19

I feel I was fooled by a music store. They made me buy a really expensive capo saying that it gives a better tone than normal cheap one. However, I recently bought a cheap wooden capo and I could not hear much of a difference.

Does capo quality really make a difference to the tone?

I feel that as long as the capo holds the strings tightly, it doesn't matter.

  • 2
    Try Before You Buy. – Carl Witthoft Mar 1 '17 at 12:25
  • @CarlWitthoft: Fair enough, but sometimes easier said than done, if you are shy of playing in a store, or think you may take some time to (learn to) appreciate the difference. Of course it helps if you have acquaintances to give you advice or let you try out their equipment. – PJTraill Mar 5 '17 at 16:50
  • I have seen instructional videos talk about capos that where made out of nothing more than a bunch of rubber bands and a pencil. – Neil Meyer Mar 8 '17 at 18:03
16

Capo quality matters, but not for tone. A better capo may give you more even tension on the strings, it may be more convenient to use, or maybe it's made of more durable materials or components that can be services or replaced as they wear.

The guitar's tone will only become affected if the capo throws the strings out of tune differently across the neck, or doesn't hold the strings tightly enough and causes buzzing or muting.

Capos can also throw guitars out of tune when used; better capos will do this less than simple ones. (It's worth mentioning that a capo doesn't need to clamp on the strings tightly; it only needs to hold them firmly enough so the strings ring freely. A capo that clamps the strings too tightly will often throw the guitar out of tune.)

  • Capos that use a spring to hold the neck are harder to adjust than one that uses an a mechanism with adjustable tension, but for guitars with a fairly average-sized neck this may not matter.
  • The style of capo that has a stretchy elastic band to clip onto the neck can sometimes work on steel-string guitars but it works very well on classical guitars, that have nylon strings with low tension.
  • There are many trigger-type models which tout one-handed operation, but as others have said, the spring will eventually lose tension. I have one of these. An alternative adjustable mechanism seems like a better deal. If you examine photographs of professional musicians playing with capos, I suspect that you may frequently see a common model -- the Shubb capo. I just added one of these to my bag, and initial tests sound good. – Kirk A Mar 7 '17 at 22:57
  • @KirkA I use Shubbs a lot, even on stage. I use a D'Addario capo for 12-string work that's quite similar but allows for even finer adjustment. Would never use it on stage, though, it takes far too long to use. Shubb is a good compromise between that and the easy-to-use Kyser spring capos. – neilfein Mar 8 '17 at 2:53
11

There are many different styles and types of capo, all with the same end product in mind. However, they do differ a lot. Some are dead straight, to work with flat fingerboards. Others have a radius which approximately matches the fingerboard radius on cambered fingerboards.

The way they attach to the neck varies too, and some are very easy to move up and down, while others need adjustment. Those with a spring for tension cannot be adjusted, so may, on some guitars, squeeze too hard and put the guitar out of tune, necessitating retuning for each position change. But they store easily on the head of the guitar when not being used.

I don't use capos often, but prefer G7,(not the cheapest!) which can be attached with as much or little pressure as needed.

There are many different designs, so it's worth trying several out. Take guitar to shop. Until you've tried them out, you really won't know whether it was hard sell or good sell. The cheapest is a pencil and rubber band - yes, it works - right through to a 'Spider', which takes things to a different level.

3

A cheap capo might seem just as good at first...

Give it a year or so of regular use and you'll realise why you pay extra for a good quality capo, they're more durable and maintain their tension so the strings will be held tightly.

Cheap capos lose tension and need replacing.

I bought a cheap capo and replaced it within a year with a good one that cost twice as much and hasn't needed replacing in 7 years.

3

Yes. It's mainly the strength of the metal spring to consider and how many strings it frets. Partial capos are great. I have to use two capos on one fret because my expensive capo is nice metal cast but the spring needs to be pulled apart with needle-nose pliers.

Here is a YouTube video of a homemade "snare" capo that sounds terrible.

2

I have used the "K" brand quick change on my Martin 000X ae , Taylor 414ce, Ovation 12 string and Gibson J150 for 10 years and it works great. Pressure on the strings is even and enough so they ring like an open chord.

I see capos for $60 USD and I think that's over the top. The "K" brand (not sure I am allowed to name them) are about $14.00 USD. I use the 12 string capo (the black "quick change" one) on all the guitars (6 and 12 string) and my capo has lasted 10 years, no wear or tear or issues. I find them easy to use at gigs and I leave it on the headstock for quick changes.

Also - there is no dan=mage to the neck from the rubber like some say.....aside from keeping the strings suppressed properly and evenly and staying in tune - a capo does not affect the sound tone - just the pitch

0

One thing to consider when getting a capo is how much it gets in the way of your hand up there on the 7th fret (I have big hands). Fingering notes right next to the capo may be a bit cumbersome with a clunky device.

BTW some capos are capable of barring just a few strings. Most others are all or nothing.

-1

Frankly, I don't think it makes any difference at all.

I use a few capos on my classical guitar, I'd be lying if I said one sounds better than the other.

  • If you use 'a few' is there one you prefer? For any particular reason? On this site, we try to be as helpful as we can, by adding other relevant information in answers. – Tim Mar 2 '17 at 8:48
  • 1
    Since the tension on the strings is much lower for classical guitars, there is likely a big difference in how classical guitars respond to capos versus steel string acoustic and electric guitars. – Todd Wilcox Mar 2 '17 at 13:06

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