Can you use a guitar capo on a ukulele? Generally, yes. You can use most types of guitar capos on a ukulele. However, there are instances where the clamping mechanism of the capo isn’t perfect for the narrow neck of the ukulele. This can somehow affect the tone of the instrument or prevent it from making a sound altogether.
Guitars and ukuleles are perhaps two of the most common string instruments out there. That’s probably because of how easy they are to play and the numerous songs you can learn on them.
However, there are some songs that may require you to raise the pitch of the instrument to play it more conveniently. This is the time when you need to grab an essential accessory called the capo.
Most capos are designed to fit a guitar, but if you’re playing the ukulele, can you use your guitar capo as well? Let’s find that out in this article.
What’s a Capo?
For those of you who don’t know what a capo is, it’s basically a short term for capotasto. It roughly translates to “head of the fretboard” and is used to clamp or bar the strings, transposing their notes to a higher pitch.
Can You Use a Guitar Capo on a Ukulele?
It’s important to note that there are many different categories and subcategories of capos. The two main ones are guitar and ukulele capos. The basic principle of how they work is virtually the same. However, they are designed slightly differently.
In essence, you can, in fact, use a guitar capo on a ukulele, but only if you’ll only do so seldomly. If you’d regularly use a capo on your ukulele, it’s best to invest in one that’s specifically designed for the instrument. Otherwise, you’re putting your ukulele in a number of risks, not to mention the effects of a guitar capo on a ukulele’s sound and playing convenience.
How Does a Guitar Capo Affect Your Ukulele?
You’re essentially just barring the strings on the ukulele using a guitar capo, so why would it affect your ukulele experience? Well, here are some things you might notice upon using a guitar capo on your instrument.
Size & Weight
Guitar capos are designed, obviously, for guitars, which means they are rather large to sort of perfectly embrace the neck of the instrument. After all, they’re meant to clamp six strings, not four. Because of this, using a guitar capo on a ukulele will cause a few centimeters of the accessory to extend past the instrument’s neck.
This can be an inconvenience when you’re playing the ukulele. Additionally, one of the benefits you get from playing the ukulele is its compactness, making it rather light. However, a guitar ukulele can cause an imbalance between the neck and the body. Of course, you could still play the instrument, but the imbalance can be rather unpleasant.
Because of its intended target instrument, a guitar capo usually has a stronger clamping strength than a ukulele capo. This is to effectively bar the strings on a certain fret and prevent them from making buzzing noises. However, this clamping strength is not very beneficial to ukuleles.
That’s because a vast majority of ukuleles use nylon strings, which are significantly softer than steel strings often found in acoustic guitars. Nylon strings would quickly deteriorate and show signs of wear and tear if you frequently use guitar capos to clamp them.
When this happens, your ukulele’s strings are more prone to breakage, causing them to snap easily. This can result in accidents or injuries, especially if they snap while you’re playing the instrument.
On the other hand, electric guitar capos often have lower clamping strength than acoustic guitar capos. This makes them a fine substitute if you really don’t have a ukulele capo. However, it’s still important to note that the size and weight inconvenience would still be present.
If you don’t want to experience the risks and inconveniences that come with using a guitar capo on a ukulele, you may want to invest in one that’s designed specifically for the instrument. Here are the most common options you have.
A spring-loaded ukulele capo is almost the same as a traditional guitar capo, except that it’s significantly smaller. The main advantage it provides you with is that it’s extremely easy to use. You just have to pull the lever, clamp it onto the ukulele’s fretboard, and release it.
The second bar of the capo, which is the curved one that doesn’t touch the strings, presses against the back of the ukulele’s neck. Its size and curvature clasp onto the fretboard perfectly, clamping the strings efficiently without putting too much pressure on them.
Elastic capos aren’t as common as the spring-loaded, but they’re often cheaper. The best advantage you could get from them, aside from being more affordable, is that they’re lightweight. You might not even notice the additional weight they give to your instrument.
However, they’re a bit difficult to use. You need to stretch them across the neck and hook the other end to a metal eyelet to keep them in place. They also tend to detune the strings after quite some time.
Thumbscrew and C-Clamp
Perhaps the best capos you can use on your ukulele are the thumbscrew and C-clamp capo. While they look dissimilar, their basic clamping method and principle are the same. Like the spring-loaded capo, they have one bar that clamps the strings and another that clasps onto the back of the fretboard.
However, the most notable feature they have is a screw or a toggle. By tightening and loosening the screw or the toggle, you can adjust the tension of the capo on the strings. Because of this, you can set them to the right pressure where they don’t harm the strings, but they also don’t create a buzzing noise.
The only disadvantage they have is that they’re more difficult to move along the fretboard when compared to the spring-loaded capo. That’s because you have to loosen and retighten them every time you want to adjust them to a different fret.
If you really don’t have any other choice, go ahead and grab that guitar capo next to you and use it on your ukulele. However, make sure that you’re aware of the consequences.
Take this very helpful tip from us; invest in a ukulele capo if you find that you need to clamp your strings frequently.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.