Category Archives: Capo

Guitar Friendly Keys

Guitar Friendly Keys

In a lot of church bands, the pianist/keyboard player picks out the music for the band. Most digital web-based music suppliers offer their arrangements in a variety of keys. The best way to select the right key for your band is to base the choice on your vocal abilities, but sometimes taking your instrumentalists capabilities into account is also a consideration. On behalf of most guitarists, this is the order of keys that we like:

Favorites: A, Am, C, D, Dm, Em, G and Gm

Acceptable: E, F

Can Struggle Through: Bb

Avoid if Possible: Eb, F#m

Say what? Ab, B, Bbm, C#m, Db, Ebm, Fm, F#, G#m

The above list is also helpful when it comes to transposing music, because a difficult key signature can become easily played if transposed into a friendlier key. Usually the guitarist will transpose down and then use a capo to bring it back into the original key.

Here’s some examples:

Transpose a song in the key of: Into the key of: And Capo at:
E D 2
F D 3
Bb A 1
Eb D 1
F#m Em 2
Ab G 1
B A 2
Bbm Am 1
C#m Am 4
Db C 1
Ebm Dm 1
Fm Em 1
F# E 2
G#m Em 4

Dropped D Capo Position

Dropped D Capo Position

Here’s a quick guitar trick if you’re like me and transpose most songs in the key of E to the key of D and then play it capoed at the second fret.  Next time, don’t use your capo to press down on every string, shift the capo as shown in the picture so that the last string (fat E) is left “open.”  You might have to reverse the capo position to get this to work depending on your capo design (for example, put  the capo hinge facing downward).

This will give you a “dropped D” sound when you strum your D chord.  While playing a song using this technique, the only chord that you will need to change your finger pattern for is the Em, or Em7.  When fretting this chord, you will have to cover up that open low E string and actually reach behind your capo and finger the sixth string on the second fret with your index finger.

The beauty of using your capo in this manner is that you will get a real full sounding D chord and you can strum all six strings while playing this D chord.

Music for Holy Trinity Sunday and How to Transpose

On Trinity Sunday, I have chosen the song ”Father I Adore You” as a song choice.  Many congregations use this on Trinity Sunday.  There are other good contemporary song choices, such as “Glorify Thy Name”, but I chose ”Father I Adore You” because there is a portion of our congregation that normally does not sing, but they will be singing this song.  I’m talking about our smallest children, and more importantly, those too young to read.  At our church, this age group knows this song from previous VBS and other children’s activities.  I think it’s important for us as worship planners to include a song that they can join in on every once in a while.

“Father I Adore You” was written by Terrye Coelho Strom, many of us WELS types know it as LAPPY # 67.

Last week, during our monthly contemporary service, a teen in the congregation approached me after worship and offered to play her guitar in future services.  Apparently she has been taking lessons and is ready to use her gifts.  I am very excited about this because it’s a teen showing an interest in participating in worship which for some reason is an age group that we find to be difficult to get involved.

But here’s the problem.  “Father I Adore You” is written in the key of F and includes the chords: F, Gm and C.  Not a big deal for most guitarists, but for a beginner, the F and Gm chords can be difficult.  Here’s the solution: transpose.

In this instance, usually the best thing to do is to transpose down to a more guitar-friendly key, then use your CAPO to lift the pitch back to the original key.  For example, let’s transpose this song down to the key of D.  To find the new chords, we need to write down both of the major scales (F and D) as follows:

Original Key:  F  G  A    Bb  C  D  E    F
New Key:       D  E  F#  G    A  B  C#  D

Next, find the original chords in the original key (upper row), then read the new chords, in the new key directly beneath the original chords.  For example:

F becomes D
Gm becomes Em
C becomes A

The new chords are now D, Em and A which are all very easy to play.

The last thing we need to do is to find the CAPO position.  Remember that we lowered the key from F to D, which is 3 half steps (just count the number of frets between the F and D note on any one string). This means that we need to raise our pitch by 3 half steps so the CAPO needs to go at the third fret.

And here’s a neat trick; if you have two guitarists, let one play in the key of F and have the second guitarist play it in the key of D at the capo 3 position.  This will add some color and different chord voicings to your music.  Also, check your guitar tuning with the CAPO in place as this will sometimes throw your tuning off.

For future reference in transposing, here are all the major and minor keys:

MAJOR SCALE   R   -   2   -   3   4   -   5   -   6   -   7
   C  maj.:   C   -   D   -   E   F   -   G   -   A   -   B
   Db maj.:   Db  -   Eb  -   F   Gb  -   Ab  -   Bb  -   C
   D  maj.:   D   -   E   -   F#  G   -   A   -   B   -   C#
   Eb maj.:   Eb  -   F   -   G   Ab  -   Bb  -   C   -   D
   E  maj.:   E   -   F#  -   G#  A   -   B   -   C#  -   D#
   F  maj.:   F   -   G   -   A   Bb  -   C   -   D   -   E
   F# maj.:   F#  -   G#  -   A#  B   -   C#  -   D#  -  (E#)
   G  maj.:   G   -   A   -   B   C   -   D   -   E   -   F#
   Ab maj.:   Ab  -   Bb  -   C   Db  -   Eb  -   F   -   G
   A  maj.:   A   -   B   -   C#  D   -   E   -   F#  -   G#
   Bb maj.:   Bb  -   C   -   D   Eb  -   F   -   G   -   A
   B  maj.:   B   -   C#  -   D#  E   -   F#  -   G#  -   A#

MINOR SCALE   R   -   2   b3  -   4   -   5   b6  -   b7  -
   A  min.:   A   -   B   C   -   D   -   E   F   -   G   -
   Bb min.:   Bb  -   Cb  Db  -   Eb  -   F   Gb  -   Ab  -
   B  min.:   B   -   C#  D   -   E   -   F#  G   -   A   -
   C  min.:   C   -   D   Eb  -   F   -   G   Ab  -   Bb  -
   C# min.:   C#  -   D#  E   -   F#  -   G#  A   -   B   -
   D  min.:   D   -   E   F   -   G   -   A   Bb  -   C   -
   Eb min.:   Eb  -   F   Gb  -   Ab  -   Bb (Cb) -   Db  -
   E  min.:   E   -   F#  G   -   A   -   B   C   -   D   -
   F  min.:   F   -   G   Ab  -   Bb  -   C   Db  -   Eb  -
   F# min.:   F#  -   G#  A   -   B   -   C#  D   -   E   -
   G  min.:   G   -   A   Bb  -   C   -   D   Eb  -   F   -
   G# min.:   G#  -   A#  B   -   C#  -   D#  E   -   F#  -

You Are

“You Are” by Mark Roach

One of my favorite songs to strum & sing is ”You Are” by Mark Roach.  It does a beautiful job of emphasizing the names and attributes of Jesus.  I will often use it as a pre-service piece to draw our attention towards Jesus, or I’ll play it during the Offering to draw attention to the lyric “you (Jesus) are the reason I make this offering.”


We have chosen this song as another pre-service piece for the upcoming Installation service of Pastor Timothy Ehlers at Messiah Lutheran Church (South Windsor, CT) on 3/8/2009.


If you are a guitarist, Mark Roach, has provided some wonderful resources on youtube.   I now play this song with a cut capo.  If you’ve never used one before, you might want to watch Marks’ instructional video followed by his instructions on how to use the cut capo on “You Are.”  Here are the videos:


How to use the cut capo:

How to play “You Are” with the cut capo:

The finished product: