If you are like me and have owned multiple capos, then you may understand the difference a good one can make. Some capos can be a pain to use as they need constant re-adjusting and re-tuning your guitar. This water your time and hurts your focus on actually playing. I probably have spent more time and money looking for the best one for me. I wanted to share what I have learned.
The issues to consider are ease of use, fit, size-weight, being able to move without re-tuning or strings buzzing. Since guitars have different radius sizes, they way the capo fits across the strings is quite important if you want the tuning and tension across the strings would need to be even. Also want to make sure the using the capo does not scratch or damage your guitar.
Choosing and Using Capos
Capos have the advantage of being able to change key to mach a vocalist without needing to re-learn the chord shapes. It can change the sound of your guitar that can be quite inspiring, especially for songwriters.
Capos are not just for acoustic guitars. They are used on electric guitars and even other stringed instruments as well. So picking the right capo has a lot to do with what guitar you are putting it on, radius (curvature of fretboards) and neck size. Example a vintage Fender Telecaster will likely be be 7.5 radius and many acoustic guitars made by Martin, Taylor and others may have a radius of 16. Classical guitars will have a wide, thick neck and a flat fretboard. These differences will make choosing the right capo important.
When you use a capo, you want the tension it creates across the strings to be even. If the tension is too loose, the strings will buzz against the frets. If it is too tight, it will be hard to move and worse yet require re-tuning as it will pinch down too hard on the strings. One import tip is to clamp down closer to the fret.
Ultimately it’s down to personal preference, as each model has its strengths and advantages.
Types of Capos Out There
1) Spring loaded “Trigger capos” have been around for a long time. They work using a spring-loaded clamp to hold their tension. The tension is generally not adjustable. When the the spring lacks tension you will get fret buzz and with too much tension you will end up with tuning issues. These types of capos have been around for a very long time. They are inexpensive and can work on some guitars. But I have seen all the limitations. Popular spring loaded camp style capos are Kyser KG6B, Jim Dunlop 83CB and NS Tri-Action Capo
2) Capos that use a “Screw” for adjusting tension allow you to fine-tune its pressure against the strings. Moving this capo is a pain and is usually a two handed operation. You need to loosen the tension, and tighten it back up over its new position. However it can work better than spring loaded as it can work better for various guitars neck size, fret position and string action. Planet Waves NS,
3) The “Toggle capo” style works by using a adjustable strap to hold tension. They are light and small, but adjusting them can be problematic as the ideal tension can often be somewhere in-between the straps notches… One may be too loose with the next being too tight. Also in time the straps can stretch out. Dunlop Elastic
4) “Roller capos” use a roller on back of neck which allow for fast repositioning, but lack adjustable tension control and can damage your guitar due to the metal surfaces on the capo.
5) The “Shubb capos” are a unique design that were made to solve issues with some of the older capo designs. Shubb C1, introduced around 1980, use of a lever, which make the capo adjustable for tension, and can be easily removed. I very much like these capos. Shubb makes capos for steel string, classical and 12-string guitars.
6) “G7th capos” is a newer design from a company in the UK. This is one of my favorite capos as it is light, unobtrusive and tension is easily adjustable. Repositioning and removable is simple and a one handed operation. These capos are a bit more expensive, but worth it in my opinion. If I could pick only one capo the G7th Performance 2 would be the one.
7) “Thalia capo” is an expensive capo that was a highly successful 22 day Kickstarter in 2014 (patented in 2015) making this design a new comer to capo design. They are attractive looking and use a spring loaded fulcrum style mechanism. One feature is that the Thalia capo ships with “rubber” and “teflon” inserts in different that can be swapped out to fit guitars with different fretboard radius sizes. I bought this capo and pretty much like it. You can reposition the capo with one hand and the tension is generally great across the strings keeping turning good. One complaint is the size and weight, it is a bit bigger and heavier than I would like and I have the newer Thalia 200. The Thalia offers inlays in many woods and other materials making it the best looking capo. You can even get your name inlayed.
8) “Partial” capos are not as popular and are basically special use capos. They have the ability to create tunings that are not regularly possible on guitars. Some like the Spider capo can even allow for easily adding harmonics to your playing. Several capo makers offer partial capos.