What is a Capo? How to choose and use.

What is a capo I had a guitar teacher who used to joke that a Capo was his favourite Spanish contraceptive.  However, joking aside the Capo is a under used piece of guitar gear.

So what is a capo?

The Capo, in technical terms, is a device that is used on the neck of stringed instruments to shorten the playable length of the strings and thus raising the pitch.  A capo is typically used by a guitarist to play guitar chords in the open position higher up the neck.  That is by using a capo you can use open sting fingerings of chords in different keys.  In effect by clamping the capo behind a fret the guitarist is moving the nut further up the fretboard.  So for example if you think of an A major chord played in the open position.  This can be played as a D major chord using exactly the same finger positions by clamping the capo in the fifth fret position of the guitar.

The earliest reference to the capo was in the Annotazioni by Giovanni Battista Doni in 1640 although it is suggested that the capo was being used long before this.  The first patented capo was designed by James Ashborn of Walcottville in the US.  .

Now we have answered the question of what is a capo and having given you a brief potted history it is worth looking at the type of capo that you can buy.  In essence a capo usually consists of a rigid strip of plastic or similar material that is either strapped or clamped onto the guitar neck.  However I have used some which have been fairly poor quality that have broken quickly or in some extreme cases marked the guitar neck.  So to help in your selection we have reviewed three that we think are great to use and represent a cheap, medium and expensive option.

Tiger Universal Capo

The Tiger Universal Capo represents excellent quality

The first capo that we will look at is the Tiger Universal Trigger Capo. The Tiger represents an excellent value capo which is easy to use and extremely robust.  The Trigger Guitar Capo is designed to accommodate almost any standard guitar neck as well as both straight and curved fretboards. It has a great spring trigger which securely fastens the guitar capo round the back of the neck with an angled, padded grip.  Our only word of caution is to be careful with the spring loaded trigger grip as it is a tough beast.  The top of the guitar capo rests on top of the strings with full rubber padding to protect your instruments strings and fretboard, without sharpening notes. The Tiger to me represents a good value capo which is incredibly well designed and will survive just about any kind of rough treatment that you would care to throw at it.  The Tiger Universal Capo usually retails for around the £7.00 mark but you can currently get it through Amazon for £3.05.


Shubb guitar capo

The Shubb guitar capo has been a guitarists favourite since 1980.

Our second Capo is the Shubb Guitar Capo which is more expensive than the Tiger but has some great features. The Shubb capo was first released in the 1980s so it must have something that has led to it being so successful. The reason for that success is down to the patented locking action which makes it a very quick capo to fit and remove.  One flip of the lever and the thing is locked in place, another quick flip and it is off. This is just the sort of ease of use that a gigging musician is looking for. The last thing you want is to be faffing around on stage trying to fit or remove a capo between songs. This certainly won’t happen with the Shubb. The rubber lined bar means that the strings are gently clamped down on the guitar neck rather than bending the string round the fret. Shubb claim that this reduces string and fret wear and tear and also reduces the risk of detuning the guitar when the capo is removed.  The Shubb is a great capo but is a bit more expensive than the Tiger.  It usually retails for just under £20 but it can be purchased through Amazon for £12.95.

G7th Performance Capo

The G7th Performance Capo was designed by an industrial engineer.

Our final capo is the most expensive but also is truly a thing of beauty.  The G7th Performance Capo was designed by Nick Campling a chartered engineer with degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design who was managing director of design company 42 Technology. With the G7th Performance Capo Mr. Campling’s background really does shine through. This thing looks like it has been designed to look good but also has substance behind that style.  The G7th performance capo has an ingenious mechanism which allows the capo to be easily placed, clamped with one hand and removed.  The clamping action is gentle which again reduces string detuning and the capo has a neat design feature which means that when not in use it stores neatly on your guitars headstock.  The most expensive of the three capo’s that we have looked at but still represents excellent value at £22.95 through Amazon.

What is a capo?  The capo is a great piece of kit that we encourage every guitarist to own.  It allows you to extend your guitar playing and experiment with different chord sounds.  However, choosing a capo is a very subjective thing but once you find the one that works best for you, and we like to think one of the three reviewed would fit the bill, then stick with it.


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