Ask any piano player, and they will tell you that alternate tunings and accessories like capos are “cheating”.
I just look at these as advantages of the instrument. It’s not as though a piano couldn’t be turned differently, though it would be highly unconventional.
If all you ever learned was four chords on the guitar, you could still play just about any song in any key with the help of a capo. Clamp down on a higher fret to move the nut, and suddenly you’re in a different key.
That’s not generally how I use a capo, mind you. Typically, I will shift the key of the song up or down depending on what key I feel like singing in, or who I’m performing with. I have the facility to play in any key without the help of a capo. But sometimes it can inspire ideas, or just change the sound in a pleasant way.
There’s one song of mine that, until recently, I was playing at capo two. But I’ve been working on my vocals a lot, and to give the song energy, I decided to keep moving it up until it felt uncomfortable. Ultimately, I ended up moving up the key of the song one and a half steps to capo five. Easy to do with a capo – not so easy to do with barre chords.
So, whatever you intend to use it for, it’s not a bad idea to keep a capo in your arsenal, whether you’re a guitar player or ukulele player.
Here are several capos worth checking out.
Acoustic & Electric Guitar Capos
There are no rules against using an acoustic guitar capo for an electric guitar, or vice versa, and sometimes, they are one and the same.
Below, you will find several capos that can either be used for both types of guitars or are meant for acoustic guitars specifically (you should be able to tell the difference).
So, let’s look at the best capos for acoustic and electric guitars.
Donner DC-2 Guitar Capo For Acoustic And Electric Guitar
Donner has been making a name for itself in the guitar space by creating affordable, good quality products.
No, you’re not looking at the best of the best. But the DC-2 is attractive, functional, is scratch resistant and made of durable material (aircraft grade zinc alloy), and comes in four colors: Gold, Black, Silver, and Cinnamon.
This would basically fall under the category of a “trigger capo”, which is what I recommend. They make it easy to change frets on the fly.
At this price point, and with excellent customer reviews, the Donner capo is hard to argue with.
Kyser Quick-Change Capo For 6-String Acoustic Guitars
Kyser is a known name in the capo realm.
The quick-change capo is durable and lightweight and comes in many colors, including: Emerald Green, Black, Blue, Camo, Gold, Pink, Purple, Red, Rosewood, Silver, White, Black Chrome, Copper Vein, Lavender, Maple, Orange Blaze, Red Bandana, Red White Blue, Silver Vein, Tie-Dye, Yellow Blaze, and more.
In the early days, I always relied on Kyser for my capo needs. These days, I just use whatever I’ve got, and don’t care too much about the brand. But Kyser is one I’d likely consider, especially if I was looking for a unique color.
The quick-change capo costs a little more than the Donner, but customer sentiment is good, so it’s worth a look if you’re seeking out a suitable capo for your acoustic guitar.
GUITARX X3 – Guitar Capo Acoustic And Electric Guitars
The X3 is a durable capo made of lightweight aluminum alloy, is easy to use, scratch resistant, and applies the right amount of pressure on your guitar to achieve optimum results without fret buzz. This capo comes in Black, Gold, Silver, and Metal Blue.
As far as price point is concerned, the X3 sits somewhere between the Donner and the Kyser.
But there isn’t too much more to say about the xGuitarx. Customers have mostly had good things to say about it, so it should do the trick.
Rinastore 6-String Acoustic & Electric Guitar Capo
Here’s one more entry that’s worth a look. The Rinastore is the most affordable capo on this list, is easy to use, and is made of lightweight aircraft grade zinc alloy.
Where Kyser has a more “classic” look, and is mostly intended for acoustic instruments, the Rinastore has a more modern look. Plus, you can use it for acoustic and electric guitar. If you’re the kind of player that finds themselves using both (as I often do), you’ll like having a Rinastore on hand.
As with the other capos on this list, most customers speak highly of this product, making it a worthy contender for the “best” position.
As you are surely aware, a ukulele is a more compact instrument than a guitar.
So, even though you could probably use one of the above capos on your ukulele (some of them are certainly designed to be able to handle it), you might want to find a more compact capo that’s matched to your instrument.
A good ukulele capo can be hard to find, but certainly not impossible. Here are a few worth considering.
Planet Waves PW-CP-12 NS Ukulele Capo Pro
The PW-CP-12 NS was designed specifically for ukulele and is made of lightweight aircraft grade aluminum.
This is essentially a screw-on capo, and one of the advantages of a capo like this is the ability to adjust the tension as needed. Experiencing some buzz? Try tightening it or loosening it a bit.
The price of the Planet Waves is perfectly reasonable, and the reviews are also good overall.
Ukulele Capo – Rinastore Grade Zinc Alloy Cushion Padded Capo
The Rinastore is made of high quality zinc alloy, is built specifically for ukuleles, comes with a soft silicone pad to protect your neck, and a memory spring that helps apply the right amount of pressure on the instrument. If that wasn’t enough, it also comes with a lifetime warranty. You can get it in Gold, Silver, and Bronze.
The Rinastore is an affordable capo that will get the job done.
Professional Ukulele & Banjo & Mandolin Capo
Yet another entry by Rinastore – the UBM-Black was designed specifically to accommodate ukulele, banjo, and mandolins – instruments with smaller necks.
This capo is made with top grade aluminum alloy, is easy to use, and wraps tightly around the neck to eliminate fret buzz.
If you’re looking specifically for a capo that will work with your ukulele, here’s another affordable capo that will serve you well.
What Should I Look For In A Capo?
A capo is a simple device, designed to clamp down on your fretboard. As such, there aren’t too many variables can go wrong.
The look and feel of the capo might factor slightly into your purchase decision, but more than anything, functionality tends to be the most important aspect of a capo.
So, there aren’t too many criteria to consider. Here are the qualities I would look for in a capo:
Ease Of Use
The number one thing to look for in a capo, in my opinion, is ease of use.
There are a few different types of capos out there, each with their pros and cons. Most capos featured on this list are trigger style capos. But in addition to these, you can also find:
- Strap-on capos
- Shubb capos
- Spring loaded capos
- Toggle Capos
- And others
To me, the trigger style capo is best, because it’s easy to use. A screw on capo, for instance, might be okay if you’re not changing position a lot, but if you find yourself needing to move the location of the capo, it can be cumbersome.
I don’t think there are too many reasons not to go with a trigger style capo these days, but if you feel so inclined, you can have a look around for yourself.
A Style You Like
Again, with the cost of products going down, and the quality going up, it’s unlikely that you’re going to come across a low-quality capo. If you do, you can either eat the costs (which are minimal), or you can consider the possibility of returning it.
Besides ease of use, the only other factor that matters is the style and appearance of the capo itself. And, even then, this may not factor too heavily into your purchasing decision.
You might want a modern looking capo. You might want a classic looking capo. You might be interested in a pink or lavender capo for your daughter. Who am I to judge?
If you care about esthetics, and it’s a part of your branding play as a musician, then take the time to find a capo that matches your persona. Otherwise, just go with something that works well and feels good to you.
Do I Need A Capo?
Arguably, a capo does fall under the “must-have” category of guitar accessories.
Will you be using it all the time? Not necessarily. Is it essential that you have one to be able to play in any key? No. Sometimes this would mean playing a lot of barre chords, but that can be good practice and experience to gain.
If you’re a songwriter, then there’s a greater chance you’ll necessitate and enjoy using a capo. You might come up with a great idea in a key you aren’t entirely comfortable singing in. Or, you might start in a key you think is good for you but end up changing it later (as I often have).
When I’m playing lead guitar, I rarely if ever need a capo. This doesn’t mean I don’t make some mistakes, but I’m good enough with my scales that I can generally play in any key comfortably.
But rhythm guitar is a different story. If I’m playing electric guitar, I try to make it so that I don’t require the use of a capo. On acoustic guitar, I’m not shy about using a capo. Not that you can’t learn the same songs in other keys without the use of a capo – it’s just that you might lose some of the feel of the song because you end up using different chord voicings.
So, a capo is optional, but depending on what you’re trying to do, it can be a good tool to have on hand.
Can I Use A Capo To Enhance My Creativity?
Of course, you can.
I know there are “purists” out there who feel differently about a lot of things, including the use of the capo. Some believe they shouldn’t be used at all. Some believe they should only be used for specific purposes. Others think you shouldn’t rely on capos to spark your imagination.
A capo is just a tool. There are even capos out there that can be used to clamp down on specific strings to create unique alternate tunings on your guitar.
It’s easy to get caught up in the “intended purpose” of a tool, not recognizing that it holds potential for other possibilities.
Telling someone not to use a capo to support their creativity is akin to telling Eddie Van Halen to stop being so innovative and inventive with his guitar playing and the technology he uses. Eddie’s playing was one of the most exciting things about Van Halen, especially in their hay day.
I admit that I’ve used a capo to come up with song ideas before. I don’t do that as much anymore, and I understand why some songwriters wouldn’t want to write songs they can’t play without a capo, but again, there are no rules, and if there are, there’s no reason why you can’t break them.
Stringed, fretted instruments are fascinating creatures. These days, there are so many accessories and tools that you can use to create unique sounds with them. A capo is just one tool among many that allows players to approach their instrument in new and different ways.
If you’ve never used a capo before, it might be time to start experimenting with one – especially if you’re thinking about writing more songs.