You have seen some of your favourite musicians using one but if you ask yourself “What is a Guitar Capo?”, you may be drawing a blank. That is perfectly ok friend, as today I shall help you become a little wiser than you were a few minutes ago. We will explore the simple, yet quite a clever invention of what is commonly called the capo.
What Does Capo Mean?
Capo is the short form of Capotasto, which is Italian for Nut. This probably refers to the nut of the guitar and not the type you can eat (but I could be wrong). The function of the nut on the guitar is to act as a guide for the guitar strings, both raising them above the fretboard as well as preventing them from interfering with each other and getting into fights.
The nut also acts as a starting point for “usable string length”. By this, I simply refer to the amount of the string that is available for you to play. If you place your finger behind the nut you will notice that you cannot really play any notes behind the nut except the open notes (which sound kind of like horror movie music when strummed).
What Does It Do For My Strings? – It Gives Them A Nice Hug
Whenever you fret a note on the guitar (press any string down between any fret) you are changing the length of the string. This change in length produces a different pitch or sound from that string. the closer your fingers move towards the higher frets( towards the pickup or sound hole), the shorter the string becomes and the higher the pitch (sound) the string will sing for you.
The Function of a capo is similar to what guitarists do call a barre. A barre is played by placing one finger across all the strings in a single fret (This is the foundation of barre chords) This is basically like moving the nut of your guitar to a new fret because all the strings between the nut and the capo are effectively muted (you don’t hear their sound anymore).
The Capo creates a barre and raises the pitch of all the strings it is placed across.
Why Do All Those Famous Musician People Use One?
The capo is really helpful as it lets you play normal chord shapes on a higher position on the neck. This means you can play the same chords (open chords for example) in a different key meaning you don’t have to barre chords or move all over the neck to play a specific chord. It basically makes it easier for you to play the guitar in a different key.
Musicians use the capo for this reason. It is an effective way to make your guitar playing easier so you can do others things like sing or play an additional instrument such as a harmonica. The simpler you keep the chords, the less chance there is for you to make a mistake while multitasking.
Performing live can also be nerve-wracking, so keeping things simple is great for anyone to build confidence on stage in front of people.
What Species of Capo Exist – An Example Or Two.
There are probably Capos out there which I have never even heard of before but I will do my best to tell you of the ones I know. Personally, I have 2 types namely the spring clamp type and the Schubb type. There are also fancier versions with custom inlays and exotic finishes and even partial Capos that only barre certain strings, but let’s stick with the basics.
The spring type is the most common one in my opinion. Whenever I have seen someone use a capo it is generally this type. This simple yet effective design utilises a spring (compression spring) which normally keeps the jaws closed. The tension will depend on the thickness of your guitar neck and therefore the degree to which the jaws are clamped down.
It is very fast to apply or remove this type of capo because of the simple principle employed in it’s design. You simply pull the two handles together to open the jaws wider than the thickness I would say the only downside is the fixed tension which cannot be adjusted due to the fixed spring and jaw sizes. This fixed force may cause the guitar to detune slightly.
The Schubb Capo is a very cool capo as well. The size of the jaws can be adjusted manually, allowing you to control the tension that is placed on your instrument. The Schubb is placed on the guitar and then the bottom lever is pushed forward to lock the capo in place. The Schubb is also less bulky than the spring type capo and may be more comfortable for some.
To adjust the amount of force this capo applies to your strings you can adjust the small screw seen at the bottom of the image above. Tightening the screw (right turn) increases the force while loosening the screw (left turn) lessens the applied force.
Due to this adjustable system, you can use just the right amount of force meaning the guitar won’t detune as quickly. It does take a bit longer to get this capo on initially, but once you have set it for your guitar you shouldn’t experience too much of a time delay. The lowest lever is simply pulled down to release the force and then the capo can be safely removed.
Cool, I Know What A Capo Is
You are now armed with the knowledge of exactly what a capo was designed for, as well as the standard way of using it. That being said it is up to you to decide how you will use it. You can experiment with multiple capos if you want to see if you can create a particular sound you like.
You could also try using it in a different way others than the standard, as long as you are sure you will not damage yourself or your guitar.
Best wishes on your capo(capo-ing?) journey.