What Is a Capo – Unlock New Sounds With This One Tool

what is a capo

Written by: Cody

Updated: Aug 4, 2022

This post is all about guitar capos. I’ll go through everything including what a capo is exactly, how they work, and which types exist. Whether you’re just starting out or you simply want to learn more about capos, check out the following information.

What Is a Capo and Its Purpose in Music?

A guitar is one of the most common stringed instruments played across the globe. However, for some guitarists (especially those just starting out) the guitar capo may be an unfamiliar accessory in respects to both what it is, and what it does. Capos are accessories that are attached to the necks of stringed instruments to adjust their playable length.

The changing of the playable length raises or lowers the pitch of the instrument to fit a particular key. Capos are also often used to help in matching the singing range of a vocalist to the key of a song as well as playing guitar in various forms of music. A capo is an indispensable tool for virtually all guitarists as they can bring great versatility to a musical piece, are simple to use, and compact.

How to Use a Guitar Capo

As a guitarist, it is important for you to know how to use a capo because acquiring this knowledge will help you in improving your guitar playing versatility. To properly use your capo follow these simple steps.

  1. Firstly, determine which fret you would like to set the capo on. Applying a capo to your guitar’s fretboard will move up the pitch by a certain amount of semitones (this is dependant upon which fret you set the capo on). For example, if the capo is set on the second fret, then you will have moved up all of your notes by two semitones. This means that if you played a C chord position with a capo on fret two, you would be playing a D chord. See below for a full guitar capo chord chart.
    capo chord chartFor a complete beginner’s guitar chord chart, read our Most Popular Beginner Guitar Chords Chart article.
  2. Second, attach the tool as close as possible to the metal fret but not so close as to cause any buzzing when plucking the strings or tuning problems.
  3. With the capo firmly attached, ensure that the tool is tightly clipped, and it is allowing all open strings to be clearly rung.

If you are learning how to use a guitar capo for the first time and depending on the type of capo you are using, make sure that you do not clamp the capo down too hard as this causes excess pressure on the frets. This can cause the guitar to go out of tune. Before attaching the capo to the guitar, it is also advisable to first tune the guitar to minimize idiosyncrasies that may arise from guitars that do not intonate well on all frets.

Types of Guitar Capos

All capos have a similar purpose, but each type of capo uses a different operational mechanism, and each of them can affect your guitar playing in unique ways. There are wide variety of capos. Below I’ve outlined many capo varieties along with a brief description of each.

1. G7th Capos

This revolutionary capo design has grown in popularity for guitarists worldwide due to its slim design, ability to not alter the guitar’s tuning, and it’s easy to use fine tension adjustment mechanism. All this without compromising the guitar’s tone. Read my complete G7th Performance 2 capo review to learn more about why I think it’s the best capo.

2. Roller Capos

Roller capos are made by rollers attached on the string and neck side of the device. These capos are easy to adjust and allow you to change the keys in a quick manner even in the middle of different tunes.

3. Partial Capos

Just as the name suggests, a partial capo allows you to fret specific strings that you select on the guitar without affecting the strings that you do not select.

4. Spring Loaded Capo

This type of capo has a rubber-covered bar that holds down the guitar’s string and another bar that holds the capo in place by pressing on the back of the guitar. The second bar is often shaped to fit the neck design of the guitar.

5. Trigger Capo

This type of capo is one of the most common types of capos for beginner guitarists. They’re easy to use, fast to change fret placement, and are relatively inexpensive.

6. Shubb Guitar Capo

The Shubb type is unique because it has a lever that uses a locking mechanism you can adjust to hold the device in place and ensure that it does not fall or slip.

7. Toggle Capo

The toggle capo is perhaps one of the simplest capos. The capo is made of a bar that is attached to a strap and covered with a rubber material. The rubber-covered bar rests on the strings, and the strap is used to tighten its grip on the guitar’s neck.

8. Screw-on Capos

The screw-on capo is akin to a C-clamp. You can adjust its hold on the guitar by a single screw on the capo.

Choosing a Guitar Capo

Now that you know how to use a capo and can answer the question, “what is a capo?” how do you go about choosing capo if your looking to purchase one? Before going out and buying a capo, it is prudent to not only consider your budget but also to understand that there are various types of capos, and some are differently suited for specific purposes.

For example, some capos are solely best suited for flats fingerboards, curved fingerboards, electric guitars, classical guitars, steel string guitars, etc. Therefore, it is necessary to choose a capo that is designed and best suited to your type of guitar. It is also important to select a capo that has no sharp edges or protrusions, which may injure you or damage the neck of your guitar.

The pressure exerted by a capo on your guitar’s strings is the primary determinant of the effects of the capo. Therefore, it is advisable to choose a capo that allows you to easily adjust the pressure exerted on the strings. The kind of material used to make a capo is also an important consideration because it determines the capo’s functionality. As such, ensure that the capo you buy is made from a pliable material that is also firm, but not too hard that it could damage your instrument.

Additionally, when choosing a capo, pick one that does not cause bends in your strings due to the grip being too tight. This may damage your guitar’s strings and make it sound out of tune. In order for you to get a firm capo grip and hold, ensure that the capo you purchase is designed to suit the shape of your guitar’s neck to achieve a perfect fit.

If you’re on the hunt for a well-designed generic capo, the G7th Performance Capo and the Kyser KG6B are both great options. The G7th Performance Capo is recommendable for learners since it allows you to easily make capo adjustments without needing to retune your guitar. Most other types of capos are either adjustable tension screw capos or spring-style models with a quick-release mechanism, but the G7th Performance capo uses a patented clutch mechanism for a faster squeeze on and squeeze off action.

On the other hand, the Kyser KG6B is also a great quick-release capo option as it can be single-handedly adjusted with ease and is a little less expensive. These two capo brands are easy to use and affordable options that will last years to come and will serve you well in your guitar-playing lifetime.

About Cody
Cody is the founder of Musician Tuts, a free tutorial hub for musicians. He has over 15 years of experience playing a variety of instruments and dabbling in audio engineering. He spends his days blogging, listening to Spotify, and playing music.

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