Why & How to Use A Capo


In this lesson I explain what a guitar capo is and how to use it effectively.

At the end of the lesson “Guitar Capo Explained” I'll show you a unique use for the guitar capo that many guitarist don't know. I'll even show you a famous song that uses this technique.

Download The Cheat Sheet Here:

>> How To Use A Guitar Capo

Cool Tips For Using A Guitar Capo

  • The Guitar Capo changes the pitch of the guitar. For each fret, it changes the pitch by ½ step (same as 1 semitone). Go up one fret and the pitch goes up a half a step. For example, the E fingering becomes F, G# to A, D to D#, etc.
  • Changing keys for the vocalist. It's common to use a capo to change the key of the song to make it easier for the vocals without having to change the chord fingering.
  • The timbre (sound) of your guitar changes slightly also as you go higher.
  • Place the capo as close to the fret as possible. This will minimize buzzing strings and muted notes.
  • Tune your guitar before putting the guitar capo on the guitar's neck. On some guitars, the intonation is not perfect at every fret.  Also some capos will exert excess pressure on the strings and cause them to go slightly sharp. Starting with a perfectly tuned guitar will minimize this. 
  • Never leave the capo clamped onto the guitar's neck when you are not playing 
  • Use a capo to make the key “guitar friendly”.  When playing with others you can use a guitar capo to make some key signatures easier to play on the guitar. For example, B-flat major is a popular key for wind players, but includes very few open-position chords for the guitar. Remedy this problem by placing a capo on the first fret. 
  • Sometimes a capo causes the strings to go out of tune, especially when putting it on and taking it off. Check your tuning and make adjustments whenever you attach or remove the capo.
  • One unique use for a guitar capo has nothing to do with vocal ranges. If you place a capo on the neck (especially high on the neck), the guitar has a brighter sound. It can even sound more like a mandolin.
  • Another use for a capo is to create the “fat chord” effect when you have two guitarists playing a song together. One can play the chords without a capo. The second guitarist would then play the chords in a different position with a capo. The difference in timbre between the two instruments creates the “fat chord” effect. Check out this YouTube video to see this in action: Capo Secrets With Two Guitars
  • One additional small advantage of using a capo on guitar is that the frets get closer together as you go up the neck. This means it requires less stretching in the left hand and can make some songs a little easier to play.
  • Experiment and have fun 🙂

Tell Us What You Think - Please Comment Below!

We would love to hear your comments and questions. What specific things are you struggling with while learning guitar?

About the author 

Tomas Michaud

Playing guitar and creating music is a dream come true for me. I know it can be for you too. You wouldn't be given the desire to play music if you didn't have the capacity to achieve it. I help people every day all over the world to achieve their dream using step-by-step systems that I've been refining for over 40 years. I'd like to help you.

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  1. I kind of figured out for myself the use of a capo. But the “fat chord” thing is brand new to me. My playing partner and I always capo up on the same fret! No longer. Excited to try. Also, I heard that a deep voice should always consider a capo…seems counter intuitive. I’ve tried with poor results.

  2. Thank you, kind sir. That was an excellent and extremely clear explanation. Also, thanks for saving me time and making a capo cheat sheet. And, finally “Here comes the Sun” is one of my all time favorites, and I think I will try to get it down. Your kindness has been a big help to me
    over the past year as for tips and techniques that have become part of my musical library and dictionary.

  3. Thanks so much for your clear explanation of the use of a Capo.
    No, I didn’t follow all of it, but it shows that I need to learn a lot more about the sequence and spacing of chords. But then, the entire venture of trying to learn the guitar from you has been providing the excitement of learning something new and good.
    Thank you.

  4. Instead of drop d tuning I put the capo on so it covers the strings at the second fret with the exception of the low e string. Same sound only up a whole step.

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