Players of instruments who use capos: Have any of you ever come across a song that you wanted to use a capo on, but it wouldn't help because the song had all 12 chords of that quality?

Let me explain: Suppose you want to play a song on, say, guitar, but you can't play an E major chord (this is just an example). But OH NO! The song has all 12 major chords in it (C,C♯,D,E♭,E,F,F♯,G,G♯,A,B♭,B), so that no matter how you put that capo on, you still have to play an E major chord shape!

Has that ever happened to any of you? If so, what was the song? Are there any little workarounds to that hypothetical situations?

I'm just curious, this never happened to me.

  • 2
    I just looked up "why use a capo" on Google, and it looks like there are more reasons why to use capos than just dodging certain difficult chords (e.g. another reason is to keep using your G major fingerings to play the piece in A major). So you can transpose a piece that uses all 12 major (or minor) chords into another key. And that capo might still help you play that piece because it lets you play the difficult chords less often.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 5:40
  • 1
    @Dekkadeci your comment reads like a good basis for an answer. Why don't you write one? :)
    – Arsak
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 7:02
  • Except for maybe some very complicated jazz pieces, I really doubt there's a song containing all 12 major chords. To expand on what @Dekkadeci mentioned, another reason to use a capo could be to change the tone of the instrument. A song I wrote and play with my band has two guitar parts, one without capo playing C, and one with a capo on the fifth playing G, for example. It sounds fuller that way than to play both guitar parts without capo, but it doesn't make the chords any easier or harder.
    – Rick
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 8:09
  • I think E major is a bad example of a chord to not be able to play. It's one of the easiest by far. Perhaps F and Bb major chords are the hardest, IMHO. In fact, any song that has two major chords that are only a half step apart will have at least one hard-to-play chord, no matter how you capo it. Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 13:48

3 Answers 3


After doing some research, it seems I was wrong. There are popular songs that contain all 12 major chords. Probably the most popular one of them is:

Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

Contains the following major chords:

C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B


It also contains the following minor chords:

Cm, Fm, Gm, G#m, A#m, Bm

Full list of chords (stolen from Ultimate-Guitar): chords

There are a lot of songs that come close, mainly songs that have lots of key changes or modulations in them, like Will you be there by Michael Jackson (misses 1) or Love on top by Beyoncé (misses 2). I haven't had the time to check out more songs, though.


Even if a song has a large variety of chords in, some will most likely be more important than others. One chord shape might be one that you have to riff on for an extended period of time, perhaps moving your fingers to different suspensions or alterations; another might be one that you have to just play quickly as a passing chord. So you can set the capo such that the important chords are the easier ones to play. Any less important chords can be played in a reduced form, perhaps over just 3 or 4 strings, rather than having to voice the full chord.

Of course if you can't set the capo in such a way that all the chords are easy enough, then ultimately the answer is just to practice more, improve your technique (perhaps with the help of a teacher?) and/or get the guitar set up better. It's unfortunate how many guitars are out there with a poor set-up - high action at the nut is a particular problem.


Triads also form either the lower part or upper part of a 7th chord, so you could see if the other part would also fit in the music. So, for example, say you can't play an E major chord. See if an E7 would fit in the music. If so, play a G#dim instead. Or perhaps a C# minor would fit.

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