Do You Need A Capo For Guitar?

I used to think that I had to be able to play everything without a capo. Maybe it was a macho thing – I felt it was a crutch. It’s easy to see where this line of thinking comes from: after all, guitars don’t come with them built in, so it seems like some gimmick to make guitar way easier!

At a certain point, though, one of my friends asked me, “do you NEED a capo for guitar?” and I realized that to play some kinds of music it’s kind of essential. It’s not “cheating” – even though it totally helps you avoid playing barre chords sometimes – and it lets you change keys without learning more chords and theory – it also allows you to play some things that are otherwise impossible.

Do I Need A Capo As A Beginner?

  1. If a song is written with a capo, there’s a 99% chance that it’ll be impossible to play without one
  2. It changes the overall tone of the guitar. The higher up the neck you go, the “lighter” the guitar will sound.
  3. You can change keys instantly simply by moving the capo up the neck. This is great for adjusting a song to suit your (or someone else’s) vocal range.

I’m in no way saying that you should get a capo and never learn barre chords… I’d actually rather have access to barre chords than a capo if I had to choose one. What I’m saying is: a capo provides you with a reliable way to shift keys easily and quickly, and allows you to play some things that are otherwise impossible without one. I highly recommend one if you plan on strumming a lot of chords… and if you’re playing electric guitar and riffs mainly, you’ll occasionally need one if you’re playing songs that are written with one.

How To Use A Capo

Now that we’ve decided if it’s necessary, we can discuss how to put a capo on guitar for the best results:

  1. Put it as close to the fret as possible (The same place where you’d put your finger if you were pressing it)
  2. If your capo has adjustable tension, make sure it’s JUST enough… too much will put your guitar out of tune
  3. No matter what, capos will definitely raise the pitch a bit, so make sure to re-tune your guitar when you put one on

Best Capo for Acoustic Guitar

Some people have asked what is the best capo. Over the years, I’ve used a bunch of different capos – kyser, thalia, shubb, trigger style, ratchet – and, in all honesty, I haven’t found much difference between the really “high-end” capos vs. the more affordable ones. I personally use two capos: The Shubb C1 because it has a unique mechanism that allows you to adjust the tension. It’s great for gigs if you only have to capo one or two songs. Otherwise I use an Ernie Ball Axis Capo because it is quick to put on, and has a flat edge and a curved edge so it fits almost any guitar.

Shubb Capo


  • Adjustable tension doesn’t de-tune your guitar as much
  • Very sturdy (can last a LONG time)


  • Price is a bit higher
  • Takes longer to put on/take off

Price: ~$20 USD

I use this capo for gigs because it doesn’t require retuning after putting it on. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you know how to adjust it, it’s pretty straightforward.

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Ernie Ball Axis Capo


  • Easy and quick to place/remove capo
  • Has a flat side for flat fretboards PLUS a curved side for curved fretboards, so it fits almost any guitar
  • Affordable


  • Spring mechanism grips a little tight so you have to retune sometimes

Price: ~$15 USD

This is the capo that I have on my “living room guitar.” I bought it after seeing a friend struggle to use my Shubb (it’s not that hard to use, I swear! my friend is just a bit… yeah…). It works on any guitar and is super simple.

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Kyser Capo


  • Easy and quick to place/remove capo


  • Spring mechanism grips a little tight so you have to retune sometimes
  • It’s the “original” brand, so it costs more than it should. The Axis Capo is better than it in every way, in my opinion.

Price: ~$22 USD

The Amazon Special

guitar clamp


  • Very affordable – ridiculously cheap
  • Works exactly like the more expensive capos


  • Mine actually fell apart (but it takes 10 seconds to put it back together)
  • Same problems faced by all spring loaded capos

Price: ~$8 USD

I would personally buy this IF you are not sure about getting a capo. If you want a good one, just spend the extra $7-10 and get one of the other ones.

Homemade Guitar Capo

If you are not sure, or unable to buy a capo, you can always try to make one yourself! This article outlines a method for making your own capo from scratch, using a pencil and rubber bands!

Develop the fundamental skills needed to play guitar with confidence. Hands-on learning, presented in a clear and concise manner. Learn the basics using real songs, strum with a steady rhythm, master the basic chord shapes, learn to count along to music and more!

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