Why Do Guitarists Use Capos? (And Why You Should Too)

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There are many components that go into the setup you use when playing guitar, and the capo is just one of those many components. And while many professional guitarists, guitar teachers, and guitar fanatics alike will tell you that it is frowned upon to use a capo, there are several good reasons why guitarists use them and why you should too.

Guitarists use capos to change the key of their guitar without needing to change the tuning, to allow them to sing songs in a register they are comfortable with, or to achieve an interesting sound from their guitars that isn’t possible to achieve when playing it ‘open.’

In this article, you’ll learn about what a capo is, why guitarists use them, and the reasons why you should use a capo when playing guitar too. We’ll also give you a few recommendations of capos you can use if you don’t yet own one. Now let’s get started!

If you want to find out what my recommended guitar gear is, then here is what I recommend on Amazon:

Why Do Guitarists Use Capos: What Is a Capo?

A capo (which is short for capodastro and is Italian for “head of fretboard”) is a small gadget that musicians use on the neck of fretted instruments, the guitar being one of them, as an aid in shortening the playable length (or transposing) of its strings. This, in turn, raises the pitch of the instrument that it is on.

The most common variant of capo that is in use these days is made of a rubber-covered bar that sits over the strings behind one of the frets, and another ‘arm’ that is placed on the back of the guitar’s neck and clamps down to help keep the capo in place. They work similarly to how a washing peg or hair clip works.

Several variations of capos are available on the market, with differences in design and how they attach onto the instrument’s neck. There are also variations of capos made for different fretted instruments, such as ukuleles, mandolins, banjos, and bouzoukis. They are also called different things in different languages.

The capo you use will also factor into how you play your instrument, depending on its size, ease of use, the extent of interference with your fretting hand, and its ability to uniformly apply pressure to all strings without affecting your instrument’s tuning.

Now that we have discussed the basics of what a capo is, we can discuss what they are used for and why you should use one too!

Change the Guitar Key Without Changing the Tuning

The main reason why guitarists use a capo is that it gives them the ability to quickly and effortlessly change their guitar’s key without changing their tuning. Using a capo is an easy way of creating a new (and moveable) nut on the neck of a fretted instrument at a higher pitch than the primary nut. This effect creates some other reasons why guitarists use capos.

Change the Key of the Song

Capos allow guitarists to change the key of the song they are playing to a key that they can sing along with. Many times, guitarists want to play a song but find that the singer either sings too high or too low for their vocal register and by using a capo, they can find a key that fits within their range. This then gives them a larger library of songs that they can sing.

Help the Guitar Achieve a Certain Sound

Capos are also often used to help an instrument achieve sounds that aren’t possible when it is being played open. Some guitarists like to use capos as a creative tool to get some more unusual and interesting sounds from their instruments that wouldn’t be achievable without using a capo. Some examples of this are the songs’ Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman and ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ by The Smiths.

There may be other personal reasons why guitarists like to use capos, but those are the three main reasons why many guitar players use capos when jamming out on their instrument.

Why Should You Use a Capo?

So, let’s talk about why you should use a capo when playing your guitar, other than the reasons we’ve already listed above.

Using a capo will allow you to play more songs with fewer chords. If you’re just beginning to learn to play guitar and don’t know many chords, using a capo will allow you to play songs that include chords that you don’t know. If all you know is the five most basic chords (G, D, C, Em, and Am), you’ll be able to play hundreds of songs by using a capo.

This is because a capo changes the key and tone of your guitar. Put simply, the chord shape you make when playing a G chord open will become (or at least sound like) a different chord once you put a capo on the guitar.

Again, if you’re a beginner (or perhaps haven’t played in a long time), using a capo will make playing certain chords easier. This is especially true for barre chords, as they can be tricky for beginners to learn to play properly. But by using a capo, you remove the need to use your finger as the barre of the barre chord and allows you to concentrate on getting the rest of the chord placements right. Once you’re more advanced, you may be able to remove the capo.

Along with the previous reason, using a capo to help barre your guitar will help keep your fretting hand from tiring out quickly. This can happen if you play a song with many barre chords played in succession or if you’ve been practicing for an extended period. Using a capo will take some of your fretting hand strain and allow you to play better for longer.

If you play in a band, a capo will help you change your instrument’s key to match (or at least compliment) the keys of the other instruments being used by your bandmates. You’ll rarely find that everyone’s instruments play in the same key when they’re open (i.e., not adjusted or capo-ed). Having a capo on hand can help you remedy these discrepancies quickly and easily, without having to adjust any other part of your guitar is essential.

Using a capo will also save you from learning how to manually transpose the chords of a song to make them sound the way you need or like them to. Of course, it would be good to learn how to do this if you plan on playing guitar professionally, but this can take a long time, and sometimes you just want to play without having to figure out a bunch of technicalities first.

Capo Recommendations

If you’re new to guitar and don’t know which capo you should use, or you’re an experienced guitarist and just haven’t bought one yet, we’ve compiled a shortlist of capos you can start with. They will be listed by price, ranging from least to most expensive.

Here are our capo recommendations:

Conclusion: Why Do Guitarists Use Capos?

Ultimately, the reason you use a capo will be unique to you, but the reasons we’ve listed in this article should give you a good idea of all of the reasons you may want to try out using a capo on your guitar. It’s also vital that you remember not to let anyone’s opinion of capos have an impact on whether or not you use a capo or the reasons why you use it.

If you want to find out what my recommended guitar gear is, then here is what I recommend on Amazon:

Why Do Guitarists Use Capos: FAQs

Is capo necessary for guitar?

A capo is not necessary for playing guitar, but it can be a useful tool for changing the key and creating different chord voicings. Some styles of music, such as folk and country, commonly use capos to achieve a particular sound or facilitate easier playing.

Why use a capo instead of tuning?

A capo can be more convenient than tuning the guitar, especially when playing in a group or with multiple instruments. A capo allows the player to change the key without adjusting the tuning, which can be useful for achieving a particular sound or creating different chord voicings.

Is it easier to play a guitar with a capo?

Using a capo can make playing guitar easier in some situations, as it can eliminate difficult fingerings and simplify chord progressions. However, it may also require adjusting to a new position and learning different chord shapes.

Do real musicians use capos?

Yes, many professional musicians use capos to achieve a particular sound or facilitate easier playing. Capos are commonly used in folk, country, and acoustic music, but can be used in any style of music.

What is the disadvantage of capo?

The disadvantage of using a capo is that it can change the tone and timbre of the guitar, especially if it is placed too high up the fretboard. It can also limit the range of notes and chords that can be played in a particular key.

Is it okay to not use capo?

Yes, it is perfectly fine to not use a capo when playing guitar. Many styles of music do not require a capo, and it is a matter of personal preference and musical style.

Why does my guitar sound weird when I put a capo on?

If your guitar sounds weird when you put a capo on, it may be due to improper placement or insufficient pressure on the strings. It can also be due to the capo altering the tension and intonation of the strings, which can affect the overall tone and timbre of the guitar.

Does capo change key or pitch?

Yes, a capo changes the key of the guitar by raising the pitch of the strings. It does not change the actual pitch of the guitar, but instead changes the relationship between the open strings and the fretted notes.

Do chords change with capo?

Yes, the chords on the guitar change with the use of a capo, as it raises the pitch of the strings and alters the fingerings and chord voicings.

What capo is the key of C?

The capo position for the key of C depends on the specific song and the desired sound. In general, placing the capo on the first fret will raise the key of C to C#, and placing it on the second fret will raise it to D.

What are the benefits of using a capo?

The benefits of using a capo include the ability to change the key and create different chord voicings, facilitate easier playing, and achieve a particular sound or style.

How much does a capo raise the key?

A capo raises the key by raising the pitch of the strings by a specific number of semitones, depending on the placement of the capo. For example, placing the capo on the first fret raises the pitch by one semitone, while placing it on the second fret raises it by two semitones.

Why do so many songs use a capo?

Many songs use a capo to achieve a particular sound or facilitate easier playing. Capos can also allow guitarists to play in different keys without having to learn new fingerings and chord voicings.

Does capo lower the pitch?

No, a capo does not lower the pitch of the guitar but instead raises it by shortening the length of the strings between the capo and the bridge.

Does a capo make chords easier?

A capo can make chords easier in some situations, especially when playing in difficult keys or using complex fingerings. By raising the pitch of the strings, a capo can allow guitarists to use simpler chord shapes and eliminate difficult fingerings.

What are the pros and cons of using a capo?

The pros of using a capo include the ability to change keys easily, create different chord voicings, and facilitate easier playing. The cons include altering the tone and timbre of the guitar, limiting the range of notes and chords, and requiring adjustment to a new position.

How do you know when to use a capo?

A capo can be used when playing in a different key than the open chords, or when playing with other instruments that are in a different key. It can also be used to create different chord voicings and facilitate easier playing in difficult keys. The specific use of a capo depends on the musical style and the desired sound.

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David Sandy

Hey there! My name is David Sandy and I'm the founder of Sandy Music Lab. I've been playing guitar for several years now and created this site to be able to share and explore music with others.
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