A very useful tool

Sterner TM


A capo is a very useful tool, both for the beginner and the advanced musician. Folk and bluegrass players use them often, and almost everyone else uses them at one time or another. The musician that looks upon the capo as a cheater, becomes much more limited in his playing than the capo user.

Playing in different keys

On stringed instruments every key is different to play. Each key has its possibilities and limitations. Things you can play in one key, may be impossible to do in another. For instance, if some things are hard to play in the key of  D, try a capo on the second fret and play as if it was in the key of C. Generally, the more open strings you can use, the easier the playing will be. The capo allows you to play comfortably in all keys.

What chords do I get when I put a capo on?

Making different sounds

Different types of music requires different sounds. If you want a brighter sound, use the capo. If you want the sustain of open strings, use the capo. You can never achieve that sound with barred chords.

A certain key sounds different if you play with, or without a capo. Try to play in the key of  G with the capo on the third fret (as if you played in the key of  E). Compare it with the sounds you make in G without a capo, and you'll hear what I mean.

Large guitars often have a dominating bass register. Fingerpickers, playing melody on the treble strings and bass accompaniment with the thumb on the bass strings, can achieve a better overall sound capoing up a few frets. Making the bass line brighter may contribute to a better balance between treble and bass.

If you play together with others, you can get a richer sound with one instrument capoed up high. This may also facilitate playing high harmony parts.

Adjusting the instrument

  • Even if you play in an easy key, you sometimes wish you had larger hands - or a smaller instrument.
  • When a child starts taking music lessons, the instrument is often oversized.
  • Cheap beginners instruments are often poorly adjusted at the nut, making the strings hard to press down at the first fret.
  • Since the string height above the fretboard increases, playing is more difficult high up on the instrument neck.

The instant remedy for all this is (you guessed it): Put a capo on!


The easier you play, the better it sounds!