I've recently bought a capo and have troubles with decoding clues on the box.

Capo box

First two columns are clear: if you want to play in C or in G, do not use the capo (that is, place it above the nut); then moving the capo by one fret will increase change the key by one semitone. The only subtle misunderstanding is that I thought that classical EBGDAE tuning corresponds to E minor / G major and cannot see where does C come from: it is neither parallel nor relative key.

What intrigues me most is the last two columns. The grid seems to depict first five frets of a six-string guitar. But what is the meaning of four small bold rectangles and the purpose of the Fret/Nut table as a whole? Is it a handbook for those not knowing how to count to five, or there is some hidden sense I cannot understand?

  • 4
    Including instructions for a capo feels a bit like including them for tooth-picks.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 18:28
  • 3
    @Tetsujin Straight to the point. That's why being unable to understand the clues for an obvious device confuses me even more. Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 18:44
  • 1
    You might find the chart found here (music.stackexchange.com/a/30935/16897) easier to understand. Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 20:59

3 Answers 3


It’s just relative. They could have listed all 12 keys, or only one. Instead they’ve listed capo positions relative to two chords, G and C; it’s useful to give a couple of common examples. I guess they do this to show the principle; you can then extrapolate this to other common chords (the CAGED chords spring to mind: C, A, G, E, D).

So, the diagram just tells you which chords C and G become when using the capo at different frets.

A guitar isn’t “in” G or Em, despite the open strings being close to the tonic chords of these keys.

  • Yeah... but they have said KEY C and G. There seems to be an idea that an open guitar is 'in' those keys. I'm not defending the idea, but that IS what the instructions convey.
    – Laurence
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 16:58
  • 1
    Seems pretty obvious to me. Maybe I’m missing something. The key of C becomes Db, D, Eb etc. The key of G becomes Ab, A, Bb etc. Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 17:26
  • The keys of C and G on guitar are the ones that use the classic, first few lesson, open chords. You can play all of the chords in those keys quite easily and generally without having to learn how to bar anything. For a large number of songwriters they stick to just those for a long period and just use a capo to shift around. To that end, the keys of C and G are the easiest to play on guitar, CHORD wise at least! So for such a player wanting to add new key possibilities with a capo it's how it alters the C and G key's that are likely to be the most important to them. In western pop, at least.
    – OwenM
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 20:19

You are being suggested which keys will be easy to play in with the capo in different positions. And how the C and G shapes will be affected by the different capo positions.

The FRET column is unnecessary, unless you need showing what the 1st fret looks like! I don't think the bold rectangles mean anything in particular. I think NUT is just the first entry in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd... list, rather sloppily presented.


Something's been lost in translation! 'Above' would be better translated as 'on'. It shows which chords, not keys, can be played using those particular open chord shapes. It pre-supposes that C and G are the most commonly used open shapes - which obviates the shapes E and A (and D). Maybe the author preferred 'cowboy chords'!

Don't read much into the 'instructions', which patently obviously didn't start out in English. While trying (!) to be helpful, they confound quite well...

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