There are many useful gadgets that you can buy to help you get more out of your guitar. The capo is one of them – it’s a very popular tool for guitarists.
Far from being a gimmick, some players consider a capo to be an essential piece of musical equipment! They don’t have to be very expensive either – some can be picked up from a guitar shop or online for as little as a few dollars.
However, if you’re budget conscious – or just want to try the idea out – then it’s possible to make a capo with some ordinary household items! Read on to find out more!
What Is A Capo?
The word capo is Italian – as are many words related to music. It means “head” – you may have seen it written on sheet music, for instance in the instruction “da capo” – which means “from the beginning”, but translates directly as “from the head”.
In the context of the guitar tool, a capo is a device that frets all of the strings, on any chosen fret. It does the same job as fretting all of the strings would, with the advantage of not having to use your fingers.
This can be a great substitute for tuning your guitar up a semitone or 2, as it would have the same effect – for example, with a capo on the second fret, the second fret effectively becomes your open string!
Capos see a lot of use in some genres of music – for example, folk and capos go hand in hand, as folk music often uses open tunings.
You can also get capos that only barre some of the strings, leaving the others open. They’re called partial capos. Unlike a standard capo, you could potentially use multiple partial capos at the same time.
This could get you some really interesting chords – but of course, the more capos you use, the fiddlier it could get to play!
Making Your Own
If you want to buy a capo, they’re not usually very expensive for a basic one. You can spend a little more and get cool ones with quick releases too, but the basic idea of affixing something to your guitar to barre the strings is an old one, and doesn’t need very sophisticated technology.
The simplest capos you can buy pretty much just tie on to the guitar neck – they’re not as quick and easy to fit and release as a spring-loaded capo, but they can still do the job just fine!
More sophisticated capos don’t tie on to your guitar, but instead clip on with a lever. One side of the capo is curved to fit your guitar neck – the other is flat, to lie across the fretboard as you’d expect.
This lever is spring-loaded, which lets you put it onto your guitar easily. It also makes it easy to apply the force needed to barre all of the strings, whereas a capo that fits with a strap will require more work to attach.
A lever action capo will also detach from the fingerboard more easily. Quick release capos can come off in one easy hand motion, meaning less time messing about with something fiddly. Being quicker to take off and put on might also mean that you’ll to get more use out of it!
If you want to try one out for yourself without spending much money, you can make one at home. It won’t be a fancy spring-loaded type, but a simpler version.
That’s not to say you couldn’t make a more complex one at home, but you’ll need some serious woodworking or metal working skills – or maybe potentially, you could 3d print one!
However, that’s all a little complex – what if you just want to try a capo out, quickly and easily? All you’ll need is a few simple items – a rubber band and a pencil will do it!
How To Make It
You’ll want a good sturdy rubber band, as you’re going to need to to put enough force down on your guitar neck to securely clamp all of the strings down.
If the clamping force isn’t strong enough, then things will sound terrible – the strings will rattle against the pencil, and instead of a nice clear chord sound you’ll get a messy, rattly noise that just doesn’t sound right!
So, to make sure this works well, a super thin rubber band just isn’t going to do the job well.
You’ll also want a pencil. Ideally, this would be a hexagonal pencil, so that you can use a flat side of it to securely push down on all of the strings. However, if all you’ve got are round pencils, then one of those will do!
First, put your pencil across the fret you want the capo to be on. With this type of capo, you have to barre all of the strings – you won’t be able to just do a few of them.
Make sure that the pencil isn’t directly on top of the fret wire, as this will just give you a horrible sound. Instead, place the pencil roughly where you’d place your finger.
Next, loop one end of the rubber band around one end of the pencil. Stretch the rubber band behind the neck of the guitar and loop it round the other end of the pencil.
You’ll very likely have to loop it around a few times to get it tight enough. This is why you should use a strong rubber band – you don’t want it to snap and send the pencil flying while you’re playing!
This might be a little fiddly to apply at first, but you’ll get the hang of it!
How To Use It
Now that you’ve got your makeshift capo, time to get playing! You can use it just like a capo you’d buy – although it may be a little fiddly, it’s a good, cheap way to get used to playing with one!
Maybe you could try out some different tunings too – an open tuning and your makeshift capo could well get you some cool and interesting musical results!