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How Does a Guitar Capo Work?

Published on 27/05/2011

A capo fits across the fretboard. It holds down the strings of the guitar, which shortens their length and raises the pitch. You can use a capo to play a song in a different key without learning new chords. You can use different chord shapes to play at higher pitches and in different keys.

Capo is from the Italian capotasto, meaning head of the fretboard. Using a capo is like having an extra hand that lets you barre a fret anywhere you want.

Why you need a Capo

When playing guitar with a vocalist, you can match the song's key to the singing range. The capo is good for making key changes between or during songs without sacrificing open drone strings.

Jamming with other musicians even if you don't know the guitar chords to a particular key.

Play chords requiring big stretches. Using a capo will shorten the stretch.

Enables basic picking patterns.

Types of Capo

Adjustable Jim Dunlop Toggle Capo

The basic elasticated capo allows you to vary the amount of tension that is placed on the strings when you clamp the capo down. This capo is stretched until it clips.

Jim Dunlop Trigger Capo or Kyser Capo

The trigger capo maintains pressure by a powerful metal spring mechanism. They are very fast to use and place on different frets. You can place the capo on the frets easily with one hand so they're useful for guitarist who change capo mid song.
 

G7th Capo

The G7th takes the cool high tech approach. This capo clamps around the neck and is squeezed until tight. You can vary the amount of tension.

By experimenting with different capos you can see which one you prefer. Capos are interesting to mess around with. You can create new sounds. The trick is to know the name of the chord and key you are playing in when you use a capo.