Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Transposing, key changes and capos

So yesterday I did something unpardonable… I capoed my mandolin :scream::scream: (stone the heretic, I know) I did it for my voice cuz I was singing and wanted open chords, but the sound of the mandolin was so different capoed that I played for quite some time moving the capo around cuz it made the instrument fresh and new in a sense, and it was fun hearing tunes in different keys.
So that’s not a question, just I encourage you to try capoing your instruments to add some fresh interest.

Also, the other day I was messing with BlackBerry blossom, and I figured it out in D, and in that key I really emphasized the E chord in the A part (an optional chord, that I really like) and I was wondering, do any of y’all ever randomly transpose tunes? I do frequently on mandolin, fiddle, and especially guitar, it adds some interest to tunes, and also helps work my knowledge of the fretboard.

So if you never transpose, change keys, or use a capo, I recommend you do so, even if the bluegrass police come and knock down your door…


I put a capo on my harmonica. Didn’t do a dang thing! :rofl::rofl::rofl:


I was gonna say something about capoing a mando, but I found myself doing just that this evening (playing capo 2nd fret A pos to get the nice D and E. in the key of B).

I haven’t tried that. I wonder if it would change the tone, at most. :wink:

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No, but playing a different key harmonica can get the same effect of freshness.

Also, I can’t link it, but I saw a video Sierra Hull put on Instagram advertising a saxophone capo, and she had Eddie Barbash playing gold rush in A, then she clipped on the capo and he started playing in Bb, and she took it off and on a couple times and he never missed a beat. It was hilarious and awe inspiring simultaneously


Yes, I’ve transposed songs/song breaks that I knew in one key to accommodate the singer who needed a different key. & sometimes (during practice) the singer goes back & forth deciding between 2 different keys…:thinking::confounded::grin: I dont even have a capo, but I’ve contemplated capoing not for purpose of making it easier for me, but because sometimes I just really wanted those open strings ringing out in certain songs. @Dragonslayer you mentioned transposing helps your fretboard knowledge - my knowledge of the fretboard is pretty shameful, I play (breaks) mostly by finding the 1st note of the key, then picking out the scale (however I couldn’t tell ya the individual notes’ names in that scale) to get a ‘bearing’ to where I kind of need to be, then by ear from there. If it’s a live situation like a jam & I dont know the song, (& if I’m not too nervous!) I kind of follow some of the singing along by ear quietly so I’m sort of ready if I get a break. I definitely need to work on learning notes of the fretboard, I can read notation, so learning that would be huge… the BG police :rofl:! I’d already be 6 feet under if they came here, 2 & 3 finger chop chords yup…


Note names? I also wouldn’t have a clue, I meant it helps you learn shapes on the fretboard, and which dot aligns with which key. For example if I’m playing the guitar I know where to find a G chord up the neck in the D shape, because I transpose songs there.

That’s how I do it also

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Three…I play mostly by shape & number. I can identify the notes if I have to…I just don’t think that way when playing.