How to simulate the effect of a guitar capo

A workaround to allow correct notation and playback of a guitar with an applied capo.

Guitarists, and other players of plucked instruments, often use a device called a capo to play in different keys.

There are two ways to achieve a virtual capo effect in MuseScore:

  • Set up the virtual capo before entering any guitar notation. This is usually the preferred method as it allows entered notes to be heard at the correct pitch.

  • Set up the virtual capo after entering guitar notation. Fret marks are reset to default and may need to be re-edited.

Refer to the example scores: 1 C scale.mscz or the equivalent in tablature: 1TAB.mscz.

Suppose, for example, that you wish to hear the example score, a scale in C, as it would sound with a capo at the third fret. This will transpose playback up by 3 semitones: i.e. a minor third.

Apply capo before note entry

  1. Transpose playback: Set the key signature of the guitar staff to the correct concert pitch. In this case it needs to be raised from C to Eb (3 flats);

  2. Restore correct written pitch. Right-click on the staff and select Staff properties. Where it says "Transpose written pitches to sound," chose an interval from the dropdown list equal to the interval in step 1 (above). Make sure that "Up" is ticked as well. Click OK to close the dialog;

  3. Enter music notation.

Apply capo after note entry

  1. Transpose playback. From the menu, select NotesTranspose... Tick "By interval" and ensure that "Up" and "Transpose key signatures" are also selected. Then select "Minor Third" in the drop-down list. Click OK to close the dialog:

    minor third.jpg

    Result: 2 C scale.mscz In tablature: 2TAB.mscz

  2. Restore correct written pitch. Right-click on the staff and select Staff properties. Where it says "Transpose written pitches to sound," chose the same interval as before, a minor third, in the drop-down list. Make sure that "Up" is ticked as well. Click OK to close the dialog:

    Minor third bis.jpg
        
    Result: 3 C scale.mscz In tablature: 3TAB.mscz

In both methods, the procedure can be easily adapted for other capo positions by using a different interval: e.g. Capo 1 (Minor Second), Capo 2 (Major Second), Capo 4 (Major Third), Capo 5 (Perfect Fourth) and so on.

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