I've read through many forums and tutorials and am still very confused. I'll give an example to make this easier to understand: I'm trying to learn "Across the Universe" by Fiona Apple (https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/fiona-apple/across-the-universe-chords-148212) and there are two chords (Fm & F) that require a capo. However, this would render the rest of the chords (C, Am, Em, Dm, G) different once I put the capo on the first fret.

Would I just play these chords on the 12th fret and end up with the same thing? Do I have to somehow take the capo off to play those chords normally? This has been really confusing and frustrating so if anyone could help I would really appreciate it. Thank you!!


They don't require a capo, they're just bar chords. IOW, you basically just use you index finger as a temporary “capo”.

If you haven't learned full bar chords yet (they require quite some strength, especially the F ones when played on steelstring acoustic), you can approximate them with half-bar ones.

For the Fm in the songs verse it's pretty much enough to play only the three treble strings, with either barree over only those strings on first fret, or three separate fingers (like an A-major chord, but everything one string up and one fret down). Or you can just slide the Dm fingering up three frets, that's also an Fm voicing and would work quite nicely in this place.

The F major in the chorus is harder to replace. Often, F major can be substituted by the easier Fmaj⁷, but in this case I don't really like it. A better option might be playing only the bass half of the chord, I.e. an F powerchord.

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  • 2
    The ultimate-guitar link does say to use a capo on the 4th fret so first put the capo on the 4th fret from the nut, and then play all your chords from there. When it tells you to play C it means "play a C chord as if the capo was the nut". In this instance you're actually playing an E chord, but it looks and feels like a C. This is separate to the chords, as mentioned in this answer, the "bar" on the chord diagrams is a finger bar. For F this means the capo stays on 4th fret, but your index finger is barring (pressing all strings) on the 5th Fret. – Thomas Clayson Sep 1 at 9:58
  • Good, that should actually make the full bar chord easier. – leftaroundabout Sep 1 at 11:16
  • To practice bar chords, you can actually use a capo. Bar chords are easier to play on higher frets and are hardest on the 1st (=F), as leftaroundabout has mentioned. If you struggle to play a full bar F, put a capo on the 5th fret and try to play the song here. Instead of an F, you'll now have to play a A# (=bar chord in 6th fret). It won't match the original, but that doesn't matter for practice. Once you master the bar chord on higher frets, you can move the capo to lower frets until you can play a bar chord anywhere. – infinitezero Sep 1 at 11:37
  • After learning Fmaj7 as an alternative to F (which, as you said, doesn't always fit), I modified the Fmaj7 back to F by laying my index finger on the two thinnest strings. It's a complete F chord, without 7th, and it doesn't require a barre. It's the first variation here : sixstringacoustic.com/5-ways-to-play-the-f-chord-on-guitar – Eric Duminil Sep 1 at 12:51
  • @EricDuminil yes. That is actually still a bar chord, but only a small one. – leftaroundabout Sep 1 at 13:27

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