A Quick Guide to Capos

Excuse yet another bit of ancestral pride, but “capo” is short for “capotasto”—which is Italian for “head of fretboard.”
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Excuse yet another bit of ancestral pride, but “capo” is short for “capotasto”—which is Italian for “head of fretboard.” Wikipedia reports that Italian musicologist Giovanni Battista Doni is first identified as using the term in 1640, although capos were likely used earlier than Doni’s mention of them in his Annotazioni. Viva Italia!

Although capos are typically used to raise pitch in order to allow stringed-instrument players to perform in different keys while using open strings, they are hardly limited to comping tools for singer/songwriters. GP Associate Editor Matt Blackett deploys capos to create dimensional layers and textures, and guitar stars such as George Harrison, Ry Cooder, and Steve Rothery often utilize capos for composing and interesting effects.

If you haven’t checked out capos for a while, the current crop is far more advanced than the colored strap-ons used by ’60s folkies (although you can still buy those models if you’re into a vintage, Summer of Love kind of vibe), and are not only made specifically for guitars, mandolins, ukuleles, and banjos, some are also designed expressly to create thrilling new sounds.


D’Addario NS Artist Capo
$18.99 STREET
The Artist Capo eliminates pulling the strings side-to-side and ensure even tension. Made of lightweight aluminum, the capo also includes an integrated pick holder and a mounting bracket for an optional NS Mini/ Micro Tuner. daddario.com

Dunlop Elastic Heavy Single Capo
$3.99 STREET
Simple to use. Place it, hook the elastic strap, and you’re done. jimdunlop.com

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Grover Ultra Capo
$12.99 STREET
The easy-to-position Ultra Capo features an innovative offset design that allows more room for the thumb on the back of the neck. The lightweight aluminum capo features a non-glare, no-slip finish in matte black, matte red, or matte silver. grotro.com

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Kyser Freedom Quick- Change Capo
$19.99 STREET
The Quick-Change allows easy, one-hand operation, and it comes in a rainbow of different finishes and colors (including my favorite, “Red Bandana”). kysermusical.com

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Shubb Deluxe S Series Steel String Capo
$21.95 STREET

Made of stainless steel and utilizing a new roller design, the Deluxe S capo resists wear and opens and closes smoothly. Shubb also offers S Series capos for classical guitars, 12-strings, banjos, mandolins, and even bouzoukis. shubb.com

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6-String Acoustic, Nylon

Dunlop 88B Trigger Classical Capo
$14.99 STREET

The low profile, aluminum Trigger Capo is designed to stay clear of your fingers and provide accurate clamping on flat fingerboards. jimdunlop.com

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Planet Waves NS Classical Guitar Capo
$14.99 STREET
Co-designed by Ned Steinberger and Jim D’Addario, the NS Classical Guitar Capo is made of ultra-light aluminum, and features one-hand operation and a micro-tension adjustment for buzz-free, in-tune performances. daddario.com

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Dunlop Trigger Banjo Capo
$14.99 STREET

The banjo version of the Dunlop Trigger Capo features a padded, springaction grip and aluminum construction. There is also a Trigger model designed for mandolins at $15.99 street. jimdunlop.com

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Kyser Banjo/Mandolin Capo
$15.23 STREET

This is a smaller version of Kyser’s Quick-Change capo that’s designed for clamping both banjo strings and a mandolin’s paired strings. kysermusical.com

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Planet Waves NS Ukulele Capo Pro
$19.99 STREET

Designed specifically for ukuleles, the NS Ukulele Capo, like the NS Classical Guitar Capo, is constucted of ultra-light aluminum, and provides one-hand operation. A micro-tension adjustment ensures you can dial in the exact tension for ringing, buzzfree notes. daddario.com

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Shubb Lite Capo for Ukulele
$19-$22 STREET

Half the weight of Shubb’s standard brass ukulele capo, the aluminum Lite model also comes in a bunch of bright and happy colors. shubb.com

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Capo Clips

Invented by Scott Stenten, Capo Clips are chord-shaped metal frames that work with almost any spring-clamp capo to put your guitar in different keys. You can adjust the Capo Clips to form different chords for cool, open-tuning sounds. Currently available models include the A/D Capo Clip, the C Capo Clip, the G Capo Clip, and the E/A Minor Capo Clip. capoclips.com

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Creative Tunings SpiderCapo
$39.95 RETAIL

The SpiderCapo lets you capo each string individually. The Mini version is for banjo, ukulele, mandolin, and bouzouki, and the XXL can handle 6- to 8-string guitars and even electric bass. Optional Harmonik Mutes (an additional $12.95 retail) can also be fitted to the SpiderCapo to allow string muting and natural harmonics. spidercapo.com

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