A capo is an essential tool for acoustic guitarists of different skill levels since it helps you play songs correctly and in their intended key! In this article, I’ll show you how they work and some of the best types available on today’s market – so let’s get started!
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Why Do People Use Capos?
The capo (pronounced kay-poh) is a great tool to have in your music-making arsenal, and it’s primarily used by acoustic guitarists. It allows you to change keys without having to think about different chords and fingerings; just raise the pitch on demand by placing one of these devices on your fingerboard.
This is a lifesaver for guitarists who heavily utilize the basic open-note chords like C Major, G Major, or A Minor. It’s beneficial when there are vocalists, possibly yourself, whose voices fit better in a particular key, and you need to make adjustments on your instrument so that it sounds good with them too!
To benefit from the capo, all the guitarist needs to do is place it on the desired fret, but they should also make sure it’s on the wood area and not the metal part of the fret. However, at the same time, you want to be close to this fret wire and not in an arbitrary spot on the fret.
Placing it in a less-than-ideal position can weaken your tone or even make it excessively noisy. So, examine it closely when you put one on; it should look a lot like the picture below:
How To Use A Guitar Capo
To use a capo, you simply place it on the neck of your guitar at the desired fret. For example, if you wanted to play in the key of C, you would place the capo at the second fret. This would raise the pitch of all your strings by two notes, making them sound like they’re in the key of D instead.
This is because each fret is considered a half-step. So, using a guitar capo is the opposite of tuning your guitar lower. If you want to tune from standard to E-flat tuning, you will adjust your guitar down a half-step with the tuning pegs. Conversely, if you need to go up a half-step, you could place a capo on the first fret.
The way a capo works is that instead of changing a tuning, the device essentially functions as a “replacement” nut on the guitar, and the string length is reduced as a result. Therefore, all of your pitches will be shifted upward.
Here’s an easy example for you. Say you’re playing a chord progression in D minor consisting of the chords Dmin, Amin, Fmaj, Gmin, but you feel like your friend’s voice would sound better in the key of E minor. What do you do?
Since the key of E minor is a full step-up from D minor, you would need to place the capo on the 2nd fret of the guitar. You can play the same exact chord shapes as you were using before, except they will now be higher pitched.
That’s right! You can still use your favorite basic open-chord shapes but play in an entirely different key. The open chords from our previous key of D minor, which were Dmin, Amin, Fmaj, and Gmin, will now sound like Emin, Bmin, Gmaj, and Amin instead. It’s that easy!
It’s important to note that even though you might end up using a guitar capo frequently, be sure to NEVER leave the capo on your guitar when you’re not playing it since it applies constant tension on the strings and the rest of the neck. They apply a lot of pressure to stay in place – much more than your fingers – and this can be unhealthy for your guitar, so remember to remove your capo when you’re done using it. Do everything you possibly can to take care of your acoustic guitar.
What Is The Best Guitar Capo Type?
Guitarists often ask what type of capo is best – there are a lot out on the market! But it’s not as complicated or surprising when you realize that some guitarists prefer one over another. There can be anything from:
- Clamp Capos (also known also trigger capos) which attach with springs,
- Screw-On models
- Banded elastic ones made from fabric
- Partial capos
All of these can basically do an equally good job but have different features and durability, which can lead to people having a specific preference. Let’s go over each of these popular capos to help you understand the basic differences between them.
The clamp guitar capos are easily the most common and popular type of guitar capos for sale. This is because they’re a classic design, and they’re usually relatively cheap and straightforward to use, making it nice to have as a first capo. Many of them you can find for under 10 dollars.
On the other hand, there are clamp capos out there that are a little bit pricier and will last a very long time. The best guitar capo that comes to mind for this category is the Kyser Quick Change. It is made from aluminum and steel, which contrasts with all of the low-quality plastic ones out there.
For clamps, I’d say the old phrase “buy nice, or buy twice.” is pretty relevant. It’s better to spend a little extra to get a nice, durable one like a Kyser rather than having to replace a super cheap guitar capo a few months down the road. You can’t go wrong with convenience and quality, and the Kysers clamp capos are still very reasonably priced, in my opinion; they usually sit around 20 dollars.
Next, we have the screw-on capos, which aren’t as simple to use as a clamp one, but the difficulty or learning curve is negligible, in my opinion; it’s still pretty easy to use. That being said, the main benefit of these is that the screw mechanism is designed to help keep the device locked in place and very unlikely to move around.
The best guitar capo when it comes to this group is the Shubb Deluxe Series S1. In general, Shubb is known for creating some of the most reliable capos that you can get your hands on. They are incredibly well-made, and this one is constructed from stainless steel and rubber, and they work together to keep the tuning on your guitar stable.
No one wants to have to keep adjusting a guitar capo and re-tune their guitar constantly, so this is an excellent solution for your capo needs. The Shubb capos are pretty affordable for being so well-received, so save yourself the frustration and a headache and pick one up if you’re interested in a screw-on type. You can sometimes grab one of these capos for under 20 bucks.
When it comes to convenience, elastic banded capos are some of the best. They’re not necessarily easier to use than a clamp capo, but they tend to be of a lighter weight, which is a feature a lot of people like.
One of the best perks of using a banded capo on your guitar is that they’re easy to adjust, and you can easily move it around on the fretboard without taking it off. This isn’t really something that’s recommended with other capos. Nonetheless, a fantastic example of one that works this way is the Dunlop 7191 Bill Russell capo, which allows you just to slide it if you need to change to a different key quickly.
The only caveat is that these may not be as durable and finely engineered as some of the other ones out there; however, they will still do their job. These are normally under 20 dollars, so if you’re looking around for a guitar capo for sale, these are a good choice, and you might even prefer them.
Partial guitar capos are unique in their own ways, and while they are most commonly seen as a clamp-style design, other types are also available. Nonetheless, these are made to only fasten down on a specified number of strings. Most of the time, they will cover 3 to 5 strings and may work on inner or outer strings.
The Kyser Short-Cut is a well-known partial capo that works by clamping down on 3-inner strings. This means that either the A, G, and D strings can be altered or the B, G, and D ones, depending on which side of the fretboard it’s being applied to.
Most people use partial guitar capos to play around with alternate tunings that you can reach without tuning the guitar up, which is an act that’s usually avoided because you don’t want to tighten the strings too much. A partial capo can help resolve that problem and let you easily experiment with different tunings, like DADGAD.
You can do some pretty cool and interesting stuff with a capo, but if you’re an avid acoustic guitarist, I highly recommend getting at least one of these.
In this guide, we took a close look at the best guitar capos available to you and made comparisons based on mechanisms as well as durability since they all help achieve the same result. You can even find some of these capos for 12-string guitars as well if you happen to own one of those too.
Hopefully, you’ll take a closer look at the recommendations for each of the different capos out there and come to decide on the one that appeals to you the most. You’ll never know when one will come in handy, and it’s possible it will become one of those guitar accessories that you can’t do without!