Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Discuss the Banjo lesson: Banjo Capo Strategy

I’m all for folks carrying capos as long as there’s proper training, so let’s do it. A capo is much more than just a fun word to say.

Why do you have re-tune the 5th string after you capo it? I don’t see you doing that on the other 4 strings.

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Great question. Due to the nature of the 5th string spikes, they pull that small diameter string more sharp than a standard capo.

Wow, a lot going on in this lesson. OK. I get what you mean by G position since the banjo is in open G tuning. And I know from talking to people that I can play the same chords, strings, and licks that I would in G position for the Key of A if I move up 2 frets. I do not understand why it works like that, but I take their word for it. I would think there would be issues with some notes not fitting into the new chords since we have half steps to go from b to c and e to f.
I got completely lost though when you started talking about playing in a different position. Wouldn’t you have to use different chords, and strings for that? Are there other lessons that discuss what it means to play in different positions?

Playing in a different position just means fretting your root chord rather than playing it open like you would in open G.

What Ben says in the C&D position video is that you really don’t want to capo above the 5, possibly the 7th fret. So, is you wanted to play a song in E, rather than capo at the 9th fret, you could capo at the 4th fret and play in the C position (like when you play in C without a capo.)

Learning to play in the D position is even more powerful because that position can be moved anywhere on the neck to play without a capo. Same thing goes for the F position.

Hi Joe, bask in the knowledge that Earl Scruggs and others before him figured all this out for us. All we need to do is slap on a capo and play out of the G, C and D positions and we have most things covered :star_struck:

OK, so I mapped out chords and keys using the WWHWWWH and then looked at what G,C, and D look like in open G position on the neck. Then moved everything down 2 steps for A and saw that C and D position make D and E chords -which are the chords in the key of A. Since everything is just moved up the same number of steps, I now get how that works. I am still working on trying to figure out the other positions. If I make a D or F position chord, I know I can run that down the neck and make G, C, and D at different spots. Ben covered that in the backup lesson. But those positions are only one chord. How do I know what to change to for the other two chords in a key? It is easy for the capo ones, I just make C and D and automatically have what I need for whatever note the capo is covering up for the G string.

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See if this helps you out visually.
BanjoCombinedChordInversions.pdf (318.3 KB)

Just think of each position as a group of positions. So, for example, in an F shape (position) the F shape is your 1 chord. To play a 4 chord, you can either barre the fret where your ring and pinky fingers were in the in the F shape, or you can made a D shape 3 frets lower. For the 5 chord, you can either barre 2 frets higher from where your ring and pinky fingers were in the F shape, or make a D shape 1 fret lower.

Look at the document I attached and find the D chord made with red dots. The 1, 4, 5 of D is D, G, and A. So, start with the red dots of D, then go to any color combination of the G and A chords you like. No capo required.

Let me know if the chart makes sense.

I cannot download the file for some reason. I think I get what you are saying though. It has to do with triads and which note you use for the root. I have a book that explains that. I think going through that might help me.

Bad link @Mark_Rocka buddy

OK, I read the book I have on triads and I think I get it. Since in open G, the IV and V chords are at 5th and 7th frets, that is the same pattern for the root, 1st, and 2nd inversions. So, if you want to play in key of C for example, you can start with C chord shape (which is the same as “D” chord shape or 2nd inversion, just using 3rd string open) and move to 7th fret for F and 9th fret for G (since C chord is at 2nd fret - 2 + 5 = 7). It also makes sense now why the Nashville numbering system is so popular. It is much easier to think about things in I, II, III, IV, etc for chords knowing how the patterns repeat themselves, rather than key of A means I need to know D and E chords on the neck. I guess what threw me in Ben’s videos is that he was fingering and rolling through notes in those patterns as he explained it. If it would have been shown similar to the banjo backup lessons part 2 & 3, it might have made more sense the first time through. :slight_smile: I did learn a lot in the process though mapping this out for myself.

I don’t know if I am an Intermediate yet, but I just started those lessons and wouldn’t you know it, the first lesson talks about this exact thing. LOL

I uploaded directly to the board, so not sure what to do about it. If anyone wants it, shoot me your email in a PM and I’ll email it to you.

I thought that might be the case, just a heads up @Mark_Rocka

hi guys

so if we learn a tune in open G say "Wreck of the old 97 " and then attempt to learn to play out of the C/D positions does that mean all the tasty G licks we’ve used are then unavailable to us and we just focus on the chords and melody?


Not all the licks are wasted, as both C and D share so many chords with G, but the context for the licks would be different, yes.

Ok thanks Ben for that and it would be great if theres a lesson that shows a song in G and then how to play that in C/D as an example… maybe there is already and i’ve not got to it yet

Thanks for your help…

Your wish is my command:

thanks i thought you might have done one… :+1:

Very good info. I have always had trouble trying to play along with a fiddle. Something about it, I just lose the melody. So today I visited an old time fiddle club meeting and played along as best as I could (which was not the greatest, but was fun). Anyway, they switch keys on nearly every song. It was G, A, D all afternoon long. I was prepared for the A tuning, but the D really threw me. I was capoing where I’ve never capoed before. It was very strange. I had seen this video but had not gotten to really focusing on the method (especially playing in D out of the C position). I’ve got a lot of work to do on this topic.

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