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You may not to put too much thought into buying your guitar capo, but you may be surprised to know that there are a few things you need to watch out for when buying your capo.
Firstly, you need to avoid excessive wear on your neck and fretboard. Secondly, find a capo that will minimize the clamping force on your strings. This will help keep your guitar in tune when multiple capo repositioning are required. Next, you want your capo to have durability. There is nothing more frustrating then having a capo breakdown in the middle of a performance or jam session. Lastly, you want a capo that is easily moved around the neck. Ideally, you should be able to do this with one hand. If you are able to find a capo that meets these criteria then you will have found one of the best capos on the market.
If you're not in the mood to crawl the webs guitar forums doing research then you're in luck. We've created this quick guide to give you the best capos available today. We'll have a quick discussion of each feature of a capo and how to spot a winner. Following the discussion, we will list off our favourite capos on the market. We've spent some time reading guitar forums and have used our 14 years of experience to find the creme de le creme of capos. Enjoy!
Shubb Deluxe Series GC-30
G7th Newport Capo
How To Use A Capo
A capo should be used to alter the key of the song you want to play. If you are accompanying a guitar with vocals, certain vocal ranges will fit better for different keys of the song. You can easily move the capo up the fret to easily change the key of the song, and thus the vocal range. It is also a great method of changing the timbre of the guitar. Moving the capo higher up the neck will brighten the sound (sounding more like a mandolin). This is perfect if you have two guitars playing in one song. Having one guitar player play the natural version and the other in a different capo position will give the song a unique tone.
A capo should be placed directly behind the fret to prevent any fret buzz. The tension of the capo should be set just enough to allow the strings to be played cleanly, but not enough to wear the neck. This right capo tension can be found through trial and error: set the capo tension so that you are muting the strings and gradually tighten it until all strings can be played cleanly and consistently.
How To Select The Best Capo
As mentioned in the intro, there are a handful of features that you should be looking for in a capo. Although they may seem like simple accessories, choosing the correct capo will give you a better playing experience. The wrong capo will result in your guitar loosing it's tuning, excessive fret wear, and 'fret buzz'. There is little point in spending $500 dollars on a beautiful guitar to have the fret worn down by a $5 capo. Keep in mind that you need to be careful about buying capos for guitars other than acoustic. Some capos will not fit on the large neck of a classical guitar, and some capos tension will be too strong for the lighter gauge strings of an electric. Companies will often offer electric and classical versions of their capos, with less spring tension to suit the smaller string gauges. With that out of the way, let's quickly discuss the features of a good capo!
The correct tension of the capo is essential to preventing fret buzz, fret wear, and managing sustain. There are two common types of capos you will run into. One being tensioned using a spring, the other using a screw mechanism. You may also run into a capo using a locking strap (they are actually quite common). The spring capos have been designed to provide just enough tension to prevent any fret buzz of string muting. The screw capos have to be manually adjusted and have the potential of extra fret wear due to excessive tension. If possible, we recommend avoiding the locking strap capos. While they are cheap, we find that they are either on too tight, or too loose. A spring capo is always a great option, as they are preset to prevent wear and are easily movable with one hand.
Your capo needs to have a stiff rubber pad to prevent excessive wear. Most capos will have a rubber pad glued to the capo. Over the years, we have found that the main point of failure for these capos is the rubber pad falling off due to the glue failing. This can be prevented by using capos that have the rubber padding slipped over the capo itself (see right).
The capo must be made of metal. The repeated fatigue of taking the capo off and putting it will create cracks in any hard plastic or composite material. If you want to have a capo with a chance of lasting 20 years, it needs to be made of a solid metal material. As mentioned before, the rubber must be stiff enough to hold up to the force of the strings, but soft enough to not cause fret wear.
- Ease of Use
Ideally, you will be able to change the position of the capo easily with a single hand. This may not seem like a big deal, but you'll thank me later when you have 50 people staring at you while you fumble around with your capo. Most spring capos are easy to change, whereas the screw capos take a little more work. There is a tradeoff between adjustability (screw capo) and ease of use (spring capo) when comparing the two common types of capo. Which one you pick will depend on your preference.
The width of your neck will determine the size of capo you need. You'll need to be especially careful if you are buying a capo for a classical guitar, or a twelve string guitar, as these tend to have wider necks. We'll specify any limitations (if they exist) of each capo we review below.
While not a huge mistake to pick up the wrong capo, you can save yourself a lot of headache down the road. Each guitar player will have a different preference for the style of capo that works best for them. Hopefully you know how a better idea of the features of a good quality capo. Below we have selected the best capos on the market (in our opinion). Enjoy!
Our Top Picks For The Best Guitar Capo
- For acoustic (with electric and classical versions available)
- Incredibly easy to use
- Firm tension
- Durable and simple
First up - the Kyser KG6B - our personal favourite. This capo does a lot of things well. First off, it does a great job of equally spreading the force over the neck. When positioned correctly there is no fret buzz or neck damage. Secondly, it's very easy to reposition. The spring tension doesn't require two hands to remove and it sits nicely on the neck. We've owned many of these capos over the years and have used them on acoustic, electric and classical guitars.
The capo itself is made of lightweight aluminum and uses a single spring assembly to provide the clamping force. Keep in mind that you are not able to adjust the tension. This requires you to correctly position the capo in order to prevent any fret buzz. The great thing about these capos is the clamping force is not excessive enough to cause any tuning issues.
Our only grip about these capos is when the rubber padding falls off. For whatever reason, we've lost a capo due to the glue failing (mind you the capo was 15 years old, so we shouldn't complain).
Fit: If you are looking for a capo for an electric guitar, Kyser offers and specific electric version of this capo, found here. It can just fit onto a classical neck, if you are looking for a classical, check out this version:
This capo is very well received in guitar forums and on Amazon. It has over 1315 reviews with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars!
Bottom Line: This capo has been our 'go to' for over 10 years. It's a perfect acoustic guitar capo. A real winner!
Shubb Deluxe Series GC-30
- Fits acoustic and electric (not for classical)
- Easily adjustable tension
- Soft rubber for great tone
- Very durable design
Our second 'go to'. This capo has been around for over 35 years and has been trusted by many musicians. It was orignally designed by a banjo teacher and an auto mechanic for 5-string banjos, but has evolved over the years and is now a staple acoustic capo. The main attraction here is the adjustability. This allows you to use it for both your acoustic, and then switch to your electric when needed. Take note, it will not fit onto a classical guitar.
Although it may look complicated, it is actually quite easy to use. Once you've set the tension, it's only a matter of flipping the switch and it pops right off. A huge plus for us is the rubber. We find that it is actually a little softer than the Keyser and does not wear out. It also doesn't have the problem of falling off and rendering the capo useless!
The capo is designed to use just the right pressure on your neck. It uses a patented over-centre locking action to make sure the tension doesn't require you to retune after every reposition. This capo has been recommended by many experienced guitar players. It is beginner friendly enough to use for someone who is just learning, but we would usually recommend this to more experienced players who know the tensioned required for each instrument.
Fit: Acoustic? Yes. Electric? Yes. Classical? No.
Bottom Line: Perfect for an experienced musician who is looking for adjustability and tone. Lost marks for not being as easy to use as the others on the list.
G7th Newport Capo
- Hand adjustable
- Easy to use
- Great for acoustic and electric
- High quality of rubber for good tone
The most unique capo on the list. This capo works by you squeezing the capo on with your hand and adjusting the tension. You can use the knob to make any fine tuning adjustments. This is great for musicians who want to set their tension for each instrument.
One thing it has over the Snubb is it lacks the potential of falling off due to a knock from the hand. We've mistakenly knocked off our Snubb when we hit the back latch unintentionally.
One complaint is that is does not clamp onto your headstock. This makes it difficult to store, or keep on you during a performance. A minor issue, but something to think about.
Another thing the G7th has going for it is the sleek design. This is one of the more minimalistic looking capos on our list. This will be perfect for someone who doesn't want a huge capo hanging off their guitar.
Fit: 6-string acoustic? Yes. Electric? Yes. Classical? No.
Bottom Line: Another great option for someone looking for adjustability. Lost marks for the difficulty of storing on your headstock.
- Fixed tension spring capo
- Fits acoustic and electric (classical version available)
- Easily adjustable
- One year warranty
- High tension
Another spring tensioned capo. The Dunlop 83CP is perfect for anyone looking for an easy to use capo. This capo will fit onto acoustic and electric guitars. Here is the version you need if you're looking for the classical guitar version. It's constructed using aircraft grade aluminum, so it's light and durable.
Unlike the adjustable capos mentioned above, this capo will easily store onto your headstock when you are not using it. Some users have complained about the tension being a little strong, which can cause tuning issues if you are changing positions often.
We haven't used this capo as much as the others above, but from what we have read online, it is an easy to use capo that is perfect for beginners, or someone who wants something simple and quick to use. Keep in mind that if you are planning on using it for electric, consider looking at the electric specific spring capo we've linked to in the Kyser review.
Fit: Acoustic? Yes. Electric? Yes. Classical? No (see above).
Bottom Line: Another great spring capo. Lost marks for having a bit high of spring tension. A great option for someone looking for an alternative to the Kyser.