Why do they call it a “capo?”

Most of the words surrounding guitars seem like they come from analogies to the real world. “Head,” “neck,” and “body” are obvious. “Bridge” is a bit of a stretch, but still makes sense. But the word capo is a strange one. It has no parallel in the real world, so I went to find out where it comes from. Off to the Online Etymology Dictionary!

Turns out “capo,” like a lot of other musical terms, comes from Italian. The Italian word capo literally means “head.” They say capo tasto to refer to a capo, meaning approximately “head of the fingerboard.” So there you have it. I guess since “head” was already taken, we had to come up with something new.

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Why Learn Music Theory?

So you’re a guitarist. You play by ear, you play what sounds good. You’ve never taken any theory lessons, and that hasn’t stopped you from writing kick-ass songs. Why should you care whether you’re playing in a minor key or a major key? Why should you care about intervals and note names and chord alterations and chord substitutions? Well, I’ll tell you why.
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Welcome to Guitarator

Allow me to introduce myself: your friendly web-app programmer, web-log writer, entertainer, time drainer, and site maintainer. On stage I call myself Eddy Boston, musician. On the job I’m Edmund M. Sullivan, software engineer. To my friends, I’m Ed or Eddie or Eddy or Sully.

In this space, you will find a new article twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, covering music theory, guitar, songwriting, performing, and music software. Hopefully somewhere in that swath of subjects is something you seek.

The theory lessons will start out at the most basic level, but will quickly progress to advanced topics. So if you find them too easy or if they contain things you already know, never fear: just check back later for the more advanced lessons. In any case, they will be interspersed with anecdotes and observations that I find interesting.

Also on this site is a useful collection of applications for guitar players. The Chorderator allows you to type a chord name in an intuitive way, just as you would write it in standard notation, and see how it is played. You can find fingerings in alternate tunings, and you can add a capo to see how the fingerings change. The results page also includes a handy list of related chords – all possible intervals and some suggested substitutions.

The Scalerator is similar, but allows you to look up scales. It will show you how to play any one of a large variety of scales, in any key, in any tuning, at any place on the fretboard.

The Chord Designer is a sort of “reverse Chorderator.” You lay out where on the fretboard you are putting your fingers, and the Chord Designer gives you the name of the chord and even lets you listen to what it will sound like.

More applications are constantly being added, and the site as a whole is under constant development, so check back frequently.

I hope you enjoy the Guitarator. Rock on.

-Eddy Boston