... NEW LESSON: CAGED - How to Use it -- follow up to the original CAGED lesson ....

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Kirks Guitar and Music Primer

Because of the tuning and design of the guitar, some keys are easier to get around than others. We twangers do like the jangling sound of open strings, but keys like F#, G#, A#, C# and D# consist of chords that have no open positions. They also require us to play endless barre chords in a typical progression, which (lets face it) no one really enjoys doing, especially if you're just starting out. The way around it? Whack on a capo, and play the same progression using familiar, friendly and open chord shapes. Capos come in many shapes and designs, but they're all just clamps that act as a moveable nut. Below are just a few of the many types. I've pretty much tried them all and they all have their pros and cons. I prefer the kind that are designed to come right down on the fret wire, or very close to it, because they don't exert any downward pressure on the strings. The kind that are designed to clamp behind the fret wire do tend to add tension to the strings, sending them slightly sharp and throwing the tuning out. You don't really want to be re-tuning every time you clamp one on, and tuning with a capo clamped on is dicey anyway. Watch the movies to see what kind I recommend.

The main use, as I touched on above, is to eliminate the need to play in awkward, guitar-unfriendly keys. I've posted a transposition table here to help you figure out just how to do that. You obviously need to clamp the capo on further up the neck to enable you to use friendlier chord shapes, and there are usually a couple of possibilities. The other way to use them is to play a progression, whether in a friendly key or not, in a new position. By doing so you will (obviously) be playing higher inversions of those chords, since you'll be playing higher up the neck, and you'll find that it all becomes more sparkling and cheerful sounding up there. Many players also like the feel of the guitar better when they have the capo clamped on; it tends to lower the strings and brings the action down.

If you play in a duo or a band with more than one guitarist, it's often a good idea for one of you to play the chords with the capo on. If both of you are playing the same chords in the same positions, the overall sound tends to get muddy and thick. If one player capos up the neck and plays the same progression in the new position, the combination sounds much 'wider', airier and more musical. See Movie 2 to hear for yourself.

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