The Worship Guitarist's Guide to Start Using the Cut Capo

By Gangai Victor →

A Simple Song Arrangement Principle

While arranging songs, a common principle that works almost all the time is:
2 instruments should not be playing the same thing at the same time.
For instance, if there are 2 acoustic guitars playing E-C#m-A-B, one guitarist can play the usual open chord shapes, while the other can clip on a capo at the 2nd fret and play the same chords in the D shape (D-Bm-G-A). Another alternative is to put the capo at the 7th fret and play in the A shape (A-F#m-D-E). Though the chords played by both the guitars are the same, the difference in voicing creates a better overall sound without stepping into each other's musical space.

Drop-D Tuning

Yet another creative method to get a different chord voicing is to use what is called a cut capo or partial capo or Foote capo (in honor of Billy Jean Foote who is credited to have used it first). A regular capo covers all the 6 strings while a cut capo covers only 3 strings i.e. the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings (A, D, G) on the guitar.
To understand the cut capo, you need to understand how the drop-D alternative tuning works. Typically, each string of the guitar is tuned to 6 notes. Starting from the 6th string, the notes for the standard tuning are E-A-D-G-B-E. In drop-D, the strings are tuned to D-A-D-G-A-D instead.
Yes it means you have to relearn chords shapes, but the resultant voicing variations are worth the effort, trust me! A classic worship song example is Casey Corum's "Dwell", which is played on DADGAD tuning with a capo on the 5th fret. The whole song runs on a repetitive G-Dm7-C progression using the following chord shapes:
Take some time out to practise "Dwell" to get a feel of DADGAD tuning.

Basic Chord Shapes in D-A-D-G-A-D Tuning

Now let's get to learning some common chords used in contemporary worship songs in DADGAD tuning. If you strum all 6 strings without holding down any fret, you get a Dsus4 chord. Then you can try out these shapes:

Now bring out your Cut-Capo!

If you've got the hang of the above shapes, you are ready to use a cut capo. Re-tune your guitar back to the standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning and place the cut capo on the 2nd fret. This causes the strings to sound these notes: E-B-E-A-B-E, which is DADGAD modulated to the key of E. Refer this picture for better understanding:
Now if you play all the shapes in the above chart, you will be playing the same chords, but in the key of E. So D=E, Em=F#m, D/F#=E/G# and so on.
To play chords in the key of F using the same shapes, move the cut capo to the 3rd fret and place a standard capo on the 1st fret like this:
You can keep moving both capos up the fret board to play in other keys, just keep in mind the distance between the regular capo and the cut capo should always be 2 frets.

To learn more chord shapes, simply search for drop-D chord charts, there are many available all over the Internet!
What are your favorite songs that you like to play with a cut capo?

Post Tags: