo Users

  • A primary disadvantage of the Third Hand Capo is that it blocks access to notes that lie under and behind it. An easy way to make it easier is to just remove some of the rubber discs that are not is use. When they are "flipped-up" they are much more in your way. You just pull them on and off with your fingers.
  • The nylon side-support on the end of the capo is designed to stabilize the capo, especially when only a few strings are clamped. When you are capoing 5 strings, it may not matter which side of the fingerboard you put the side-support on. Try flipping the capo around and see which way it behaves best on your guitar in the various configurations.

Tip for Curved Fingerboards

Most steel-string guitars have a slightly curved fingerboard, and different manufacturers have different radius designs. (Classical guitars generally have flat fingerboards.) Usually this curvature is not enough to interfere with a capo, but it can be a real problem, especially on some electric guitars. The only workaround for partial capos is to bend the capo slightly. If you have a metal shop or an anvil and a hammer you might be able to bend a brass Shubb capo (pull the rubber sleeve off first!), but there is no way to do that with an aluminum Kyser. It is quite easy to pull the 6 rubber discs off a Third Hand Capo and bend the pin a little bit, then put the discs back on. The brass pins bend pretty easily.

Tips for "Kyser" Capo Users

The spring mechanism on the Kyser capos gives you 2 advantages over other capos:

  • You can move the capo to a different fret easily, with one hand. In fact this is so easy, you can even do it in mid-song, for a modulation (assuming of course that the new capo position does not throw you a little out-of-tune, which often happens, especially with heavier strings and higher action...) You can store your Kyser capos on the headstock of your guitar, for easy access, and they don't get lost. You can also sometimes store them clamped on your guitar strap. If you store them on the headstock, it can create mystery about what brand of guitar you are playing, because they can cover up the logo or name.
  • If you have trouble reaching the notes under and next-to the capo, you can get a Kyser K-Lever capo. There are 4 kinds of them, though they were discontinued in 2015. The push-button levers clamp the notes under the capo, as long as you hold the lever down. (They do not lock down or snap & release...)

Replacing Shubb Rubber Sleeves

Eventually the rubber sleeves on Shubb capos get soft and don't work properly. It is simple to pop on a new one, and we can sell you one for only $1. You can trim them with scissors for use on the partial capos. Just pull the old one off and trim the new one to the same size and shape.

Tips for 6-String Banjo Players

I use a partial capo a great deal on my 6-string banjo, and would even venture to say that if I was not way into partial capoing when I first tried the banjo, I doubt I would have wanted one. Click here for an in-depth discussion of using a partial capo on a 6-string banjo.

Free Downloads of Arrangements, Etc.

Download free PDF of fiddle tune "Devil's Dream" for flatpick guitar ( capo 0 0 2 2 2 0)

Download free PDF of fiddle tune "Flowers of Edinburgh" for fingerpicked guitar (capo 0 2 2 2 0 0)

Download free PDF of "E-Modal Boogie" - walking bass blues example (capo 0 2 2 2 2 0)

Download free PDF of 2-part round "Frere Jacques" for fingerstyle guitar (capo 0 0 2 2 2)

Download free PDF of 1980 partial capo book "New Frontier in Guitar"