Capos are a simple tool which often come in handy for guitarists. Simply put, they make changing keys a breeze, making it easy to sing along with your guitar, or play with other musicians, without having to change the chords you’re playing. Just clamp it on and you're playing in a different key.
You can use the capo as a movable nut (where the strings sit at the top of the fretboard). Just clamp it behind a fret of your choice to find your desired sound. This is great for finding the best vocal range for you or a singer you're playing with.
The capo changes the open string pitch and thus, changes the pitch of the chords you play by altering how much of the string’s length vibrates when plucked. This transposes the song into a different key without changing the chord shapes. The pitch will get higher the further up the neck you place the capo. For example, if you put a capo on the 3rd fret, and play an A Chord shape under it, you’ll hear a C chord; move it to the 5th fret to get a D chord, and so on.
Correct placement of your capo is important. The capo should sit just behind the fret, not between frets or on top of frets. This will ensure good tone, without buzz or rattling.
Finding the right pressure for the capo is also important. Too little pressure and the strings will buzz and lose their tone. Too much pressure is just as bad—the strings will go out of tune.
D'Addario and designer Ned Steinberger developed a capo with a dial which allows players to alter the tension that the capo applies to the strings, so you'll always be able to achieve the perfect pressure and the best sound.
To find the perfect tension with an adjustable capo, clamp it onto the fret of choice, and tighten until the strings stop buzzing and ring out cleanly. Do not tighten more than necessary or your guitar will sound like it’s out of tune.
These are one of the easiest capos to use and are excellent in a live performance setting, where being able to adjust and move the capo quickly is important – you don’t want to eat into your set time! These capos clamp open and closed by simply squeezing the ‘arms’ together and releasing. You can also clamp these capos to the headstock of your instrument while not in use for easy access when you need it, without it being in the way while you’re playing, or even worse, getting lost!
Screw capos are a streamlined, adjustable capo which is clamped onto your neck using the variable tension screw, rather than a spring-loaded clamp.
Screw capos are often a slightly more affordable option that doesn’t stick out as far from your neck as many other capo designs, but they do take a little longer to apply and remove.
The D’Addario Pro Plus Capo is a screw capo with FlexFit™ technology, which mimics the anatomy of the human finger, and removes the possibility of the capo being over-tightened and sending the guitar out of tune, since the pad will give as soon as the string is depressed enough to ring out cleanly. It’s also perfect for guitars with any fretboard radius, including classical and vintage instruments, and 12 string guitars which may not work well with regular capos due to the limited space between strings.
Cradle capos are an attractive, precise, and convenient design, particularly popular with Bluegrass players. The cradle capo has a variable-tension screw that sits in the center of the neck, ensuring the same tension is applied across the width of the fretboard, and is easy to move up and down the neck quickly. When not in use, you can move the cradle capo behind the nut for easy access and storage. Plus, they look cool.