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How to Use a Capo to Make Your Singing Easier 

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How to use a capo to make your singing easier will show you how to transpose a song to a key that makes your voice sound better, resulting in less work too.

Pre-requisites

  1. You need the ability to play first-position chords.

First-position chords are C, D, E, F, G. A and minor chords such as A minor, E minor, and D minor.  Here’s a quick review of first-position chords.

2. Make sure you can identify your vocal range’s lowest and highest notes.

The easiest way to identify your vocal range is to find a keyboard to obtain the note name.  Or, you could also find that note on the guitar even if you don’t know the name of the note.

Good to know:

It would be good to understand intervals well enough to be able to change keys. I think it’s possible to benefit from this article even if you are new to music theory, but knowledge always helps us understand how the parts work together. This makes how to use a capo to make your singing easier doable.

Step 1 – Identify the vocal range using an example song, how to use a capo to make your singing easier 

  1. Identify the highest comfortable note

I start by finding the highest note in the melody. For this example, I’m going to show you the chords I downloaded for “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver.  Notice the chords shown in the video are G, C, and D.  As I sing through this I feel it’s pitched higher than I like.  The highest note is a “D” which sits at the upper part of my vocal range.  

2. Identify the lowest comfortable note

To find the lowest note, I go through the same steps. In this example, the lowest note was not an issue for me. Finding the lowest not is part of how to use a capo to make your singing easier. 

3. Manage any troublesome notes

Another good question to ask yourself is whether the note identified part of a phrase, or does it just pop out of the melody?  If the note is part of a phrase, that’s a good sign that the song may be too high for you.  But, if it’s just a note that pops out, maybe you could change it without subtracting from the song’s overall character.

Step 2 – Placing the Capo to transpose the melody into a new key

I can sing it – but it feels high.  Placing the capo on the 2nd fret and playing D, G and A chords helps me position the song to feel and sound more comfortable.  I have transposed the key from G to E.  Transposing the melody is a part of how to use a capo to make your singing easier.  Other questions to ask yourself would be: 

  1. Can I sing comfortably in the new key?
  2. Does changing the key keep the energy required to match the original artist’s emotion?
  3. Are there any falsetto notes? Can you reach them? If not, is the melody memorable enough that it can survive without them?

Step 3 – Determine how the chords maintain the original feel of the song

“Leaving on A Jet Plane” has only 3 chords, so transposing them is not difficult.  But, as you hear them in a new key, do they still adequately reflect the range and phrasing of the vocal melody?  For this example, I’m going to say, “yes”. Be careful not to go too high or too low. Key changes can alter the “feel” of the melody.  That’s definitely heading in the wrong direction.  

Step 4 – “Street Test” the new arrangment for how to use a capo to make your singing easier 

  1. Play the song repeatedly until you feel comfortable

I’ve changed the key to E down from G – a minor third, not a huge change, but enough to make it more comfortable for me to sing.   So now I just need to sing it enough to get a feel for the new key.  

2. Are differences from the original opportunities to “make it your own”?

Is the melody one that will work in any key? If so, will the changes you make preserve the original feel of the melody?  Generally, less is more. But consider a great melody like the Beatles wrote.  How many different styles have been used to carry those beautiful melodies?

Resources

More advice on how to use a capo can be found here.

Where I start with guitar chord charts: I use Ultimate Guitar  Most charts need a few corrections, but still, it’s a good place to start.

3 thoughts on “How to Use a Capo to Make Your Singing Easier ”

  1. I’m in favour of using a capo for creative purposes, but not as a shortcut to changing the key. I jam with a lot of folks who know the chords in the key of G and capo to find other keys. While it works for them, it also allowed them to stop learning. In my mind, that’s not a good way to learn music.

    To learn guitar skills, learn the new chords necessary to use the key that suits your voice. You’ll be a better player in the long run.

    1. Hi Paul. Thanks for your feedback. While I agree with your perspective on learning to play guitar, my focus in this article was centered on vocal health for performing musicians. A guitar-playing jam session should focus on improving one’s guitar skill, but the point here is to be able to endure a 3-hour performance without losing your voice. I hope this helps clarify what apparently did not come out clearly enough in the article.

      1. Larry Tinsley Pilliss

        I get the idea here and it’s a pretty cool concept. I’ve seen it all go down; swallowed kazoos and a glam band that blew their hair up in an elevator. You gotta love rock n roll, bro.

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