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I hope this makes sense because I'm always conflicted.

An example song is Taylor Swift - dorothea

I know that Taylor would use a capo but since this is a piano song with some arpeggios, I can't decide if it would be easier with chords for capo 2nd or capo 4th.. or which capo position she would actually use

@transcribers, how would you decide this?


An easy one to decide is if the song is in Ab, the obvious capo is 1st fret but it's tough to decide for piano songs

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  • Reading the related questions and answers should provide adequate information. This is probably a dupe.
    – Tim
    Dec 12 '20 at 8:23
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Given the key of Ab major, presumably chosen because it helps the singer sound her best, the capo at first fret allows you to play it like it was in G. Lots of easy chord shapes there.

If it had open-string licks, those might require you to play out of E shapes and capo at the fourth fret, or perhaps higher for C and D shapes. That would put the capo very high on the neck. It's done, but it isn't the most common.

A lot depends on what chords you need. Using G as your base would give you Em as an easy vi chord and Am as the ii, but you don't have a non-barre choice for your iii unless you use B7. Playing out of D would give you an easy iii with Em without any jazzy dominant sevenths getting in there.

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Not sure how important it is that the song is in key E, but we'll use that as a basis.

Since it uses the three main major chords, and a couple of minors, we'll say that all six chords should be available. Let's check out the five positions.

Key E, open chords, E, A and B7 all straightforward. F♯m, C♯m and G♯m need barring.

Key E, capo 4th fret. Shapes are now C, F and G. Minors Am, Em, Dm. All 'open' shapes, barring (sic) F.

Key E, capo 2nd fret. Shapes now are D, G, A. Minors Bm, F♯m, C♯m. Majors 'open', all minors need barring.

Key E, capo 7th fret. Shapes are A, D and E. Minors F♯m, G♯m and C♯m. Majors simple, all minors need barring.

Key E, capo 9th fret. Getting unmanageable on some guitars! Shapes are G, C, D. Minors are Em, Am, Bm. All open except Bm.

Those are the options, they're based on CAGED system, simply speaking. Choice comes from voicings, playability, and reachability. Some players would stick to one position - with use of a capo, why not, others would go for the sound of the voicing, along with which strings work best for arpeggios, others would eschew the capo altogether, while yet others might opt for a capo on a low fret, but also use barre shapes higher.

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