Repeat after me: A Capo is just a tool… A Capo is just a tool…
Over the years, a few people have approached me personally or online and have said that they considered a capo to be a “cheater,” simultaneously proffering a backhanded insult at the same time. The first time it happened, I laughed it off, and just said that it’s just a tool that I use to play the music in a key that I can sing certain songs that were originally written too high or too low for my voice. The second time it happened was after I finished playing “Something in the Way She Moves” by James Taylor, which is in the key of C, but JT capos on the third fret and plays an A shape.
I normally don’t lash out at people at my gigs; it’s just bad for business. But the facetious look and condescending tone the guy used really irritated me, even though he said he really loved that song. Then he made the mistake of telling me he was a guitar player. I said, “Cool. Now watch carefully…” Then I played the opening riff of the song for him, and asked, “You get that? Here, I’ll do it one more time,” and I played it for him one more time.
After that, I muted my guitar signal to the PA, unplugged from my pedal board, removed my capo, unstrapped my guitar, then handed the guitar to him saying, “Okay ‘Mr. Guitar Player,’ that song is in the key of C. I want you to play the opening riff that I showed you without a capo. You say the capo is a cheater. I want to see you play that without ‘cheating.’ Also, don’t forget the bass notes which are integral to everything JT plays.”
Of course, the guy balked at my challenge. But, not being mean-spirited, I decided instead to be conciliatory, so I said, “A capo is merely a tool to help me move the key to an appropriate place and allow me to play open chords in that key. I could use barre chords, but I wouldn’t get the ring that using a capo gives me. Furthermore, James Taylor used a capo in most of his songs. By your tone, you implied that players who use them are somehow lesser players. Considering that JT is a multi-millionaire and is known for his virtuosity on the guitar, would you think he’s a lesser player? Of course not. For him, it’s merely a tool.”
And speaking of making millions, do you think Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones actually gives a shit that someone calls the capo a “cheater?” Here’s a great video of the Stones doing Jumping Jack Flash at Hyde Park:
OMG! He’s using a capo!
Sorry, I know I’m being rather pissy about this, but my irritation about this got triggered from another person commenting to me (accompanied by what I thought was a smirk), “I didn’t know you have to play that with a capo. I never use one.” I just smiled and shook my head. Luckily, I realized in time that he probably had been flailing around with the song (it was another JT song: You’ve Got A Friend). So instead, I told him to go search for “James Taylor tutorials” online where JT shows people how to play his most popular and loved songs.
Whew! I almost bit the kid’s head off, and I’m glad I caught myself. But it did trigger a rather bad memory.
I know, I’ve talked about this subject before, but it bugs me because, to me, the lowly capo has always just been a tool and nothing more than a tool to get the sound that I want. And I supposed I get irked that some people just don’t see the painfully obvious. I’ve never been one to suffer fools.
Okay… rant over… Back to smiles. 🙂