what is a guitar capo for and how to use it

what is a guitar capo used for?

Have you ever wondered about those little clamps that guitarists use? Well, I want to take a minute to tell you exactly what a capo is and how it works!
Watch this short video to get started!

what is a guitar capo for

If I’m being honest, they remind me of tiny alligators! Here’s the official definition according to the Oxford Lexico dictionary:
ca·po, n. :  a clamp fastened across all the strings of a fretted instrument to raise their tuning by a chosen amount.  

What that means is that you can clamp a capo onto the neck of your guitar (or banjo, or mandolin) and it makes the song you are playing higher in pitch.

The amazing benefit of the capo is that it makes it possible to change the key of a song without having to play complex chords. It enables the player to stick with 3 or 4 chords they already know and still play in any key they want!

As you move the capo down the neck toward the body of the guitar, each fret raises the key a half step. But remember! You want to make sure that the capo is close to the fret and clamped straight onto the neck of your guitar. If it is slanted, it can make your guitar sound buzzy or out of tune.

the wrong way to position a guitar capothe right way to position a guitar capo

Here you can see this Guitar is capoed at the 3rd Fret. This means the key has been raised 3 half steps. If this guitarist was originally playing in the key of G, they would now be playing in the Key of Bb without having to master any new chords! Cool, right?

So, now we know how to use a capo and we’ve read a little bit about how it works, right? But I want to show you a capo in action! Watch the video at the top of the page to see how I used a capo to make one of my favorite songs better in a matter of seconds!     

Having fun learning the guitar, but looking for more to practice?

3 NEXT STEPS: Check out these options to help you get started!

  1. learn more about Guitar club
  2. join an online class
  3. take private lessons

looking for a good capo to practice at home?

The Kyser line of capos is easy to get on and off of the guitar, and will last for 20+ years! The Shubb capo allows the player to dial in the exact tension of the 'clamping action' on the neck of the guitar (this is a great choice for electric guitars to avoid squeezing the strings too much and knocking the instrument out of tune).

kyser pink guitar caposhubb guitar capo


I'm Emily, from our Home Office in Atlanta, GA, and I love teaching students how to play the piano, sing, and be creative! I hope this resource helps you on your musical journey.