What Is A Guitar Capo & How To Use One

What is a guitar capo you ask? It’s a cool little spring like device that helps you do really amazing things on guitar. For example, it can help singers easily change the keys of songs, allow beginners to avoid barre chords or even allow you to play more songs with a limited set of chords.

That’s just to name a few.

Some people claim that ‘real’ guitarists don’t use capos. ::rolls eyes:: You may have heard of artists like Johnny Cash, Paul Simon and even Tommy Emmanuel who seem to love using capos.

I don’t know about you, but they seem like pretty damn good guitar players to me.

The point is, guitar capos are not only for beginners. Trained professionals use them all the time and they are a pretty handy tool to have in your guitar arsenal.

You can watch my video below on how to use a guitar capo. You can also keep scrolling down to read more about capos and what I use with my guitars.

Where to place your guitar capo?

Before we get into the different things a guitar capo can be used for, you first need to know how to use a guitar capo correctly.

When it comes to capos, the most important thing to remember is to place it towards the front of the fret like you would with your fingers when you make a chord. This will prevent buzzing on the strings.

For example:

If you were trying to capo your acoustic guitar at the 2nd fret, you would want to place the capo towards the front side of the fret box or directly behind the metal of the 3rd fret.


This is actually a very common question that I get asked. The thing is, the average guitar is not really in a key until you start playing chords. So depending on what chords you play and where your capo is on the guitar, will determine what key your guitar is in.

It’s slightly complicated if you don’t know much about theory. But to figure out what chords you are playing with a capo, let’s take the example of the 2nd fret again.

If we were to play a G chord as picture below on the left, it is actually like playing an A chord. What?! You can see on the diagram below. The ‘111’ represents a barre or in this case, our capo.

That’s one way to look at it.

The other way to look at it is, the capo is on the 2nd fret. So whatever chords we are playing are on the open strings (think fret 0)

Because we went from fret 0 to fret 2, we need to the chords to go up 2 notes.

In this case we are playing a G chord so two notes would be G# and then A. If I played a C chord at the open position (fret 0), it would be two notes up from C. So that would be C# then D.

So a C chord at the second fret is actually a D chord. Mind blown!

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Uses for a guitar capo:

Change pitch quickly for singers

Now, while you can use a capo on an electric guitar, they are more commonly used on the acoustic. For singers, using a capo makes changing the key of a song very easy without having to transcribe and modulate a bunch of chords like we did above.

Just add the capo and tada! Instant key change.

For female singers, usually adding a capo at the 2nd, 3rd or 4th frets can be enough to make a song that’s too low fit right into their vocal range.

Eliminate Barre Chords for Beginners

When I would teach students, I would sometimes use a capo to keep a song in the SAME key, but change up the chords we use to play that song. For example, Ben E King’s song Stand By Me uses teh chord A, D, E and F#m. F#m is a barre chord. And while I do have an easy fix for that chord, let’s just say I didn’t want the student to play the barre chord.

The F#m chord is barred at the second fret. You can see below on the left diagram. But what if I put a capo at the second fret? Then I could easily play an Em chord which is a simple open chord.

So in this instance, we need to play two chords tones LOWER in pitch. The note E is two notes lower the F#.

Now, instead of playing the chords A F#m D and E the student would play the chords G Em C and D.

By using a capo, I was able to completely eliminate the need for a barre chord. Not only that, if my student only knows 4 chords (G, Em, C and D), they can now play this song without needing to learn any new chords.


My favorite guitar capo?

There are probably better guitar capos out there on the market if you want to spend more money. I never have.

For me, the best guitar capo hands down is the KYSER CAPO. You will see my orange or white Kyser featured in my YouTube videos. They aren’t that expensive either and come in a variety of fun colors. They last a long time and are easy to use as well.

I’ve been using Kyser Capos for over 20 years now and honestly love them.

Click Here To Shop Kyser Capos And Buy Your Favorite Color

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