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Versatility is a characteristic that all guitar players hope to exhibit. One way to instantly become a more adaptable guitarist (besides buying a whole new axe) is to invest in a great guitar capo.
Guitar capos are essentially a moveable nut or artificial barre chord finger press, clamping down over the whole neck of the guitar. This holds down the strings at any location, raising the pitch of the whole instrument — no lengthy tuning session required. They work with any type of guitar, including acoustic, electric, ukulele, banjo and mandolin.
These handy tools have a range of benefits for guitar players of all levels. With a capo, you can play in a different key without learning new chord fingerings. This is obviously great for beginners, but also convenient for band members performing a series of tunes with different keys. It’s also very helpful if you’re singing while playing, letting you focus less on barre chords and difficult fingerings.
On top of their usefulness, guitar capos are also compact and easy to use. The only difficult part is picking the right capo. To help out, we’ve rounded up some of our favorites and outlined how to choose one.
What to Know Before Buying a Guitar Capo
Although guitar capos are simple tools, they’re actually quite diverse when it comes to buying one. Below are some of the key features that can change from product to product.
Adjustability: You’ll want to check to see how quickly a capo can be clamped, shifted around the neck or removed. This is especially important if you’ll be rapidly changing keys between songs, say while performing.
Material: As with any product, you want your capo to last. They come in a variety of materials, but some are more durable than others. Plus, some capos just look better than others.
Weight: Guitar capos are mostly very lightweight, but still: the lighter the better. You’re probably used to the weight of your guitar’s neck, so weighing it down too drastically may interfere with how you play.
Design: The more streamlined a capo’s design, the more freely you can maneuver your axe and fly up and down the neck. We selected capos with low-key builds that won’t get in the way while you play.
1. Wingo Guitar Capo
This guitar capo from Wingo earned our number one spot because it nails both function and fashion. It’s made of aircraft grade zinc alloy for durability (as many capos are) but finished with rosewood for a particularly handsome look. The actual clamp is fitted with thick silicone padding, ensuring protection for your guitar’s neck and fingerboard.
One of the best features of the Wingo capo is its weight. At just 0.2 ounces it’s the lightest capo on our list. This means you won’t feel any difference in your axe’s weight. The Wingo’s ergonomic design also keeps it out of the way while playing.
The only downside with this capo is its adaptability. It should work great with acoustic and electric guitars, but the fitted design might not fit as well on banjos, ukuleles or mandolins.
PROS: Lightweight, handsome look, doesn’t get in the way
CONS: less versatile
2. Kyser Quick-Change Capo
Kyser is an established guitar accessory brand that started back in 1980. Their debut success? Handmade capos. To this day, Kyser is one of the most trusted brands for capos with the Quick-Change being their original piece. It’s still handmade in the U.S. and is said to last you for life.
The standout feature of the Quick-Change is in the name. Putting it on, moving it or taking it off is all very fast, making the Quick-Change an excellent pick for performers that need to switch between keys with speed.
We also like the Kyser for its streamlined, versatile design. As you’ll notice, it uses a smaller lever head to clamp onto the bottom of the guitar neck, with less material overall. This makes it fit a wider range of instruments including banjos, ukuleles and mandolins. Plus, this clamp can also attach to the headstock when you’re not using the capo.
PROS: Fast changes, versatile clamp, streamlined.
CONS: Heavier than other picks on our list.
3. Rinastore 6-String Acoustic & Electric Guitar Capo
This Rinastore capo is another good option. It’s very streamlined and features an all-black look that’s barely noticeable on a guitar.
This capo sets itself apart with sturdiness. Rinastore contends that their capo is extra tight on strings, and that’s a good thing. But don’t worry; decent silicone padding prevents damage to the fingerboard, strings or neck.
Our only quarrel with this capo is that build materials are unspecified. This probably means that the capo isn’t made of high-quality alloy though it’ll get the job done for casual strummers.
PROS: Low-key look, tight, easy to change.
CONS: Materials unspecified.
4. Donner DC-2 Guitar Capo
Donner is a fairly young brand (launched in 2012), but they’ve quickly become an established destination for everything from instruments to accessories. The brand’s guitar capo is another worthy option for anyone in the market with a unique design and a high-quality aircraft-grade zinc alloy construction.
We like Donner’s capo because it takes a slightly different approach than the other capos on our list. Instead of a clamp design, the Donner uses a spring. This spring features internal memory that ensures just the right amount of pressure, no matter your guitar’s thickness. The Donner capo also works with a variety of instruments due to its half-circle lever (as opposed to a more V-shaped lever).
However, there are a few pitfalls to mention. Firstly, some have mentioned their strings becoming out of tune after using the capo, so be careful of how tight your clamp is. Also, the Donner has slightly less padding than some of our other capos (specifically on the neck lever).
PROS: Memory spring, durable, adaptable to other instruments like ukuleles.
CONS: Could have issues of string pulling, less padding.