We wouldn’t necessarily call a capo a "guitar essential," especially when compared to other necessities like tuners, picks, and straps. Though, when it comes to optimizing your guitar's playability, a good capo can be your best friend.
Go to any music store or look online and you'll see that there are hundreds of capos on the market. Though they may look similar to the top brands, many of these are cheaply made.
Instead of wasting your time and money buying a capo that’ll only bust after a few months of use, do yourself a favor and check out our guitar capo guide to give you a better idea of how these little clamp devices stand against one another.
If We Had To Choose One
The Runner Up
How to Choose a Good Guitar Capo
You might be surprised to find out that there are a few different types of capos out on the market, each of which has a unique look and functionality. Here are some of the styles that you’ll likely see when you begin your search.
Clamp-style capos are the ones that we tend to see most often. They're called "clamp-style" because you squeeze them and clamp them on your chosen neck position.
The capo will then stay clamped to the neck and strings thanks to the built-in trigger or spring. The best thing about clamp-style varieties is that you can move them around the neck with ease.
The downside to clamp-style is that the majority of the pressure tends to sit at the top of the capo, closest to where the clamps meet.
This little bit of pressure can throw your intonation off, especially if you’re dealing with a cheap capo that hasn’t been pressure-balanced.
Screw-style capos are another familiar part of the capo family and were made famous by the Shubb company.
These capos utilize a screw design that helps to distribute pressure evenly along the width of the neck to help preserve your intonation. You place your capo on your chosen fret and begin twisting the screw knob until it tightens.
While these types might retain tuning better, they are a bit harder to adjust, and you will need two hands to do so. Changing keys on the fly with this capo type is not very easy.
Yoke-style capos aren't nearly as popular as the above two, though they are the best in terms of maintaining intonation and tuning. This is because they wrap around the neck entirely and use a rear-centered screw to apply pressure.
Even with the screw design, they are effortless to move around the neck with ease and will stay on your guitar even when they're not in use.
The only downsides are that they can be a bit pricey and they're more challenging to take on and off your guitar. It shouldn't be an issue though, as you can slide it above your nut to get it out the way, meaning you shouldn't ever really have to take it off.
Strap capos are the cheapest of the bunch. Just like their name might imply, they tighten around the neck of the guitar using an elastic strap. They’re very simple to use and perfect for guitarists on the go.
Thanks to the fact that they use a fabric material rather than a type of metal, they come in funkier and more flavorful designs.
The biggest issue with strap capos is that the straps wear out over time. This causes them to slip around the neck easily, which can mess up the intonation when playing with them.
The majority of guitar players will never have a reason to use a partial capo, though there are a few guitar nerds who love using them for intricate fingerstyle playing.
This is because partial capos help you to explore wild open tunings that no other mechanism could. They are made to cover three strings on your guitar instead of six and slide around the neck with ease.
We wouldn't consider these as alternatives to the above capos, though we figured we'd add them on the list for the experimental players.
You'll want to look for a capo that has proper padding on the inside so that your guitar's neck can stay protected.
Rubber is the most common material on capos, as it is cheap to manufacture and has a hard enough texture to pressurize your strings without scratching anything.
Higher end products tend to use silicone. It provides the same pressure as rubber, though it doesn't mess with the intonation as much. Make sure that each area of the capo that will be in contact with your neck is padded in some way or another.
Top 5 Guitar Capos for Acoustic & Electric Guitar
The G7th Heritage Yoke-Style Capo is made from a high-quality, hand-polished stainless steel and uses some of the most innovative technology that the capo market has ever seen: Adaptive Radius Technology.
Adaptive Radius Technology helps the G7th to adapt to any part of any neck to better help match the instrument that it is being used on. This means you'll get an intonated, buzzing-free playing experience every time you pick up your guitar.
The centered-screw design helps to keep the pressure evenly distributed while applying the minimum tension possible.
There is a silicone rubber neck pad and two side pads to help rid metal-to-wood contact, keeping your guitar safe while you play. When you’re done using your capo during your performance, you can loosen the screw and park it past the nut with ease.
The G7th Heritage Yoke Capo also comes complete with a gorgeous leather pouch, a polishing cloth, and a wonderful gift box to keep it in when not in use.
Bottom Line: It may be expensive, but this is hands-down the best capo that money can buy. From preserving your intonation to protecting your guitar, the high-quality craftsmanship makes it an obvious winner.
The Thalia Capo 200 Series is made with a preloaded string that makes it much easier to squeeze and adjust on your guitar. Even with the clamp design, this gives it a far more "centered" feel to help preserve intonation.
The fulcrum point helps to decrease the pressure that you must apply for squeezing the capo open, helpful for those who are constantly adjusting.
Thanks to the increased length of their new design, it's perfect for wide neck guitars and increasing leverage on thinner necks.
The beauty of the Thalia 200 Series is that it is made to match the radius of your guitar’s neck so that it stays perfectly in tune.
These capos come with seven different feet pads that are easy to switch out. You can move your Thalia capo from your classical guitar to your Fender strat to your rounded Martins and always be assured that your intonation will take priority.
Beyond their functionality, Thalia 200 Series capos are beautiful. Pick between several exotic wood and shell designs to best fit your chosen style.
Bottom Line: Thalia 200 Series Capos provide the best mix of aesthetic and functionality. With a focus on fretboard radius for intonation and designs that blow other capos out of the water, this company has taken the idea of a guitar capo to a whole new level.
Shubb Deluxe Series Capos are in a realm all their own. These capos were first brought to market in 1980, and the style and functionality took the guitar world by storm.
Yes, there are other screw-style capos on the market, but there are a few things that make Shubb so unique when pitted against them. For starters, Shubb capos have a patented closing action that is made to work like your hand. The unique rubber material that they use is just enough to make the string relax without applying an unnecessary amount of pressure that would push your guitar out of tune.
With other screw-style capos, you have to adjust them every time you move them. When it comes to the Shubb GC-30, you can set the pressure and move it around the neck without having to worry about setting it again.
The stainless steel design is heavy-duty and pressure-friendly, meaning it will last you a lifetime.
Note: there are different Shubb Deluxe Series Capos (S1-S5), each fitted for specific guitars, so make sure that you’re shopping for the right one.
Bottom Line: Shubb is one of the most innovative guitar capo brands around, and their screw-style capos have been tested over time. They're tough as nails and work beautifully to preserve intonation while you play.
The Kyser Quick-Change Capo is the OG in terms of Kyser capos. If you're looking for something that is easy to change frets with on the fly, it's the perfect tool.
The clamp has just enough pressure to keep your strings held down while retaining intonation, yet is easy enough to open with one hand. The Kyser is made of a durable and lightweight aluminum material that is high-quality and perfect for holding up over the years. When you're not using it, take it off and clip it to the headstock of your guitar.
Each capo has been crafted with gorgeous, contoured features that fit nicely to the neck of your guitar. The rubber padding helps to keep your neck and headstock protected as well so that there is no aluminum-to-wood contact.
For guitarists who want to maintain their aesthetic, the Kyser Quick Change is available in a wide variety of colors from pink to blue to black and beyond.
Bottom Line: The Kyser Quick Change Capo is the perfect mix between top-tier quality and easy adjustability. It's ideal for the guitarist on the move who wants to make changes with ease while working with a legitimate product.
The Jim Dunlop Strap Capo is the perfect, easy-to-use capo for those guitarists who are on a serious budget. This specific strap capo has been around since the early 60s and is still standing strong today.
It's perfect for classical and steel-string acoustic guitars thanks to the adjustable size and tension and fits on most flat fingerboards.
The cool thing about this strap capo is that it glides along the fingerboard with ease, meaning there is no need to unstrap it to adjust the frets.
The convenience of the Jim Dunlop Strap Capo is unparalleled. When you’re done using it, you can either park it above the nut or unstrap it and throw it in your pocket.
On the downside, some people report of buzzing and breakage, which is typically from the elastic wearing down after extended usage. But since this product is so cheap - only a few bucks - you can replace it with a brand new one!
Bottom Line: The Jim Dunlop Strap Capo is the king of budget capos and is perfect for the Bohemian guitarists who "just don't need those big fancy metal capos." While it may not be high-tech or perfect by any means, it does an excellent job at not breaking the bank.
Press It, Clamp It, Strum It
Buying a capo doesn’t have to be complicated, though hopefully, this article helped to show you that not all guitar capos are made equal.
If you have the money, we highly recommend picking yourself up a G7th Heritage Yoke Capo It’s a gorgeous product that will last you forever, and in terms of intonation, works better than any other capo we know of on the market.
If your budget isn’t that large, make sure to check out our runner up option, the Thalia Capo 200 Series.
If you need a bit more inspiration, check out this list of classic songs that use capos.