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Shubb Partial Capo

By Todd Stuart Phillips

One of the most common acoustic guitar accessories is the capo. Available in a variety of designs, traditional capos allow a player to change the key of a tune without having to relearn a piece using different chord shapes or retune the strings. Basically, it puts a barre across all six strings, shortening the playable length of the neck which in turn raises the pitch of the strings. This all helps when wanting to adjust the pitch to match someone's singing voice and for instrumentals the addition of a capo can provide some effortless tonal variation. Shubb's Partial Capo is another matter altogether. Because it does not barre the entire six strings it opens the door to a whole new landscape of tonal possibilities.

For some years professional guitarists like Adrian Legg, Chris Proctor and Harvey Reid had been taking Shubb capos and cutting notches into the rubber pad to allow the outer strings to remain at a lower pitch. So Shubb went ahead and produced the Partial Capo to attain the same effect. In fact it depresses just three strings. When put on in the normal fashion the capo's rubber pad only comes into contact with the D, G and B string. If a player places it at the second fret and strums the open strings they will play an A Major chord. Move it to the 5th fret and use a finger to add a note at the E string, 3rd fret and a C chord results. It does not take long to discover some very pretty and appealing chord voicings by taking advantage of having some strings already fretted up the neck. Turning the Partial Capo upside down so that it is depresses the A, D and G string at the second fret provides an E suspended chord and a whole new set of sounds. In either case, moving the capo to various frets up the neck instantly provides different tonal pallets which can be harmonically pleasing or disturbingly dissident. In other words the Shubb Partial Capo brings about instant alternate tunings. All it takes is a little time and experimentation and the most rudimentary player can be discovering melodies and harmonies they never before imagined.

The Partial Capo is made in the same design as Shubb's normal capo with sturdy, steel construction and rubber padding where it comes into contact with the guitar. Shubbs are among the few capos I find work well with V neck profile. I was happy that is comes in the attractive bronze color, which I prefer over the typical silver variety. As such it is a snap to use and I found it highly entertaining just seeing what new combinations of chords and notes I could come up with when using as few fingers as possible. Then I moved to more complicated voicings that at times had me applying fingers to fret positions above and below the capo. But the true potential of this capo did not come to the forefront until I took the guitar itself out of standard tuning.

Both DADGAD and CGDGAD tunings work very well with this capo. But I soon found myself starting with a typical alternate tuning, putting the capo at a fret position and then retuning one or two of the non-capoed strings to be in unison with one of the capoed ones, or an octave above or below it. At other times I would retune the non-capoed strings to provide a more perfect harmony in conjunction with the strings being fretted by the capo. I was amazed at how easy it was to find sublime and lush chords that rivaled the best things David Crosby or Michael Hedges ever invented. I came up with the fragments of so many new pieces that I simply could not remember them all the next day. So now I will start experimenting with the capo and record the sessions for future refinement.

The Shubb Partial Capo may not be a required piece of equipment. A guitarist who spends their life in standard tuning my not find it of much use. But it is a lot of fun to experiment with and many guitarists will happily find it the key to discovering a whole new dimension in their playing and performance.

Out of a possible 8 Notes on the T Spoon Scale of Guitaracity I give the Shubb Partial Capo a multi-dimensional 6 Notes.


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