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Best Guitar Capo

Best Guitar Capo

A capo is one of the first pieces of gear a guitarist should buy. The ability to adjust the pitch of the open strings make it a tool many guitarists would never be without.

Visit any music shop and you will notice a wide variety of capo designs.  Whilst they are all trying to achieve the same task, the method through which they achieve it provide different benefits and problems.  This guide will give you the critical information so that you can make a well-informed choice about which capo is right for you.

 

Quick answer

The quick answer is: there is no best guitar capo for all purposes.  But these models have proven to be popular for steel string acoustic guitars with the highest build quality which has stood the test of time:

Top 3 capos

Kyser Quick Change Capo

‘Crisp tone and incredibly well made at a reasonable price’ is probably the best way to describe the Kyser Quick Change Capo. Whether a beginner or a professional, it is the capo of choice for many guitarists.

Price Check Read Review

G7th Performance 2

The G7 Performance 2 Capo is the best and the easiest to use on the market. It is exceptionally well designed, light-weight and only requires one hand to use.

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Shubb Acoustic Guitar Capo

The Shubb capo has been incredibly popular since it first appeared on the market. The adjustable lever, which can be flipped in and out of position provides ease of use whilst still being able to dial in the exact amount of pressure.

Price Check

Classical and 12-string versions of each of these capos exist, so make sure you get the right one for your guitar.

 

Key attributes of a good capo

Before considering the various types of capos, we should define the key characteristics a capo should have.

  1. The correct amount of tension applied to the strings to prevent either fret buzz by being too loose or tuning and intonation problems by being too tight.
  2. String slippage does not occur causing a sting or strings to come out of tune.
  3. Tension should be applied evenly across the width of the guitar’s neck.
  4. The curve of the capo should be similar to the curve of the fretboard.  Classical guitars tend to have flat fretboards, acoustic and electric guitars tend to have curved fretboards.  Whilst 12 string guitars have a curved fretboard, they are much wider than six-string guitars.  Different capos are required for each type of guitar fretboard.
  5. Design and materials used should ensure no damage is caused to the guitar.
  6. Built from durable materials (or replacement parts are available) to prevent the capo breaking or worsening in performance over time.

 

Types of capo

Each kind of capo has it’s own benefits and

 

Elastic capo

The Dunlop 7191 model uses the elastic capo design.

The elastic capo uses a plastic bar to hold down the strings, with an elastic strap around the neck of the guitar.  The tension can be adjusted by using the different eyelet holes.

These capos are very small, lightweight, and generally inexpensive.  Actually, they are so cheap that I once had one which came free with a guitar magazine.  However, these benefits come with a significant number of issues:

  • The plastic bar used can cause string slippage making the guitar sound out of tune with itself.
  • Difficult to apply and certainly cannot be placed or removed with one hand.
  • Over time the elastic will degrade in quality, stretching the elastic and reducing tension (though it is possible to add a half or whole turn in the strap to gain a bit of extra tension if necessary).

I do not recommend this type of capo.  For me, the negatives certainly outweigh any benefit gains from the low price.

 

Toggle capo

Dunlop 14C Model is an example of a toggle capo.

The toggle capo is similar in style to the elastic capo.  A strap secures the capo in place using notches along the back of the capo. It can be challenging to find the ideal tension as generally there are only 2 to 5 notches to use.  As the strap stretches and loosens over time, there will be occasions where the perfect position falls between two existing notches.  In these circumstances, it may be possible to add a half or whole turn in the strap to gain the ideal position.

The surface which makes contact with the fretboard is made from rubber (or similar materials), which reduces string slippage.  These capos are small, lightweight and inexpensive.

The profile of the bar is low and the strap does not interfere with the fretting hand, which cannot be said for some of the more well-engineered capos.  However, they are difficult to take on and off and cannot be used one-handed.

Toggle capos are in a similar price bracket to elastic capos but are significantly better in terms of the playability.  My first capo as a teenager was of this style.  Whilst I wouldn’t use one today, if money is tight or it’s meant to be a stocking filler, then they are an option.

 

Screw adjustment capo

Planet Waves NS screw adjustment capo

Screw adjustment capos include a thumb screw which can be tightened or loosened to adjust the pressure on the strings.

The adjustment screw enables these capos to be finely tuned.  By dialing in the correct tension, it ensures fret buzz can be eliminated and intonation is unaffected.  These capos can be applied anywhere along the fretboard and will perform at the same standard.

Despite the flexibility of placement, positioning and repositioning can be a pain.  The unscrewing, moving and rescrewing can take a bit of time.  This is probably the biggest drawback with this type of capo.

There are two main styles of design, the smaller screw capo (such as the Planet Waves NS) or the back screw style (such as the Hamilton Capo).  Personally, I find the back screw capos to be unnecessarily chunky.

Hamilton Capo uses a back screw

Also, care needs to be taken when taking the capo on and off, as it is easy to scrape the neck of the guitar with the capo, causing a small amount of ware to the guitar2.

Whilst it is possible to apply a screw adjustment capo with one hand, it is not particularly easy.  You really need one hand to hold the capo in place and the other to operate the screw.

If you do not mind the slow positioning, these capos can be ideal.  Guitar playing is about tone, so being able to dial in the exact amount of pressure will ensure your tone is not compromised.

 

Roller capo

The Glider GL1 capo

I have never owned or even used a roller capo.    So all I can tell you about them is entirely from reading plenty of capo articles over the last 20 years or so.  Two rubber sleeves make connection with the guitar neck on the front and the back, which are joined together by two metal poles and two springs on either side.

These capos can be adjusted quickly by rolling the capo up and down the neck.  The idea is not to remove the capo at all, but to roll it over the nut to remove it from applying any pressure to the fretboard.  The springs on both sides ensure that pressure is applied to both sides of the neck, which should provide consistent tension.

The tension is not adjustable, so if your guitar neck as a particularly slim or deep it may cause fret buzzing.

One of the critical issues for me is how close the springs are to the guitar neck. Therefore the risk of scraping the neck with the springs seems quite high.

As you could probably guess, having not used one, I do not recommend these capos.

 

Trigger capo

Dunlop 83CB – I use one of these regularly.

Trigger capos are very popular and easy to use.  They have two leavers which are pushed together with a tight spring.  It is this spring which applies the tension to the levers and holds the capo tightly against the strings and fretboard.

So many capos claim they can be applied with one hand, but this is actually true for well-made trigger capos.  They are quick to put on, take off and reposition.

There is no official method to adjust the tension and can often result in fret buzz if too loose or intonation problems if too tight.  Previously, I owned a cheap trigger capo which consistently had fret buzz at the 1st fret.  I was able to add some padding between the spring end and the lever; this provided just enough additional tension to make it usable.

If purchasing this type of capo, quality is essential, as the spring needs to create the right level of tension.

Within the category, I will also include the now infamous Kyser capo.  These are a brand/style of trigger capo which are exceptionally well made, and can be applied with a single hand.  Kyser refer to them as a ‘quick change’ capo, which is certainly true.  I have seen these capos adjusted mid-song to either change key or to add an additional dynamic to the tone of the guitar.

 

Lever capo

Shubb capos – a very popular choice

Shubb released the lever style capo in the 1980’s.  It provides the perfect balance between adjustable tension and quick application.  The lever is used for the fast placement and removal, whilst the thumb screw provides the fine tuning benefits which are available in the screw adjustable capos.

Two rubber surfaces hold the capo in place, which reduces the risk of string slippage.

Lever capos can be applied one-handed, though repositioning is certainly not as fast as the trigger capos.

I own and regularly use two Shubb capos, they are small, unobtrusive and do not get in the way of the fretting hand.

 

Clutch capo

G7th Performance Capo 2 – a wonder of modern engineering

Introduced by G7th in 2004, clutch capos are the wonder of modern engineering.  They operate just be squeezing the capo into place, then to remove, just squeeze in the right place and it will be released.  The amount of pressure applied is based on how tight you squeeze the capo. Therefore it is highly adjustable and can be placed anywhere on the fretboard without buzz or intonation problems.

The capo can be applied with one hand and easily re-positioned with one hand.  There is plenty of rubber padding around the areas which are near the guitar, so the risk of damage to the guitar is significantly reduced.

Whilst it is small in size, it is not a light capo.  It feels like a quality product, and the weight reflects this.

 

Partial or third-hand capo

Partial and third-hand capos will apply some of the same design and manufacturing techniques as the models above.  The only difference being that the capo is not applied to all of the strings, this can create some interesting chord voicings which would not otherwise be available.

Whilst it is good to be aware of this type of capo, it is not the focus of this guide.

 

Which is the best capo?

Now you have the information about all the types of capo; you are probably asking which is the best? That is a tough question to answer.  Which aspects are most important to you?  No capo is perfect, they all have something different to offer.  Due to sizes and shapes of fretboards, there is no capo which is perfectly suited to every guitar.  Your preferences may be different to mine or to another player; you need to find something which works for you.

However, with all that being said, at the beginning of the article, we covered the key principles of what makes a good capo.  By applying those principles, it is possible to narrow down the selection to just a few really good capos which will not break the bank.

Kyser Quick Change Capo

‘Crisp tone and incredibly well made at a reasonable price’ is probably the best way to describe the Kyser Quick Change Capo. Whether a beginner or a professional, it is the capo of choice for many guitarists.

Made from lightweight, durable aluminum with a steel spring, it is a solid piece of equipment which will not let you down. Available in a large variety of colors, so you can pick the one to suit your style.

It is easy and quick to use, even with one hand, making it an essential accessory that can transform your playing.



Acoustic Guitar  Electric Guitar  Classical Guitar  Deep Neck Guitar  12 String Guitar

 

G7th Performance 2

In short, the G7 Performance 2 Capo is the best and the easiest to use on the market. It is exceptionally well designed, light-weight and only requires one hand to use.

It is an example of precision engineering at its best. The squeeze on / squeeze off action will apply and remove the capo quickly and easily. It is this mechanism which sets it apart from other capos.

The Performance 2 Capo by its design applies precisely the right amount of pressure to hold down the strings. In the long-term this will reduce this risk of damage to the neck, frets and strings.



Acoustic Guitar  Classical Guitar

 

Shubb Acoustic Guitar Capo

The Shubb capo has been incredibly popular since it first appeared on the market. The adjustable lever, which can be flipped in and out of position provides ease of use whilst still being able to dial in the exact amount of pressure.

Made from durable stainless steel, it is lightweight but strong. The rubber pads hold the strings firmly in place to prevent string slippage and but also retains tuning.



Acoustic Guitar  Classical Guitar 12 String guitar