Want to quadruple the amount of songs you can play on the ukulele?
If the answer is YES! Then get a CAPO!
Many are the times we can miss out on playing some beautiful and great songs because they involve awkward chord positions. One way to remedy this would be to drop or raise the key of the song so that we can eliminate some of these irksome chords.
The problem with this is that you can’t play along with the original version. The solution for this is simple… put a Capo on your ukulele, raising the key while still playing chords that are much simpler.
Capo’s are one of the most low cost and highly satisfying accessories that you can buy. Prices start as little as £3 and a really high end one is only £20. It really will maximise the amount of songs that you can learn without ever having to learn them awkward chords.I recommend these capos below, delivered to your door, you will be increase your ukulele repetoire ten fold, as soon as you clip it on!
Three Of My Recommended…
There’s nothing more that my Over 60’s Ukulele group enjoying playing than your old standard , up-beat rock n roll songs. 3 or 4 simple chords, a straight forward 4/4 beat and you’re off-nothing to worry about! Equally, a guaranteed way to make our ladies and gentlemen balk and roll their eyes is to present them with a song containing barre chords like Bb or chords that involve stretching apart all 4 fingers in uncomfortable positions such as E Major.
Budapest using simplified chords in the Key of C Major (photo credit: Jim’s Ukulele Songbook)
This is all well and good but transposing can also render the songs difficult to sing: containing notes too low to project vocally or too high to reach.
It was in one session in which we were learning The Rolling Stones’ song ‘Satisfaction’. The song was printed in the key of D Major, containing simple D, G, C and A7 chords.
Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones in the key of D major (photo credit: Jim’s Ukulele Songbook)
The group love playing along to instrumental backing tracks, but sadly the backing was in the original key of E Major: a whole tone higher to the chords we had printed. I then printed out the song in the pitch key of the backing track which was E Major:
As you can see this version contains 2 chords which our group really struggle with: the B7 barre chord and the E Major chord. How could I retain the more simple chords in D major to fit the pitch of the backing track which was E Major? This was where the trusty capo came in!
A capo (pronounced ‘kay-poe’ or ‘cappo’) is a device used on a stringed instrument to raise its pitch eliminating the need to tune all the strings to a higher pitch, running the risk of snapping them or placing unnecessary tension on the instruments neck.
The word derives from the Italian capotasto, which means the nut of a stringed instrument. The nut of the instrument is the strip of material by the headstock which the strings pass over running all the way down to the saddle.
When you place the capo over a particular fret you are shortening the length of the playable strings, therefore lifting its pitch to a higher key.
By using the example of ‘Satisfaction’ we can see how the capo made it possible to play the song using the easier chords in the key of D Major, yet sounding in pitch with the backing track which was in E Major.
Capo placed on the 2nd fret of the ukulele
By counting up the frets from where the capo is placed and using the same finger positions as the easier key of D Major the capo has now shifted the whole key and we could happily play along to the backing track!
Capo on 2nd fretD Major becomes E MajorG Major becomes A MajorC Major becomes D MajorA7 becomes B7
What else are Capo’s useful for?Just after the passing of legendary British comedian Ken Dodd, we decided to record our own tribute to him by playing his hit song ‘Happiness’. A great song using easy chords…or so we thought! Little did we know that half way through the song it modulates by a semitone from G Major to the Key of G# Major! Yikes!
So how did our group cope with all those tricky sharp chords? Answer: we cheated!Well, sort of…
When it came to the modulation we quickly attached our capos to the first fret, thereby instantly shifting the pitch from G Major to G# Major. Not technically the ideal way to play the song, but it certainly saved our players from getting sore and strained fingers!
Which type of capo should I purchase?
There a many types of capos out there but here are some of the best I can recommend.
The Elastic CapoThese capos are the cheapest in price. You place the bar of the capo across the strings, pulling the elastic around the back of your ukulele neck then fastening the capo by hooking one of the metal rings on the elastic around the pin at the opposite side of the capo’s bar.
The Spring loaded capo is a mid-range in price and speedy to use, enabling you to attach and remove with ease. You simply squeeze the two grips of the capo as if opening a clothes peg then placing the capo around your preferred fret.
A really popular capo on the market is the G7th Ultralight capo which contains a screw fasten mechanism that is easy to use and guaranteed to eliminate any fret buzz.
C-Clamp CapoThese capos are more reliable than the spring loaded capos as the screw mechanism enables the player to tighten the clamp without any fret buzz or loss of tuning. They may take longer to put in place than the spring loaded version, but are much more reliable.