Everything You Need To Know About Capos

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Written By Sarah Barlow

Chief Music Officer


Guitar Capos, The What, The Why, The When, The How and the Who’s.

This site aims to provide the curious, and the inquisitive with everything there is to know about Guitar Capos.  There are a host of different styles of Capo, varying in design, efficiency and effect.  Through GuitarCapo.com I aim to show you all.

What is a Guitar Capo?

A capo is a small device that is used on the neck of a stringed instrument such as a guitar and the purpose of this device to reduce the playable length of the strings of the instrument. Doing so helps in raising the pitch when the instrument is played. Other instruments that have a capo include but are not limited to mandolins and banjos.  This term was first used by Giovanni Battista Doni (GB Doni) in his work  Annotazioni sopra il compendio during the year 1640. This device was most likely used first in the early 17th century.  For more information on the history, make sure you read our History of Guitar Capos guide.

A capo used in a guitar is made to fit on the neck of the guitar right behind the selected fret. This device shortens the length of the strings, which has an effect of creating a new nut. This in turn ensures that the guitar plays a higher note than the guitar’s actual nut. When a capo is used only the open nut of each string is affected. To ensure that the guitar remains fretted, the capo should be secured well, and in the sharpest angle possible.

A common question, people often wonder how to pronounce Capo.  Should Capo be pronounced as Cap-Oh, or Kay-Po.   The correct answer is Kay-Po.

How Does a Guitar Capo Work?

A guitar capo is an important accessory that is used by every guitarist at some point in time. Depending on the design the capo may create tension by using a thick elastic band to create tension across the selected strings; or this device may use a simple spring mechanism to create tension. You can also find capos that use a screw with a threaded bolt to create tension. A guitar capo can not only be used for tuning guitars but it can also be used to create a higher pitch or a lower pitch for particular tunes such as Irish tunes.

How Much Does A Guitar Capo Cost?

The design and the materials used to create the capo will determine the cost however, elastic and fabric capos cost lesser than metal capos or spring capos. A guitar capo can cost as less as $5 and can also cost as much as $50. The brand of the selected capo will also determine the value and cost of the device. Capos that are economic usually have to be fit and adjusted with both hands where as slightly expensive capos can be fit and adjusted with one hand.

Should my First Capo be Expensive?

No, your first capo does not have to be a top of the line product especially if you are playing an acoustic guitar with 6 strings. However, your first capo should be strong enough and should not apply too much pressure while clamping down the strings as this would cause your guitar to instantly go out of tune.