Understanding theory behind a tune- keys, etc.


SRVFan2000
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Joined: 06/01/21
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I am learning FERAL ROOTS by Rival Sons. It is in Drop D tuning. He also uses a Capo at the 3rd fret. It says it is in Fm. I am a bit confused as to what exactly is happening here with respect to music theory, key, etc. I believe his notation (and noted key) does NOT factor in the capo being at the 3rd fret (common practice in tab) yet if I play over the main riff at Fm (penta pattern) starting at the 13th fret, it works great. I ignore playing the top E string because it doesn't work since it is tuned down a whole step to D. There are only a small handful of notes in the tune so it doesn't really even fit a key perfectly- something I have leaned lately. Key is just a convenient word- for many tunes, it is much more about the actual notes used and chord changes. By contrast in Blues- key means a lot and I can use all the notes.

So my question is, would it still be in Fm if the capo is at the 3rd fret? Probably not but then why does it work at 13th fret. Am I in Fm but changing a voicing? If I go backwards from 13, the 3rd fret is closer to the 2nd position in the pentatonic scale pattern- not the first position.

What is actually happening with the addition of the drop D tuning and use of the Capo at the 3rd fret?


# 0
ChristopherSchlegel
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Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000

It is in Drop D tuning. He also uses a Capo at the 3rd fret. It says it is in Fm.[/quote]

I'm not familar with the song but that tuning & key would work together pretty well to make a lot of open strings available.

Normally the 3rd fret of the E string is a G note. But you are tuning the E to D. So that makes the 3rd fret of the low E string an F note. And the rest of the strings are convenient to the key as well.

e|--3-(g)----|

b|--3-(d)----|

g|--3-(b-flat)|

d|--3-(f)----|

a|--3-(c)----|

d|--3-(f)----|

All those bass notes are Fs & C; root & 5th in F. The other notes are consistent with a F dorian sound. Which is pretty common for the bluesy-roots sound I've heard in Rival Sons songs.

f (1) - g (2) - a-flat (m3) - b-flat (4) - c (5) - d (M6) - e-flat (m7)

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000I believe his notation (and noted key) does NOT factor in the capo being at the 3rd fret (common practice in tab) yet if I play over the main riff at Fm (penta pattern) starting at the 13th fret, it works great.[/quote]

I'd have to see the notation to help with this. But there's a more general point here that sometimes gets lost in dealing with a capo.

A capo doesn't change the guitar or key you are in. It only makes certain notes easier to play by making the notes below it unavailable. You can still play those notes without the capo & make the same pitches.

The note at the 3rd fret of the detuned E string is an F regardless of whether or not you have a capo. The notes of an F minor pentatonic scale are going to work on a non-capoed guitar, or any other instrument because those are the absolute notes being used in the song.

The capo just makes it easier to play certain patterns in certain situations. Usually open strings with higher fretted strings. But that doesn't change the fact that you can still play the notes anywhere you can find them, with or without a capo.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000There are only a small handful of notes in the tune so it doesn't really even fit a key perfectly- something I have leaned lately. Key is just a convenient word- for many tunes, it is much more about the actual notes used and chord changes. By contrast in Blues- key means a lot and I can use all the notes.

Good observation! In fact, the vast majority of music doesn't stay solely in one key. The key signature is like the default setting: these are the notes we start with. But if you only stay in one scale the music can get bland. So using notes outside of the key is where a lot of music gets it interesting, spicy bits! Most music uses accidentals.

[quote=SRVFan2000]

So my question is, would it still be in Fm if the capo is at the 3rd fret?

[p]The capo is irrelevant to the key. You can play in any key you want above the capo. The capo just makes certain frets unavailable. Or in this case, certain notes easier to fret.

[quote=SRVFan2000]

Probably not but then why does it work at 13th fret.

[p]I'm assuming you are referring to normal tuning. This is the F minor pentatonic box at that fret.

|---------------------------------------------13-16---------|

|------------------------------------13-16------------------|

|----------------------------13-15--------------------------|

|--------------------13-15----------------------------------|

|-----------13-15-------------------------------------------|

|--13-16----------------------------------------------------|

Put a capo on the 3rd fret. Or the 4th, 5th or 6th. Or take the capo off. It doesn't affect any of the notes of the above box. It's still F minor pentatonic. That's what I mean when I say the capo is irrelevant to that pattern. Those notes are what they are regardless of what happens in the lower frets.

Now it is relevant if you want to play the F minor pentatonic down here.

|-----------------------------1-4------|

|------------------------1-4-----------|

|------------------1-3-----------------|

|-------------1-3----------------------|

|--------1-3---------------------------|

|--1-4---------------------------------|

Because the capo makes some of those frets unavailable for playing.

Make sense?

You could play the F minor pentatonic box like this if you have the E string tuned to D, because you adjust the pattern 2 frets to make up for the de-tuning from E to D.

|---------------------------------------------13-16---------|

|------------------------------------13-16------------------|

|----------------------------13-15--------------------------|

|--------------------13-15----------------------------------|

|-----------13-15-------------------------------------------|

|--15-18----------------------------------------------------|

Hope that helps!


Christopher Schlegel
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# 2
SRVFan2000
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Joined: 06/01/21
Posts: 38

Wow- thanks for the great and detail reply. I am going to have to read it 3 times for all your wisdom to sink in. What you shared definitely clears up a lot. Yes, at the 13th fret I can play the pentatonic 1st position and it works perfectly. You are also right that this song uses many open strings.

My last rookie question for today. If all the notes are there regardless, why use a Capo at all? In the past, I know guitar players use them to change pitch to help out singers...I think.

The tab is easy to find. It's a really nice tune with a very bluesy sound.

I first heard it on a Warren Miller skiing movie and as a skier, I was hooked. I use to live in the mountains. "On the mountains, where I was born, there are trees that would call my name." When you have time, have a listen to it- I am sure you will like it.

Thanks again.


# 3
ChristopherSchlegel
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Posts: 7,854

You're welcome!

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000

My last rookie question for today. If all the notes are there regardless, why use a Capo at all?[/quote][p]I listened to the song. The reason the guitarist uses a capo is to be able to play open strings along with notes fretted at the 5th, 6th & 8th frets on other strings at the same time. If you didn't use the capo, those voicings would be a pretty difficult stretch.

[quote=SRVFan2000]In the past, I know guitar players use them to change pitch to help out singers...I think.

Yes, and presumably the singer wanted to sing in that key making the capo a useful tool in this situation.

Hope that helps!


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# 4
SRVFan2000
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Joined: 06/01/21
Posts: 38

Great to know. Thanks again Christopher. All your insights are very much appreciated.


# 5
dmitry.digi
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Good quesrions and answers. I also was confused by capo role, thought it changes the keys and my thoughts of learnings keys recalculation when using capo prevented me to use it :)


# 6
ChristopherSchlegel
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Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000

Great to know. Thanks again Christopher. All your insights are very much appreciated.

You're welcome!


Christopher Schlegel
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# 7
ChristopherSchlegel
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Originally Posted by: dmitry.digi

Good quesrions and answers. I also was confused by capo role, thought it changes the keys and my thoughts of learnings keys recalculation when using capo prevented me to use it :)

Glad it helped. The capo doesn't change the key. It only makes playing in certain keys easier in certain situations.

For example if you want to play an E-flat major chord like this:

|--3-------|

|--4-------|

|--3-------|

|--5-------|

|--6-------|

|----------|

That's a handful. You can do it by barring at the 3rd fret & essentially turn a C major shape into a barre chord. Since the root note is on the 6th fret A string (an E-flat), you are using a C major shape to play an E-flat major chord. And if you do it this way, by barring you still have all the frets below the 3 fret available for the next chord, or anything else you might want to play along with this chord.

But you could also put a capo on the 3rd fret. This has the advantage of being able to just play a C major shape rooted at the 6th fret & play the same E-flat major chord voicing. You don't have to barre the entire chord shape! The disadvantage is you don't have access to notes below the 3rd fret as long as the capo is on the guitar. And that may be okay for the purpose of an entire song.

This is why capo users are frequently moving & removing their capo between songs.

Hope that helps!


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# 8
Rumble Walrus
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Joined: 12/30/20
Posts: 237

Wow - we really need a "thumbs up" or "applause" emoji here.

"Ways and Reasons to use a Capo" would make a great lesson.


# 9
ChristopherSchlegel
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Posts: 7,854
Originally Posted by: Rumble Walrus

"Ways and Reasons to use a Capo" would make a great lesson.

Caren did a really good tutorial on that for beginners.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=2332

Anders did a couple of them in various style courses.

Using a Capo Acoustic Style 2

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=2545

Using a Capo Country Style 2

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=2359

Hope that helps!


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# 10
Rumble Walrus
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Posts: 237

Thanks!


# 11