The mighty capo (cape-oh)

You can change the key on a guitar immediately with this cool gadget. My friends who play other instruments are jealous; there is no capo for a saxophone. Yet another reason why guitar players are superior. Here’s a quick primer on the different kinds and how to use them.

How they work

Clip it on the guitar between the frets (those steel lines), like the photo above. Make sure it’s firmly pressing down each string.  Now treat the place where it’s at as the new top of your neck, using the same chord forms you were using before. You’re in a higher key but you don’t have to change where your fingers go. If you’re playing with another instrument, you need to tell them the new key. Here’s a chart to help you:

Different kinds of capos

No matter what type of capo you get, make sure it fits your instrument. Many are a standard size which is great for most guitars. For classical (nylon string) and 12 string guitars, though, you might need a capo with a wider bar. For smaller necked instruments (ukulele, banjo, mandolin, etc) you may need a special capo although sometimes a standard guitar capo will work.


This is my favorite brand. You can put them on with one hand, they’re sturdy, they’re inexpensive and they last a long time. Just clip it on and you’re ready.

Screw and clampSome people prefer these. They’re sturdy and sometimes work better for strings that might be hard to press, like those of a 12 string. A Shubb is one of the most popular. These puppies will last forever. Hundreds of years from now, archeologists will be digging these up. “Barbara, what are these metal objects?” “I don’t know Tom, they look like torture devices.”

RollerThese are great if you need to change key in the middle of a song. Just release it and roll it quickly up and down the neck.



You don’t see these much anymore. They have a metal bar that goes across the top with a fabric or elastic strap that goes around the back. The problem with these is that the strap can stretch and you can’t always get the right tension.


You can buy capos that only press down a few strings. These are great for anyone who wants to experiment in alternate tunings.

You can also use two capos, one to change the key and one for just some of the strings. Heck, go crazy and use three:


Early humans used these but they had to wait until the pencil was invented.

Want to know more? I teach via Skype. For details, contact me. If you live Ottawa, Ontario, you can take lessons in my studio. I teach guitar, mandolin, ukulele and songwriting.

About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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