If these terms seem like complex guitarist speak, let me assure you they are not all that complicated.
All you need is the right tool to help you learn these concepts quickly and enrich your guitar playing.
And this guide is that tool for you.
To be honest, the first time I saw a guitarist using a cut capo, I was amazed… and intimidated too! It seemed so complicated and challenging. But the variations in sounds and voicing were irresistible… I wanted to learn it… badly!
As usual, the Internet came to my rescue with tutorials and chord charts.
Still, it took quite a bit of effort and time to understand how the cut capo worked.
You know why?
Because I had to scour the web going through multiple sites to find all that I needed—took a lot of my time! And that almost stopped me from learning the cut capo.
I’d hate to see that happen to someone else.
That’s where this guide comes in! It’ll make your learning simple, quick and super easy!
If you want to read this guide later, you can download a PDF version right now! Just provide your email-ID (you’ll also be subscribed to our mailing list—don’t worry, you can unsubscribe anytime).
Cut capo or partial capo—what is it?
A cut capo is similar to a common capo in the sense that both are clamps fastened over the strings of the guitar.
The difference lies in the number of strings covered:
The standard capo covers all 6 strings
The cut capo covers only few of the strings
While there are many varieties of partial capos, this guide features the most popular type—the one that covers 3 strings—G, D and A (3rd, 4th and 5th strings).
It’s also called ‘partial capo’, ‘short cut capo’ or ‘Foote capo’ (in honor of Billy James Foote).
What it does is change the tuning of the strings to DADGAD but in the key of ‘E’ (more explanation will follow, keep reading).
It’s fun to use a capo ’cause you can get the strings to really have a bell-like sound. It’s a thing I got into when I was writing songs. When I started to really write a lot, I would use the capo to try different keys and different combinations.
– Carl Wilson
You might be wondering:
Why should I use a cut capo?
First, the good news:
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or advanced guitarist—the cut capo can be used by anyone!
Now to the benefits. Allow me to mention just two of them:
If you’re a beginner, the cut capo facilitates ‘one-finger’ chords, so you can concentrate on improving your strumming technique. In fact, this is useful for kids to start learning the guitar too!
If you’re an experienced guitarist, the cut capo changes the tuning of the guitar thereby altering the voicing of the chords. It helps you explore alternate shapes even for ordinary chords adding more color and richer dynamic to your playing.
And the best part?
The capo and the cut capo can be invaluable when arranging multiple guitarists in a band.
How to use the cut capo and DADGAD chords to better arrange musical instruments
While arranging songs, remember this effective principle that works almost all the time.
Multiple instruments should not be playing the same thing at the same time.
For e.g. two guitarists strumming the open ‘E’ chord simultaneously.
What’s wrong with that?
Well, there’s no point in having two guitars if they are only going to play the same stuff, right?
Here’s how the capo and cut capo can help.
Regular open E chord
Regular open D shape chord
In this case, the first guitar is playing the typical open ‘E’ shape, while the second is using a regular capo on the second fret and playing the regular ‘D’ chord.
Though both are playing the same chord, the capo modulates the key of the second guitar to ‘E’. The ‘D’ shape chord has a different voicing that complements the traditional chord shape of the first guitar.
When both are combined together, we get a richer and more colorful sound, how cool is that!
And it gets better with a cut capo:
DADGAD chords: the key to mastering the cut capo
Open D chord in DADGAD tuning
To understand cut capo chords, let’s cover some basics of DADGAD chords.
The cut capo + DADGAD = magical open sounds!
Starting from the 6th string, the notes for the standard tuning are EADGBE.
In DADGAD tuning, the strings are tuned to… well DADGAD:
So here’s the deal:
As mentioned earlier, the cut capo covers only 3 strings i.e. the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings (A, D, G) on the fret board.
So the tuning of the strings change to EBEABE, which if you notice, is the same as DADGAD, but each note raised by two notes:
D modulates to E, A to B, D to E, G to A, A to B and D to E.
So, you get to play all the chords in DADGAD tuning! Just remember, you are in the key of ‘E’.
Sound like a pro by playing in different keys with the cut capo and DADGAD chords
So far, we have learnt to use the cut capo to play in the key of ‘E’.
Let’s extend this to other keys.
Take a regular 6-string capo and clamp it on the first fret like this:
Now add a cut capo on the 3rd fret like this:
Now, if you play DADGAD chords, you will be in the key of ‘F’.
Move both the capos by two frets and you will be in the key of ‘G’:
Keep moving both the capos up the fret board to play in other keys.
Isn’t it great?
How about playing a song now? Let’s try “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin.
The whole song can be played with just 4 chords: A, F#m7, D and E.
So, fit your regular capo on the 5rd fret and the cut capo on the 7th fret and use these chord shapes to play the song in DADGAD chord progressions:
Since we are using capos, the chords will be modulated to the key of A as follows: D = A, A = E, Bm = F#m, G = D.
Do take some time out and practise “How Great is Our God” with these chords to get a better feel of DADGAD tuning.