Freight Train -- capo or not?

Discussion of history's greatest guitar player.

Freight Train -- capo or not?

Postby mark reinhart » Thu Apr 18, 2013 3:13 pm

Earlier today, I posted about my Chet book project, and I mentioned that I would be asking everyone's opinions about certain aspects of Chet's recording career from time to time. Well, I'm dying of curiosity to ask all of you about one of Chet's best-loved recordings -- so I'm going to pose my first question to all of you! "Freight Train" on the GUITAR COUNTRY album starts out of the key of F and then modulates to the key of C. I've been trying to decide if Chet used a capo on the "key of F" section.

At first, I thought Chet played this part capoless, but the more I listened to it, and the more I studied the way his notes rang out, I began to think that he used a capo at the 5th fret so that he could play the song out of C like he almost always did.

But I can point to evidence that suggests that this part was played capoless. Chet DID almost always play the song out of C, but I found at least one example of him playing the song live in his self-accompanying fingerpicking style out of a different key, the key of D. Of course, D still allows for a lot of open-string notes on a standard-tuned guitar, while F makes things a bit trickier -- but Chet certainly could have worked out playing the song in the key of F if he had really wanted to. (By the way, the "key of C" sections in the recording are definitely played capoless -- you can clearly hear his open A and open low E strings ring out at times.)

So, what do you think? Is the GUITAR COUNTRY "Freight Train" part capoed and part capoless, or is it ALL capoless? If anyone knows the answer to this question, or can offer solid evidence either way, I'd love to hear from you.
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Re: Freight Train -- capo or not?

Postby craigdobbins » Thu Apr 18, 2013 3:27 pm

Mark-

Yes, Chet played the first section of Freight Train capoed at the 5th fret. It wasn't the first time he used a capo on a section of a tune. For instance, Gallopin' On The Guitar is in D, but Chet played the thumbstyle break capoed at the 2nd fret. Paul Yandell and I talked about this on occasion.

Thanks,

Craig
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Re: Freight Train -- capo or not?

Postby Richard Hudson » Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:04 pm

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Chet used a capo on a number of tunes while recording, yet when he played them out in public he would play in a different key without a capo. Perhaps Windy and Wam, and possibly others?
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Re: Freight Train -- capo or not?

Postby craigdobbins » Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:10 pm

Richard-

Yes, the album version of Windy and Warm was capoed at the 3rd fret. I'm sure many of us have seen Chet play Baby's Coming Home with no capo (album version capoed at the 2nd fret) to name just one.

Craig
Last edited by craigdobbins on Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Freight Train -- capo or not?

Postby mark reinhart » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:01 pm

Wow, you guys are literally a HUGE help right out of the gate! I just listened to "Galloping," and I noticed that Chet would have had an abundance of time during Jethro's mandolin solo to put on a capo during that recording, and time to take it off during Jethro's second solo. Since "Freight Train" was recorded when multi-track recording had become more prevalent,I'm guessing Chet's track in that recording might have been done in two passes to allow him to focus on his capoed and capoless parts separately. But I suppose we don't really have any way of knowing whether he did that one in real time or not -- just like we can't know which of his guitar tracks were recorded at RCA, and which ones he took to his home studio to work on. Last, "Windy and Warm" -- I had come to the conclusion that Chet had used a capo on that one as well, so it is good to have that one confirmed as well. Thanks for your insight!
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Re: Freight Train -- capo or not?

Postby craigdobbins » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:10 pm

Mark-

It's highly probable that Chet did Freight Train in one take. Whether it was recorded live at RCA, or Chet's part recorded at home, I don't know. At that time, RCA (and Chet's home studio) had 3 track recorders- the band was in stereo L/R, and Chet was in the middle. If you listen closely with good headphones, you can hear some noise after Chet's capoed part. It may have just been a chair creaking, but I've always wondered if he was removing his capo there.

That said, there is enough time between sections that Chet could have stopped the recorder and started a new take for each section.

Craig

P.S. Listen to the very end of The Claw. You can hear Jerry's chair creak as he leans back after the take.
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Re: Freight Train -- capo or not?

Postby mark reinhart » Fri Apr 19, 2013 1:57 am

Craig, it's so funny you would mention that little sonic disruption after the first two verses of "Freight Train." Like you, I've listened to the song through headphones many times, and I have always wondered what might have caused it. I had come to the conclusion that maybe a microphone got bumped ever so slightly during taping -- but whatever it is, it makes sense that it could have something to do with Chet removing his capo!
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