30 September 2007
Guitar chords can be roughly divided into open & movable. An open chord uses one or more open, or unfretted, strings. Open chords can only be played in one position. Movable chords don’t include any open strings and, thus, can be played in many positions on the fretboard. If I play a movable C chord, I can shift up two frets to make it a D chord. Many movable chords are called barre chords because they involve using one finger to fret multiple strings, which is called a barre. A capo (which I pronounce kāpō) is a device that allows a guitarist play open chords in different keys. For instance, if I put a capo on the second-fret of a guitar in standard tuning, I can play a D chord using the fingering of an open C chord. I used to call capos “cheaters”. Voicing is the arrangement of notes in a chord. For instance, a C major chord can be played as CEG or as GCE or as CEGC. Since guitar chords are usually played on four to six strings, there are potentially many voicings of any chord. Open chords tend to have a greater variety of voicings that movable chords. A variety of voicings tends to sound better than fewer. So, a capo isn’t cheating, it’s simply making better music.