In this buyer’s guide, we look at the best capos available for six and twelve string guitars, as well as specialist partial capos for alternate tuning and more.
At a Glance: Our Choice of the Best Guitar Capos on the Market
- G7th Performance 3 ART (Top Pick)
- Shubb S1 (Runner Up)
- Donner DC-2 (Great Value)
- D’Addario NS Tri-Action Capo
- Jim Dunlop 83CB Acoustic Trigger
- Kyser Short-Cut Partial Capo
- Kyser Quick-Change Capo for 12-String Guitars
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information on Amazon
Table of Contents
- Best Guitar Capos Product Round-up
- What are Guitar Capos For?
- Types of Capo
- So, Which Should I Pick?
Best Guitar Capos Product Round-up
G7th Performance 3 ART Guitar Capo
Let’s start with what many consider to be the best of the lot, the Performance 3 ART from G7th.
The ART stands for Adaptive Radius Technology, which in plain English means it adjusts to the curvature of the fretboard.
The better fit means improved contact across all the strings, resulting in less buzzing of the strings (the major issue with many capos) and superior tuning stability.
You can operate it with one hand (always a plus) and you can store it on your headstock or behind the not when it’s not in use.
In addition, its design is quite a thing of beauty. Plus it’s build like a tank.
They’re so confident of it’s greatness, they offer a lifetime guarantee.
- Adjusts to the curvature of the fretboard (what they call Adaptive Radius Technology or ART for short)
- Unique Tension Control allows you to gently squeeze it for attaching and releasing
- Superior tuning stability
- Designed for one-handed use
- Stores easily on the headstock or behind the nut for quick and easy access
- Lifetime guarantee for peace of mind
- Not the lightest
Shubb have been a market leader in capos for years. Fans include Keith Richards, Joe Bonamassa, and Eric Johnson. Not a bad crowd to be in with.
It’s an adjustable tension capo, with a stainless steel frame and a cute little screw with a plastic pointy cap. It’s iconic.
To use it, you simply flip the lever to lock the capo in place, then tighten or slacken using a screw thread at the back. This lets you set just the right amount of tension so it fits snuggly over the strings.
The stainless-steel frame makes this product very stable while it’s screw and roller mechanism means it’s easy to install and release.
It’s specially designed to apply equal amounts of pressure on all of the six strings, to stop string buzzing. You can also modify the tension using a screw, so it works well on most radiused fingerboards.
The only downside? Although the design allows you to regulate the amount of pressure it applies to the strings, it also means it’s not the quickest to remove and shift to another fret (for speed you want a quick release).
- Iconic design, favored by many of the greats
- Small, lightweight
- Adjustable screw lets you get just the right amount of tension
- Not quick-release, so not as quick to change keys (which can be annoying if playing live)
- You need two hands to operate it
- You can’t store it on the guitar when not in use
Looking for something decent enough without spending too much? Then the Donner DC-2 could be just the ticket.
Its spring-loaded, quick-release design lets you operate it with one hand, and it’s built of lightweight zinc alloy (aircraft grade metal according to the manufacturers), so it’s pretty darn light.
The silicone pad helps to protect against scratches and what not.
It’s designed to fit a variety of stringed instruments, including both electric and acoustics, banjos, and ukuleles
Its low price is attractive to anyone on a budget, and its quick-release design makes it ideal for performing players that need to change key quickly while onstage.
- Spring-loaded quick-release design makes it mega quick to shift up and down the fretboard, or take on or off
- Can be used on different types of instruments
- Good, but you may outgrow it
D’Addario NS Tri-Action Capo
A superb adjustable tension capo here.
The micrometer adjustment mechanism allows you to set the exact tension needed for tonal clarity, in any position on the fretboard.
This neat little feature ensures that tension is correct on every fret, so you don’t inadvertently increase the pitch of your notes by applying too much tension to the neck (a issue common with many non-adjustable capos).
According to D’Addario, its geometry also reduces the force required to open and close the capo, applying even tension regardless of neck profile.
Additionally, the sleek frame design adds very little extra weight or obstruction to the guitar. It can also move up and down the neck single-handedly thanks to its smooth light-weight design.
- Micrometer adjustment screw enables you to dial in the precise tension needed for great note tone, without having to apply excessive force to the neck. This can help reduce the need to retune during and after use
- Made from high-quality aluminum for long-lasting playability
- Can be moved along the fingerboard single-handedly
- None to mention
Jim Dunlop 83CB Acoustic Trigger
Another budget option here, the Dunlop 83CB is a versatile, spring-action option that comes in five different colors.
It’s spring-loaded with a strong grip with the ability to change position easily.
It’s curved, ergonomic shape is specially designed for easy re-positioning along different frets, and the clamp itself is also well cushioned to protect your instrument from damage during use.
Thanks to it’s small, lightweight design, the Dunlop 83CB will allow acoustic guitarists to play up and down the fingerboard without obstruction.
- Variety of color choices – with the option of maple to suit your acoustic guitar
- High-Quality material – Portable, lightweight aluminum frame is built to last
- Simple to use – Easy to fit by simply squeezing the handle and moving into position
- Less versatile than other brands – Only fits six-string acoustics
- May not grip semi-acoustic models with even tension – Strings can sound out of tune or make unwanted buzzing sounds
- Spring can apply too much tension – Be careful when first applying this to your guitar, if the tension feels too strong don’t force the device onto your instrument, as this can cause damage!
Kyser Short-Cut Partial Capo
This partial capo is for accessing alternate tunings, making your guitar sound like it’s tuned to D-A-D-G-A-D, without having to retune the guitar.
This is superb if you either can’t be bothered to retune your guitar, or for gigging when you need D-A-D-G-A-D tuning for only one of two songs in a set.
To use it, you put it on the 2nd fret and it only covers the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings.
It has a trigger design so you squeeze the capo in your hand and place it exactly where you want on the fretboard, and park it on the guitar’s headstock when not in use.
- Creates alternative tunings (DADGAD) without having to touch your machine heads
- Handy for live performance
- Sitting over just three of your strings it allows droning strings to be heard or to create other, alternative harmonies
- One-handed operation
- It cannot be used as a conventional capo
Kyser Quick-Change Capo for 12-String Guitars
This one is specifically designed for 12-string guitars and adds tension across a wider surface area and therefore requires more spring force. Your typical capo won’t provide enough tension for all 12 strings, resulting in unwanted string buzz.
- Provides extra tension to supply the wider surface area of 12 string necks
- One-handed operation
- Park of the guitar’s headstock when not in use
- Only suitable for 12 string guitars
What are Guitar Capos For?
Capos have been popular with musicians throughout history with evidence of them being used as far back as the 1640s. They are small, clamp or strap-like devices that work by clamping down across the guitar’s fingerboard and applying pressure.
The increased tension on the strings changes the tone pitch they produce (they always make your strings play at higher pitches, never lower).
Here are a few famous examples of songs that use them:
- ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles (7th fret)
- ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis (2nd fret)
- ‘Here Comes the Sun’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’ by The Beatles (7th fret/ 2nd fret)
- ‘Free Fallin’’ by Tom Petty (various frets)
- ‘Fire and Rain’ by James Taylor (3rd fret)
- ‘The Boxer’ by Simon and Garfunkel (2nd fret)
- ‘Aqualung’ by Jethro Tull (3rd fret)
Their main purpose is to remove the need to play barre chords higher up the neck. Instead, you just clamp or strap (depending on the model) it into place at a fret of your choosing.
And then, with the open chords you already know, you can move it up the neck and play any chord in any key.
Partial capos also help more advanced players vary sections of bassline or melody in a piece of music.
Types of Capo
Spring-Loaded / Trigger
Its simplicity makes the trigger or ‘spring-loaded’ capo a favorite among both beginner and experienced players. You attach one to a guitar by squeezing the trigger portion (which compresses the spring and opens the rubber-coated clamp), then releasing the trigger to apply pressure to the strings at your choice of fret.
Their release mechanism means they’re really easy to move around the fretboard with one hand. One downside is that unlike the C-clamp variety (see below), their tension is not adjustable. This can lead to problems – for example, if the tension is too high it makes your guitar sound out of tune, whereas if the tension is too low, the strings might ‘buzz.’
This type applies even pressure to the guitar’s fingerboard using a manually adjustable thumbscrew. The advantage is you can adjust the tension to suit different guitars, lessening the need to retune during use. These are mostly used for acoustics as they exert too much pressure for most metal-based, electric guitar strings.
They also feature a clever release mechanism that lets you move up it and down the neck. The one disadvantage with these, though, is they tend to be harder to change position compared to the trigger variety (see above) as you need two hands to remove and reposition the device.
Partial capos are smaller than the three we’ve just mentioned, as they only cover some of the strings. They are most commonly used by fingerpicking guitarists to change the notes in the bassline of a piece.
While most people will be on the lookout for an ‘all-string’ version, any player will benefit from trying this type – especially if you’re into fingerstyle – as they produce some really interesting harmonies.
Toggles are very small, lightweight devices that keep the tension using an adjustable strap (rather than a clamp). The strap is adjusted to the correct tension using one of the several notches on the metal bar.
Although they can fit both curved and flat-radius fretboards, in terms of design they aren’t great. The ideal strap tension is often found in-between two notches, meaning one notch is often too loose, and the next is too tight.
Unfortunately, even if a notch setting is perfect, the strap will eventually stretch and become slack over time. To counteract this issue, you can twist to the strap to shorten it to the length you need, but eventually, constant stretching will cause the material to break. Fortunately, toggle capos are usually very cheap, so most players simply buy a replacement if they encounter any issues.
The G-band is a type of partial capo that applies tension by clipping onto one or two strings on the outer edges of the fretboard. This makes it form a ‘G’ shape against the fingerboard – hence the name. The major advantage of these is they create interesting harmonies and can be combined for additional sound variation.
Due to requiring a little bit of prior playing experience, G-band capos are best suited to more experienced players with some knowledge of music theory.
Sliders (sometimes known as ‘gliders’) are unique in that they allow you to slide the capo from one fret to another without releasing or removing it. They distribute uniform pressure on both sides of the neck using springs. The built-in front roller allows the device to glide over the fingerboard with ease, while the rear roller functions to stabilize and center the capo so that the guitar stays in tune well.
The rollers are usually coated in a soft material to protect the guitar from damage. These capos are great for performing musicians that need to change key a lot, due to their ability to glide up and down the neck without detachment.
Finally, the spider is a novel partial capo that allows you to create interesting harmonies and alternative tunings by changing the tension of individual strings. They are unique as they use individual depressors to select different strings, rather than a set at once. They are secured in place using two metal prongs, either side of a rubberized clamp at the back of the neck.
However, spider capos can be hard to fit as the metal prong by the 6th string is sometimes hard to see from a playing position. This also makes them prone to accidentally scratching the guitar’s neck.
So, Which Should I Pick?
Hopefully, by now, you appreciate the different types of capo and have a fair idea of which one would suit you. If you’re in any doubt, let’s summarise the options.
We think the G7th Performance 3 ART Guitar Capo is the best guitar capo currently available.
Our runner up is the Shubb S1. It’s great too, but the Performance 3 just edges thanks to its adaptive radius technology and its quick release.
Finally, if you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful, the Donner DC-2 is exceptionally good value.
We hope you’ve found this useful.
Thanks for reading, and good luck.