I’ve used a capo with my guitar for years to change the key of songs and the sound of my guitar.
It’s an absolutely vital tool for the guitar player, particularly the acoustic guitar player.
So how do you choose the best guitar capo for you and your style?
- If you exclusively play lead on an electric guitar, you may not need a guitar capo (but I still recommend getting one).
- If you play acoustic guitar, you should absolutely get at least one standard capo.
- Depending on your style of playing the acoustic guitar, you may want to purchase partial capos in addition to standard capos.
Before discussing which capo is best for you, let’s talk about what capos are exactly.
What Is a Capo Anyway?
A capo is a clamp for your guitar or other plucked string instrument that that you can place on any fret on the neck to change the guitar’s open tuning.
For instance, if you place your capo on the first fret of the guitar, you will change the guitar’s open tuning from EAGDBE to FA#G#D#CF.
You can think of a capo as an extra finger to help you play bar chords.
Capos enable guitarists (particularly acoustic guitarists) to seamlessly change the key of whatever song they want to play without having to change chord shapes by barring the neck at a particular fret.
For these reasons, the capo is a tool that I use all the time.
The Best Standard Capo
With over 1400+ reviews, an average 5 star rating on Amazon, and coming in at <$20, The GuitarX X3 is a great standard capo.
This capo is simple to use, can be applied on several stringed fretted instruments, and it stores easily on the head stock of the instrument when not in use.
If you’re looking for a simple standard capo that will serve you well for years to come, look no further than The GuitarX X3.
This capo will totally serve your standard capo needs.
However, there’s a world of partial capos that can open up a new frontier of playing if you’re interested.
Check out the next sections to learn more about them.
Partial Capos and Alternative Capo Types
As I mentioned in my alternate tunings post, partial capos can be used to mimic the effect of alternate tunings without having to re-tune the guitar.
Furthermore, when using partial capos used in tandem with standard capos, the opportunities for different tunings are limitless.
Standard capos clamp all six strings and partial capos clamp between 1 and 5 strings.
Let’s start with the 5 string capo.
Drop D or 5 String Capo
If you’re familiar with alternate tunings, you know that the drop D tuning where you tune your low E string down two steps to D is very popular.
(Check out my post about alternate guitar tunings to learn more about them.)
You can imitate this effect by using a drop D or 5 string capo like this one.
This capo clamps all 5 strings except your low E string.
So if you place this capo on the 2nd fret, you will produce the sound of a drop D tuning capo 2.
This isn’t the only way to use a drop D capo.
In fact, you can find several outside-the-box uses for partial capos.
Four String Capo
Four string capos are rare but still provide a lot of opportunity for guitarists looking to produce novel sounds from the instrument.
The only four string capo I know of is The Liberty Flip Capo created by partial capo expert Harvey Reid.
This capo can clamp three or four strings depending on which side of the capo you use.
Check out Harvey using this capo in the video above.
Three String Capo
Among partial capos, three string capos might be the most popular.
They can enable you to produce the sound of DADGAD tuning.
For this reason, I recommend the Kyser short-cut partial capo.
Like other Kyser products, these capos are simple to use, effective, and inexpensive.
Check out the video above to see a tutorial using the Kyser short-cut partial capo.
Two and One String Capos
The only two and one string capos I know of both come from Woodies.
Although two and one string capos are rare, they certainly have applications for both guitars and other instruments (like the 5 string banjo which has a high 5th string that needs to be capoed separately from the other strings).
You can find the two string capo here and the one string capo here.
And if you’re looking for a comprehensive instruction manual about how to use these capos, look no further than Harvey Reid’s book.
Check out the video above to see a demo of these capos in action (apologies for the low quality of the video).
Capo clips are pieces of hardware you can use in addition to a standard capo to make a particular chord shape.
You can clamp a C shaped capo clip with a standard capo to have the hardware produce a C shape while you play around the chord imitating an open C tuning.
Capo clips can make a limitless number of chords and work with most spring clamp capos.
You can buy a capo clip here and learn more about them in the video above.
Capos open up a new world of possibilities for the guitarist.
If you need guidance to the world of partial capos, the best way is to buy a capo yourself and begin experimenting.
However, it’s also helpful to have an expert to help you along the way.
For this expert insight, check out Harvey Reid’s books.
There’s no one more well-versed and experienced in the world of capos as Harvey.
What is the best capo for classical guitar? Classical guitars have wider necks which can sometimes be problematic for capos designed for standard acoustic guitars. Although the capos I recommend in this post should have no problem working on a classical guitar, if you exclusively play classical guitar you may benefit from purchasing a capo uniquely designed for the classical guitar like this one.