If you’re a performing songwriter like me, or just a performer, you might find yourself feeling stagnant and falling into the same patterns of playing or writing, using the same chord progressions. Here’s an easy way to breathe some fresh life into your playing: Capo up!!
I don’t mean just changing the key of what you’re playing already. I mean, explore the possibilities created by using a partial capo. These devices change the tuning of the guitar itself with just the squeeze of a spring, or the snap of a locking clip.
The partial capo expands the realm of possibilities of what you can do with a guitar, similar to the way altered tunings offer new options. The capo has several advantages over altered tunings in that you don't have to retune for each new song, and you don't have to re-learn the fingerboard with each new capo configuration, the way you do when you try a new tuning.
In addition, it allows you to sound like you are in an open tuning, while also allowing you to still play "normal" sounding chords when you want to. So in the same song you could sound like you were in an alternate tuning and also sound like standard tuning.
Just like a tuning, a partial capo gives you open strings in new places. Especially if you play solo, having the ability to add depth to the chords and combinations of tones you are already playing is a HUGE advantage.
There are now about 16 kinds of partial capos, and new ones show up every year now. The list includes capos that are totally universal like the Third Hand and the Spider Capo, and also single-purpose capos that clamp 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 strings, rather than all 6. Brands include Shubb, Kyser, Planet Waves and more. Harvey Reid has a great list and pro/con discussion of the various capos on his site partialcapo.com.
There are a few comprehensive and simple to use resources that will help you make the most out of partial capos. One I like is Randall Williams’ book, The Partial Capo Guitar: The Basics, Tips, Tricks, and More published by Hal Leonard, available almost everywhere.
I have used partial capos effectively in a few of my songs. Not only is it fun to play in new ways, but it has added another layer of interest to the sound I am able to create.
Singer-songwriter Laura Zucker wins audiences over with a hard-won perspective and a positive spin. The powerful imagery of her songs and stories ring so true you might think she’s read your diary – and you’ll find yourself humming her infectious melodies for days to come. She’s a two-time finalist in the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk competition in Texas, 2013 West Coast Songwriters Association Best Song of the Year, and has received numerous accolades and awards from the organizations around the world. She has released three CDs of original songs and is poised to release the 4th, "Life Wide Open," early this fall. More at LauraZucker.com