When it comes to being a versatile guitar player, there are few tools in your arsenal that will come in handy like a quality capo. A capo may be second only to a top quality acoustic guitar. Whether you are in a cover band and need to play a variety of tunes, or a dynamic musician that likes experimenting in different keys, a capo will be a lifesaving tool.
While you can make a capo out of random objects in a pinch, for long-term playing you want a quality capo that you can rely on. The best capos work by allowing you to use the same chord fingerings while raising the pitch of your instrument, without having to spend a great deal of time tuning the guitar to another key.
Capos work by attaching to the neck of your guitar and pressing across the frets in the desired location. When used properly, capos mimic a barre chord finger press across the guitar strings. This natural and consistent pressure is critical to ensuring you won’t be sacrificing sound quality for the convenience of quick key changes. In this article, we talk about the best acoustic guitar capos for ease of use and consistent, quality sound.
Different Types of Capos: What kind of Capo should You Get?
All capos do basically the same thing, but there are a few different kinds of capos that you need to know about. Each one works differently, and they each have their own pros and cons.
Adjustable Clamp-Style Capos
This type of capo clamps onto the neck of your guitar, and you can easily adjust the tension with the turn of a screw or a squeeze of your hand.
The big benefit of these capos is that you can dial in the exact setting you need to eliminate string buzz while also not throwing your guitar out of tune. The downside is that they take more time and effort to get set up vs non-adjustable spring capos.
The most iconic (and awesome) clamp capo is the Shubb Deluxe, but the overwhelming favorite around here is the Planet Waves NS. The G7th Performance 3 is another great contender and musician favorite with an innovative mechanism.
Spring capos are one of the most popular capo varieties. They’re simple and quick to use, and they’re inexpensive and reliable. These capos have a built-in spring that clamps the jaws around the neck of a guitar. Moving and removing them is simple – just squeeze the “trigger” with your hands to release the tension, move it somewhere else, and release.
The downside is that you can’t adjust the tension on spring capos, and they often press down on the strings too hard. This means they could throw your guitar out of tune and you may have issues with string buzz. But trigger capos are inexpensive, fast, and easy to use, and most guitarists have a Kyser Quick Change capo in their arsenal.
Dual-action capos like the Planet Waves NS Artist offer the benefits of a spring capo while also featuring adjustable tension.
Yoke-syle capos wrap around your guitar neck, and feature an adjustable tension screw. Once you install a yoke-style capo, you just leave it in place. It sits behind the nut when you’re not using it, and easily slides to the proper fret when you need it. And since the tension screw is centered on the back of your guitar neck, it allows you to get even tension all across the fretboard.
There are several brands that make yoke-style capos, but our favorite for function and affordability is the Paige PG6E.
Reviews of Our Favorite Capos
Low profile capo with adjustable tension
D’Addario really hit it out of the park with the Planet Waves NS capo, an innovative collaboration with famed music product designer Ned Steinberger. This little capo has a lot of pros and almost no cons, and is the runaway favorite among the Acoustic Bridge staff.
The NS Capo is incredibly simple to use, it allows you to dial in precise tension, it stays out of the way, and it stores behind your nut while not in use. It’s constructed from strong-and-lightweight machined aluminum, and unlike trigger-style capos it’s extremely low profile. It also features a micrometer screw so you can fine tune the tension, and it’s a snap to use one-handed.
The Planet Waves NS has everything a guitar player could possibly want in a capo, with none of the downsides of other styles. On top of that, it’s affordable. You won’t regret adding one of these to your guitar case.
Shubb has long been a popular name in capos. In fact, capos are all this company does. With this level of specialization, you can expect a quality capo across all of the Shubb models. What makes the Shubb C1N Capo great is the adjustable tension screw which lets this capo accommodate a variety of sized necks. And once you set the tension, all you need to do is clamp it on.
The Shubb C1N capo is made of stainless steel, and it feels like a very high quality piece of machinery. Shubb recently redesigned the roller wheel to have a greater resistance to wear and open and close with a smoother motion. It’s also very low profile and stays out of the way while you’re playing. The main downside is that you can’t store this capo on your guitar when not in use. But for quality, reliability, and usability, this is an overall great capo.
A sleeper favorite among guitarists of all types, the Paige PG6E guitar capo is simply great. The packaging isn’t very attractive, but don’t let that sway you from giving this awesome little capo a look.
The Paige PG6E is a yoke-style capo that always sits on your guitar neck. Park it behind the nut when not in use, then when you need it simply slide it to the desired fret and tighten the screw. The tension screw sits right in the middle of your guitar’s neck, applying even pressure and allowing you to adjust the tension exactly where you need it. Unlike spring capos, this capo won’t throw your guitar out of tune, and you can perfectly dial it in to eliminate string buzz.
Paige may not be as well-known as Kyser or Shubb, but they make great overall capos that are easy and quick to move, and allow for precise tension adjustments. Many of us around here swear by them.
Ease of use is critical in a quality capo. After all, the entire purpose of a capo is to make changing the key of your guitar quick and painless. The Kyser Quick-Change Capo certainly fits the bill. It’s easy to use this capo with just one hand, and when you don’t need it, it clips out of the way on your headstock.
The Kyser capo applies firm, even pressure across the strings with a fairly low profile for aesthetic appeal. However, the tension is not adjustable and some may find that it is too firm, especially if you have lighter strings. But overall, the Kyser Quick-Change capo is excellent, easy-to-use and popular with guitar players of all kinds.
Britain-based G7th took their highly-regarded original Performance capo, and improved it by making it smaller, lighter, and easier to use. Many guitar players really, really like the G7th Performance 3 capo. It’s the most expensive on our list, but it’s awesome enough to be worth it.
The G7th capo uses a unique one-handed clamping mechanism to lock onto the neck of your guitar. Simply give it a squeeze to clamp it in place with the proper tension. Removing it is just a matter of releasing a small lever.
Since it’s adjustable, the G7th Performance 3 won’t throw your guitar out of tune, and your strings won’t be buzzing. And it’s small, lightweight, and solidly built. You can’t go wrong with this one, but there are cheaper options that also work well.
A Few More Capos Worth A Look
- Planet Waves NS Artist. Trigger-style capo with adjustable tension – the best of both worlds.
- Thalia B-200. Eye-catching, high-quality capo with a variety of stylish designs.
- Dunlop Trigger Capo. Basic and affordable trigger-style capo.
- Dunlop Toggle Capo. Classic, affordable, easy-to-use toggle-style capo.
Whether you’re in the studio working on recordings, playing live on the stage at a gig, or just jamming with friends, the ability to change keys quickly and easily is an incredible asset for a versatile musician. Instead of spending long minutes awkwardly fumbling with your guitar tuner, with a quality capo all it takes is a quick squeeze of a lever to change keys in a flash.
The best capos are lightweight, and easy to use with single-handed action. They also leave your guitar tone unchanged with no excess buzz or reverb across the strings. Any of the capos on this list will fit the bill and provide years of quality quick key changes to improve your versatility as a musician.
For instructions on how to use a capo, check out this helpful lesson from Justin Guitar: