All About Capos

Are they just for beginners? How can I use a capo? What's the best capo available?

View the full lesson at All About Capos | JustinGuitar

One can use a capo to use simple chords when the regular ones are too advanced. But how do you know, for any given song with difficult chords, what fret to put the capo on?
Also, how do you know what easier chord shapes to use?

Unless you know how to do “transpose” by yourself, you need help from software or app. You transpose the key up or down, check whether the chords are comfortable for you, and then use capo to compensate back if you want the original key. For example, transpose down 2 semitones, then put capo on the 2nd fret; or put capo at 1st fret to make the song 1 semitone lower than the original; and vise versa.

I am using the most common Kyser capo. Or a pencil and rubber band can do the trick also, find in YT.

@rbmunkin I wrote an article that will help you with this. It is currently in the old (soon to become read-only) Forum as I have not yet migrated it across to here.
I will be doing that.
In the meantime you can read it here: Using a capo – playing different chord shapes & staying in the same key

Cheers :blush:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide & Moderator

[note to self - come back to amend in future]

Thanks, I’ll take a look!

Anyone can use a Capo,they’re really good for adjusting the key to suit your vocal range and keep the same chord shapes, it just makes things less complicated!
The other thing you can do is to use it to help learning the dreaded F barré chord by putting it say on the 5th fret to start with and gradually work down until you can remove it altogether; it’s a great way to get that darned F chord :joy:
My opinion is that the G7th Capo is one of the best, a bit expensive but definitely worth it.

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Just an interesting tidbit: according to the Oxford Dictionary, the word Capo should be pronounced /ˈkapəʊ/, i.e. the letter a is pronounced the same way as it is in the word ‘cat’. This makes sense, since the word comes from Italian, and they would never pronounce it the other way.

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That’s the way I’ve always pronounced it. Kay-poh never made sense to me.



Well, to be honest, an Italian would never pronounce it rhyming with “cat”, either :wink: “Capo” means “head” in Italian and is pronounced “kah-po”. The Italian word for capo is capotasto.

In any case, I think us Americans say kay-po and Brits (and probably Aussies and Tasmanians :wink:) say it with the “a” sounding as in “cat”.

I’m German and would definitely pronounce it “kah-po”. It never occurred to me that it could be pronounced differently :wink:

To me, a capo sounds a bit like cheating (to be honest, more than “a bit” :wink:). I’ve been playing the piano for 35 years, and there I can accompany any song in any key. And that’s how I also see it with the guitar: When I want to play a song with “complicated” chords, well, then I have to learn that “complicated” chords. I’m in no great hurry to be able to play any particular song as quickly as possible, anyhow.


According to the IPA phonetic transcription, the letter a in the English word “cat” is pronounced exactly the same as the letter a in the Italian word “capo” (from the phrase “capo tasto”, as you stated). Maybe you pronounce “cat” in a different way to standard English which explains why you think the pronunciation is different (that’s not a criticism :smiley:).

Well, capos aren’t used only to make “complicated” chords easier to play, but also to transpose songs to another key to fit the vocal range of the singer. It’s like playing the same chord progression at different parts of the keyboard.

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As @Jozsef said and even more besides.

Capos allow guitarists to play in the same key but using unique / preferred chord shapes and voicings for enriched aying with chordal melodies, embellishments etc.

A capo is an invaluable tool.

Kah-po from me too.


Hi Jozsef, hi Richard,

thanks for your replies!

Well, actually it’s more like pressing the “Transpose” button on the keyboard and playing exactly the same as before :wink: … It just sounds different because the keyboard automatically transposes it. Which is exactly what I’m trying to avoid. And on a “real” piano it’s not even possible.
When I play with a singer and she wants to sing a new song and she wants to sing it in E then I play it in E. And if she wants to sing it in Ab then I play it in Ab. Apart from a few more or less black keys, it really makes no difference. The only situation where I’d use the “Transpose” function is when we played a song in E for 15 years, but then she wants to sing it in Eb or D to make it a bit easier for her voice. Then I will also just use the “Transpose” button and not relearn the song again in Eb or D. But then there’s always the danger to forget resetting the “Transpose” function to 0 before the next song. And this has happened in concerts :see_no_evil:

Well, I honestly don’t know anything about guitar playing. I bought my very first guitar a week ago. So don’t get me wrong on this. I’m really sure that you’re right and you know what you’re talking about.
But coming from the piano, these guitar concepts really sound sooooo different and “strange” to me. Why can’t you just play those voicings, chordal melodies, embellishments etc. in any key? On the piano, everything that I can play in C, I can generally also play in E, Ab or F#. Yes, it involves some more black keys, but that’s really the only difference. My head finds the concept, that everything is completely different in a different key, really “weird”.

I’m not sure how to even begin grasping all those “strange” concepts. And by the way: I have absolutely no idea what “embellishments” even are :see_no_evil:

Hi Oliver …

Ouch! :dizzy_face:

One week in, don’t worry about all of this. Just be aware, for the moment, a capo can be a beginners big friend in some situations.
As a beginner you will learn chords A, D and E. The capo allows you to play those exact shapes further along the neck so that they are actually making, for example, chords C, F and G or another example chords Eb, Ab and Bb. Same exact shapes, different keys. Which allows people to play along with records but only knowing three beginner chord shapes.


Hi Klimperer42, this has to do with using open chords, i.e. chords that include notes played on strings that are not fretted. For example, in the C chord played in the open position, the G note is played on the open G string. Now let’s say you want to play a C# chord: on piano, you just move your fingers over one key, but on guitar you cannot easily modify your open C shape, by moving it up a fret, say, to play the C#, because you’d still have the open G string sounding. You’d need to fret the G string at the 1st fret, which would require rearranging your fingers to make a barre chord of some kind (e.g. an A-shape bar chord at the 3rd fret).

Aside from being much harder to play, it fundamentally changes what I am able to play while fingering this barre chord. For example, while playing open C, you often will use hammer-ons on the G string, second fret to make the note A (this is what is meant by an embellishment, you do it while holding down the C chord, using your middle finger to hammer on the G string). This sort of hammer-on would be impossible if you were playing a C# barre chord. Also, many songs are arranged using open chords and require picking out individual notes, which you typically fret while holding down the chord, often using a free (or borrowed) finger. Again, this sort of thing is basically impossible with barre chords.

I don’t play piano, but guitar seems to me fundamentally different than piano in this respect.

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Hi Richard

I’m not really sure if she really noticed it. Usually we transpose not more than 1 or 2 semi-tones. But I certainly noticed :joy:

That’s what I meant: If I want to play a song with Eb, Ab and Bb, then I will try to learn Eb, Ab and Bb. But I also don’t have the goal to play any particular song, so I’m in no hurry to learn playing to any particular song.
I know I’m probably pretty narrow-minded about that. And that I also tend to “overthink” things. But that’s just how I am :man_shrugging:

Thanks for your answer. I have to admit, though, that I didn’t understand 90 % of what you wrote :see_no_evil:
But you’re definitely right, that guitar and piano are fundamentally different in many respects. I guess that’s one aspect of what is making it so hard for me. I feel like my prior piano experience is really seriously hindering me rather than helping me.

Don’t worry about that. Try to start with a clean slate when thinking about the guitar. I don’t play any keyboard instruments myself, so for me the only similarity between the two is that adjacent frets and keys are a semitone apart.

However, on a keyboard you have each note (or pitch) laid out in a linear fashion in front of you and included only once, whereas on a guitar or other similar stringed instrument, you have the same pitch at multiple places on the neck. E.g. in standard tuning* you will find the same E as the thinnest string on 4 other strings as well (or all the other 5 frets if your guitar has 24 frets).

*Also, I’m not aware of keyboard instruments where you can radically alter the tuning of the whole instrument. How cool is that? :slight_smile:

@Klimperer42 think of a piano as walking on a sidewalk.
You can go left or right. Think of a guitar as swimming in
a pool. You can go left, right, up, down or any direction
you’d like.
A piano has 1 middle C a guitar has 5.

On a guitar you can span 2 octives with 1 hand.
When you play an open G chord you are playing 3 G notes in
3 different octaves and only using 3 fingers. Lets see you do
that on a piano.
Until you understand how a guitar fret board is layed out you
won’t understand how a capo is really used.
Most guitar players don’t understand what a capo is for.

Everything you said about changing keys on a piano applies
on a guitar. Every chord and chord inversion can be played
on a guitar without using a capo and a capo is much more
than just a cheat to change key.