Don’t let its diminutive size fool you, the guitar capo is the most affordable piece of gear you can buy to dramatically change your sound. Every player should own one of the best guitar capos in this list because of the huge potential they allow for songwriters, players covering songs and anyone else who wants to cover more ground as a guitarist.
For example, a capo can create a different feel and sound for chordwork – giving a brighter and higher tonality as required. A capo can also help singer/guitarists cover different vocal ranges and change the key of a song.
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But not all capos are made equally – there’s a huge range of designs to choose from out there for different budgets. Quality matters – so that’s why we’re here to guide you through our pick of the best guitar capos to suit your needs.
What is the best guitar capo?
If you’re looking for an all-rounder, our recommendation would be the G7th Performance 3 ART. G7th caused a stir in the capo world with its first Performance model, and now it’s perfected its ART with the third iteration – that’s Adaptive Radius Technology, to be precise. This is found in the capo’s pad that makes contact with your guitar’s strings, adapting to the specific curvature of its strings and fretboard.
ART also allows even pressure across all the strings for enhanced tuning stability and minimum tension. Exactly what you need from a capo, and it’s combined with an attractive, reassuringly solid build.
If your budget is a little lower, we’d go for the Shubb Original C1. While it’s not the cheapest out there, for value it's hard to argue with this industry standard. The Shubb C-Series fits almost all acoustic steel string and electric guitars with its simple and accurate locking action that keeps the strings centred, and soft rubber that prevents the strings from bending over the frets and negatively affecting your sound.
The C Series capo is also available in black chrome, brushed and polished nickel or brass depending on your taste. There are models available for classical nylon-string, 12-string guitar, banjo and mandolin too.
How to buy the best guitar capo for you
All capos perform the same function; essentially acting as a new moveable nut that you can move up to any fret on the guitar – the higher you go on the guitar neck, the higher the pitch.
When you fit your capo correctly by placing it just before the metal fret (on the headstock side), all the open strings will play in a higher pitch – a half step higher on each fret. For example, if you place the capo at your guitar’s third fret, the E strings become G when played open, A becomes C, D becomes F, G becomes Bb and C becomes D. As well as giving a new tonality to your chords, you can move a capo around to change to a key that may suit your or the singer’s voice better.
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Capos aren’t just for guitar either – there’s ukulele, banjo and mandolin options too, in addition to capos designed specifically for classical and 12-string guitars. We’ll be looking at them all in our pick of the best guitar capos out there, along with capos for players who really want to go further with experimentation.
The materials used for capos vary and it’s worth remembering that, just like fretting the guitar with your finger, all capos will alter your guitar’s intonation to some degree. But the best ones effect it the least, reducing the need to retune your guitar after fitting one.
The best guitar capos available right now
G7th isn’t resting on its laurels after the success of the first two Performance capos – the core model of its ever-expanding range. The 3 is sized between its predecessors with the same smooth, quality finish, but delivers new Adaptive Radius Technology (ART) in its pad that makes contact with the strings, enhancing tuning stability.
The Performance 3’s other key feature is its’ Unique Tension Control’ allowing you to gently squeeze it for attaching and releasing, resulting in a solid fit around any neck with a quick release button to remove the capo. We’ve gigged and recorded with one and in practice it just works with a fit-and-forget simplicity, with the ability to store it on your headstock between use. G7th’s confidence in the design is underlined by a lifetime warranty, making this an investment that will go the distance with you on your playing journey.
Another capo we’ve been impressed by after much onstage use. This one is a familiar sight as an industry standard that was launched over 30 years ago – its staying power speaks volumes about how effective its roller design has proved for players including Keith Richards, Joe Bonamassa, Sheryl Crow, Brian Setzer and Eric Johnson.
You can apply this capo for the bass or the treble side, setting the right amount of tension with the screw cap so it fits snuggly over the strings but not too tight. Shubb says the capo itself is made to last a lifetime but offers reasonably-priced replacement rubber sleeves to buy if yours eventually shows wear.
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Need to fit or remove your capo single-handedly on the fly? You’ll need a spring-loaded design that simply clamps straight on without the need for fine tuning before or afterwards. That’s why the Axis Capo is ideal with a dual radius design that will fit flat or curved fretboards on six and seven-string models.
It’s available in black and silver or the slightly more expensive gold and bronze ($16.99) and easily pegs onto your headstock when not in use.
If you think capos should be heard and not seen, you’ll probably appreciate the most affordable option in the G7th line – one it’s calling the lightest capo on the market. This is the Classical version, designed with wider necks in mind, but you can get it for standard electric and acoustics as well as ukulele.
A veritable feather compared to G7th’s flagship Performance capo, the UltraLight lives up to its name with a weight of just 8 grams and a very low profile look that won’t get in the way when playing. You can still fine tune the tension too.
If the only thing putting you off trying alternate tunings is the time it takes to tune them, this is an interesting tool. You can even use it with a standard capo to change keys or play behind the Short Cut capo to experiment further.
Two examples of how you can use it are placing this capo on the second fret and over the A, D and G strings, giving you a DADGAD sound. Place it in the second fret but over the D, G and B for an open A you can play slide in. The Short Cut lives up to its name as a quick way of experimenting and getting out of playing ruts you may find yourself in. Especially useful if you’re a songwriter.
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Could this be the most creatively inspiring capo of all? Launched in 2009, the spiky look of the SpiderCapo sets it apart from other capos, and it performs very differently too. It allows you to capo each string individually, opening up a mind-boggling amount of creative possibilities in different positions and tunings.
The potential becomes even wider when you consider you can play standard chords above the SpiderCapo and then get creative below it, finding new chords and infusing open strings into melodies to explore and use in your music.
This USA-made Paige Capo design is available in banjo/mandolin, ukulele, acoustic, 6 and 12-string models, but you’ll notice it looks different to others. The whole idea behind the design is to control tension evenly across the fret and eliminate string buzz. This is especially vital when you have the challenge of 12 of them to keep in line!
By pulling from the centre instead of the side with precision adjustment, the idea is to create even tension across all the strings. Rubber tubing on all the contact points also protects your guitar when you need to move positions fast and this Clik design offers a quick release mechanism for removal.
The Planet Waves NS range is great for guitarists looking for a low profile and lightweight capo at a reasonable street price, and ukulele players aren’t missing out either.
The adjustment mechanism enables you to be accurate about the amount of tension you set when fitting it, ensuring you can get it just right for your specific uke’s neck and avoid having to retune.
The aluminium is aircraft grade too, so you can add potential longevity to its attributes!