Why And How To Use A Guitar Capo

Guitar capos should be one of the first thing that any guitarist add to their arsenal of equipment. They are an exceptionally useful and easy to use functional aid.

With the help of a simple capo, you can bring so many songs that would otherwise be outside of your range, into the realm of songs you can perform. A capo is one of the best things that a guitarist can invest in.

This is true whether you are a seasoned guitarist with years of experience, or a fresh-faced novice. They are generally very cheap and can immediately add value and help to expand your repertoire.

What’s more, they are very easy to carry around with you if you are bringing your guitar on tour.

There are some tips and tricks to playing with a guitar capo, which we will outline in this comprehensive article. For the most part though, using a guitar capo is a simple as sticking it on the next of your guitar, tightening it up and starting to play!

If you want to become an expert on all things guitar capo, including the benefits of this equipment and the nuances of how to use one, then stay tuned!

Why To Use A Guitar Capo?

Before you commit to learning how to use a guitar capo, you might ask yourself why would even buy one and learn to use it?

Is it not just another piece of unnecessary equipment that can add to the complexity of learning the instrument, or can it really add tangible value?

Well, there are actually three distinct benefits that learning how to use a guitar capo can bring to your playing career.

What Is A Guitar Capo?

A guitar capo is a simple accessory which sits on the neck of your guitar and holds down all the strings to the neck at a single fret.

There are a few different designs for how it can do this, but the result is the same. Essentially it shortens the free vibrating length of each of the strings.

This means the ‘head’ of the guitar is artificially moved closer to the body, which had a big affect on the tones and sounds that the guitar produces.

And What Is Its Main Purpose?

Musically, this has profound implications. If you place the capo on the first fret, then every note on each string will be moved one note higher. For example, the open position of the second string, which was an A note, will become an A#.

Similarly, if the capo is placed on the second fret, then every note will move up two notes, relative to the open position. For example, the open position of the bottom string, the E note, will shift to become and F# note.

This has the same effect on chords, which are really just collections of notes. For example, a G chord can become an A chord by using the same G shape but placing a capo on the second fret. You can immediately see the possibilities this opens up.

What Are The Advantages Of Using A Guitar Capo?

As eluded to above, there are three great advantages to learning how to use a guitar capo. Firstly, they are an incredibly useful tool for beginners. When you are first learning guitar, you will probably just be able to play a handful of simple chord shapes, such as A,E,C,G and D.

Yet many songs are played in more complex keys utilizing a vast array of other chords. This means a lot of popular songs can be out of reach, which can often dishearten novice players, sometimes leading them to quit.

Why You Should Buy A Guitar Capo

This is where the guitar capo becomes exceptionally useful. By clever placement of the capo, you can actually play those same complicated chords using the simple chord shapes of the five chords you know.This is an extremely powerful and versatile technique.

Not only will it allow you to instantly multiply the amount of songs you can play, but you can actually sound far more proficient than you actually are, even if you just know the very basics.

This is why a guitar capo should be one of the first things you buy, and you shouldn’t wait until you are an experienced player to invest in one.

A guitar capo is a brilliant learning aid for beginners, but it is also much loved by more experienced players. Even if you can play more complicated chord shapes such as power chords and barre chords, there is still an argument to be made for using a capo.

Using a capo can allow you to easily shift the key of any song that you have learned. This means you can easily move it up or down a tone to match the range of the vocal performer. This is something most guitar players will find useful.

When A Guitar Capo Would Be Useful

For example, if you are performing with a high-pitched female vocalist, you can move the capo up a few frets to try and harmonize, while you might move it lower if performing the same song with a deep-throated male.

A guitar capo is also very useful if you are trying to play along with a record. If you know that the artist is just using simple chords, but you are unsure what key the song is in, you can simply slide the capo along the fretboard until you find the position that works.

The ease with which you can shift between keys using a capo is one of the major advantages of the guitar compared to some other instruments.

So, the major benefits of a guitar capo are obvious. They expand your repertoire by bringing songs that might have previously seemed too difficult, into the realm of basic beginner chord shapes.

They are also vital for vocal performances to bring songs into the performers vocal range, and they can help you replicate the sound of songs as they are performed on the original recording.

How To Use A Guitar Capo

Video: “How to use a Guitar Capo”

Using a guitar capo is pretty simple. The design may differ from model to model so be sure to follow the local instructions for fitting the capo, where they exist. There are a few guidelines that you should always follow.


First of all, capo placement is key. Make sure and place your capo snugly around the neck. If it has a manual tightening (as opposed to an elastic/spring feature) then make sure to tighten it sufficiently so that the strings don’t clang or vibrate beyond the fret you place it on.

Also, make sure to place the capo right next to the metal divider between frets. This will help you avoid any annoying ‘fret buzz’ which is the term given to the irritating ringing noise that can arise from incorrect capo placement.


In addition, you may need to retune your guitar after you place your capo. This is because of imperfections in the design of the guitar. Best practice is to tune up your guitar fully, then place your guitar capo on the neck, and then make any slight adjustments to the tuning.

You can do this using either an automatic tuner or any manual tuning method you know. The higher up the neck you place the capo the more out of tune you are likely to be. Also, be sure to retune your guitar fully in the open position, when you remove the capo.

It’s best not to leave the capo on the guitar for extended periods, so remove it every time you finish playing. This can prevent premature yielding of the metal strings which can cause them to lose their tuning regularly.

Different Types

Guitar capos come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and price tags. There is really no need to spend a fortune on such a simple piece of kit. However, you should make sure your capo is from a reputable brand, made with durable materials, and you understand how to use it.

Clip on capos are best, since strap on versions can sometimes lose their tightness. This can be very annoying if it happens mid-performance.

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All beginner guitarists should learn how to use a guitar capo. This is a skill that will stay with you and remain valuable throughout your playing career.

Guitar capos can immediately elevate your playing to the next level, with no extra effort required on your part, by making a ton of new songs available to you.

Using a guitar capo, you can play songs in weird and exotic keys while only relying on the few basic chord shapes that every guitarist knows. The practical aspect of using a guitar capo is very simple.

Placement of the accessory is vital, as is the tightness with which it wraps around the guitar neck. If you get the placement right then you can harmonize with the vocalist, or play in tune with lots of original recordings.

A guitar capo really can be a brilliant musical investment, if you learn how to use it properly.

Juan Stansbury
Juan Stansbury

I'm Juan Stansbury, author and owner of Homerecordio – your ultimate destination for everything about homerecording. With hands-on experience, courses, workshops, and industry research, I offer tips on selecting the best equipment, and mixing and mastering your recordings to achieve professional-quality results at home. Join me on this journey to explore the world of homerecording and music production.

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