The other day, Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy member Richard asked me a few questions about the capo, and why I am such a big fan.
There are plenty of reasons which I talk about a lot, but in a moment, I’ll talk about a surprising one you may not have heard me mention before.
First, here’s an interesting fact that may or may not have crossed your guitar playing mind.
The further your fretting arm is from your body, the more weight there is to be supported
That might be obvious, but let’s relate it to the guitar in a way no one ever seems to mention.
Try this now:
- Move your fretting arm to the side of you so it is almost straight and your hand is about three feet away from your body
- Hold your arm like this in the air for 10 seconds.
- Try to relax it as you do
Then give your arm a rest.
- Now move your arm so it’s fully bent and your hand is by your waist and only about 1 foot away from you.
- Again, hold it in the air for 10 seconds.
- Once again, try to relax it as you do so.
Which feels better?
For most, the latter will feel better.
The reason for this is that keeping the arm closer to your body is naturally a little easier.
What we have done here is replicate what your fretting arm is doing when playing on the lower frets (frets 1-3) compared to the higher frets (frets 7-12).
That’s because on the lower frets (frets 1-3) your arm is in this extended position which can be more tiring…
…And on the higher frets (frets 7-12) your arm is in a more relaxed position closer to your body.
Most people are taught to play at the first fret in the beginning, as this is where they learn their first chords.
One of the benefits of a capo though, is that it effectively shortens the length of the neck of the guitar.
This means if you place a capo on fret 8 and play a chord (let’s say Em)…
…It should feel easier on the arm than if you don’t use a capo and play the same chord (because of the reasons mentioned above).
The fact that it’s easier on the arm means you can focus more on precision, good technique, and staying relaxed.
I hope that makes sense (if not, let me know as a video might be useful).
Anyway, that’s just a quick one and hat tip to Jamie Andreas for first making me aware of something this simple but very useful.
For more tips on what to play when using a capo, you might want to try my Fingerstyle 101 book/course.
Plus, page 25 has lots more useful info on the benefits of using a capo, including a way that you can use one to make ANY chord you play sound clearer in less time.
You can find out more about the book below…
P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.