Having a capo for many guitarist is about as important as a having a tuner or an extra pack of strings handy. I never leave home without my capo.
In fact, I have about two or three capos I carry with me at all times.
Why? Allow me to explain.
What is a Guitar Capo
Have you ever watched your favorite guitarist or a friend playing and noticed that odd thing clipped to their headstock or somewhere along the fretboard? That’s a capo.
A guitar capo is a tool used by both acoustic guitarist and electric guitarist to shorten the length of the fretboard, thereby raising the key one half-step for every fret.
In other words, if you add a capo on the second fret and play a G chord, that chord has now jumped up two half-steps (one full step) to become an A. It’s like playing a bar chord, except the capo does all the work so your pointer finger can take a rest.
Most capos stretch across all six strings of the guitar while there are a few that allow certain strings to pass through untouched. Some capos work using a spring system while others rely on a lever-lock system – both work just fine.
This all may sound a bit confusing at first. But there are good reasons why you’ll want to buy a capo as a beginner guitarist.
Why Buy a Guitar Capo?
Guitar capos aren’t cheating nor are they just a “fun” guitar tool.
Capos allow you to take what you can already play on the guitar as a beginner and expand it much further. Why try to learn how to play a song in the key of F when you can just add a capo to the 3rd fret and play in the much easier key of D?
As another example, let’s say that you’re playing a song that you’ve been practicing for a while. But you find out that the key is too low to sing in. All you have to do is add the capo to raise the key and play the same chords you were playing before. The higher up the fretboard you add the capo, the higher the key.
I’ve also run into numerous cases where I’ve heard a song from an artist I like. When I go to learn how to play it I find out he/she capo’ed up to the 7th fret. It happens more often than you think.
As a beginner guitarist, a capo will help boost your confidence and open up a whole new world of songs that you will be able to play.
Which Guitar Capo Should I Buy?
You’ll be fine with most any capo, but there are some that are better quality than others. The guitar capos I recommend below are the top capos to look for (and they’re not that expensive!)
Kyser Capo: Kyser is the brand to beat when it comes to capos. I own three of them myself and they’ve held up through constant use the past decade.
Kyser produces multiple capos. But the most popular – and the one you’ll likely want – is just the simple 6-string standard capo. What’s fun is that they produce them in quite a few different colors, from the simple black, silver and white to crazy colors like pink or emerald green. Ha!
Another great option comes from Dunlop in a style known as the “trigger” capo. I one a Jim Dunlop guitar capo and use it almost as often as the Kyser.
Here’s the way I like to describe the difference between the Kyser and Dunlop: Because of how the handles of the guitar capo are positioned on each, I feel like the Kyser is much easer to move using my right hand whereas the Dunlop is much easier with the left. That’s just my personal opinion, though.
Tips for Using a Capo
After years of using a capo, let me share with you a few tips that I’ve learned along the way. Some I discovered on my own, others were shared with me by fellow guitarists.
- Place the Guitar Capo near the Front Fret: This helps to eliminate the possibility of buzz. The “front fret” is the one nearer to the guitar body.
- Re-Tune Your Guitar: When using a capo on an entry-level guitar, it might be necessary to retune the guitar. Especially when the capo is placed further up the neck. Make sure to do this when you’re playing with others or playing on stage. If you need suggestions, here are some great guitar tuner recommendations.
- Don’t Leave the Capo on: Leaving the capo on while it’s sitting on your guitar stand overnight isn’t a great idea. It will lessen the life of your frets and potentially bend your strings.
- Turn it Upside Down: If you’re using a kyser, guitar capo try turning it upside down so that the smaller foot covers only the A,D and G strings. It’s a fun new tuning that works great for the key of D. It’s also an alternative to buying the Kyser Short-Cut Capo.
Final Thoughts on Capos
Hopefully this has been helpful to you as you do your research on capos. There’s actually a lot more theory and fun ideas that go behind guitar capos. If you’re interested to dig even further, check out the below guitar capo resources that will be useful.
Feel free to ask any additional questions in the comments below. Enjoy your learning and all the fun a guitar capo can bring!