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View Full Version : Who uses a uke capo, how and why?



Fleacia
08-08-2015, 05:16 PM
Just ordered a Planet Waves uke capo. Thought I'd ask here what y'all do with it. It's something to do besides watch the package tracker. :D

So. Why do you like a uke capo?
And what do you do with it? Obviously, it changes keys. But what else do you do? Different tunings? Cover some strings and not others? Kris Williamson did a song called "Strange Paradise." Is that what a capo is?

I understand and sometimes use one on guitar. Mostly to change keys and still use my limited chord-shape vocabulary. LOL. I know the uke fretboard much better, so I think it will be more for experimenting than changing keys specifically. But I still think it will be fun, and look forward to playing with it.

Welcome your thoughts and ideas!

Hippie Dribble
08-08-2015, 05:24 PM
Have you tried tying it round your neck and taking a big run up....hang on, no wait :p

mikelz777
08-08-2015, 05:24 PM
Mostly to change keys and still use my limited chord-shape vocabulary. LOL.

This is pretty much it as far as I know. I had one but didn't like it. It interfered with my hand in certain chord shapes, particularly those where there was more than one finger on what would be the new first fret under the capo.

It would be pretty handy to quickly find a key that is comfortable for your singing voice by moving the capo around until you find it. Then you could continue to play with the capo there or take the capo off and play the song with the chords that fit that key.

k0k0peli
08-08-2015, 05:57 PM
I had one but didn't like it. It interfered with my hand in certain chord shapes, particularly those where there was more than one finger on what would be the new first fret under the capo. And that is why I hate capos. I'm a fingerpicker and I'm conversant enough with chord forms, progressions, and transposing to change keys, usually. Or else I change instruments! But my big hands do not accommodate capos except on a 5-string banjo's widely-spaced frets.

Rllink
08-08-2015, 06:12 PM
I got one early on and tried to use it. Like Mike says, it gets in the way sometimes. And while it is an easy way to change the key of a song with capo, it does have limitations. It really depends what key the song you are trying to play is in, and what key you want to go to. You can only go up the neck so far. I still use it sometimes, but not a lot. But changing the key of a song is not that hard. I can even do it in my head sometimes. Also, I sometimes change the key to get easier chords in the progression, and the capo is not going to help you out there. But I'm not saying it is a waste of money, because it can be handy, just don't expect it to magically make you a better player.

Captain Simian
08-08-2015, 06:46 PM
I have the PW capo and I like it a lot. I personally have nothing against capos at all especially if you're playing in a group and singing like I do.

The band I'm practicing with now is guitar, uke, upright bass, reed organ, and cajon for the most part but there is some switching of instruments among us for certain songs. One of the songs we're doing is Trouble. On the record Lindsey Buckingham tuned up a 1/2 step. When I learned what the chord shapes were without a capo I knew there was no way I would be able to focus on playing and singing my harmony part at the same time. While I don't recommend it as a shortcut to learn difficult chords it does make life easier especially if you're performing.

janeray1940
08-08-2015, 06:58 PM
I never understood the point of a uke capo since I learned moveable chords really early on and therefore wouldn't need it to change keys. But a couple days ago the subject of capos came up while talking with a friend who is a much more experienced player than I am, and he said he sometimes chooses to use a capo to be able to use first-position chord shapes in other keys; the point of this is to have more open strings that can ring out longer. The topic came up in the first place because someone asked me if I was interested in playing on their record, and I was until I found out that the song was in E - not most uke players' favorite key! Using a capo would be one way to get around that. So - that's two potential uses for one :)

katysax
08-08-2015, 07:30 PM
I hate capos - but I did use them sometimes on guitar. On ukulele I suppose it could be useful while playing and singing to allow use of easier chord shapes. It could also be used to allow different voicings that one would get using movable chords (although one could also use alternate tunings to do that). On the whole though it is so much easier to move chords around the fingerboard on a ukulele than on a guitar that I think there is very little use for a ukulele capo.

mds725
08-08-2015, 10:15 PM
I use a capo on the rare occasion where playing a baritone ukulele in the key of F would be seriously complicated (it requires using the chord shapes I'd use to play a tenor uke on the key of Bb). I can play most songs in F on a baritone, but some fast paced songs that have variants of B and Bb in them (requiring the use of chord shapes for playing E chord variants on a tenor uke) are difficult for me. Capoing a baritone at the fifth fret converts it to a tenor uke for the toughest of those songs.

kypfer
08-08-2015, 10:27 PM
I'll use a capo to play along with a recording 'till I figure out an arrangement/key where I don't need it, usually where the recording is in a "uke-unfriendly" key in the first place. A capo can also come in useful when I need "just that extra semi-tone" to suit my voice to a tune, but it rarely gets beyond the first or second fret on a ukulele.

As others have noted, they can get in the way with larger hands ... useful on the 5-string banjo or crashing out big chords halfway up the neck on a 12-string guitar ;)

kissing
08-08-2015, 11:50 PM
Basically it's a handy little tool for the occasional instance where it is convenient to shift your key up a semitone or few higher.

This could be to play in tune with other instruments tuned in different keys, and it is inconvenient to change all your chords.
Let's say there is a song in the key of C, and you have chords for playing the song in the key of C.
However, the instrument you are accompanying happens to play in the key of C#. Then the easiest solution to play together would be to capo the first fret on the ukulele.

Fleacia
08-09-2015, 06:45 AM
I got one early on and tried to use it. Like Mike says, it gets in the way sometimes. And while it is an easy way to change the key of a song with capo, it does have limitations. It really depends what key the song you are trying to play is in, and what key you want to go to. You can only go up the neck so far. I still use it sometimes, but not a lot. But changing the key of a song is not that hard. I can even do it in my head sometimes. Also, I sometimes change the key to get easier chords in the progression, and the capo is not going to help you out there. But I'm not saying it is a waste of money, because it can be handy, just don't expect it to magically make you a better player.

I don't expect magic from anything. Just asked a question... I'm already a good player and I get better regardless of the tools I have handy. What I expect, is an experiment. Those of us who can't have new ukes sometimes buy strings, barring that, capos, instead!

I like the ringing strings idea and think that will be helpful. The one problem I have with the uke in general is not as much sustain as I'd like.

Rllink
08-09-2015, 07:08 AM
I don't expect magic from anything. Just asked a question... I'm already a good player and I get better regardless of the tools I have handy. What I expect, is an experiment. Those of us who can't have new ukes sometimes buy strings, barring that, capos, instead!

I like the ringing strings idea and think that will be helpful. The one problem I have with the uke in general is not as much sustain as I'd like.Well, you don't have anything to lose by getting one and using it. Like you said, you just asked, so I just answered. I have one, and having it certainly has not hurt my playing in any way. Have fun with it. I think that the one you are getting is the same thing that I have.

Tootler
08-09-2015, 12:20 PM
Like has been said elsewhere I find it useful for changing key while still playing 1st Position chords as I like to have open strings ringing when I'm playing. However, as has also been said, it gets in the way as there's not really enough room on a ukulele fingerboard. It's just about manageable on a tenor. A much better solution, I have found is to retune some of my ukuleles so I have the equivalent of various capo positions. A ukulele being small, I don't find it a problem to take two with me to singarounds, open mics and similar events. I usually take a soprano tuned to C6 and a tenor tuned G6 and I find that covers most keys I sing in and gives me some flexibility as well since I can choose one or the other for many keys.

I reckon a baritone would be easier - closer to a guitar in size - but I have my tenors tuned DGBE so I feel no need for a baritone.

katysax
08-09-2015, 04:10 PM
I don't expect magic from anything. Just asked a question... I'm already a good player and I get better regardless of the tools I have handy. What I expect, is an experiment. Those of us who can't have new ukes sometimes buy strings, barring that, capos, instead!

I like the ringing strings idea and think that will be helpful. The one problem I have with the uke in general is not as much sustain as I'd like.

Buying a capo to experiment is a great idea. Even though I hate them I have experimented with them. I do think it helps stave off UAS to go for gear instead.

Tootler
08-09-2015, 11:27 PM
I like the ringing strings idea and think that will be helpful. The one problem I have with the uke in general is not as much sustain as I'd like.

Chords with open strings are the norm in folk music. In fact, many folk guitarists use open tunings which give a range of one and two finger chords. These tunings need a capo to play in other keys. Even in standard tuning, they will mostly stick to first position chords and use a capo to change key. The guitarists I know at the folk clubs I go to all have capos and use them. I think the same may be true with country music, given the reference to "cowboy chords" I see from time to time - often used disparagingly. Ukulele is not that common in the UK folk music scene, at least not where I live but those that do use much the same approach of first position chords.

With these genres, there is little use of extended chords. Most songs are harmonised with basic major and minor triads and their sevenths. There is little or no need for augmented or diminished chords or extended chords such as 9ths, 11ths or 13ths. You will get, however the brief addition or removal of a finger to give "passing" harmonies.

With folk song, the focus is on the words and the accompaniment should be simple and unobtrusive - it's there to support not dominate. With instrumental music, plucked string instruments will either play single string melody or, if strummed, function mainly as a rhythm instrument and a percussive strum is often employed.

Sporin
08-10-2015, 12:56 AM
I use a capo when the song sheet says "capo 1" or "capo 2" or "capo 3" etc. at the top. :) :) :)

Sounds like most of you guys are more advanced players, or are talking about plucking notes. But I'm a chord strumming singer who most often plays with friends and lots of songs are in a slightly different key. A capo lets you play first position chord shapes (which is what most folks know best, or only know, me included).

Booli
08-10-2015, 03:24 AM
Most of my tenors are NOT tuned GCEA (oh the HORRORS and blasphemy - haha - cue the public beatings! :deadhorse: :wallbash:), they are tuned DOWN to either F-Bb-D-G, or E-A-C#-F#.

(BTW Martin M620 strings are GREAT for this provided you do NOT first tune them UP to GCEA, and they settle to pitch MUCH quicker, also Aquila REDS do NOT snap when tuned in Bb or A like they do in C6 tuning).

If I am in a group scenario (or trying to play along to a YouTube tutorial), where others are in GCEA, I will capo accordingly since re-tuning the strings higher will basically kill their ability to hold the lower tunings if I were to afterward (like the next day) tune them back down (too floppy and dead, intonation completely askew), since tuning higher permanently stretches them in an undesirable way. Plus, I despise the higher tension and lack of sustain on a tenor in GCEA tuning.

Putting a capo on retains the tension, keeps the strings from stretching out, and gets me to pitch in the same key with folks tuned to GCEA, so it solves a few problems. I do not use a capo otherwise.

If I need to change keys, either I learn the chords and practice until I know it in my head without even having the uke in hand, or I transpose to a different key where I can fudge chords for at least either the root and 3rd or root and 5th and either mute the other strings, or find an octave, unless with sus4, add9 and m9 chords which have more color and flexibility for substitution.

For the record, my concert ukes are all GCEA as I like that tension and sustain better, and my sopranos are in A-D-F#-B. It seems to feel and sound better at those tensions and tunings for those scales, and on concert and soprano, I do not use any capo.

Tootler
08-10-2015, 03:31 AM
I use a capo when the song sheet says "capo 1" or "capo 2" or "capo 3" etc. at the top. :) :) :)

Sounds like most of you guys are more advanced players, or are talking about plucking notes. But I'm a chord strumming singer who most often plays with friends and lots of songs are in a slightly different key. A capo lets you play first position chord shapes (which is what most folks know best, or only know, me included).

Nowt wrong with that. Song accompaniment needs to be simple. The idea is to support your singing, not dominate it with fancy stuff and first position chords will work absolutely fine much of the time. Some types of song need extended chords in which case, you'll need to learn to play them but if you're not into those styles of music then no need to learn them.

What gets me is the sniffy attitude of some jazz players who say you've got to play moveable shapes or you're somehow an inferior musician. What they don't seem to take into account is

1) Not everyone plays jazz and that other musical genres have a different approach

2) Your aims and ambitions may be different from theirs

3) How do they know what your musical background is anyway? You may have just as wide a musical knowledge with ukulele being just one part of your musical activities.

Nickie
08-10-2015, 03:48 AM
I use a mandolin capo on my uke only one song, because otherwise it's a little too low to sing. I don't really know what I'm doing, or what key that is, but my ukes are tuned the standard gCEA.....it just makes that song easier for me to sing.
I don't know many barre chords yet....but I'm learning.

geetee
08-10-2015, 04:20 AM
Most of my tenors are NOT tuned GCEA , they are tuned DOWN to either F-Bb-D-G, or E-A-C#-F#....

....For the record, my concert ukes are all GCEA as I like that tension and sustain better, and my sopranos are in A-D-F#-B. It seems to feel and sound better at those tensions and tunings for those scales, and on concert and soprano, I do not use any capo.

And this almost describes how I feel about the use of a capo, which is as a scale length reducer. Your tenor capoed at the second fret becomes a concert scaled (15 in.) instrument. Capo at the fourth fret and it's a soprano. And your F-Bb-D-G tuned tenor maintains the tunings you prefer for those scale lengths. And if you're curious how it would feel to play a Kamaka Ohta-san, capo at the first fret.

Booli
08-10-2015, 04:29 AM
And this almost describes how I feel about the use of a capo, which is as a scale length reducer. Your tenor capoed at the second fret becomes a concert scaled (15 in.) instrument. Capo at the fourth fret and it's a soprano. And your F-Bb-D-G tuned tenor maintains the tunings you prefer for those scale lengths. And if you're curious how it would feel to play a Kamaka Ohta-san, capo at the first fret.

Yes! This is a great way to describe and think of using a capo. :)

PeteyHoudini
08-10-2015, 01:50 PM
Great thread and thanks everyone for sharing your capo experiences. 8-)

I have a Shubb "LITE" ukulele capo and it's very, very light. It's a bit tricky to learn to adjust at first, but it really adjusts well once you know how to fit it properly. Works great on a soprano and tuner. Big hands are always an issue with any capo.

I find a capo often useful if a video tutorial is in D6 tuning so I can use capo up and play the open chords like I normally would. Voila!

Petey

Tootler
08-11-2015, 05:42 AM
I've just got a Planet Waves NS Ukulele capo and what a neat little capo it is. At last I have a capo that I can use
comfortably, even on a soprano. This will make it possible to sing songs when I am out that I have tended to neglect.

rappsy
08-11-2015, 07:25 AM
And this almost describes how I feel about the use of a capo, which is as a scale length reducer. Your tenor capoed at the second fret becomes a concert scaled (15 in.) instrument. Capo at the fourth fret and it's a soprano. And your F-Bb-D-G tuned tenor maintains the tunings you prefer for those scale lengths. And if you're curious how it would feel to play a Kamaka Ohta-san, capo at the first fret.

Using that guide on a tenor, would a 16 inch scale be on the first fret? How close is it to actual scale if you used it at the 1st, 2nd (concert), or 4th (soprano) as you mentioned above?

Fleacia
08-11-2015, 07:51 AM
Update... Got the Planet Waves capo and like it a lot. For some reason it didn't register in my head at the time, but this is the exact capo I use on guitar, just scaled down a lot. Same workings, tension adjustment, etc. And I like the guitar capo, so functionally this one is the same.

As I expected, I like using the capo to play 1st position chord shapes up the neck. Of course it changes keys as well. But I like it for the ringing open strings. It's not something I'll use all the time but then, neither is the guitar capo.

Funny though, the uke capo costs more than the guitar version... But I do like it, it doesn't get in the way, though sometimes the guitar capo does! I think if your uke has a 1.5" nut, this capo might be a tight fit, or even a bit too small. My uke is 1 3/8" and the capo fits nicely.

geetee
08-11-2015, 03:08 PM
Using that guide on a tenor, would a 16 inch scale be on the first fret? How close is it to actual scale if you used it at the 1st, 2nd (concert), or 4th (soprano) as you mentioned above?



The best way I can describe 16" is to put a capo on the first fret of your tenor and see if you like it.

You inspired me to measure with a yardstick. I found 16 inches at the 1st fret, 15 1/4 inches at the 2nd fret, and 13 1/2 inches at fourth fret. Close enough for me.

Colonel Uke
08-12-2015, 04:31 AM
I'm the only uke player in a small band with a couple of guitars and a bass. Having a capo around is handier and faster than transposing when they suddenly decide to capo up a few frets on their instruments. That's about the only time I use mine.

Ondrej
08-12-2015, 10:26 PM
But what else do you do? Different tunings? Cover some strings and not others?

I use Kyser capo. Configurations cut capo [2220]. String"A" is without a capo. But I guess I'm the only one.:(


There are demonstrations
https://youtu.be/Fd-u9doncqA
https://youtu.be/zl6jWUt5UGQ
http://osos.sweb.cz/Partial-Capo-2-2-2-0.pdf

phil_doleman
08-13-2015, 09:29 AM
Capos are a great tool. On guitar I'm happy playing in ll keys without one, but sometimes there are those songs or arrangements that just need to be played out of certain shapes (fingerpicked blues tunes with little runs and riffs that need open strings, folk tunes that don't sound as good without the ringing sustain of open strings).
On the uke I don't use one much (I do have on in my Bb tuned taropatch case, so I can stick it on fret two and jam along with other C tuned players when I don't want to engage my brain!), however my most common use for it is when working out spongs from recordings. They're usually not 'uke songs', most often fingerpicked blues guitar, and I KNOW they'll work better in C or F or G, but the record is in E. I stick on the capo, play along with the record to work out how to make it fit onto the uke, then take off the capo when I've done and play it in the new key. Beats tuning the uke to the record every time!

Ukejenny
08-14-2015, 11:47 AM
I use m capo to quickly get a song in a key that I can sing. Say, if a song is too high or too low for my singing range, a capo can oftentimes bring it down or up to what I'm comfortable singing.

bnolsen
08-14-2015, 12:44 PM
I have a uke capo. I use it on my basses to do a truss rod adjustments. I also used a short while on my baritone to test whether or not a wider neck might work for me.

Thankfully my voice is in the same range as almost all tabs I find. That includes the daily ukulele books and any hymn books, etc.

Ukejenny
08-15-2015, 04:41 AM
Thankfully my voice is in the same range as almost all tabs I find. That includes the daily ukulele books and any hymn books, etc.

Our bunch has found the Daily Ukulele book to have a lot of songs that seem too high for us. We transpose them up a bit and then drop down the octave to get them in our happy range.

bernd
09-04-2015, 02:55 AM
I use it on my Baritone Ukulele. 5th fret and Im good to play soprano tuning with low G. Cheers.

JonThysell
09-04-2015, 07:10 AM
I use a capo on the rare occasion where playing a baritone ukulele in the key of F would be seriously complicated (it requires using the chord shapes I'd use to play a tenor uke on the key of Bb). I can play most songs in F on a baritone, but some fast paced songs that have variants of B and Bb in them (requiring the use of chord shapes for playing E chord variants on a tenor uke) are difficult for me. Capoing a baritone at the fifth fret converts it to a tenor uke for the toughest of those songs.

Bari + capo is a great combo, esp. when playing with others who want to play in c-tuning friendly keys. I avoid capo-ing at the 5th fret since it gives me so little room/sound - I've found capoing at 3rd fret max is the way to go. I just take all of my songs that are hard to play and experiment with capoing on frets 1-3 to see if I can make it easier.

buddhuu
09-05-2015, 09:09 AM
I don't use a capo on uke, but I use one very frequently on acoustic guitar because there are certain chord voicings I like that aren't available in some keys without a capo.