Can You Use a Capo on an Electric Guitar?

Guitarists use all sorts of nifty tools and gadgets to achieve their desired sound in recordings and performances. From effects pedals to vintage amps, there is no shortage of ways to spruce up your playing and get creative.

One of the simplest yet most versatile ways to change up your guitar’s sound is using a capo. If you have recently purchased an electric guitar, you may be wondering, “Can you use a capo on an electric guitar?”. Today we will be answering this question and learning about the different types of capos available on the market.

What is a Capo?

The humble capo has existed for hundreds of years. This nifty little device is essentially a movable bar that attaches onto your guitar’s neck. When fixed in place, the bar presses down on the row of frets for each string. For example, setting a capo at the second fret position allows it to press down on the second fret of every string on your guitar.

Why Do Guitarists Use Capos?

The capo’s primary function is to pitch up your guitar by a certain number of semitones. This can also be accomplished by increasing the tuning via the tuning knobs. However, this process can be quite time-consuming, especially in a live performance setting.

In addition to the above problem, attempting to tune your guitar to a high pitch such as the +5 semitones would likely cause some of the strings to snap from the tension.

What is the Benefit of Playing the Guitar at Higher Pitches?

So why do some guitarists record and perform songs at higher pitches using capos? There are many possible explanations. The simplest one is that they may like to play the standard chord shapes at higher pitches. This gives their chords a different sound, which may be desirable in certain cases.

Other musicians may use a capo to transpose a chord progression to fit with their vocal register. This is especially common with female vocalists who would like to pitch up their guitar to perform a song in a higher key than it was originally written in.

The third reason why a guitar may choose to use a capo is to bring their guitar back into standard tuning pitch. For example, a guitarist may choose to tune down their guitar by one semitone from E A D G B E to Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb. They may then wish to bring it back to E A D G B E tuning by applying a capo at the first fret.

Can You Use a Capo on An Electric Guitar?

Believe it or not, the humble guitar capo has existed since the 1700s. This means it predates the electric guitar by hundreds of years. Despite this, it is possible to use a capo on an electric guitar. In fact, there are many capos designed specifically for use with electric guitars.

Types of Guitar Capos

There are actually several different types of capos, each of which come with distinct advantages and drawbacks. Let’s examine each of these types.

  1. Trigger Capos

Trigger capos are arguably the most popular type of capo out there. This capo utilizes a spring-loaded clamp to stay fixed to your guitar neck and provide the tension needed to press the strings. The design allows guitar players to effortlessly reposition their capo by simply squeezing the clamp mechanism and moving it up or down the neck before letting go. This can be done using only one hand, making trigger capos the go-to choice for most guitarists.

The only drawback associated with this design is the fact you cannot adjust the tension. So if the tension is too weak, you may end up with fret-buzzing. If the tension is too strong, your strings may get over-bent and lead to tuning issues.

  1. Screw Capos

Screw capos are similar to trigger capos in design. However, instead of a spring, the tension is applied using an adjustable screw. To apply or adjust this capo, you simply need to loosen the screw, set your capo in position, and retighten the screw.

This design allows you to adjust the capo’s tension, which eliminates the tension problems associated with trigger capos. However, the drawback of this design is that it makes attaching or repositioning the capo a bit more time-consuming. This process also requires two hands to complete, which may be a problem for guitarists who want to reposition their capo mid-performance.

  1. Toggle Capos

Toggle capos feature an adjustable strap that provides the tension required to hold the mechanism in place and press down the strings. The strap can be adjusted by pulling it across notches on the backside. These capos tend to be small and light, which makes them popular with some guitarists.

The drawback of this design is that they may not provide the ideal level of tension. Setting the strap at one particular notch may provide too little tension, while the next notch provides too much tension. For this reason, toggle capos may not be ideal for all neck shapes or sizes.

  1. Partial Capos

All the capos we have discussed thus far allow you to pitch up each of the guitar’s strings evenly. So setting the capo in the second fret position would increase each string’s pitch by two semitones.

Partial capos are for guitarists that would prefer to pitch up only a few strings on their guitar, and leave the remaining strings with open tuning pitch. This type of capo is useful if you want to play certain chords or shapes that harmonize with the open string tunings. It can be a great alternative to applying alternate tunings to your guitar.

Which Type of Capo is Best for an Electric Guitar?

Each of the capo types discussed above offer distinct advantages and drawbacks. Guitarists should consider researching each type before making their selection. Capos allow you to do some amazing things on the guitar, so consider investing in one of these nifty tools if you want to expand your creative and performative capabilities.