I have a few questions about using a capo with an acoustic guitar. I have been using this capo for years, but when I apply it I have to do a lot of re-tuning. I suspect the main issue is that I am not applying it correctly. My questions are:[ol]
[li]What capo should I use?[/li][li]What is the proper way to apply that capo?[/li][li]How much tuning should I expect to do after applying it?[/li][/ol]
How’s the action on your guitar? If the action is set really high, using a capo will pull it out of tune. I set my capo as close as possible to the fret wire. Ideally, you should not have to do any tuning after applying it.
I think it may depend on your guitar. For instance, on my cheap Yamaha acoustic, if I make an open chord it will be perfectly in tune, but if I make a barre chord (or capo) at the 5th fret, it will be wildly out of tune. This doesn’t happen with my finer guitars, even though the action is similar.
I’ve got a decent guitar (Tacoma DM-18). The action is medium and the intonation is good. If I barre at the same fret, I get the right notes.
I noticed that if I push the capo down on the strings slowly and then lock it from behind the neck, the tuning is decent. However, if I just line up the capo on the front and then lock it from behind the neck, the tuning gets hosed – the strings all get pulled a little in one direction or the other.
I’ve noticed that people using my capo will put it on both correctly and upside down. Thing is, I’m not sure which is the correct way. I am also not sure how to adjust the screw in the back.
This is me talking out of my ass, but it looks as though that set screw adjusts the tension, yes? If it were me, I’d try using it with the least tension possible that still sounds all the open strings cleanly. As for ‘correctly’ and ‘upside down’, I can’t help you. My capos work both ways, but then mine are not the same as yours. FWIW, I’ve seen plenty of guys use them either way.
Gotta agree with Nunavut Boy, both on this and the previous comment regarding the action.
But anyway, regarding the orientation of whatever capo you are using - the conventional way is to place it so the “jaws” are facing towards the high E string. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how you should do it. Really, what’s important is that you set it up in the way that feels most comfortable.
Also, one of the neatest (yet most often overlooked) things about the capo is how it can change your tuning at the drop of a hat. One of my favorite things to do is to put the capo on backwards from the way I mentioned above, but to set it so it is only covering 5 strings. If you then play the equivalent of an open D chord (really open E, because you are up a step), you can get that nice bottom note with the D shape. But, your barre chords remain unchanged.
Some people like it, some don’t. But it is definitely an example (and I’m sure better pickers than me can name more examples) of how the capo can do much more than you may have thought.
You have a Shubb capo http://www.musiciansfriend.com/navigation?q=shubb+capo&src=3WWRWXGB&ZYXSEM=0. I had a capo like this, myself. Put simply, your screw is too tight. The capo should be just tight enough to create reliable tension between the string and the fret, without buzzing. Much tighter, and you actually “crease” the string at the fret rather than merely contact it and hold it firmly. This sharp bend pulls the strings out of tune, and decreases the overall life of the strings.
You should be trying to finger as close to the fret as possible when you’re playing, as this requires less finger pressure to correctly sound the notes. A lot of times this is impossible because you have other fingers in the way, but it is the ideal. This is why I put my capo as close as possible to the fret wire; you can get away with less pressure.
Again, agreed. Closer to the fret is always better. Think about it this way… the sound that you make is based on the vibration (and frequency thereof) of a string. On instruments without frets, you need to be oh-so-exacting with where you place your fingers because any slight variation changes the vibration, hence the note. The standard guitar, having frets, is far more forgiving, but the same rules still apply - the closer your finger (or the capo) is to the fret, the clearer each note rings out.