I have to use a capo on the 8th fret to be able to sing along to a song. What is an alternative to putting a capo on 8? I only know basic chord fingerings.

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    Quite dependent on the actual chord shapes you need at that 8th fret. – Tim May 15 '17 at 7:45
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    Yep, as Tim says, it depends upon which shapes you're using at fret 8. It's likely you'll be able to find chord shapes that will work with the capo at fret 1 or 3... possibly fret 5... Any chance you could show us the music? – Bob Broadley May 15 '17 at 10:17
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    If you could write down a few of the chords you're playing now, we might be able to suggest a good capo placement that originates chords that are also easy to play. – s.m. May 15 '17 at 14:12
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    Put a capo on 7 and tune up a half step? Seriously, this question needs more detail. Why don't you want to put a capo on 8? Do you not have a capo at all? Do you want a capo closer to the nut to give you more room? Do you just not like using a capo? There are infinite alternatives - to be helpful we need to know what the problem is that you're trying to fix. Why don't you want to put a capo on 8? – J... May 15 '17 at 18:03
  • Here are some of the chords I am using for the song on the 8th fret: Verse/chorus: Em Bm Cmaj7 G D/F# Prechorus: ||: Am7 - C - (G) :|| Dadd4,9 Bridge: ||: D Cadd9 Em D/F# G :|| Cadd9 Dadd4,9. My voice seems to sound better with the song played on the 8th but my guitar meets the body at the 12th fret hence why I need an alternative. – sxn May 16 '17 at 5:00

Here is something else that might help.

A capo allows you to use a familiar set of chords from one key to play a song in a different key. So for example if you are more comfortable playing the chords used in the key of G (chords like G, C and D) but you want to play a song in the key of A you could just put a capo on the 2nd fret and then fingering a G chord will allow you to play the notes of an A chord and the other chords would also be fingered like the chords from the chord set used for the key of G - but they would sound like chords from the key of A.

So if you want a song to be in a key that would require you to play chords that you would rather not play, you can use a capo to play the same chords by using the fingering for chords that you prefer. Unfortunately, to get to the key you want with the chord set you want, in some cases you might end up on the 8th or 9th fret (or worse) making the working space much tighter and likely playing an octave higher than if you played without a capo.

If there is only one set of chords that you can play, your options are limited. If you tuned the guitar a step sharp you could move the capo to the seventh fret but then you would have to re-tune to play anything without a capo that you did not want to play a half step sharp. Also, the higher string tension would exert more stress on the neck which might require a truss rod adjustment and would make the strings harder to push down to the frets.

If you are able to play enough chords to play in more than one key, you can find a different capo position that will allow the use of an alternate set of chord shapes to play the same key as what you get by putting the capo on the 8th fret using whatever chord set you are using now.

The chart below will help you find some possible alternative capo positions and corresponding chord sets.
Capo Chart

If you take one of the chords (could be major, minor or 7th degree) from the first vertical column in yellow as the chord shape you want to play, the columns under 1 - 11 will give you the chord that will it will sound like if you put a capo on the fret indicated by the number at the top of the column and play the chord in the 1st column.

So if you want to find alternatives for using a capo on the 8th fret to play a certain song using preferred chords but having the music sound out in the key you want to sing in, first know what key the chord shapes you are using now is derived from. For example if the first chord you play is a C and you also play a F and a G, you are most likely using the chord set for the key of C.

But as you can see on the chart, placing the capo on the 8th fret would make the chords sound in the key of G# (which is the same on guitar as Ab) G#/Ab is not a popular key for guitar because there are not many chords in that key that can be played in open position. So using the chord set for the key of C with capo on 8th fret will allow you to play the song more easily.

To use the chart to find other options, once you know what key you are singing the song in by playing C chords with capo on the 8th fret (in this example G#/Ab) then find other boxes where the same key appears (G#/Ab in the example). Then follow that row horizontally to the first column (yellow) and see what key is in the first box.

This way you can find other chord sets that can be used with different capo positions to play the song in the key you want to sing in but using a set of chords that are easier for you to play.

Some possibilities in our example would include Key of D chord set with capo on 6th fret, Key of E Chord set with capo on 4th fret or F chords capo 3 or G chords capo 1. So if you are comfortable with any of the chord sets mentioned above you can move the capo closer to the headstock and still play the song in the key of G#/Ab using chords from the key of either D or E or F or G.

You can use the website linked in the answer by Lee White to make the process of transposing all the chords from the set used for 8th fret to the corresponding chords used in the alternative set of chords you select.

So in the example used above, if you were playing C chords with capo on 8th but wanted to use G chords so the capo could be on the 1st fret instead, you could use the transposition chart to determine the chords in G that correspond with the chords used when playing the song using the C chord set. Technically you won't actually be transposing the song because either way it will sound in the same key (G#Ab in our example). But the methodology to determine the new chords to use for the G chord set is the same as if you were transposing from C to G.

I hope this makes sense and will help you find an alternative that works for you. Good luck and have fun!

  • Wow, thanks for that thorough explanation. I need to take lessons to get a grasp of what key my voice is actually in. I currently just play basic chords with my capo up and down the neck to see what sounds best. This list totally helps! – sxn May 16 '17 at 5:06
  • @sxn - voices don't come in keys. You'll probably already be aware that one key or capo position will not do for all the songs you sing. You only need to grasp what your range is, then you'll be able to find an appropriate key for each song. – Tim May 16 '17 at 11:51
  • @Tim You are correct - we don't usually say someone's voice is in a certain key - but rather the range of one's voice would predicate what key's best suit their voice. I think sxn meant he/(she?) wants to gain a better understanding of what keys he/she can sing in comfortably that best suit the range of notes his/her voice can reach without strain or compromise. – Rockin Cowboy May 18 '17 at 2:10
  • @RockinCowboy - yes, I was trying to point out that there is no best key for an individual's voice. There is, however, a best key for each individual song for that individual. Sometimes a choice of several keys, within maybe a fifth range, if the range of that song itself is small - say only an octave - which is not uncommon. The time problems arise is when several people are singing harmony, at that point, compromises have to be made, to suit each and everyone's vocal range. I've suffered with that problem since I started singing harmony back in the '60s. – Tim May 18 '17 at 7:19

You can set the capo to any fret you want, and then transpose the chords.

For instance, a G-fingered chord with capo on the 8th fret is in fact a Eb chord. If you set the capo to the third fret, you can achieve the same by placing your fingers in a C chord shape.

Here's a nice website that helps you to transpose chords. Play around with it and see what works best.

  • I wouldn't say any fret then transpose. Unless one uses barre chords, when there's maybe no need to capo. For instance, capo fret 8, play E shape, get C chord. There are only 4 more fret positions for capo to play open chords - 3, A shape; 5, G shape; 10, D shape; and open/12, C shape. Not just anywhere! – Tim May 16 '17 at 11:56
  • That is a very good point. – Lee White May 16 '17 at 17:16

A capo on 8th fret transposes 8 semitones. Which is a augmented fifth. I suggest you transpose the song a fifth up (the new tonic will be the original dominant). If the original song had "nice" (for the guitar) chords, then probably the transposed version will also.

Some transformations:

F -> C

C -> G

G -> D

D -> A

A -> E

E -> B

B -> F#

Then you could either add a capo on the first fret (if you want an exact equivalent to your 8-th fret), leave out the capo and sing a semitone lower (it should make little difference, if it's only a matter of voice accomodation).

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    +1 for the transpose list. But as the OP said they only know basic chord fingerings, so do you think they'll find useful the terms semitone, augmented fifth, tonic, and dominant? – LCIII May 15 '17 at 17:29
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    Another way to simplify this suggestion is: capo on the first fret and then move every chord down one string (down meaning to the lower sounding string or the next string closer to the ceiling). For example, an A chord with capo 8 changes to an E chord on capo 1. Change C to G, change D to A, change E to B, G to D, F to C, etc. Note that B goes down to F#, not G, because that interval between the G and B strings is four frets instead of five. – Todd Wilcox May 16 '17 at 0:28
  • Seems like the OP only wants to/knows easy to play chords. B and F# hardly come into that category. – Tim May 17 '17 at 11:28

Simplest solution, giving you only one 'nasty' chord - F - is to capo on fret 3, and change all the names up four letters. Thus Em > Am, Bm > Em, Cmaj7 > Fmaj7, G > C and so on. Same key as before, mostly friendly chord shapes, comfy capo position.

  • Playing an Em shape with the capo on fret 3 will result in a Gm chord. Presumably you meant to write 'fret 5'. – No'am Newman May 16 '17 at 13:07
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    @No'amNewman - no, I meant change the Em shape into an Am shape, change the Bm into Em, and so on, as that keeps the key the same, and also keeps the majority of shapes simple(ish). The key of the piece isn't too clear - it may well modulate, but if OP first played Em shape on fret 8, that's coming out as a Cm sounding chord. So, I kept the same sounding chords throughout by capoing on 3rd fret, and changing names, thus shapes, of all chords in the same way. – Tim May 16 '17 at 13:57

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