As a guitar player, you will have to learn to use a number of guitar accessories and equipment such as tuners, preamps, metronomes and other devices. One of the things that beginners and intermediate players should take time to learn to use is the capo.
No matter the guitar model you have, whether it’s an entry-level acoustic below $200 or a high-end model that costs $2000 or more, you will benefit from the use of a capo. Just what is a capo and how does it work? Let’s take a look.
What is a capo and what is it for?
A capo is a device that holds the strings down on a guitar. It is a clamp that presses down across the guitar’s fingerboard. It basically functions as a movable nut, which terminates the vibration of the strings.
A capo essentially decreases the length of the strings. Because the length of the strings are shortened, all of the open, unfretted strings now play in a higher pitch – a half-step for every fret.
For example, if you position a capo at the third fret, the open E strings now become Gs, B becomes D, D becomes F and so on. It’s important to note that the pitch of fretted notes does not change.
With a capo, you can “move” the nut up or down the fingerboard, making it easier to play in different keys without having to adjust the tuning pegs. You can also adjust the key of the song you are playing without having to change the chord forms or shapes.
A capo can also change the timbre of the strings, giving them the tonal character of stringed instruments with a shorter scale, such as a mandolin.
Where is a capo placed?
For best results and to avoid making the strings go out of tune, you should position the capo properly on the desired fret. Clamp it just behind the fret bar – not on top of it and not in the middle of the fret or too far back in the fret.
Once the capo is properly in place, you can start playing. You can only fret chords below the capo, or from the capo to the body of the guitar and not from the capo to the nut or headstock.
When should you use a capo?
A capo is ideal to use if you are playing the guitar and there is a singer, or if you’re playing with a group. If the key of the song is too low or too high for the singer, you can just use a capo to adjust the key of the music so that it fits the singer’s vocal range. If you’re playing with another guitarist or in a group, you can use the capo to voice your chords higher or lower so you aren’t all playing in the same register.
You can also use a capo to avoid having to do bar chords. Instead of you having to form bar chords with your finger, you can let the capo do the hard work. In addition, playing with a capo higher up the neck would require less stretching in your fretting hand because the frets get closer together. This would make some songs easier to play.