Capo is short for capotasto, the Italian word for “head of fretboard.” A capo is a device used to clamp down the strings on your guitar’s neck. If you’re at all familiar with barre chords, which is where you clamp your index finger over a whole row of frets, then you will appreciate why capos are a handy tool. When placed across the fret board, the capo shortens the length of your instrument, which effectively raises the pitch. This allows you to play in almost any key as if it were “open.” So if you can play a G major, you can clamp the capo on right before the second fret and play an A major by using the same fingering pattern as the G major you would have played if there was no capo. Even if you rarely use it, all guitar players should have a capo on hand. It makes for easy transposing and if you’re still learning chords (which you should be) it allows you to get more out of what you already know.
But there are different kinds of capos and a ton of brands…
These capos go for as cheap as $2-5, and a ton of people buy them. While it will work fine for many guitars, any jumbo-sized guitars or guitars using heavy strings will likely experience buzz from its inability to hold down the 6th and 5th strings.
Kyser is probably the most popular brand of capo (for a reason). Spending $15, you can expect this capo to last you for years. I’m a daily guitar player, and I’m an avid fan of using a capo because I like those higher-pitched sounds. I personally used a standard Kyser that had already been on the road for four or five years before being handed on to me. I had it for five years before it exploded (I actually broke a piece when I dropped it, and then the spring burst out) during a small show. Luckily, I had a friend act as my human capo for the last few songs!
Guess what I did the next day? I went out and bought another Kyser Capo. That’s a $15 product that lasted through 10+ years of extremely heavy use. For many players, this could probably last a lifetime.
A Shubb Guitar Capo (probably the next most popular brand) is going to cost you a little more than the Kyser, but I’ve had mine for 12 years and it’s still going strong. The use of high-quality metals and the adjustable clamp makes this an excellent choice that does the least amount of damage on a guitar (if used properly).
See more capo choices in our “Best Guitar Accessories and Capo Reviews” article.