One of the most overwhelming things about being a musician is trying to figure out which piece of gear is going to let you sound your best. There are so many different options, all of which come with their own pros and cons; capos are no different.
If you’ve ever wondered which capo is the right fit for you, you’ve come to the right place. This article will give you all the information that you need to make an informed purchase, as well as giving you five stellar recommendations!
- What is a Capo, and Why Would I Need One?
- What Should I Look For in a Capo??
- Do I Need A Special Capo If...?
- How Did We Select Our Recommended Capos?
- The Top 5 Capos
What is a Capo, and Why Would I Need One?
Simply put, a capo allows you to change the key you’re playing in without changing the position of your fingers. For example, suppose you look up the chords to one of your favorite songs. You practice playing along with that song with the chords provided, but when you finally get it down you discover that the song is too high/low for you to sing along with. By capoing you can change the key to find a better fit for your register without having to relearn the song in a different position.
Capos are also helpful if you want to play in keys that are awkward for the guitar, like flatted/sharp keys. Say you want to play a song in Eb. You could stick a capo on the first fret and play it with open chords from the key of D.
Lastly, capos are a must have if you want to play finger-style arrangements of songs or accompany a vocalist with finger picking. For example, I do a song in the key of E where I prefer to use open C and Fmaj7 shapes. By placing a capo on the 4th fret I can do that really simply. I don’t have to relearn the song, and I don’t have to try and contort my fingers into any overly awkward positions.
The only real downside to the capo is that you generally have to retune after you put it on. That’s a pretty mild inconvenience, and if you shell out a bit more cash for a nicer one it’s generally less of an issue.
What Should I Look For in a Capo?
First off, you can get a capo that will do the job reasonably well without spending much at all. Something like a Kyser capo is perfectly fine if you’re just starting out. The bad thing is that on cheap capos the mechanism will gradually wear out., This means before too long the capo won’t hold the strings down tightly enough to create a good tone and sustain. However, that takes a couple years worth of regular use. For example, I have a hot pink Kyser capo that I’ve been using at open mics for as long as I’ve been playing live (right around three years), and it’s still going strong.
When you’re ready to upgrade, I’d look for something that’s made out of metal, has a foam or plastic covering where the capo will meet the neck of your guitar, and has an adaptable tightening mechanism. That way you won’t have to worry about your capo falling apart or damaging your instrument, and you can dial in the right amount of tension so that you don’t have to retune your instrument after you slap on the capo.
Thankfully, most capos are pretty rugged and simple. They’ve been around long enough that the design has essentially been perfected, and most manufacturers are still turning out products of a pretty reasonable quality.
Do I Need A Special Capo If...?
If you play a classical guitar (one equipped with nylon strings) or a 12 string guitar, I’d recommend ordering a capo designed for your instrument. Simply search “classical guitar capo” or “12 string guitar capo” on whichever website you prefer to buy your gear from. Then look for a capo from one of the brands below. They won’t be that different, they’ll just have more or less tension depending on what they’re designed for. The same holds true for both mandolin and banjo, though you can get away with using a guitar capo on both if you really have to.
The Top 5 Capos
Hopefully this article helps you figure out which capo is the right fit for you, your instrument, and your budget. If you feel anything else should be included on this list feel free to let us know in the comments section below!
Kyser KG6B 6 String Capo
The main appeal of the Kyser KG6B is that it comes in at a price point that pretty much everybody can afford. It’s not going to turn any heads, but it performs really well for its price. As an added bonus, it comes in a variety of colors.
Shubb GC-30 Deluxe Acoustic Guitar Capo
I really like this capo, and because you can adjust the tension of the mechanism it’s a great option if you don’t want to be constantly retuning your guitar as put on and remove your capo. However, I personally feel that it’s a bit awkward to manipulate. It’s not bad, the mechanism just feels a bit tight and it’s hard to use it with any degree of speed until you get the hang of it. However, if I’m recording or just playing around the house the Shubb is perfectly adequate in every respect. I’m also a pretty big fan of the all metal construction.
Glider GL-1 Greg Bennet Rolling Guitar Capo
What’s great about this capo is that as soon as it’s put on you’re good to change the position of it without retuning. You can just slide it up or down the neck with no issue. So if you use your capo a lot you may want to look into this one. Unfortunately, it’s also a bit awkward to put on and take off. You can roll it up past the nut when you’re not using it however, which will make it a lot easier to smoothly transition to songs where you don’t need a capo. Like most capos at this price point, the Greg Bennett Glider Rolling Guitar Capo also has an adjustable tension mechanism.
G7th Newport Partial Capo
In my opinion, G7th capos are probably the best sounding capo on the market. There’s significantly less padding so your guitar will sustain more and retain a more open tone. They also did a great job with the fine tuning mechanism, so you shouldn’t have to worry overly much about re-tuning when you use it. However, they are a bit more expensive than their competitors. The capo has a limited use in live settings because once you plug into a P.A. you’re not really going to be able to tell the difference in sound when anyway. So for some guitarists it can be hard to justify the extra price.. However, for recording purposes this capo is a must have if you’re an acoustic focused musician.
Paige Clik Guitar Capo
What I like about this capo is that it’s really rugged, and while the mechanism is a bit more awkward than a trigger style capo it’s pretty well suited to live performance. Just like most nicer capos you can also adjust the tension really easily. This is actually my go-to capo when I play shows, because in addition to being really serviceable in general it also has a really thin profile on the back of neck.