Capo: Reverse Engineering Rock & Roll

I remember when I started playing guitar how useful a piece of software became to my learning. It was called Guitar Pro and it allowed you to download any sort of guitar tab to manipulate it and use it to learn the song. It had an amazing community behind it, and you could find a remarkable number of songs to download.

I’m not sure what happened to that app, as I haven’t heard much from the developers lately and I stopped using it quite a few years ago (it became too complicated and annoying to use).

The other day, as I was browsing for apps like Guitar Pro, I found an amazing piece of software on the App Store called Capo. It is much different than Guitar Pro – and it might even be better.

Want to find out why? Keep reading!

An Introduction to Capo

One of the many disadvantages that Guitar Pro had (other than its complexity), was that you couldn’t really get tabs from songs on your library. You had to tab them out by ear, or try your luck on the internet to see if you could find anything for that particular song. The first thing that caught my eye about Capo was that it uses the songs on your library to get you learning.

Capo is not exactly a tablature maker like Guitar Pro was, but it doesn’t really aim to fill that gap. Think of it more as a tool for learning. It can easily teach you the songs on your library, especially tricky parts in them like the solos or those parts where there’s a lot of instrumentation involved that makes it hard to differentiate everything. That covered, let’s get more in-depth with Capo’s features.

Learning to Use Capo

Welcome

Introduction

When you open Capo, you’ll first be presented with a Welcome window where you’ll be able to watch five videos that will teach you everything you need to know about the app. These are very short and do a great job of explaining how to find your way around.

They cover pretty much every feature that the app performs, and they do so in a short and interactive way. Capo is a very simple and Mac-like app, and you won’t have any problem figuring it out. That said, these videos sure make it easier and faster to learn Capo.

Once you get past this Welcome screen, you’ll have the option to open a music file from your library. Almost immediately after you choose your song, Capo will load it and show you a spectogram along with all the other features Capo has. Let’s get into some of them.

Pitch, Speed, and Looping

Capo

Pitch and Speed

One of the most useful things Capo does is give you the ability to slow down parts of your songs so that you can hear them better and nail those tricky fast solos. Near the left corner of the app you have a few buttons that allow you to control the speed and the pitch of the song you have loaded.

The speed part has a slider, but you can also modify it by clicking on the 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 1.5x buttons. These, of course, mean that if active, your song will play at quarter, half, or whatever speed you chose. Right below the speed button is the “pitch” one, which, as its name suggests, allows you to control the pitch of your song so that you can play with different tuning settings.

Then there’s also the looping feature. This is pretty self-explanatory, but it allows you to choose sections of the song and it will play them over and over again for you, in case you get stuck at a tricky part of the song. The looping feature combined with the slow down capabilities and the pitch changing feature make Capo a great tool for new musicians.

The Spectrogram

Spectrogram

Spectrogram

The spectrogram is the part of the app where you can visualize the frequencies that occur in the song, and it makes up for a great visual aid when you want to figure out what’s being played at a certain time in the song.

It is broken down into octaves, and there will be grey marks wherever a note is found on the song. One of the coolest things I found in the spectrogram was that if you click anywhere in it, the note corresponding will be played.

I frankly found the spectrogram to be quite misleading some of the time, as when there’s a lot of instrumentation involved in a song, it won’t be of much help to you. This is, of course, a problem with spectrograms in general and not with the app itself.

Chords and Tabbing

Tabbing

Tabbing

Here’s one of the most intriguing thing that this app does. Whenever your song is playing, you have the option to click a little button on the left and Capo will mark down the chord that was playing at the time you clicked. I have no idea how it works, but it is quite accurate and impressive.

If you find that the chord Capo displayed is wrong (which happens occasionally, as you can imagine), you can change it and add whatever chord you think fits better. Overall, this feature is my favorite of them all, as I usually struggle a lot trying to find chords that fit in a song.

Another useful feature that is more inclined to solos, is the tabbing feature. This is accessed by clicking on any tone of the spectrogram and dragging the cursor, creating a note on the tablature below the spectrogram.

This feature, as you may notice, is very manual and wil probably disapoint and annoy those who are more inclined to apps like Guitar Pro that give you the tablature immediately.

Capo also comes with a bunch of other features like sound mixing that we didn’t include here for fear of the review becoming too technical. Check them out for yourself!

Conclusion

It goes without saying that Capo is a tool for people that know or want to learn more about music. I got the impression from the app that it intends to help you learn songs by doing most of the work by yourself. If you want a tool that will help you generate guitar tabs so that you can play them instantly, this app probably won’t work for you.

Capo wants you to try to figure out the songs on your own and refer back to it whenever you feel stuck. As I mentioned, it’s a great tool for people who want to learn more about music and super-charge their learning process!


Summary

Capo is a great app for people who want to learn more about music and maximize their skills. It tries for you to do the work by yourself, while it gives you a few tools that can help you learn and tab songs.

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  • Leonardo Prunk

    Nice review!
    Capo is awesome! I’ve been using it since the first versions and it only gets better and better!

  • Dave

    Guitar Pro is still going strong, and would have taken you about 5 seconds to google :D LOL!

  • Sebastiaan

    Just tried it to see if it was useful to me, but the way the tabbing feature works is imho pretty useless. So far i’ve only been able to get a tab showing by dragging boxes around on the noteboard. It probably can decipher it quite accurately but if you have to figure it out on your own this way (ie no auto feature) getting a tab from 911tabs or ultimateguitar might be a better alternative. I certainly don’t look forward to putting in that much time to figure out how to play a certain metal kind of solo…

  • SC

    Capo is awesome but it doesn’t appear to work with .m4a files now that I have installed Lion on my computer? Does anyone know why this is? I don’t want to have to convert every file just to place it into capo…. Any help?

    • http://www.thecityisburning.com Midgar777

      Yeah I had this issue, couldn’t find a solution other than downloading an mp3 version of the file. Annoying but the very nature of this app is to take your time working on one song to try and figure out a tab so if you only have to do this one every so often then it’s not too bad.

      But I hear you mannn :D

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