How the SpiderCapo was Born
My first inkling of this came just after a gig sometime in 2003, when guitar maker Bruce Ackerman approached me and put one of his guitars in my hands to try. He had a sawed-off capo attached to it. I’d never seen that before. It strummed it. It sounded nice; an A6 chord. I was going to take it off because different tunings confuse me. But in that moment I just started playing. I liked his guitar but was distracted by the capo because I noticed that even though the A6 chord sounded when I strummed openly, I could still play my regular chords and licks.
I was trying to figure out how this could be. I the past whenever I had a guitar in an open tuning, I had to relearn the rest of the instrument—none of my licks worked anymore- which is why I’d always shied away.
I finally realized that the fingerboard hadn’t changed because the musical intervals between the strings was not altered because, I hadn’t turned any tuning pegs. That’s why my C Major scale still had the same fingering-even with an open A6 tuning! Cool.
Poor Bruce was still talking to me but I was far away now, thinking:
This was one particular tuning, but why not make a capo that does any tuning? Or use 2 capos for 2 different frets? This could be endless!
I returned to reality, thanked Bruce, went home and promptly forgot about it.
A week later Fred and I were having one of our typical meandering, drawn-out phone conversations when the sawed off capo popped up in my mind. I told Fred about it and he told me he had the same thought some 5 years previous when playing a classical piece that required an F# pedal. Amazing, both of us had the same idea. We became more and more excited talking over the phone about it, which brings us to our “official” story: The Outcome Of A Fateful Phone Conversation.
The Outcome Of A Fateful Phone Conversation
In the summer of 2004, two musician friends in Woodstock, NY had a “what if “ conversation. Jazz guitarist Peter Einhorn and classical guitarist Frederic Hand wondered… what if it were possible to capo each string of the guitar individually? What if you could play in hundreds of different open string tunings? Imagine the extraordinary creative possibilities. Both had utilized alternative tunings such as dropped D and DADGAD. They knew that the potential for other tunings was mind boggling. Many of their students were tuning the guitar in unusual ways in order to achieve effects, textures and harmonies that were not possible in standard tuning.
The drawback in de-tuning the guitar is that as soon as one string is raised or lowered in pitch, the guitarist loses all of the familiar finger patterns of chords and riffs that they already know. But what if there was a way to change tunings without de-tuning the guitar? The result of Peter and Fred’s conversation was a journey that led them to the formation of Creative Tunings Inc. and the creation of the SpiderCapo.
Upon using the SpiderCapo, veteran guitar players, Peter and Fred found that they were experiencing the guitar with fresh ears, as if playing it for the first time. They called each other daily to share their discoveries of tunings, chords and sounds made possible by the new capo.
There were formidable engineering and design challenges in order to accommodate the differences in the sizes of guitar necks, fingerboards, tensions of different types of strings and the heights of string actions. Early on in the process Peter and Fred had the good fortune to be introduced to Herman Niekamp, a brilliant design/engineer and Michael Bergman, patent attorney. Herman and Micheal made enormous contributions to the development of the Spider.