Capos are used to change the key and pitch of a guitar without having to adjust the strings with the tuning keys. They are used both to make playing easier and to produce different sounds. For example, using 'open' chord voicings instead of using bar chords.
The capo should be placed behind the chosen fret, but as close to the fret as possible - emulating the position of the guitarists finger when fretting a note.
For beginners the capo is an ideal way of being able to play in different keys using only a few basic 'open' chords. For example, the chords D, G and A are used to play in the key of D. Playing the exactly the same chord shapes, but with a capo placed in different positions would give the following:
No Capo - key of D = D, G, A
Capo on 1st fret - key of Eb = Eb, Ab, Bb
Capo on 2nd fret - key of E = E, A, B
Capo on 3rd Fret - key of F = F, Bb, C
Capo on 4th Fret - key of F# = F#, B, C#
Capo on 5th Fret - key of G = G, C, D
So the guitarist is able to play on many different keys using only very basic chords!
The word 'capo' is short for capotasto, Italian for "head of fretboard". The most basic capos comprise a plastic fretting piece held in place by an elastic strap; however these are less than ideal as they are difficult to place accurately and can cause tuning problems.
Beatles or Stones? Pulp or Oasis? Shubb or Kyser?
The two most popular 'quality' capos are made by Shubb and Kyser and are both firm favorites with guitarists worldwide.
Both are well designed, well made, robust and reasonably priced, so which you prefer is largely down to personal preference and style. The capos come in many varients, for steel-strung acoustic guitars, classical guitars, electric guitars... and even Dobros.
Shubb Capos are available in Nickel (polished silver chrome look) or black chrome 'Capo Noir'. Kyser Capos come in a wide variety of painted colours to match your guitar, style or mood.
Kyser Guitar Capo - For one-handed quick change
Kyser capos are easy to put on, adjust and take of with one hand... but some find them a little bulky. Kyser quick change capos have a powerful spring to clamp them in place, coupled with a long lever action to make them quick and easy to place, adjust and remove. Special rubber padding ensured that strings are furmly clamped and the guitar is not damaged.
Shubb Guitar Capo - Cam-action perfection
Shubb capos are more compact, more discrete and adjustable for pressure - arguably giving better intonation. Shubb rightly have a worldwide reputation for excellence and are "the choice of more than a million musicians". Based on a clever cam profile they are fully adjustable for pressure and quickly and smoothly lock on the same every time. Shubb say their capos are the best at not causing tuning problems.
As well as 'regular' capos, Shubb offer partial capos, for clever tunings! There are two main types:
Shubb C7b Partial Capo
Unlike 'normal' capos, this partial capo does not fret all strings; instead it frets only three strings. Used from the bass side you can cover strings 5, 4, 3 or from the high side you can cover 2, 3, 4 giving an open A chord with standard tuning.
This is a capo to experiment with! What can you do with it?
Shubb C8b Partial Capo
This partial capo frets five strings. It skips the sixth string (low E) and covers the other five, emulating a drop-D tuning. Applied from above the neck (from the bass side), it cleanly skips the bass string and centers solidly on the neck while capoing the other five strings. Many users prefer to apply the capo from the bass side. This capo is designed to be applied from the bass side, with a step built in to skip over the bass E string, and it centers properly for improved stability