Guitar Capo Instructions for beginners

A capo is a way of changing the key signature quickly and easily on a guitar. It is mainly used on steel string acoustic guitars and electric rhythm guitars. I have never seen a capo used professionally on a classical guitar although they probably do exist. You should not need to use a capo on a classic guitar because the correct method of learning classical guitar should intrinsically make it redundant. i.e. You finger and fret across the whole guitar so you should not be messing with capos as it would confuse you. 

Why use a Capo?

standard guitar capoFrom the point of view of the beginner there are only 2 reasons to use a guitar capo. The first one is to play a song in a key you can sing in. If the range of the vocal is too low then you can easily transpose the key up with the capo so that you can sing in a key good for your singing voice. The second reason to use a capo is very bad and you should not do it! You can use a capo to make a song easier to play and to avoid hard chords that you have not learnt yet. So you could put a capo on the third fret to avoid playing G, C & F chords. You would use the E, A & B7 chords with the capo on the third fret. Why is this so bad? Because you should be learning and playing all of the chords. By avoiding certain harder chords you are basically limiting your guitar playing from the start.

I have allowed the occasional student to use a capo very early on when they are really struggling with the bar chords but in general you should be looking to play the guitar with the full range on the fretboard.

Guitar Capo Instructions

The correct way to use a capo is to place it midway between the 2 frets that you are clamping on. If you go too close to the upper one you risk the strings going badly out of tune. They will go slightly out of tune anyway and you will need to check the tuning when you use a capo. If you place the capo close to the lower fret than you may get buzzing stringss because the clamp is not holding down the strings tight enough. The capo should be at right angles to the guitar neck. I have heard of guitarists who place the capo at an angle but I can think of no musical reason for this.

What is the best type of guitar capo?

best guitar capoThe picture here shows the best type of capo I have come across. It has a simple spring clamp and a one hand operation. When you are not using it you can clamp it to the guitar head and use it as a fashion accesory. This type of spring capo is very robust and will takes years of use and abuse. When you initially buy one the spring is nearly always a bit too strong. Spend a week carrying it around and use it as an executive exercise toy for your hand. Just keep using the spring action to wear in the capo before you use it. If you are like me you always have plectrums and strings in my pockets. Just add your capo to your on board kit.

Using a pencil as a capo.

pencil capoI saw this on wikipedia and though it was a brilliant idea when you are in an emergency and you vocalist just will not sing until its in the right key. It consists of a pencil and a couple of elastic bands. I think the picture shows how it works quite well.



Download a Complete Capo Transition Chart Here (pdf File Acrobat Required)

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