You may be one of those people who have never used a guitar capo. Or maybe you have one, but wanting to upgrade the one you've been using for years.
Or maybe you're just curious about the best guitar capos available.
Is that you? Cool. Read on, dear friend. In this article we going to show you the 5 best guitar capos available.
At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Guitar Capos On The Market
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Buyer's Tips: What to look for when buying the best guitar capos
A guitar capo is a device that clamps down across your guitar's fingerboard at a fret of your choosing. In essence this changes the pitch of the strings. With a capo, all your strings play at higher pitches.
Why would I want to do this?
- Lets you play in any key. Removes the need to play tricky barre chords up the neck. You just slide the capo up the neck and play the eight basic chords to get pretty much any chord in any key.
- Add variety. A capo gives a different sound. As much as we all love the open tuning, adding a capo to the 2nd fret for example can make all the difference to a song.
- Singing. Depending on your vocal range, you'll often find it's easier to sing along to a song with a capo on.
Ok, I'm interested. Where should I start with buying one?
First up, when looking for the best guitar capo, it's important to bear in mind exactly how you intend to use one. Some people prefer a fixed anchor point (i.e. one you can't move up and down the fretboard easily) whilst others might want to move their capo at a moment's notice (e.g when performing).
Not all guitarists are the same and, consequently, not every guitar clamp should be the same either. Therefore, it's impossible to say that one single product will be the most favourable in every case.
When choosing a capo to buy, consider exactly what you want to use it for and the sort of guitar or guitars it will be used with.
For musicians who play in a number of differing styles and with different sorts of instrument, buying more than one capo may be the best way forward. However, for learners and intermediate players, a good all-round capo is likely to be enough to do every sort of job that you may ask of it.
For guitarists who play in studio conditions a great deal, perhaps as a session musician, then a premium capo which is highly engineered is likely to be the best choice. These can sit tightly on the strings of a guitar to create a change to the pitch of each string whilst not putting the instrument out of tune, by varying that pitch between the strings due to their varying intonations.
They offer the best balance between perfect pitch, given a low action on the guitar, and playability. Such capos commonly have a low profile so they don't cause any problems with your hand position, when fingering close to the fret where the capo has been set.
Mid range capos offer a great deal of versatility for rock and folk guitarists but sometimes don't have the same level of pressure generated on the strings. This can mean that on instruments with a higher action, a good connection between the strings and the fret that the capo is set against is not always made. Particularly on your low E and A strings, this can lead to some unwelcome fret buzz unless you spend time repositioning the capo in a place where this is diminished.
They are usually very easy to shift from one fret to another, however, which means they are great if you are rehearsing with a singer who is experimenting with different keys to see which suits their voice best. You can also immediately shift up or down a fret or two without any hassle.
Low cost capos are usually the best option for beginners who are just getting used to playing. These work with a number of mechanisms, but can be especially useful for players learning on Spanish-style classical instruments which often have a neck which is wider than steel strung instruments.
If so, a budget capo can be handy, particularly when fitting it to a high fret position where clamp-style capos can sometimes struggle.
Lastly, there are some specialist capos which offer alternative tunings. If you want to switch between a conventional EADGBE tuning to something like DADGAD without returning, then capos such as the Kyser (reviewed below) are available which allow you to do so.
5 of the best guitar capos available...
Understanding the different types of capo available will help you to choose one that is suited to your level and playing style. However, it is also important to consider the various brands of capo you can buy from each type, as well. See below for some of our favourite capos available on the market today.
1. G7th Newport 6 String Capo
This Newport capo is ideal for guitarists who need a fine tune adjustment, so it is ideal for recording musicians as well as gigging performers. It has an incredibly lightweight feel and comes in at just 9 grams. Along with its low profile it is therefore almost undetectable when fitted properly over the fret board of a guitar.
- Light, well engineered and unobtrusive.
- Because it is squeezed onto the strings, rather than clamped on under a spring loading, or a similar mechanism, the minimum amount of pressure can be applied, thus helping players to avoid putting the strings out of tune or generating problems of fret buzz.
- Ideal for players of steel strung acoustic guitars and electric guitars alike.
- More expensive than other capos.
- Takes a little practice to perfect fitting one.
2. Shubb C1 Guitar Capo
Fashioned from metal, either brass or nickel, this is a tough mid-range capo which is ideal for intermediate players and learners. Designed for repeated repositioning, it is attached to the fretboard and then tightened using a screw thread at the back. Although this allows users to regulate the amount of pressure they apply to the strings using the device, it does also mean that it is not quick to remove and shift to another fret. Having been around since the early 1980s, few capo designs have remained as popular for so long.
- Classic design, very light and highly reliable.
- The locking action is patented, so it is best to go for a Shubb if you want this style because any similar sort of product does not have quite the same mechanism.
- Not the quickest capo to reposition.
- Not ideal for gigging musicians who are much more likely to need to alter or remove their capo rapidly between (or even during) songs.
3. Kyser KG3B Quick Change Short-Cut Three String Partial Capo (Editor's Choice)
This is a specialist capo for guitarists who like to experiment with alternative tunings. One of the best short-cut capos on the market, it has a trigger, or clip-on, design. This means that you can squeeze the capo in your hand and place it exactly where you want it on the fret board. When in the right place you simply release the capo such that it clamps in place. Some guitarists use a Kyser short-cut capo so that their hammer ons and pull offs sound distinctive and fresh. There again, other guitarists simply use them to make certain chord progressions easier to play with less finger position work.
- Highly creative capo. Aids song writing and inventing new musical arrangements.
- Best guitar capo for creating alternative tunings but without ever touching your guitar's machine heads.
- Sitting over just three of your guitar's strings it allows droning strings to be heard or to create other, alternative harmonies.
- 18 grams in weight. Requires some harmony theory to make the most of.
- Cannot be used as a conventional capo.
4. Jim Dunlop JD-83CB Trigger Capo Curved
This capo is another trigger, or clip-on, sort which means that it is great for people who want to move their capo on and off their instrument with great speed. You can also shift it up or down a tone or two on your fretboard in just a second or two. A superb all-rounder sort of capo, it would suit anyone from a learner to a professional singer songwriter. The curved design means that it is ergonomically shaped to feel comfortable when you squeeze it – great for when you either fit it or remove it.
- Tough and easy to reposition.
- Works on most sorts of guitars as well as instruments like mandolins.
- This design works especially well with steel strung acoustics and electric guitars and is a superior version to the many other trigger designs available due to it being that bit more robust.
- Needs to be positioned perfectly so that minute pitch shifting between strings is avoided.
- The curved shape means it is not always suited to classical guitars.
5. Jim Dunlop 11F Advanced Capo Flat (Budget Choice)
This is a budget capo but one that functions very well and is reliable. Ideal for a child's size guitar or a classical guitar, it is fitted with webbing that sits at the back of the fretboard. Simply slide the capo clip around into the recesses on the other side and flip it down to make a secure clamp. You can adjust the 11F capo using a clip on the webbing or choose a different recess positions.
- Cheap and universal. Able to fit on all types of guitars and in many different fret positions.
- Highly advantageous if the depth of your guitar's neck gets bigger as you approach the body because you can adjust the capo to fit perfectly anywhere from the first fret to the twelfth, or beyond. Not all capos offer this degree of flexibility when it comes to positioning.
- Tricky to adjust rapidly or in poor light conditions.
- The simplest of all the Capos here, it's also the weakest in terms of construction.
With so many designs of capo around, it is best to work out which one will suit your needs the best before looking into the various brands or individual product you might select.
Nonetheless, once you have a good idea of the kind of capo you might require, remember to check out more than one brand that makes that style of capo. Some guitarists will want a very lightweight option, but for others this is less of an issue, for example if they already play a heavy guitar such as a Fender Telecaster.
However, ease of use is a key buying decision so long as this does not mean compromising on the durability of the product being chosen. In general, avoid plastic capos which tend to be inferior copies of classic designs which are tried and tested.
These are the five best guitar capos that we've come across. Which is your favourite? Drop us a line below...
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.