The guitar capo comes in many different forms, but they all perform the same function. You want to accompany a favorite song on the guitar, but find you're singing too low or too high for comfort. Put a capo on one of the frets, play the same chords and move the capo up or down the fret board until you're singing in a comfortable key. A capo also helps keep unruly musicians under control. If you're in a session with musicians who are drowning you out, just use the capo to change to a key they can't match and enjoy your solo spot.
Purists don't like capos; they prefer to raise the pitch by putting one finger of the left hand across all the strings and using the other fingers to make the chord shape. Strong fingers and a flexible hand can accomplish. If you can't, buy a capo. According to the website start-playing-guitar.com, capos act like an extra finger.
Many musicians have fond memories of their first capo -- the one with the fabric strap. It's cheap, simple and does the job. The rubber bar that is standard on all capos is attached to a fabric strap that goes round the back of the guitar neck and hooks onto the other side of the bar. It works well on the lower frets but, as you move up the neck, it becomes difficult to adjust the capo to get the right pressure on the strings. If the pressure is too light, you'll get buzzing. If it's too tight, you may get uneven pressure and some unusual sounds.
Fabric stretches, so your strap capo may have a short life. Next step up is a capo with a clamping lever. It has the same rubber bar but, this time, a metal frame goes right around the neck. A spring-loaded lever releases the capo. The spring mechanism provides the pressure to hold down the strings, but you can't adjust the pressure. The clamp is effective, but not subtle. A quick-release version has a short arm to secure the capo on the back of the neck with a similar spring-loaded release lever.
If you prefer to adjust the pressure on the strings, try a capo with an adjustable clamp. One version has a threaded mechanism. Fit the capo to the fret, then rotate a small wheel to tighten or loosen the pressure. That makes it easy to position the capo anywhere on the fret board without buzzing or uneven pressure. Another version incorporates a lever that you press to adjust or release the pressure.
If you envy those players who use non-standard tuning to get special sounds, get yourself a short or partial capo. According to the website Musician's Friend, using a short capo on any three adjacent strings instantly creates a variety of open and alternative tunings. If you're really feeling adventurous, try a third-hand capo that allows adjustment of the pressure on each string.
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images