Have you played a song that’s out of your voice range?
I’m sure you do.
Apparently, you may soon realize that it’s a bit tricky if you want to play that song with the pitch that you’re comfortable with.
Here’s the problem when you want to sing a song in a different key. You’re going to play it in a new chord pattern that you’re not familiar with.
Now, there are two ways to deal with this. Either you practice a different chord progression for the song that you’ll be playing or go into the easier method.
Well, it turns out, there’s a smarter way to change keys with ease on your ukulele when the need arises.
Use a ukulele CAPO.
What is a Capo?
Capo is a short-term for capotasto, which means, “head of the fretboard” in Italian. A capo is like a moving nut that you can adjust anywhere on the fretboard. It’s a small accessory that you can strap around the neck of your uke to keep all the strings aligned on the same fret.
When you clamp a capo on the fret, you are basically changing the functional tuning of your uke. What makes it convenient is that instead of trying to relearn the keys and fumble around, just slap a capo on the fingerboard and you’re good to go!
In today’s lesson, I’m going to show you how to use a capo on the ukulele. You’ll learn how to play any song that you like without having to go through the difficulty of practicing a new chord pattern just to fit the song with your voice range.
When do you need to use a capo?
There are three good reasons why you have to use a capo.
To change the pitch of the song.
There are instances that the pitch of the song is too high or too low for you and you want to change the key to match your voice. Capo will help you change the pitch to a different key without changing the chord patterns that you are accustomed to playing.
For example, a song is originally played on the key of E but it happens that your voice is better suited on the key of F. However, you still want to play the original chord pattern using the E chord shape instead of playing the song on the F chord. What you need to do is to simply use the capo and clamp it on the first fret.
What happens is that the pitch went one fret higher to match the F chord. What’s cool about this is that you can still play the E shape chord pattern even if the tune of your uke is on the F note. You just saved time from relearning a new chord pattern on the key of F.
To give your left hand a rest
There are songs that require excessive use of barre chords. And when you play barre chords for many hours, your left hand will soon start to get tired.
One way of “cheating” your way into playing ukulele for long hours is to use a capo. Your fretting hand deserves a break when it needs it.
Using a capo creates a different tone
Try to play a G Major Chord. Listen to it carefully. Now have a go and put a capo on the fifth fret and play the D Major Chord.
Did you notice any similarities?
Well, both chords that you just played are in fact G Major chords. Are you clueless why did that happen? That’s because D Major is one of the movable chords that you can use to play different tunes(there’s a music theory behind it but that’s for a future post).
Now, play both chords again and observe how they sound. Basically, they are similar but one has deeper tone while the other has a high pitch.
Playing with a capo changes everything on the fretboard. The chord shape that you play turns into a different chord when you use a capo.
TRANSPOSING WITH A CAPO
Now that you know how a capo works, let’s go ahead and see how it affects the keys on your ukulele. Here are some chord examples to get you started:
1. Capo on the first fret.
E becomes F
D becomes Eb
A becomes Bb
B# becomes B
2. Capo on the 2nd fret.
F becomes G
D becomes E
Bb becomes C
C becomes D
3. Capo on the 3rd fret.
A becomes C
C becomes Eb
F becomes Ab
D becomes F
There are a lot more combinations but you can begin practicing with those examples that I mentioned.
Now, let’s say for example you are suddenly called out on stage to accompany your friend to sing “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley. You know how to play the song on the C Major but your friend’s voice range is more comfortable on the key of D.
No probs! Just put your capo on the 2nd fret and viola, you just saved yourself from guessing which chord pattern you’re going to play on the key of D. By using the capo, you’ll be able to play the song on the key of D using the C chord shape pattern.
Here's James Hill using a capo to keep up with Anne Janelle's vocal range.
Some think that using a capo is a form of “cheating”. You’re not supposed to use it as a substitute for learning different chords and keys. But, I have to admit that it is still a “butt-saving device” when you are in a tight situation wherein you are suddenly called out on stage to play a song in a different key that you’re not familiar with.
In general, a capo is a tool that can make your life easier when playing the ukulele. Just don’t forget to master those different chords and use capo only when needed.
You still don’t have a capo in your arsenal? I have a good news for you. We have a nice looking capo in our store. You can get it HERE.
What to try next...
If you are thinking about getting your first uke, then you have to know more about the best ukulele for beginners.