What is a Capo (And Other Things You Need To Learn About It)

By Monica | News

Apr 17
What is a Capo

What is a capo? Despite being a familiar term, many people don't understand it. Maybe, guitarists have a good grasp about this device. But still, it would be a strike of magic if someone could answer this question properly. Read this article so that next you'll be asked this question, you can respond correctly.


What is a Capo?

According to the website of Fender, the capo is one of the most popular accessories for both electric and acoustic guitar. Specifically, the term "capo" is an Italian word that means "head." Guitarists clamp this device on the neck of their guitars. They do this so that they can curtail the strings' length.

But why is it necessary to shorten the strings? Well, you can hear the answer if you try it by yourself. You heard it, right? Yes. Guitarists use a capo to increase or raise the pitch of the guitar. It is quite a paradox if you think of it. Short strings can produce loud and high pitches.

Usually, guitarists attach their capo on all of the strings of the instrument to get a satisfactory result. But don't you know that you can also use a capo on other stringed instruments? However, you can rarely see as guitars usually gain the most benefits from a capo.

Using a capo is advantageous. It is not mandatory, but some pieces require you to use this accessory. Specifically, this device lets you play multiple keys even if you are in just the primary position of an open chord. As a result, the guitar can produce a resonant and droning tone. If you want to avoid the sound produced by bar chords, you have to put a capo.

How Does a Capo Work?

how does a capo work

You cannot understand the mechanism of a capo if you don't know how does a nut work. The nut is a strip that you can see on the headstock of your guitar. The nut is either bone, plastic, or metal. The guitar's nut mounts the area where the headstock meets the fretboard.

Understanding the Nut

The nut is a critical component for a guitar. It comes with grooves that guarantee the proper horizontal placement of the strings on the fretboard. Moreover, the bridge of the guitar also helps in securing the positioning of the strings as well.

The function of a nut has almost the same mechanism to a capo. In short, the latter is a removable nut. You have the power to attach it to any fret of the guitar as a way to terminate the vibration. But unlike the nut, capos don't come with grooves. Of course, it is not necessary for this device to have grooves as their primary function is to change the pitch of the guitar.

Can a Capo Act Like a Nut?

You could also say that a capo can secure the lateral placement of the strings. But even if you are not using a capo, the bridge and the nut will do maintain the strings for you.

It is also important to note that capos can increase the pitch of the guitar without even changing the tuning keys. As a result, the pitch of those fretted notes stays the same. Instead, it is only the unfretted strings that the capo affects.

Furthermore, the capo can also alter the strings' timbre. Specifically, a capo enables your guitar to mimic the tone of instruments that have short scales. A good example of this is the mandolin.

Meanwhile, check this video on how to use a capo!

Innovations of a Capo

There has been a lot of changes for the capo in the recent years. Many manufacturers incorporated various styles in their capos. Specifically, they employed unique mechanisms to attach the capo to the guitar.

Rubber Clamp Type

The most common today are the capos that are using rubber bars to clamp the strings. Meanwhile, they fasten the neck with the utilization of nylon or elastic strap. Sometimes, manufacturers use screws or spring so that the capo can "bite" the guitar.

Partial Capo

The latest capo that you can buy is the one they called "partial capo." As its name suggest, this capo doesn't engulf the entire neck. As a result, it wouldn't be able to lock all the strings. It is an ideal choice if you to experiment with various tones. You can clamp three to four strings without changing the overall tuning of the guitar.

Capo Applications

capo applications

Usually, guitarists use a capo when they play songs that are in the blues and folks genre. You can also use this device if you are using an Irish guitar or flamenco. Genres like classics and jazz rarely use a capo, despite the popular belief.

In the past decades, we have seen a lot of pop and rock guitarists like Keith Richards, Richard Thompson, John Mayer, and George Harrison used capos in many of their songs. Indeed, music has been evolving continuously.

If you are a guitarist, we recommend that you should invest on this accessory. You should not be afraid to buy one because this device is not expensive. In fact, you can buy multiple models to gain access to tonal variety!


There are a lot of advantages if you will use a capo. Since the frets become short, there is a lesser need for you to stretch your hand. As a result, a song would become easier to play. Learning the definition and a function of a capo is essential for any guitarist. After all, you need to experience the effects of this device to progress your skills further.

Did you learn from this article? When do you use your capo? Do you have particular capo brands that you want to recommend to us? Share us your thoughts in the comment section below!


About the Author

Hi everyone! Im Monica and I am an avid lover of guitars and everything in-between. My current profession is not really music-related. It is quite discouraging but I just don't want to drop my zeal--especially not to guitars! I created GuitarTrance.Com so that I can keep up with my hobby. Of course, I want to engage with the community as well! Hope we can all get along!