Although capos have been around almost as long as guitars, there are a surprising number of brands, types of capos, and subtle factors to consider when making a purchase decision. The use of a capo is beneficial for changing the tuning of your guitar. As a result, you should learn how to use a capo and should not consider them to be “cheaters.”
We could never test each capo on each of your guitars to assess how each capo looks, how well it operates, and whether or not there is an issue with each capo. We could never test each capo on each of your guitars.
In an ideal world, capo stores would be located in shopping malls, or an old-fashioned Capo Man vendor would travel through your village with a cart containing every type of capo available for you to try on and purchase. On the other hand, Capos are not prohibitively expensive, and because they rarely break or wear out, many of us end up with a small collection of them.
There is no such thing as a single “best” capo that can do everything perfectly for every player every time. Your favorite go-to capo will most likely change several times throughout your playing career and life.
A breakdown of the factors to consider when selecting the most appropriate capo for your requirements is provided below.
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Full Capo vs. Partial Capo: Which Is Better?
They all perform the same musical function: they shorten all strings across the fingerboard, allowing you to sing and play in a variety of key variations. This type of capo constitutes the vast majority of those used by players and available on the market.
Capos that only clamp a portion of the fretboard are called partial capos, and as their name implies, they attach fewer strings to the fretboard than full capos. When used in this manner, they alter the landscape of fingerboard possibilities in much the same way that altered tunings do, though they do not alter the geometry of the fretboard in the same way that retuning does, as retuning does.
Partially clamping partial capos are commonly used to attach five outer strings and three inner strings, though lesser-known partial capos can clamp one, two, or four strings. When it comes to maintaining the geometry of your fretboard, partial capos do so at the expense of enabling access to particular regions of your fingerboard.
It is similar to how you use partial capos and altered tunings. They both provide new resonances, chord voicings, and fingering possibilities; however, a partial capo is not the same as tuning.
It is possible to attain both objectives simultaneously, which is an exciting new topic to investigate.
The use of partial capos on any guitar or fretted instrument, regardless of tune, opens up a mind-boggling new world of possibilities for players and songwriters of all skill levels, as well as innovative easy-guitar alternatives for youngsters, special-needs musicians, and beginners.
Fit and Radius
Fit and radius are two terms used to describe how a piece of furniture fits into a space.
Because steel-string guitars have a curved (radiused) fingerboard and nylon-string guitars typically have a flat fingerboard, choosing a capo can sometimes be difficult.
Either one is OK; it’s just a matter of habit. However, there are many differences in capo and fretboard curvature, which influence a capo’s performance.
Fortunately, there is a straightforward solution: use a capo that is flat, radiused, or curved on the instrument.
Each guitar manufacturer selects a fingerboard radius appropriate for their product, which can be a subtle factor in why some capos work better on some guitars than others. Your outer or inner strings may buzz or stretch out of tune if the capo curvature does not match the fingerboard’s radius.
Despite the fact that some companies have developed designs that can adapt to a variety of fingerboard radiuses, such as G7th’s capos with Adaptive Radius Technology or Thalia’s interchangeable snap-on feet that can accommodate variations in radius, these designs can become lost or misplaced after a period of time. .
In the case of a sleek, modern guitar neck, you may discover that it is too thin at the first and second frets for precise capo locations. Alternatively, depending on the brand and type of the guitar, you may find that it is too wide or too thick at higher fret placements.
The shape and width of your guitar’s neck will most likely vary in different places, making capo fit issues much more challenging to resolve. Every capo has a range of capabilities regarding how thin, thick, or wide a neck can accommodate.
The issue of string spacing is also present in partial capos. Only the pioneering Third Hand (now discontinued) and the SpiderCapo, both universal partial capos, can adjust for string spacing, which is also known to increase at higher frets in some instances.
The type of rubber used in different capos varies, and this has an impact on the performance. Compared to a harder rubber grade, a softer grade will slightly deaden the tone of your guitar, but it will also mute strings more effectively with less force. (The fingers are soft, but they are effective.) Using softer capo rubber on 12-string instruments allows the octave strings on the bottom four courses to be stopped better than harder capo rubber on the same instrument.
Capo functionality is greatly influenced by the amount of force applied. Clamping mechanisms such as elastic, spring, and screw clamping exert varying amounts of force, which are applied to your strings in slightly different ways.
You’ll need a capo that provides just enough force to the strings to keep them in tune, but not too much.
Choosing a capo that is capable of handling both your chosen string gauges and the action (or height) of your strings above the fretboard when playing guitar is another crucial factor.
If you use medium or heavy strings, have high activity, a 12-string guitar, or play hard, you may encounter rattling and buzzing unless you use a model specifically suited for the purpose.
Keeping the Music in Tune
It is more likely that you will be slightly out of tune if you tighten your capo up. Especially with thicker strings or higher action, the bass strings will be stretched the most severely. This isn’t very easy by the fact that guitar necks are not the same thickness across the entire fingerboard and are typically thicker and wider as the fingerboard progresses up the scale.
Fixed-force capos will, as a result, become increasingly tight as you progress up the neck.
Open-jaw capos apply greater power from one side than closed-jaw capos. Tying them on both bass or treble sides can help you decide if there is a difference.
Open-jaw capos are more expensive than closed-jaw capos.
A dizzying array of generic spring capos, as well as established brands such as D’Addario NS-Tri-Action capos, Kyser Quick-Change, Jim Dunlop Trigger, and, can be quickly popped on and off with one hand, moved to a different fret in the middle of a song and stored on your headstock or strap while you’re playing.
This convenience comes at a cost, as spring capos weaken with age, are not always adjustable, and tend to pull slightly sideways and off-center on some guitars.
Children and some adults may have difficulty with hand strength when operating spring clamps or some snap-on models, and screw clamps may be preferable in these situations.
It is natural for rubber to dry out and wear, but Shubb capos allow you to easily replace the rubber sleeve, which is impossible with most other brands. Clamping more evenly is achieved by latching the Paige, Dan Crary, and G7th Heritage capos together.
They can be stored above the nut to avoid loss.
The Liberty Flip capos, which are my inventions, are the world’s first two-sided capos.
It is possible that the bodies of some capos will get in the way of your left hand, especially if you are utilizing partial capos, because you may need to reach over or around them in order to reach notes under or behind the capo body.
Most capos are designed to be attached from the bass side. Still, you may want to experiment with attaching a three-string partial capo from either the bass or treble side to reduce the likelihood of it wiggling out of position in the middle of a song.
The fact that not all capos are equal in adjustability is a significant source of concern.
Screw-clamp mechanisms are dependable and can be adjusted precisely without the need for overtightening, but better control results in more rotations and, as a result, lower performance..
Several brands use a snap mechanism in conjunction with an adjustable thumbscrew. Make any necessary adjustments for fit and tightness, then snap on and off quickly. While the ingenious Ned Steinberger-designed D’Addario capos provide the convenience of springs with the added advantage of a screw-adjustable clamp, they may need to be adjusted for higher frets or for times of the year when humidity is high or low. The Shubb, Thalia, and G7th all have pressure-fit snap-on mechanisms, but you might prefer to stick with a classic spring, clamp, or screw-knob mechanism instead.
Attaching a large mass of metal to the neck of your instrument may cause interference with the resonances of your instrument, and if you are drawn to a Thalia, G7th, or Dan Crary model, you should consider this. A heavy capo is also more challenging to carry around in your pocket when attending a party or gig. Capos that are small, compact, and less visible have advantages, but they are also more difficult to find.
You can be forgiven for obtaining a cheap capo off the internet, even if it is a great capo that costs $100. If it accomplishes what you want, which is to allow you to sing or play in a more complex key, you can be forgiven for spending less than that amount of money on a capo.
Having a great capo that works well may also make you feel better. When you use it, it has the potential to make you feel good.
Less expensive capos are typically made of aluminum, which can be painted or anodized in a variety of ways to make them sexier or more entertaining. People have different preferences when it comes to materials. Some prefer plastic, while others prefer brass, pink, camouflage, or even wood. When it comes to the company’s flagship capo, both brass and nickel-plated brass are used because nice gold-colored brass will tarnish over time, especially if it is near saltwater. Whether you prefer the ultra-modern machined look of the G7th, the playful Shark capo, or the solid hardwood Wingo, there’s something for everyone here. Thalia works with exotic woods and produces limited editions of her pieces. Flamenco players used to dress in jeweled capos as a sign of their social standing. Many players report that using a beautifully machined, hand-made-in-the-USA capo makes them feel better than using something that feels cheap and tacky.
Congratulations, enjoy yourself, and don’t be afraid to splurge on a new capo now and then. It is impossible to have too many capos!