Who doesn’t love the idea of putting down the classic Guitar Hero controller and becoming a guitar hero for real? (How weird is it that Guitar Hero is so old it’s retro?)
But no matter how old I get, I still feel a sense of magic every time I listen to a particularly good guitarist. There’s just something about the fact that all it takes is a few finger movements to unleash a whole world of musical brilliance that never ceases to fill me with joy.
I find good musicians always make it seem effortless, but if you’re just starting out or looking to up your game, things such as changing pitch with a capo, or how capos even work or which you should choose, can seem impossible.
Frustration can kill your passion to play – and that breaks my heart.
So let’s clear up what capos are all about and what the best guitar capos can do for you.
For those not in the know, a capo is a clamp attached to the neck of your guitar to pinch down a couple strings, thereby raising the pitch of the notes you play. This allows guitarists to play songs in different keys with greater ease. If you think that sounds an awful lot like what the nuts at the head of your guitar is supposed to do, that’s because it is – a capo is basically a moveable nut to make that key-changing process extra easy.
One thing I have seen lots of beginner guitar players be confused about, however, is whether this will change the pitch of unfretted keys. The answer is no, they’re just for fretted keys.
Another thing you’ll want to watch for is pairing rounded capos with flat fretboards. If you aren’t careful, this can produce an unwelcome buzz. To prevent that, you’ll want to make sure the fret you choose fits your guitar’s fretboard.
I’ll also say that you need to pay extra close attention to the ergonomics – or, to cut the fancy jargon, the “feel” of the frets and capo together. So much of playing music is having the right “feel,” and even the tiniest bit of discomfort can throw off the intricate finger movements you need to play like a pro.
Don’t go cheap-o on capos, either. There’s a difference between “inexpensive” and “cheap,” and it’s all about quality.
Finally, there’s the all-important cool factor! Capos are yet another chance to show off your personality and customize your cool acoustic instrument or mighty metal-rocking axe! I’m all about individualism, and so is music!
Top Five Best Guitar Capos
1. G7th Performance 3 ART Capo
Let’s get this out of the way right now – these capos don’t come without paying a pretty penny. True, $55 isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things, but since you can get a capo for as little as $10, why spring for this one?
Simply put, they’re among the best. You pay for quality, and it’s hard to find high-quality capos to top my G7th Performance pick here. One of the biggest selling points of these capos is their Adaptive Radius Technology, which – to cut out a bunch of jargon – basically means they fit the curvature of your frets so you don’t have to fret. Say goodbye to awkward fits and buzzes, because these capos fit like a glove. It can hold down all six strings at once, giving you a uniform feel across the strings, letting you raise the pitch on each of them without having to think twice about it.
That’s what’s really necessary for playing like a real guitar hero. From rockers to country kings to blues crews and beyond, guitar stars of all kinds look easy and natural because they don’t sweat the small stuff. They know they can count on their capos like they count on their skills – and you want to be able to as well.
I also love that these capos are lightweight and very accessible, making them that much easier to fasten onto your guitar and use.
2. Shubb C1 Steel String Capo
I love how slimmed down these capos are (so much that I own one, and have done for years). Raised capos aren’t necessarily problematic per se, but they’re just one more distraction, and really, who needs that while playing? These capos let you forget the capos are even there so you can get truly lost in the music, and that’s exactly what a good capo is supposed to do.
What’s more, at $15, there’s no denying they’re highly affordable.
Even better, it is easy to attach this capo to the fretboard. This isn’t a complicated task, but if you use capos regularly, you know that you want to be able to release them with ease so you can place them at other points on the guitar to change the pitch and keys that much easier, or to remove them completely. Thankfully, this is a model that makes it incredibly easy to do just that. All you have to do is flip the lever and lock the capo into place, and then do the same in reverse to remove it. No fuss, no muss, and all the convenience in the world.
The whole process takes about 20 seconds which, if you’ve used capos before, you might think that’s too long. You would be right, other models are faster. But it’s still a short span of time in the grand scheme of things, this model is fast and easy enough to operate, and that combined with its quality construction and affordability easily earn it a place here.
3. Planet Waves D’Addario NS Capo Pro
The thing I love most about this model is that it has a good ergonomic design. You know how much I care about the “feel” of a guitar-capo combination when it comes to ease of play, and this capo from D’Addario does a good job of capturing that. It’s slim, unobtrusive, and even better, you can move it up and down the neck of the guitar with ease, allowing you to remain fully immersed in the “feel” of the music-playing moment without having to stop to move the capo. It is also quite lightweight, so you don’t have to worry about it weighing down the top of your guitar, either.
That said, this model is meant for guitars with radiused fretboards and not classical guitars. Still, if you like this model, D’Addario does offer a variant that covers those as well. As long as you know that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all capo and are okay with it being plastic rather than something a bit sturdier or more stylish, this is a capo that can keep you in rhythm.
4. Dunlop Trigger Capo
By contrast, this model from Dunlop is okay for use in both classical and electric guitars, so whether you feel like playing some Spanish adagios or AC/DC or anything in between, you’re good to go.
This is a capo that’s honestly been around the block a time or two before. It’s not a new model so much as an update of their old design. You can decide for yourself whether you value that kind of dependability or you see it as old news and want to move on to something new.
Still, the very fact it’s here in my top five list should give you an idea of where I stand. It may be a bit more old-fashioned compared to some of the other capos on this list, but classics never go out of style, and that’s true of Dunlop’s trigger capo. All you have to do is squeeze the trigger of this spring-loaded capo to pop it back up so you can change keys. That kind of convenience is always welcome.
This is another model that is only intended for radiused fretboards, and there are more advanced options out there. Still, if you want something that’s dependable and durable, you usually can’t go wrong with Dunlop’s music offerings, and that includes this capo.
5. Ernie Ball Axis Capo
The model from Dunlop is facing stiffer competition than usual. The reason for this can be said in two words: Ernie Ball. There is a lot to love about this capo, starting with the fact that it can be used with radiused as well as classical and flat fretboards. What’s more, it remains tightly in place until you squeeze the trigger to move it up, allowing you to move it one-handed mid-song without losing that all-important “feel” for your music. If you’re looking for a more versatile capo, this is it.
Add to that its affordable price, and the wave of enthusiasm for Ernie Ball becomes clear.
There is a lot to love about these capos, and any one of them could make for a rocking selection. Which one you choose is really down to what kind of guitar you have and what type of guitar player you are and want to be – and that’s how it should be.
Music is all about expressing your individuality, and these capos represent distinct choices that can allow you to play on with distinction!
Ant questions? Just let me know in the comments below.