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What is a Capo

Updated on June 15, 2010

Overview: The Capo

A capo is any device that can be used to apply pressure to the strings of a guitar and raise its pitch. Capos generally have a clamp-like appearance, although there are a variety of other methods and devices that perform the same function.

Capo is short for "capo d'astro" or "capodastro" - Italian terms. G.B. Doni, an Italian musicologist, first used the term in his 1640 work Annotazioni . However, the use of capos is thought to have started earlier.

Why Use a Capo?

Capos are extremely useful tools because they allow the musician to change the key and pitch of their instrument without retuning the strings. Applying pressure to a string with your finger produces sound of a higher pitch and the same is true of a capo. However, capos are like 6th fingers which can be applied to one or all of the strings, giving you additional control over the sounds you create.

It is generally recommended that the capo be positioned near the fret. This is often a technicality, but can help negate buzzing by reducing the distance of the string from the fret. The sound quality is comparable to the difference between pressing down solidly on a chord or barely touching the strings - the former producing strong, clear notes while the latter a buzzing, fuzzy sound.

How to Use a Capo

Capos are very easy to use.  The basic concept is that by applying pressure to a string or strings, the sound is altered without requiring active attention and allows you to use all of your fingers for additional notes.

The video below only covers one style of capo, but the principle is the same for every capo.  By adjusting the clamp, lever, knob or switch, pressure on a string is applied or removed and the sound altered accordingly.

Different Capo Styles

There are dozens of variations to capo design, each of which have different pros and cons. While it is nearly impossible to cover all capos, some popular styles include:


Double-Roller Capo

This capo lets you adjust one or many strings at once, but is restricted to a single fret at a time.  However, the easy-clamp action lets you switch frets quickly, even during live play.

Glider Capo

This capo only alters the sound of one fret at a time and must be applied to all strings at once.  However, you can roll it to different frets, which makes a really cool "sliding" sound.

Voice Capo

This capo gives you full control over a wide variety of strings.  It is designed to hold a chord so you can add layers of sound over the top.  The only problem is that it takes a little bit longer to adjust.

Harmonic Capo

This capo lets you play harmonic notes without sacrificing the chords below the capo.  You can see how this works in the video, but the basic idea is that by applying slight contact with the string, a harmonic is produced unless the string is held down and breaks the contact.

Spider Capo

This capo lets you adjust any or all strings on a single fret very quickly. The cool feature about the spider capo is that you can use more than one and gain a ridiculous amount of control over the sound of your guitar.

Share Your Preference

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    • GreenTieCommando profile image

      GreenTieCommando 

      8 years ago from USA

      Well made hub! I like your combination of images, links and video.

    • Yard of nature profile image

      Yard of nature 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      Very nice. Like the details on the various capos.

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