The humble capo is a simple device. It’s a clamp for your guitar’s strings designed to raise the pitch - a bit like putting the guitar’s nut at a higher fret. Capos are great for jamming in tricky sharp or flat key signatures, or when you need to transpose a song to a higher pitch and still use all the same shapes. It’s an essential item and whether you play acoustic guitar or electric guitar (or both!), we’d recommend every guitarist to invest in one of the best guitar capos in this round-up.
You’ll be spoilt for choice too with countless models available online! But how do you tell the cheap knock-offs from the best buys? Well, that’s where we come in, as we look at some of the very best capos available today and for any budget.
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What is the best guitar capo right now?
G7th’s Performance 3 ART capo came out earlier this year and we’ve been mightily impressed with it. Reasonably lightweight, hugely robust and almost as quick to adjust as the mightily convenient quick-release spring-clamp design, the basics are more than covered here.
You also get the benefit of the company’s Adaptive Radius Technology. More on fretboard radiuses below, suffice to say the G7th can be used with flat and curved fretboards alike with only minimal tuning compromises. Striking a balance of simplicity, ease of use and overall quality, we’d happily part with our cash for a G7th, despite the premium price tag.
Best guitar capos 2020: buying advice
Buying a capo? Confused by all this talk about fretboard radiuses? Well, radius refers to the curvature of this vital part of your guitar. Some guitars (certain vintage Fenders for example) have rounded boards; others are near flat. We won't go into the relative benefits here, suffice to say that this represents a compromise in capo design.
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Bung a rounded capo on a flat fretboard (or vice versa) and you’ll end up with string buzz (where strings aren’t fully clamped) and poor tuning (where strings are pushed sharp from over-tightening the capo). In a perfect world every capo would apply even force across all six strings (and at every fret position), preventing these problems.
Ultimately you need to choose a capo that fits your guitar. Most brands offer a range, so if you see a capo you like, there’ll probably be one to fit. Generally, they can be divided into radiused capos for rounder fretboards; flatter designs, typically for shreddy SuperStrats and classical guitars; and all-in-ones - capos that either accommodate different radiuses (such as the G7th) or incorporate both a flat surface and a rounded one into their design (check out the Ernie Ball Axis Capo below).
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There are various capo architectures available each with their pros and cons – but the fretboard radius issue is your biggest concern. After that, it’s a toss up between ergonomics and build quality. With that in mind, we’ve only recommended hardwearing, robust capos here in our list. If it’s made of fabric, plastic or elastic, it’s out!
The best guitar capos you can buy today
You can buy a capo for less than 10 bucks, so what’s G7th’s big idea charging just shy of $55? Can it really be worth the outlay?
Well, the G7th Performance 3 ART features the company’s Adaptive Radius Technology - a system within the top bar which adjusts to the curvature of your guitar’s fretboard. The benefit? In theory, there should be no buzzing strings at the capo’d fret as the device makes even contact with all six strings. In turn, that gives the best possible tuning stability too.
Coupled with rock solid build, comfortable one-handed usability, and, actually being not quite the priciest offering here, the G7th is worth consideration for any guitarist who demands high performance from their capos.
With the Standard C series of capos Shubb have integrated many features previously only available in the S model. Deluxe spec at standard price, then. Bargain! A capo of svelte design, its diminutive frame shouldn’t inhibit your playing around the clamped fret either.
Simply flip the lever to lock the capo in place or remove it – after you’ve adjusted the screw tensioner for optimal pressure, that is. Sure, it’s barely a 20-second task, but if you regularly move your capo around the fretboard or to a second guitar, the speed of a quick-release capo may be preferable.
Still, it’s a minor gripe. This is a classic design, a well built industry standard that should give years of reliable use. Buy with confidence.
Thalia claim to have solved the traditional capo’s tuning problems by matching their device’s fret pads to your guitar’s fretboard radius, thus requiring less pressure on the strings. 14 tuning kits are included: pads for seven radiuses in both standard and high tension form (for 12-string guitars, amongst others). Simply slot in the tuning kit that matches your guitar’s fretboard radius.
It’s a premium capo that does its job well. We prefer the adjustable tension of the G7th – you need a bit of strength to click the Thalia into place. And, of course, the premium price represents quite an investment, so we’d recommend keeping a budget capo around too. You do not want to lose your $75 Thalia at a gig!
Ernie Ball’s tasty looking Axis capo sure has kerb appeal but its talents aren’t purely skin deep. Its main strength is easy, one-handed operation. Need to move your capo mid-song? No problem! Just grab the Axis and move it. The springs deal with the tensioning for you. As long as you’re careful not to bend the strings in the process, capos don’t come easier to use than this.
And there’s no need to worry about the curvature of your guitar’s fretboard either. The Axis has two rubber-padded arms – one for flat fretboards and one for radiused. Just flip the capo around to suit your ’board. The arms can get in the way a little, but, generally, the ergonomics are pretty good so we’re not complaining.
Both lightweight and slimline, this capo from D’addario is designed to have as little negative impact on your playing as possible. Minimal mass means the NS Pro doesn’t weigh your guitar’s neck down (a potential concern when capoing at the 1st or 2nd fret) and its diminutive stature makes for easy fretting beside the capo.
This model is for guitars with radiused fretboards. That means you’ll need another capo for classical guitar or generally flatter-radiused instruments, which, to be fair D’addario do offer. Just be aware this isn’t a one size fits all capo. Need to save your dollars? Consider D’addario’s NS Lite model instead – it’s plastic, admittedly, but high-strength molded ABS, so it should be bear the rigours of many years of use.
Dunlop’s Trigger capo has been around a while. Some would say it’s another of those ‘industry standards’. Well, in 2019, it has a natural competitor in the Ernie Ball Axis model, both being spring-loaded quick-release designs. Like the Axis, you can easily change key with just a squeeze of the Trigger’s spring loaded arms. Easy!
However, despite the Trigger’s reassuringly sturdy build - sure to offer steady intonation in use - the Axis has it licked for both price and flexibility. There’s nothing to dislike here though. It’s a great capo with proven longevity. If you want one, you can be sure the Trigger will serve you well.
A creative take on a humble device, the SpiderCapo allows you to clamp each string individually, in turn offering up a world of alternate tunings – many that you might not have otherwise tried. All without actually retuning a string!
You could, for instance, place a SpiderCapo at 2nd position, clamp the fretted strings of an open A chord and leave the others open – that’s open A tuning. You can only capo one fret however, so more complex chordal tunings are not an option.
The SpiderCapo is suitable for any fretboard radius, but you’ll be adjusting pressure on each individual string – potentially a slow process. Also, unclamped strings can’t be fretted at the capo’d position which is a weird querk; above or below the capo is all gravy though.
Still, if a capo can fuel new creative ideas, that alone makes it worth the price of entry. It’ll likely suit technically adept acoustic fingerstylists but we’d recommend it for any player seeking fresh inspiration.
We just had to include a wraparound in our list and the Paige is a worthy contender for your cash. A tension screw sits at the middle of the back of the neck, pulling on the capo’s front arm with even pressure across the fretboard. It’s a design which largely minimises sideways string pull – so expect steady tuning.
A version for electric guitar includes thicker rubber to allow for easier string bends and to accommodate all but the most curvaceous of fretboard radiuses. A wider variant is available too – an important concern with wraparounds. Make sure to measure your guitar neck to ensure it’ll fit the Paige’s 2.062 inch width (or 2.187 for the wide model) before buying.
So, who knew capos could include features beyond clamping strings against a guitar’s fretboard? Those cool cats at Joyo’s new accessories brand, Guitto, that’s who!
In addition to its spring-loaded, screw-adjustable clamp, this budget offering from the Chinese company offers two genuinely useful extras. First there’s a slot to hold a spare pick – a nice touch! And, second, there’s a bridge pin puller to help you quickly make string changes on your acoustic.
With its vacuum-cast, electro-plated zinc alloy build this should be a good quality capo too. And, even if you’re not a regular capo user, at this price it’d still be worth keeping one (or two) in your gigbag for those impromptu jams.
Spoiler alert! There are better quality capos elsewhere in this list. So why include Kyser’s budget offering amongst our ‘best capo’ selection, you ask? Well, this is the cheapest model on our list. If you want a chuck-it-in-your-gigbag-and-forget-about-it capo, it’s ideal. Buy two or three and rest assured you’ll never be without.
Yes, it’s somewhat utilitarian, but it’ll do its job way better than any elasticated wrap-around type for just a teensy bit more of your hard earned. If we have a gripe, it’s the screw tensioner, which you have to adjust manually every time you move the Pro/Am. It’s a bit of a yawn but at this price we’re really not complaining.