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How to Use a Cut Capo

Lynne Modranski is a wife and mother who enjoys a variety of film genres, but always prefers movies with less than an R rating!

In 2006, I was at the New Church Training Academy and watched one of the leaders put two capos on his guitar. I've used one capo ever since I learned to play, so I had to find out what that second capo was for. That was the week I discovered the Cut Capo, also called a "Short Cut".

An Easy Way to Play Guitar

A traditional capo covers all six guitar strings, changing the key of the instrument. It's extremely handy for those of us who primarily chord and aren't very good at bar chords. For instance, I can't play in the key of Eb. So, I put a traditional capo on the first fret and play chords as if I'm in the Key of D!

A cut capo alone doesn't change the key of the guitar. When you use the cut capo by itself, the guitar is always in the key of E. By adding a traditional capo you can use cut capo fingering all the way up the neck. My favorite feature of the cut capo is the Celtic sound it adds.

So keep reading, and I'll give you the basics of the capo and give you a place where you can purchase one!

Using a Cut Capo

The cut capo is an excellent way for beginners to start playing quickly, but even more than that, it gives a very interesting sound for seasoned guitar players. The cut capo always goes on the second fret. Its short pad will cover the A, D and G strings leaving the E, B and E strings open. This creates a six string sound of E, B, E, A, B, E.

The true beauty of the capo is that it only requires one or two fingers to play every chord option. When played at the root (with the capo on the 2nd fret), the chords are in the Key of E.

The I Chord

The I chord (one chord) in this root position is an E chord. As you can see in the diagram to the right, it requires only one string to be held. Using the middle finger, hold down the third string in the second fret past the capo. The drone sound of the open E gives it a beautiful Celtic sound.


The IV Chord

The second most popular chord you'll play with your new found capo is the IV chord (the "A" chord when played at the root). To create this chord, you press the bass E string on the third fret past the capo and the next string down on the second fret past the capo. I don't play the bottom (higher) strings very often when I'm trying to get the more Celtic sound.


The V Chord

Finally, let's look at the V Chord (the B chord when your cut capo is on the second fret). To play this chord, you press the third string on the first fret past the capo and the fourth string in the second fret past the capo. These three chords will get you started on any song you'd like to play.

Find any simple song in the Key of E and these three chords will take you far! But keep reading, because I'll show you a few more chords and give you my faves to play with this capo.


What If I Want to Play in Another Key?

You can play in keys other than E. It's really quite simple. If you already play with a traditional capo, then you already have the basics. Wherever you put the traditional capo, place the cut capo two frets past it.

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Read More From Spinditty

For those who are less familiar with capos, you'll find a chart on this Cut Capo Chord Sheet (PDF). As you know, when the cut capo is on the second fret, you are in the Key of E. If you put the traditional capo on the first fret (moving the cut capo to the third fret - 2 frets past the traditional capo), you are now in the key of F. The I Chord (one chord) is now an F chord, the IV is now a Bb and the V is a C (use it instead of a C7). The transposition moves up the guitar 1/2 step at a time.

I recommend that you keep it between the key of E and A. Going much further up the neck than that loses some of the nice deep drone.

Two Great Christian Cut Capo Songs

I am a Christian musician. I really don't have time to rehearse much music that doesn't run in that genre. So while a cut capo can do amazing things in nearly every style of music, what I can offer are primarily Christian songs. Here are two of my favorite on which to use the cut capo.

"Be Thou My Vision" by 4Him

This is an old hymn that I reworked to give it a more modern sound. Clicking on the link will take you to the lead sheet with chords.

In between each line, we pause for one measure and I use my pinky on the high E string to create the sustained sound and the second chord (move the pinky from the 3rd fret to the 2nd). I use a similar technique on the 2nd and 3rd lines, creating a Bsus by putting my pinky on the second string 3rd fret in between verses.

This song has a lovely Celtic feel when we use the cut capo. My daughter didn't even realize it was an ancient hymn when we started using the song at our church. To hear the hymn in its original form, check out the 4Him version below.

"Praise You With the Dance" by Casting Crowns

This is a Casting Crowns song that is wonderful with that Celtic sound. You'll find chords online, or contact me and I'll be happy to share.

More Cut Capo Chords

Occasionally, you'll need a minor chord, and in one or two songs I've needed the VII Chord (also known as a D when the capo is at the root). So here you go!

The 2M Chord

The IIm (Two Minor - an F#m in the root position) uses the chord shape of a traditional Em. Yep, just press the 4th and 5th strings in the second fret to create that F#m.


The VIm Chord

The VIm (C#m) is one of the tougher cut capo chords; however, I have a shortcut for it! You can play it as pictured there below, but it also works by simply holding down the fifth string in the second fret from the capo. (Yeah, just forget those two strings on the fourth fret.)


The VII Chord

I've found the need to play a VII Chord (a D Chord) on occasion. To do that, you simply hold that B string on the first fret from the capo. This chord will sound very dissonant, because the rest of the strings are more E focused. However, especially when you are going for the Celtic sound, it reminds you of that drone you hear in a bagpipe.


Have you ever tried a Cut Capo?

Lynne Modranski (author) from Ohio on May 20, 2013:

@EzLoanLookUp LM: Try it! You'll love the celtic sound you get.

EzLoanLookUp LM on May 20, 2013:

Been playing guitar for years but have never used one of these! Sometimes I use a traditional capo on the second fret and leave the low E string open to achieve a drop-D tuning, but I have never used a capo like this before.

getmoreinfo on April 01, 2013:

Such an interesting tool for using with a guitar. Looks like a helpful way for beginners to learn to play guitar.

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