Expanding Your Voice With Kyser Capos
Learn about different chord types and why bringing a capo into your practice introduce you to new voices.
Playing the guitar can be challenging at times, but using a capo allows for more freedom of expression. A capo is not just a tool to make guitar playing easier; it can make playing and songwriting a personal experience, and is a creative way to expand your voice. In this lesson, I will share how using a capo can inspire your creativity.
What is a Capo?
A capo is a clamp that can be placed on the neck/fretboard of the guitar to change the pitch of each open string. Playing the same open chord progressions and melodies from lesson one with a capo will change the keys of those progressions and notes.
An open chord is a guitar chord that uses open strings. For example: a full C major chord consists of open notes G on the third string and E on the first strings.
A closed chord is a guitar chord that doesn’t include any open notes. For example: a B major chord consists of notes that are all closed on the guitar.
A barre chord is a guitar chord that requires your index finger on your left hand to cover more than one string. A barre chord can consist of covering all six guitar strings. For example: an F major chord consists of covering at least the first two strings on the first fret with your index finger.
Note: You can still play barre chords using a capo—they even become easier because the capo helps with the string tension. For example: without a capo, a barre F chord may be more difficult to play than a barre A chord because there’s less tension the further you go up the guitar neck. This is because the closer you are to the nut of the guitar, the more difficult it is to play these chords.
Let’s use an open chord 1-4-5 progression in the key of C and play the capo on the third fret. If you play a C chord on the third fret, it becomes an Eb chord. The C chord changes three steps.
See the exercises below for reference:
Key of C: C F G C
Example: “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens.
For any guitarist, changing between closed chords can be challenging. Using a capo can make closed and barre chords easier to play because it is less stress on your hand. A capo will also make it more fun to play these challenging chords because you can use the open strings and chords for trying new voices. For example: the chords Eb, Ab and Bb can all be challenging for a beginner guitarist. Placing the capo on the third fret and using the chord shapes for C, F, and G can allow space to try something new that can be more difficult to do without a capo.
See the exercise below for reference:
Key of Eb: Eb Ab Bb Eb
Note: “La Bamba” can now be played in the key of Eb.
Exploring Your Voice
Less stress for guitar playing can allow more space for creativity, and using a capo can make it more fun. If you’re not tiring out your hand with closed or barre chords, you’re more likely to pick up the guitar and practice. Not only does a capo make guitar playing easier, but it helps singers by having the ability to change keys. If a singer is learning a song, they may feel more comfortable singing in a different key than the original—the same goes for songwriting. So the capo is useful for your singing voice and can help assist with your purpose and message through songwriting.
Selecting A Capo
Now that you know the purpose of the capo and how it can be helpful for more than just guitar playing, you will need to select the right capo for your voice. As a North Texas resident and educator, I’ve always recommended the capos of local company Kyser to my students and clients over the past 15 years. Kyser capos are efficient, durable, affordable, and easy to use. Kyser is best known for their signature Quick-Change model, with which a guitarist can easily change keys without affecting the tuning of their open strings.
Kyser is based in North Texas and is dedicated to expanding your voice. Founded by Milton Kyser in 1980, he used his voice to create a foundation of community by sharing information about a better capo and other guitar products—he even focused his time in my current neighborhood, Deep Ellum, sharing information in music clubs about their Quick-Change capo. In 2012, Milton stepped down as CEO,and for the last decade Kyser has been owned and operated by his grand-niece, Meredith McClung-Attebery. This year, Kyser is commemorating its 40th anniversary.
McClung-Attebery has continued the value of community that her great-uncle started, and as part of their 40th anniversary celebration, Kyser recently released the limited edition Meredith Signature Quick-Change Acoustic Guitar Capo to honor her leadership. McClung-Attebery is a pioneer in the music industry, and hopes to empower other women as well. “Be nice to the women around you,” she wrote last month on Kyser’s Twitter. “If you can mentor someone, then take the time to do it. We must take the time to listen to our sisters. That is half the battle!” McClung-Attebery focuses on inclusivity in the music industry and has created a company that has expanded to 35 countries and diversified its artist roster and ambassadors to include all backgrounds and proficiency levels. To further empower our voices, Kyser has created a limited edition capo for She Shreds Media: For a limited time, a portion of the proceeds will benefit Swan Strings, my 501c3 non-profit organization that provides free music education and sound therapy services for North Texas individuals without access.
About the Author
Jess Garland is a Dallas-based multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, and recording and performing artist. She has opened for musicians such as Madame Gandhi at Babes Fest 2019, and Academy member Gingger Shankar for Fortress Fest Presents Modern Music Series 2018. Jess is the President and Founding Director of Swan Strings, a 501c3 non-profit organization for free music education and sound therapy services to North Texas individuals without access. She recently released her first single, “GLOW,” available now on all streaming platforms.