No one ever said you have to have just one capo, but there are a few considerations for choosing your first, or primary, capo.
First, it’s essential to match the capo to your instrument. Not only are there varieties specifically made for non-guitar folk instruments, but there are also different capos for different types of guitars.
- 6-string acoustic guitar (steel strings, with or without fretboard radius)
- 12-string guitar (steel strings)
- 6-string electric guitar (steel strings, with or without fretboard radius)
- 6-string classical guitar (nylon strings)
- Specialty capos for 4-, 7-, 8-string guitars, bass, and more
Do you want a flexible capo that allows variety in placement or string selection? Do you prefer speed or fine tuning? Do you want increased sustain or a low profile? These are some of the considerations in selecting your capo.
- Fast: spring-tension clamp-style capos, sometimes called “trigger” or “quick change.” These are easy to move and can be very accurate when placed with care closely behind the fret (like good fingering). However, since many are not adjustable, they can pull strings out of tune (especially when poorly placed).
- Fine-tuning: some clamp-style capos (without springs) have ratcheting capabilities or fine-tuning thumbscrews, while other capos adjust exclusively with a screw mechanism. These allow for infinite tension control to maintain good intonation. Placement may take a little more time, but there is less stress on the strings.
- Profile: depending on your hand placement, you may find certain capo profiles easier to work around than others (e.g., Kyser capos have an upward-facing clamp mechanism, while Dunlop capos have a downward-facing trigger, but either can be placed from the left or right of the neck). Capos with screw adjustment have another element to potentially get in the way of your palm. Compare the different profiles and consider your hand position.
Do you play live gigs or concerts? You’ll need an easy-to-use capo you can place quickly anywhere on the fretboard. Do you play mostly at home or in the studio? Then you can favor a capo that allows fine-tuning, even if it’s not as quick to adjust.
Old-style wrap capos often sport braided red elasticized bands, but many other types and brands are more basic (black, silver, or gold). But some brands add a pop of color to their lines (Shubb, Dunlop), while one (Kyser) goes above and beyond with no less than 18 color options for acoustic clamp-style capos! Besides color, do you prefer a clamp trigger that faces up or down? Do you want a capo you remove from the fretboard or slide behind the nut when not in use? Your personal preferences help you narrow down the options that meet your previously determined needs.
What else can a capo do? Capos started out clamping all the strings, but now there are all sorts of variations (and examples of DIY capo hacking).
Specialty capos (particularly partial capos) are useful because they are designed for optimal placement relative to the curve of the fretboard and the selected strings. But if you have a standard clamp-style capo that can be offset to cover only 5 strings for the occasional song, you can wait on that fancy Drop D capo. Consider the non-standard uses you can “squeeze” out of your go-to capo while you build your collection.
Making the Choice
Have you decided? Check out our store, where capos are grouped by not only brand, but type (clamp, screw, wrap, cut or specialty) and instrument. Feel free to add your questions here—we’d love to hear your other considerations in choosing a capo, or helping you find your perfect match!