Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Playing at a jam in different keys

Soo… I walk into a jam session and they say play in a key of G… fine… key of A … fine (capo the second knock the 5th to A) but how does the chords work if they say key of D,F etc? There little chord book says the chords but they just shout out a key and crack on… I’ve watched the fret geography vids and the music theory vids… :thinking::thinking: sorry to sound thick… I just cant get my head around it…


To play out of the key of D, you capo the second fret and play out of the C position. Capo 5 c position = F

Capo 4 = B

Capo 4 c position = E

I hope that helps you!:grin::banjo: @lukewills3232


:dizzy_face::woozy_face::dizzy_face::woozy_face::dizzy_face::woozy_face::dizzy_face: what do you mean by c position etc? God my mind is melting! I just cant get my head around it!


By C position he means as if you were playing the song in the Key of C. Since your Capoed up two it will be in the key of D but u will be playing it like it is in the key of C


The C position referred to is same as a C chord shape except it is on a higher fret (above the capo.

Example: On a regular C chord your first finger is on the second string and first fret
To make a D chord form a C shape you would put capo at second fret and play a C chord shape with your first finger on the second string and third fret.
You’d need to use different chord shapes for the other chords also. The 1, 4, and 5 chords of the C shape/key are C, F, and G. So you’d need to be familiar with using those shapes to play out of C shape.

Though you could just play out of D shape and still tune up the fifth string to A.

The 1,4,& 5 chords of D are D, G, and A. So you’d need to use those chord shapes if playing out of D chord shape.

Playing in F has several possibilities. Most times I’d prefer D chord shape played with capo at third fret. (so the D shape would be three frets higher also…first finger on third string at 5th fret) There are a couple choices as to where to tune the 5th string. Some might capo to C and others may tune it down hole step to F.



Check out the BBC lesson:Banjo Capo Strategies. It might help.:sunglasses:


Here’s a helpful lesson on playing out of D position:


Thankyou all for your support. I will try and work it out… I just cant get my head around it quite yet … lol


IT all takes time.

If you run into more questions feel free to post them and we’ll help as best we can.


Really appreciated :+1:t2:


You definitely need to watch this @lukewills3232:


Thanks mate! I’ve watched but still cant get my head around it :woozy_face: when you say “C shape, D shape” etc when capoed… it’s doing me in… if the song goes from G to D then to A for instance in the key of F… :tired_face::sob::tired_face::sob: I’m burnt out… lol

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Hi Luke

Maybe this will simplify things for you.

If you have learned a tune in the key of G - Capo up two frets capo the 5th string to 7th fret or re-tune the 5th to A. When you play that same tune your playing it in the key of A. Although your using the same chord shapes you were using in G because you have moved everything up two frets your 1 4 & 5 chord shapes are A D & E

If you have learned a tune in the key of C - Capo up two frets capo the 5th string to 7th fret or re-tune the 5th to A. When you play that same tune your playing it in the key of D. Although your using the same chord shapes you were using in C because you have moved everything up two frets your 1 4 & 5 chord shapes are D G & A

The first thing you’ve really got to do is learn your chord shapes sometimes call inversions. This is foundational stuff and you need to learn and understand this if you hope to progress. Keep going back to these lessons until you memorise these shapes.


Thankyou for your time. Lol it’s really getting me this lot… I know all the major and minor chords shapes and I’m confident with the key of A and C even (I play wagon wheel and bad moon rising in the key of A) I just cant get my head around fretting for the key off D , E etc … so at the jam sessions I’ve been to they have a little book with song chords charts for each song (G-C-D for example) now playing these in the chords of G,A and C are fine as I use my capo but then it’s in the key of D of example what happens to the chords ? In there book it still says chords G-C-D … so what happens the those chords do they change? It’s really twisting my melons and I’m so sorry for asking I just cant get it… :joy: so fretting and using the C shapes or using the D shapes… is where I’m losing it… do you get what I’m struggling with?

Hey @lukewills3232,

It might help if you think about the chords as numbers instead of letters/actual chord names. 1, 4, and 5 rather than G, C, and D, etc. A 1 chord will be a 1 chord, no matter what key you’re in.


Hi Luke another way to play in D is just to tune your 5th string to A. Play your normal D shape but don’t fret the 4th string which is a big fat D. A bar chord at the second fret or an F shaped chord at the 7th fret both give you an A chord and an F shape chord at the 5th fret will give you a G. Ben has created a lesson on this topic. Look for the lesson Playing in D.

You have to understand you’re not going to memorise all these over night. Take notes, revisit these shapes every day. It can take up to as much as two years to nail this stuff.

In my experience books are only good for propping doors open and gathering dust.

Watch the videos, Listen to the sounds, absorb the advice that @BanjoBen gives you. He has put in many hundreds of hours to simplify the learning process in order to help his students progress.

Spend the time studying the lessons whilst its good to ask questions most of the answers are already there within the lesson. It may be hard to grasp the first timed round but you can always hit the rewind button as many times as you need till it makes sense. That’s what I do and I am sure other students do the same.


I think you need hands on explanation. I think I see your dilemma and I get it but your not. Don’t get frustrated . Can you pull one of those jam people aside and have them sit down with you and physically show you what the group is trying to explain? I’m guessing that would clear up all your question and that nasty headache you’ve given yourself :wink: :sunglasses: Just a friendly suggestion.


You are right thanks. I’ve managed to understand most things up until now and it’s very frustrating. I will ask if I can find someone lol thanks

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Thankyou, very helpful. It’s hard to find the right video I’m at the stage of knowing enough to be dangerous but not knowing enough to be a great player lol. I will watch the videos again… I think I need a short actual chat with someone so they can explain a bit more… just need to fi d someone… :thinking::joy:

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Good luck