The Capo/Slide Converter allows players to turn any guitar into a slide guitar. It can be used like any elastic capo, but its innovative design also allows you to raise your guitar’s string action so you can play buzz-free with a slide. The Capo/Slide Converter eliminates the need to carry around a separate guitar dedicated to slide playing, and with no more trouble than it takes to attach an elastic capo to your fretboard.
We sat down with inventor Ken Davidson and Jim Dunlop to talk about what went into designing the Capo/Slide Converter.
Ken, what motivated you to find a solution for players who want to play slide guitar without the hassle?
Ken: My father played steel and Hawaiian guitar all his life and often converted a regular acoustic guitar to a lap steel by loosening the six strings and inserting a metal nut over the existing bone or plastic nut. This raised the strings, enabling a steel (the metal bar held by the left hand) to be used over the higher action. Going back to the regular Spanish sound, as it was called in the ’50s and ’60s, required taking the time to reverse the process. When I was a kid, he often said he wished the process were quicker and easier.
Years later I found a solution—the steel/slide guitar adapter. It was a metal sleeve that slid over a fret. I produced a rough prototype, though it remained as such for years. A year or so ago I met with Jim Dunlop and showed him several original prototypes of guitar gadgets I had developed over the years. He was most interested in the steel/slide guitar adapter prototype.
Jim, what was your contribution to the design?
Jim: Years ago, I designed an elastic capo with a metal prong that would rest over a guitar’s fretboard. When Ken first showed me the metal sleeve—the slide/guitar adapter –I knew that my old design would be the perfect means for attaching it securely to a guitar. I added a groove to my capo’s prong so that it could sit over a single fret.
Then I worked with Ken to fit the slide/guitar adapter over the prong for a further increase in string tension.
Ken: This allows for two string heights: low action and high action. Without using the metal sleeve, your strings are raised only slightly, allowing slide players to fret notes while achieving a pure “buzz-free” tone with any metal or glass slide. At this setting, you get a sound that lies somewhere between steel/Dobro and traditional slide tones. Attaching the sleeve raises the action even higher for a true steel or Dobro sound, but with the flavor of the particular acoustic or electric guitar on which it is installed.
The Capo/Slide Converter can be quickly installed on any regular acoustic or electric guitar, and like a capo, the Converter is movable, enabling players to play in any key by simply relocating the device to a new fret.
If a player wants a steel or slide guitar sound from a Les Paul or Strat, or perhaps a Martin acoustic, they can do it in seconds.
Ken, why did you choose Dunlop as a partner with this product?
Ken: I met Jim Dunlop back in the mid ’80s at the Musikmesse Trade Show in Frankfurt, Germany. I had developed, manufactured, and marketed a 2mm Thick Pick that was a hot item. It was the first of its kind back then and is still popular today. Jim kept an eye on it, and eventually we struck a deal for Dunlop to acquire the rights to produce it. The Thick Pick became the Jazztone and is produced in five shapes and designs. After 25 years, they’re all still listed in the Dunlop catalog.
Dunlop is a world leader in the music accessories business, and I’m proud and pleased to be collaborating with Jim and his company. They never cease to move forward in the marketplace, and are experts at adapting to new market conditions and meeting players’ interests and needs.
Are you an inventor by trade?
Ken: I’m a musician and teacher by trade, and also a composer. As a guitarist way back in the day, I had the pleasure of backing James Taylor, Eddy Arnold, Roy Clarke and other visiting artists when they would come to Ottawa. These days, I have several new works ready for publishing and presentation. I am a curriculum writer for a provincial school board and have published several guitar-related books. Also, I have developed three challenging music board games that I’m about to release once funding is in place. Music, games, and a workshop full of innovations fills my home presently. My wife is very supportive though, and I’m grateful for it.
For more information, check out the video below where Ken discusses the Capo/Slide Converter with guitar player John Campbelljohn, who also demonstrates.