Page 2 of the Online Edition of the 2010-2011 Harvey Reid Newsletter...

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I'm partial about caposVarious partial capos

Woodie's G Band Model 1 CapoWoodie's G-Band Capo

Kyser K-Lever capoKyser "K-Lever" Capo

Third Hand Capo"Third Hand" Capo

Spider CapoSpiderCapo


Guitar capos have been around about as long as guitars have, and for centuries they have done their simple job of clamping across the fingerboard to shorten all the strings to raise the pitch. Literally hundreds of different guitar tunings have also appeared, while the seemingly simple idea of using a partial capo that covers fewer than all 6 strings, achieving a lot of the same results, has not. (I wrote a long web essay detailing why I think the idea appeared in Europe around 1800 and then was lost.)

Both partial capos and “altered” or “open” tunings change the landscape of what is possible to play on a guitar, in similar but different ways. Both have a lot of musical value to a lot of types of guitar players. I first discovered the partial capo in the mid 1970’s, and have been involved with exploring, manufacturing and selling partial capos since then. It has baffled me how hard it has been to convince musicians to try them, and for pretty much the last 20 years I have mostly just used them in my own music and sold a few at my gigs when I remembered to bring them with me.
For 20 years there was just the Third Hand Capo, and now there are 15 different partial capos made by 8 different manufacturers, and the idea is spreading rapidly around the world. I think I know more about the partial capo than anyone, and as part of my 2010 “re-tooling” I have started a new venture to distribute all kinds of partial capos, and to try to teach the world who they are for and how to best use them. It’s at-


– my new resource & online store, where I am organizing, explaining and selling “all things partial capo.”
Partial capos help beginners sound good, they open doors for novice pickers, give songwriters a world of new chords, and they challenge and inspire good players.
You get a lifetime of new music from your guitar for about the cost of a pizza, and you get to use the skills you already have. What’s not to like? People get confused and reminded how little they understand their guitars, and I think I can help. People all over the world are finding the web site and buying lots of capos & books.

BOOKS... I wrote books in 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984 and 2006 of how to play music with partial capos, but they have never been widely distributed. I now have started the “Capo Voodoo” series of books, that are basically the “missing manuals” for the various kinds of partial capos, which oddly, except the Third Hand, come with no instructions. My experience is that it is not at all obvious where to put the capo and where to put your fingers, and even good players rarely find more than a couple ways to use them to play music. Book 1 is done and now for sale, and its 100 pages show 24 ways to use the Esus (3-string) partial capo, with over 1200 chords. The next 3 books are nearing completion.
RECORDINGS... I have released over 125 cuts over the years that use 20 different partial capo configurations. At the end of 2010 I finished my first compilation partial capo CD: “Capo Voodoo: Solo Guitar” a collection of what I think are my best partial capo instrumental recordings. Its 18 tracks span 29 years from 1981 to 2010. There are 3 new tracks, and 15 that were remastered and collected from 9 previous albums. There are also 9 more partial capo tracks among the 24 cuts on my new Solo Guitar Project compilations.
So if you are interested in hearing my best partial capo work, you now only have to get one instead of 9 albums. The fiddle tunes, blues, classical pieces, airs, Stephen Foster songs and other solo guitar works were played on 11 different steel-string guitars, including 6 & 12-string and slide guitars. I am planning to release, in 2011, another collection of songs where I use partial capos.
It’s a big undertaking–I have a lot more work to do on the web site, so please keep checking back. I’ll be making more partial capo videos and books, expanding the content, as well as profiling other players out there that are doing interesting things with them. Tell all your guitar-playing friends about it– or maybe just buy them a book and a capo...
Capo Voodoo CD coverBUY NOW

fiddleheads music camp workshop

The Future is Starting to Look Like the Past- Joyce and I teaching a Song Train workshop at the Fiddleheads camp in NH this Fall. Showing people how they can play some great songs with a couple simple chords is rewarding for me & them. And much more relaxing than playing really difficult music in front of rooms full of people, like I have done for so many years. This definitely looks more like a picture of a party than of people doing hard work.

The numbers for the music industry are pretty grim right now. Sales of recorded music has dropped by half in the last 10 years, and ticket sales at concerts are down as things continue to unravel. Young people have grown up in a world where digital music was plentiful and essentially free, and are unlikely to start buying CD’s soon, any more than they will subscribe to newspapers.
I am pretty sure that even though people have stopped buying CD’s like they used to, music has not lost its ability to move people. Hello to you out there who used to buy CD’s, but stopped because you heard they were obsolete. I doubt you are buying a lot of digital downloads either or doing the iPod thing, and are waiting to see what happens. Which causes record companies to stop pressing CD’s, since they would rather not bother anyway and there are no store shelves to put them on any more.
CD’s still work fine. Every year I take out the first ones I ever bought to see that they still play. Remember when they told us to get rid of our LP’s and buy CD’s, which most of us did? Are we going to fall for this again and dump our CD collections only to find out 20 years later we shouldn’t have? Vinyl albums have now become very fashionable and desirable. Many people think they are the best-sounding format, and they are by far the most durable and the most fun to hold in your hand. We can borrow and sell albums and CD’s and books, but not digital versions. No one is selling used digital downloads on eBay or at flea markets. I don’t think we should be afraid to buy CD’s while they still make them.

Jerry Garcia Quote The New Me

The Old Me would probably have used this space to rant about the independent music business or talk about life as a modern minstrel. The scissor-action of the music business unraveling even as I enter a phase in life where I want to be home with my family brings a new focus to my “soapbox.”

Béla Fleck made a great documentary about taking his banjo to Africa to jam and learn about the African music that underlies the banjo’s history. You can’t help being struck by the footage of the village children in a culture bursting with joyous home-made music. Joyce and I had long talks after our Hank & Dixie gigs (our old-fashioned country band) about how good it was to see kids running around at the gigs, soaking up old Hank Williams and Dolly Parton songs, playing tag with each other and dodging white-haired people. For thousands of years, every culture on earth has had music and passed it on to its children, not through lessons or schools, but just by immersion.
It hit me that this was analogous to the ways people have fed themselves with home-grown food, birthed and raised their children, built their homes, and even made their clothing and furniture from what was around them. The local, old-fashioned food movement is now huge, and wresting our food supply back from the greedy corporations that have controlled it for 50 years is now a big topic on Oprah and the national consciousness.

Clearly cost and convenience lead us to buy food, not grow our own. We lost everything in our freezers to a week-long power outage, and later learned that the basement in our old house is a perfect root cellar. We now keep apples and potatoes there for months. We’re not sawing ice blocks out of the river yet, but we keep seeing old-fashioned ideas that make more sense than the “modern” alternative. Wooden toys, home-made bread, eggs from our backyard chickens, breast-fed babies– a long list of things that always worked, yet are now far from mainstream.

Music is no different. I don’t get a feeling Sony corporation wants you to play guitar. I don’t see any organized effort by the public or private sector to help us play our own music. They want us to buy gadgets, not sit on our porch all day playing songs. No ad campaigns tell us those gadgets will soon be in a landfill, but our guitars could be cherished heirlooms that we play for decades and then leave to our children. I realize that I feel VERY strongly that more people should experience the meaning and joy that comes from home-made music. I love when I see somebody who “gets it”- a carpenter playing at a local open mike or a mom who sings with her kids. I am reluctant to call it a “cause,” but maybe it is.

I took a long break from educating, while I pursued a career as a performer. I now am feeling empowered again to help others play music. It may seem to those of you who have missed seeing me perform in a couple years that I am abandoning my role as a performer. To me it feels like I am just shifting some gears and re-arranging some furniture in my life, not re-inventing myself. It is clear to me that underneath my 35-year career as a skilled musician is a guy who loved banging out simple songs on his guitar at parties. I always led the sing-alongs at the beach- I went to thousands of open mikes and jam sessions.

I taught beginning folk guitar for several years in the 70’s at the University of Maryland and was amazed to find that there wasn’t a book I wanted to use to teach adult beginners. So I spent a year of my life at age 26 writing what became a 325 page book- Modern Folk Guitar. It was published in 1984 by Random House as the first college textbook for folk guitar. It is still in print and in use at college music departments. Training troubadours is not a brand-new direction for this old “troubadude.”

In 2007 I worked for a year to make the 4-CD book/boxed set Joyce and I call “The Song Train.” Have you ever seen it? It is a monumental project; a work of love and devotion and craftsmanship by two skilled musicians who want to invite others into our world. Its purpose is to guide, assist and motivate people who want to play “campfire” guitar. We are trying to pass an ancient torch to those of you who feel an ancient itch to dabble in the magic of home-made music. I wrote some nice essays on the www.songtrain.net web site about why it is odd that so little music education is coming from the musicians, so I won’t go into that here.

The last piece in the puzzle of the “New Me” is that the partial capo–an innovation in guitar playing I pioneered 35 years ago– is moving to center stage in my life again. Not only is it unclear at first how to play cool music with one, it is further confusing because it is not a “beginner” or “advanced” idea. It’s both. I use it a lot for tricky and advanced things, but it also has huge value in guitar education of all levels. I can play Bach pieces with it, while my 2 year-old son can strum the daylights out of a guitar that has one on it. Partial capos are the best thing that ever came along to get people started singing songs with guitars. The “extra fingers” allow anybody to play full-sounding chords with just 1 or 2 fingers, and sing at the campfire in minutes. It used to take months of practice, pain and frustration. The fact that a lot of great guitarists use partial capos means that if a beginner uses one, it does not say “I’m a beginner” to everyone who sees them do it. A lot of this has been in my college textbook since 1984, it has been in the instructions to the Third Hand Capo since 1980 and in some of my under-distributed books, but finally, no doubt due to the internet revolution, is it really starting to spread around.

Personally I want to encourage other good players to use this great new tool, but the part of me that wants to help lots of you out there get in touch with your “inner troubadour” may be stronger. So be prepared to see more of this “New Me” in the future. I am going to start doing some new “Campfire Guitar Made Easy” workshops, (I am teaching one at Elkins WV in July 2011) and will make some new books, recordings and videos along these lines.
But have no fear. I’m still interested in being Harvey Reid the musician. I’m writing music, planning recordings, booking gigs & tours, and the New Me, since he has been in me all along, will be just fine riding shotgun with the Old Me. I will be glad to get a break from the beautiful mayhem of home life and hit the road again. Just don’t get so good at your music that you start stealing my gigs...

Speaking of Teaching

A gallery of bleary-eyed guitar guys... Me plus two of my favorite guitarists in the world: Tony McManus (L) and Pat Donohue (R). This is the closest we Northern guys could come to smiling after 6 days of sleep deprivation and Southern heat in July. We all spent a week in North Carolina teaching at the fabled Swannanoa Gathering, where I made my first appearance.

What fun to be immersed in a fantasy world where everyone played music all the time. The list of great musicians who were also on the faculty there is almost absurd, and being there came at a good time in the development of the New Me (see above.) I had not done a summer music workshop in years and it felt really good to be with my people again. I taught some partial capo workshops, saw old friends, met new ones, and jammed a lot. Didn’t change a single diaper that week.

Harvey Reid, Tony McManus & Pat Donohue


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