The Capo Prayer

Lord, you’re so awesome.
(Worship leader reaches up to his headstock)

We stand amazed by you, God.
(Feels around for the capo clamped there)

We’re just so humbled to be in your presence, God.
(Unclamps it)

We ask you to move in our hearts, Lord.
(Sneaks a peek to locate the fret)

And we pray, God, that you…
(Clamps capo down, but realizes it’s too far behind the fret)

…that you…um…
(Readjusts capo…)

…be here with us, Lord, as we continue to worship you, God. Amen.
(Starts strumming)

This is the Capo Prayer, now a standard liturgy known and recited by millions of acoustic guitar-playing worship leaders every Sunday. 

It usually comes in the form of, “Oh no, I forgot that I need to change my capo for this next song and I don’t want to ruin the moment.”

I’ve always wondered what God thinks of our capo prayers:

Oh, wait, you’re talking to me? Because you seem much more focused on the fourth fret down there.

Is God offended by my cheap prayer? Or does he just chuckle at me like I do when my 3-year-old insists on making his own frozen waffles.

I’m really not sure. (Although, personally I’d err on the side of the waffles.) 

Regardless, it is a cheap trick to make a transition. We have to find better ways to create smooth segues rather than half-focused conversations with God.

One Big Rule
So there’s one big rule to follow when it comes to replacing the Capo Prayer with something more meaningful: Plan ALL your transitions.

Most worship sets don’t fall apart in the middle of a song. It’s during the in-between times where awkward pauses, jumbled endings or rough starts happen. So whenever you move from one element to the next, plan out what needs to happen to move smoothly between them, including the capo switch.

Here’s one of two objections I get to this rule:

Are you just trying to put on some slick performance?
No. In our culture, “dead air” is distracting. And a fumbled hand-off is even more distracting (probably in any culture). A klutzy transition takes the focus off the worship and puts the attention on us and what we’re doing.

But a good transition will move people along a journey from one worship element to the next. It helps them keep the focus on worshiping God, not gawking at a failed segue.

Another objection is the rule is this:

Aren’t you pushing out the Holy Spirit with all that planning?
The Holy Spirit can work through my planning three weeks prior to a service as much as he can in the moment. And having a transition planned doesn’t mean we can’t make a Spirit-guided left turn if He calls for it.

The bottom line is this: Good segues = good stewardship.

I want to make the most of the time I’m given to lead worship. Why waste it with a lousy transition?

So with those objections behind us, here are eight ways to avoid the capo prayer.

8 Ways To Avoid The Capo Prayer

1. Remove It Before The Song Ends
Take your capo off towards the end of the song during a section where you can afford to stop playing for a couple beats. Then finish the song using original key chords. You may need to use barre chords, but a hand-cramp is worth a smooth transition.

2. Add It Before the Song Ends
If you need to add or move your capo for the next song—but you want to play a musical transition into it—look for a place at the end of the previous song to make the capo change. Then play barre chords above the capo to finish it out.

3. Quick Access
Put your capo on the nut of the guitar so you can more quickly move it into play. Just make sure it doesn’t push on the strings on either side of the nut, making them go sharp or muting them.

4. Have Another Instrument Start the Next Song
Even a simple four-count from the drummer is enough time to switch the old Keyser.

5. Scripture
Put in a short, related scripture that leads to the next song. Consider having another vocalist read it.

6. Pad
Have keys fade in a synth pad, or the electric guitarist swell in some ambient pads, or even fade in a recorded pad from padloops.com.

7. Talking
Do a very brief verbal transition into the next song. Script out what you’re going to say and PRACTICE IT.

8. Planned Prayer
If you do decide a prayer is a fitting transition, plan that out, too. Ask yourself, “What will be meaningful to pray at that moment?” When we “wing it” while reaching for the capo, we tend to just regurgitate generic praises and phrases. So don’t be afraid to plan your prayer.

There are definitely more ideas we could dig into, but the key is this: be intentional and keep it simple.

Remember, it’s about leading people along a journey of worship—not inviting them to watch us change our capo.

Question: What are some ways you make great segues?


Jon Nicol is a worship pastor in Lexington, Ohio. He trains and coaches worship leaders and teams through WorshipTeamCoach.com. For more on making intentional transitions in worship, check out his newest resource, Worship Flow: 28 Ways to Create Great Segues.