The capo is a crucial piece of kit for any guitarist and is invaluable for playing.
This handy device lets you shift the pitch of a guitar by clamping it over the strings.
This is useful for many reasons, but if you aren’t familiar with what a capo is they can be tricky to understand.
Luckily, this article has got you covered. Here we’ll take a look at what a capo is, as well as what they are used for. Not only that, however, we’ll also walk you through how to use a capo yourself.
So let’s get right into it, and learn a bit more about capos!
What Is A Capo?
A capo is a small clamp-like device used to press down on the strings of a guitar.
This transposes the notes the musician is playing, raising their pitch.
In Italian, the word ‘capodastro’ which capo is shortened to translates to “head of fretboard”.
This is all too fitting of a name, as the capo replaces itself as the end of the strings.
Using a capo, a musician is able to play songs that have different keys without having to retune their guitar every time they’re changing.
It also means that a song can be pitched up or down to suit your range if you’re accompanying vocals, or to match any other instruments that are joining you.
Different Types Of Capo
Just like there are different types of guitar, there are also different types of capo.
These differences can be down to the shape and size of the type of guitar you’re using or could be because of a specific feature of the capo itself. Here are some different varieties of capos.
Trigger Capos are the most common type and are the familiar clip shape.
A Trigger Capo works by simply clamping the capo down across your guitar’s fretboard. From there it can be adjusted as necessary and is easy to move one-handed.
Screw Capos are a more adjustable style.
These capos, as the name suggests, use a screw to apply a customizable amount of pressure to the strings.
Trigger Capos aren’t adjustable so don’t let you change how much pressure you’re using, but Screw Capos let you dial into the perfect amount of tension.
Certain types of guitars also need their own versions of a capo.
Ukuleles, for example, tend to be smaller and have a greater curve around the back to conform to the instrument’s shape.
Banjo capos, meanwhile, need more friction to keep the metal strings in place.
What Are Capos Used For?
As mentioned earlier, capos are used to adjust the pitch of a guitar by pressing down on the strings.
This essentially reduces the length of the fretboard and the strings, making the notes sound higher.
Capos allow the guitarist to adjust the pitch of their instrument at will, whether that be between songs or even in the middle of one.
This also means that guitarists also don’t have to spend much time between songs changing the tuning on their guitar. Using a capo prevents the need to retune every song and stops any awkward pauses during a set.
Capos are incredibly useful tools for both amateur and professional musicians alike and should be a vital part of any guitarist’s tool kit.
How Do You Use A Capo?
Using a capo is pretty simple, and there isn’t much to it. That said, there is a certain way you should use a capo to get the most out of it.
If you don’t apply and adjust the capo properly, it won’t be as effective. This could lead to strings not being given enough tension, or even the capo falling off entirely mid-song. Not the best look.
Here’s how to use a capo properly.
First of all, you need to make sure your guitar is tuned the way you want it to be. There’s no point in changing the pitch of your notes with a capo if they aren’t the notes you want to achieve.
Once your guitar is tuned, you need to figure out what pitch you are transposing your guitar to. Knowing this will tell you where to put the capo on your fretboard.
When putting the capo on your guitar, make sure you clamp it on straight and level.
If the capo is put on at an angle, some strings may not have enough pressure put on them. It also means that the other strings can have too much pressure, making your notes sound completely out of tune.
An angled capo can also lead to pitch bend, where the strings have been curved by the capo. While the capo might only be bending the strings by a small amount, this can still drastically affect the quality and pitch of your note.
Make sure you are putting the capo on your fretboard correctly to avoid your guitar sounding terrible while you play.
Playing the guitar with a capo on doesn’t impact your playstyle too much. Because the capo is acting as the top of the fretboard, all you need to do is treat the strings as being shorter and play as normal.
Depending on how far down you have put the capo, it may be a little difficult to make the space necessary to play comfortably. Just remember not to try fingering above the capo, as this won’t do anything.
Capos are easy to move around and can be used to change the pitch of your guitar on the fly.
Whether you want the pitch to match your vocals or want to play multiple different keys in a set, a capo is a great tool for any guitarist.
So now you know a bit more about what a capo is, what they are used for, and how to use them yourself.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about these super-handy devices and how important they are for guitarists of all varieties.
Whether you’re a beginner guitarist just starting out, or simply curious about that piece of kit you’ve seen musicians use, now you know everything you need to know about capos!
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.