Capos: What You Should Know

Every guitarist should own a Planet Waves capo. And that most definitely means you. No exceptions.

Ultimate Guitar

Every guitarist should own a Planet Waves capo. And that most definitely means you. No exceptions. Just consider what a capo can do for you as a guitarist. This deceptively simple tool is a fantastic resource on many different levels.

For instance, the capo is the songwriter's best friend, invigorating even the most familiar (in other words, tired) chord sequences progressions. For some aural evidence, take a look at The Beatle's back catalogue and you'll find dozens of examples where the band used a capo to add an element of freshness to their guitar arrangements. Just try playing George Harrison's Here Comes The Sun (from The Beatle's Abbey Road) on your guitar without a capo. It simply doesn't sound as good! George added a capo at the seventh fret, his guitar sparkled beautifully, and he was inspired to record a timeless classic.

That's the beauty of the capo. Many other bands have used the same 'trick.' Planet Waves endorsees Shadows Fall, Alkaline Trio and Crosby Stills and Nash have all used a capo to add something special to their recordings.

You see, a capo can transform the timbre, also known as the 'voice' of the guitar, adding a real sizzle to upper register chords; it even pushes a standard six-string guitar into mandolin territory when a capo is placed on the upper reaches of the fingerboard. In that respect, a capo is almost like an effects unit- a means to alter the voice of the instrument - in order to unlock new ideas and spark inspiration. The difference is, unlike an effects pedal, a capo doesn't require batteries or cables to work its magic.

What Is A Capo

In the simplest terms a capo is a moveable top nut. It takes the place of your index finger: that's the finger you usually employ to lay across all six strings when you play bare chords. If you're playing a song in standard tuning on your guitar but find that it's too high (or too low) for you, or your vocalist, to sing along then you have two options. You could transpose the chords into another key - A instead of G for example. That'll work, but it'll take a while.

It's much quicker to use a capo. A capo allows you to alter the pitch key of the guitar whilst continuing to play open chord shapes. For instance, place the capo at the second fret of the guitar and that open G chord you were just playing is now an A. The capo has moved the guitar's tuning up a whole step. Clever, huh?

Choosing The Right Capo For You

Because a great capo can last you a lifetime, purchase the best capo you can afford. Although it's tempting to buy some bargain basement model, you need a capo that is well-made and easy-to-use. It also has to stay in place on your guitar's neck.

There are Planet Waves capos available for every style of guitar. If you play an electric, acoustic or 12-string acoustic guitar, then you need to check out Planet Waves' Ratchet Capo or the beautifully engineered NS Capo.

These capos will cater to the curved radius of your guitar's fingerboard. If you play a nylon-strung classical guitar, then the NS Classical Capo is the model for you. Your guitar has a flat, wide fingerboard, and the NS Classical Capo is the perfect match.

Using The Capo

Correct placement of your capo is essential. There's no point just whacking it onto your guitar's neck and hoping for the best. Getting the precise position will ensure tone quality, without annoying buzzing or rattling, and tuning stability.

The capo should sit close to the fret (see photo one) not between frets (as shown in photo two). It's also very important that you have some control over the amount of pressure that the capo exerts on the strings. Too little pressure and the strings will cause buzz and the strings lose their tone. Too much pressure is just as annoying - the strings will go out of tune.

It's precisely for these reasons that Planet Waves and designer Ned Steinberger developed the 'smooth, tactile dial' on the NS series capos to allow the player to alter the tension that the capo applies to the strings. The clever one-hand operation NS capos are also lightweight and gig tough, thanks to their aluminium construction. That's great because the best type of capo is one that becomes such an integral part of your playing experience that you almost forget that it's there.

Capo Boot Camp

There's nothing quite as chilling to a guitarist as staring out over a sea of faces at a show as you're fumbling with your capo. An audience doesn't understand what you're doing all they know is that the entertainment has stopped and they're growing restless. So, the goal here is to be 'gig ready.'

You should practice fitting your capo to your guitar as quickly and calmly as possible. Time yourself - you'll be amazed just how much faster you'll get with a bit of solid practice. Of course, it helps if your capo is well designed. The quickest draw in capo-land is Planet Waves' revolutionary Ratchet Capo. You literally 'squeeze' this capo into position on the fingerboard. It only takes a second to complete the operation, and the Ratchet Capo stays put until you press the quick release lever to remove the capo or move it to another position on the guitar.

Summing Up

It's time to add a Planet Waves capo to your arsenal of guitar gadgets. Although the capo has been around for many years, this amazing tool is still very important to creative musicians and Planet Waves capos are designed to meet the demands of modern guitarists.

Yes, a capo is a practical way to alter the pitch of your guitar, but it's equally important as a source of inspiration to legends like George Harrison, Noel Gallagher of Oasis, Johnny Marr of The Smiths and the millions of guitarists that already use Planet Waves capos. So, what are you waiting for, huh?

Tips and articles courtesy of D'Addario and Planet Waves.

22 comments sorted by best / new / date

    no offense to our mod crew, but do people read these before they get posted? I'll buy anything other than planet waves capos now.
    Synyster Gates
    this isn't an article on capo's this is an Ad for Planet Waves don't post garbage like this please
    A blatant advert for PW capos. Disgusting, this really needs to be dealt with.
    This sound suspiciously like a Planet Waves plug. Hmm... It does say essentially why capos are useful, however.
    personally, i'd go with shubb capos. i've had mine for coming up to two years now, and nothing's gone wrong with it at all. i have had tried other brands, but found the rubber dulled the strings, or the ease of use didn't quite match what i was expecting. however, this is a good article, but the blatant adertising does bring the rating down for me.
    Well, ignoring the Planet Waves fetish, this was actually a pretty good article. Fact is, there are some songs that are impossible to play without a capo. Granted, you still lose points because of the advertising, but this article definitely deserves hgiher than a 1.5.
    David Fyfield
    I Hate the Ad Can I suggest you consider putting a capo over 5 strings leaving the bass open.On th5 fret over 5 strings play "D" shape and you get the "DroppedDsound actualy playing E. If you move capo to the forth fret over 5 strings and play "C" shape with open bass with little finger on the 7th. fret for this voicing you get the "blowing in the wind sound. PLay the "F add9" shape and open "G" shape and your away! This also matches Donavans "Catch the wind" any other idears for capo's ? I know you can buy a special one to raise stings to a sus4 also enabling DADGAD but I 'm not convinced this is a good idear.
    U seem obssesed with planet waves capos...good for absolute beginners...i wouldn't give a high rating...
    DaveGilmour1189 wrote: no offense to our mod crew, but do people read these before they get posted? I'll buy anything other than planet waves capos now.
    LOL! My article received more scrutiny than this! I had to submit it twice before approval!
    Yeah this is blatant advertising. Does not belong in the columns. Maybe on the side of the website or in a pop up ad, but not in the columns. Would be useful information if Planet Waves didn't get a mention every second sentence. You lose all credibility in a discussion when you start mentioning specific brand names and word it like an advertisement. There are better ways to get free publicity. If you'd gone the whole article without mentioning the brand, bar a source link where the authors name should be, you'd have gotten away with it - and rightfully so - but to fill the page with endorsement... Now people won't believe half the shit you've written in the article, even if it is true.
    Tips and articles courtesy of D'Addario and Planet Waves.
    Why planet wave... I have an Ernie ball Capo that does me just fine... maybe hes endorsed
    kennethdave wrote: Hehe, 1st baby.....
    In the future please say something constructive as a post instead of chiming in that you were first. It doesn't add anything to the discussion. I'm not sure how I feel about this article, given the sources. This reads more like a thinly veiled advertisement than an actual article, and I'm a bit disappointed that UG accepted it. The only real content lies in the "what is a capo" section.