Ever wonder what a capo is and whether you should be using one on acoustic guitar? Well, look no further. Below you’ll learn exactly what a capo is, how to use it, what to use it for, and other common capo questions relating to the guitar. Let’s get started by looking at what a capo is.
What is a Guitar Capo?
A capo is a device that musicians place on the neck of a stringed instrument to transpose and shorten the playable length of the strings—hence raising the pitch. Guitarists use capos quite frequently, especially acoustic guitarists.
There are many different styles of capos, but here’s a popular example that you’ll probably recognize (and one that I recommend picking up off Amazon):
What is a Capo Used For on Guitar?
So what’s the point of a capo? It is often used by guitarists to play songs using open chords instead of having to use barre chords.
If that sounds confusing, it will make more sense with an example. Consider a song like “Into White” by Cat Stevens. You can see in the video below that I’m playing it using a capo:
You’ll see that the chords being used are largely open G, C, D, and E chords. However, the capo is on the 2nd fret, so even though I am using those simple open chord shapes, the chords are actually different. They are now: A, D, E, and F#, respectively (every shape is raised a whole step, since the capo is on the 2nd fret.)
That’s really what a capo is used for. It allows you to use familiar, beautiful open chords all over the neck to play songs that are in different keys, by simply moving the capo around rather than having to move barre chords all over the neck.
It makes sense that the capo is so popular with acoustic guitarists, then, as the acoustic guitar is known for its beautiful tone when used for playing open chords specifically.
Where Can I Learn How to Play Guitar with a Capo?
The best way to learn how to use a capo is by simply getting yourself a capo (link to my favorite on Amazon) and starting to experiment with it. Play a few of your favorite songs that use open chords in different positions on the neck. This will change their key. This can be especially helpful if you sing, as you can easily move a song’s chords up and down to best suit your voice.
You can also watch helpful youtube videos like the following for more specific tips on how to use a capo on the guitar:
What’s the Best Capo for Guitar?
As with many things, when looking for the best capo I advise you to look for quality. I’ve bought cheap capos in the past to save a few bucks and they break or don’t evenly clamp across the strings. It’s worth it to spend for a quality capo that will last you a lifetime.
I bought ONE of these capos like, 10 years ago, and still use the same one to this day. They last forever and do a great job, and are small enough to put in your pocket if you’re going to a gig or to jam with friends.
Can You Use a Capo on Electric Guitar?
Capos are less common to see on an electric guitar, but you can certainly use them.
One guitarist famous for his capo use on his electric guitar was the blues player Albert Collins. He’s actually one of my favorite blues guitarists. You can see his signature set up (playing with a capo high up on his telecaster) in the video below:
Got More Guitar Questions?
Looking for more help learning the guitar? The following articles can help you out:
- The First 5 Chords to Learn on Guitar
- Can You Play Acoustic Songs on Electric Guitar?
- Acoustic Guitar is Better than Electric: 8 Reasons Why
- How to Play Barre Chords On Guitar 5 Tips & Tricks
- 30 Ways to Stay Motivated Learning Guitar (And Stick with It)
Ready to Get Better at Guitar, Faster?
Whenever you’re ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, check out my favorite resources below:
Elixir Nanoweb Acoustic Guitar Strings
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Chords, Tabs & Lessons for 100 Songs
- This free guide from Acoustic World gives you chords, tabs, and video lesson for the 100 best songs to learn on guitar.
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Fingerpicking vs Flatpicking Guitar
- Learn which picking style is right for YOU by exploring examples, history, and popular players of each style.
- Discover essential techniques and pros and cons of each approach.