Ukulele Capos: What to Get

One of the pleasant aspects of the ukulele is the nice symmetry between the four strings and your four fingers. But there are very few times in life an extra finger wouldn’t come in handy and for the non-polydactyl amongst us a capo does a pretty good job. And they’re so easy only a moron could get it wrong.

Capos are most useful for changing the key of a song. For example, if the song is in F but you want to play it in G you can put a capo on the second fret and play the chords exactly the same. It can also make a song easier to play. If you’re trying to play a song in Bb you can put a capo on the first fret so now the A shape gives you a Bb.

If you don’t have a capo I’d recommend picking one up. They often come in handy. And it’s not often you get the opportunity to buy a new finger (although there was that time I bought a human toe – long story).

Types of Capo

IMG_1339

Capos come in all sorts of weird and wonderful (and batshit crazy) forms. But the three most common forms (from left to right) are:

– Clamp/trigger capo.
– Screw capo.
– Band capo.

Recommended: Clamp/Trigger Capo

Capo4

This is the type of capo I’d recommend getting for ukuleles. Its big advantage is the variety of sizes of uke it fits. It works on all the ukuleles I own from my baritone to my tiny Kala Pocket Uke sopranino.

Advantages:
– The fastest to put on.
– Secure and no buzzing.
– Fits all sizes of ukulele.

Disadvatages:
– Tend to be the heaviest of the capos so can off-balance your ukulele.
– If you’re as clumsy as I am you might find it flying out of your hand with a frankly terrifying amount of force. Here’s some footage of the last time it slipped out of my hand.
– Can be a little too firm. If you’re not careful, it can bend the strings out of tune.
Tip: You can mostly avoid the bending problem if you rest the capo against the back of the neck before clamping it down on the strings.

UPDATE: Since writing this post my clamp capo broke. I still recommend this style but go with a less junky brand than I did.

Buy One

Most of the trigger capos I’ve seen look like the were made in the same Chinese factory and had a logo put on them. So I wouldn’t worry too much about the brand.

Buy on Amazon US
Buy on Amazon UK

Screw Capo

Capo5

This is my favourite type of capo. But I don’t recommend them above trigger capos as they are limited in which ukuleles they fit. Mine works great on my Ohana tenor (which has a thick neck), not so great on smaller ukuleles. If you do get one of these make sure it’ll fit all the ukes you want to use it on.

Advatages:
– Very durable.
– Easy to put on and take off.
– Firmly holds the strings down.
– Very easy to fine tune to suit your uke.

Disadvatages:
– Won’t fit all ukuleles.
– Usually more expensive.

Buy One

The big name in these capos is Shubb. Mine’s a Shubb screw capo and I can recommend it on the proviso that you’re sure it’ll fit your uke.

Buy on Amazon US
Buy on Amazon UK

Band Capo

Capo6

This is one step up from a pen-and-elastic-band capo. The concept is the same: it’s a piece of plastic held on by an elasticated strap.

The capo in the gif is actually for guitar rather than ukulele. I never bothered getting a ukulele one because they’re pretty crappy.

Advatages:
– Very light.
– Cheapest option.
– Fits most sizes of ukulele.

Disadvatages:
– Complete pain in the arse to put on and take off.
– Least secure. I find I knock it out of place when playing now and then and it does create more buzzes than the other styles.
– The elastic does mean it can fit a bunch of ukuleles but not all of them well.

Buy One

If you really must.

Buy on Amazon US
Buy on Amazon UK

View Comments

9 Comments

  1. Mark April 14th, 2016 10:00 am

    Thanks for this. I was bought a trigger capo and it is a little heavy and sometimes it gets in the way of my hand, but it is secure. I have also taken to using a guitar band capo which I use for a couple of songs with upward key changes. I find that if it’s not too tight, it is easy to slip it up a fret or two and carry on midstream as it were, rather than having to stop and reposition as with the clamping/trigger types. Of course, I could just learn to change to G# a bit quicker . . .

  2. Mike April 14th, 2016 1:29 pm

    Thanks for putting this out there! The use of a capo is hotly contested in the uke community, so this feels like a brave stance. Special thanks for exposing the band capo for the piece of crap it is. Even worse on a uke than a guitar.

  3. Mia April 14th, 2016 5:25 pm

    Thank you for this. My guitar/uke teacher recommended the screw capo. I have a 3 Schubbs, one for each uke. Do you know if Schubb makes one for the baritone??
    And yes, I’ve hated those dang elastic ones since I learned the guitar at age 11. I had one of those fly through the air and whap me on the nose when I was in high school. Not a fan!

  4. Woodshed April 14th, 2016 7:57 pm

    Mark: Thanks! Yeah, it can take a bit of getting used to the trigger capo.

    Mike: Not really. Capos can help you play something that would otherwise be unplayable. Plus there’s nothing wrong with making things easier.

    Mia: Shubbs are really great. I don’t recall seeing a baritone one but I haven’t been looking.

  5. AJ April 14th, 2016 9:48 pm

    Al,
    I’m new to the capo thing. Can you give an example of a song that would be fun to play with a capo? Could I just pick a song, slap on the capo, and play as if the capo were not there? Or, does there have to be something special about the song in order to play it with a capo?

    Many thanks!

  6. Woodshed April 16th, 2016 6:02 pm

    AJ: I think these questions need a blog post of their own. I’ll get to work on one!

  7. Pat May 12th, 2016 10:29 am

    I had a problem with buzzing strings until I found a capo to use with a radial neck. Now my uke is happy.

    Also, I bought a clamp-on capo with a tuner in it. Great idea since the tuning usually needs a slight adjusting When putting the capo on. I promptly lost it, and I don’t know where I can purchase a new one, can anyone help me out?

    Happy strumming,
    Pat

  8. Woodshed May 12th, 2016 11:42 am

    Pat: I’ve seen those for guitar. Didn’t know they had them for ukulele as well.

  9. Paul June 24th, 2016 5:24 pm

    As clamp capos go, there are two obvious styles available that I’ve seen: one where the squeeze handle is below the neck, the other where the handle is above. See here http://bit.ly/UnderCapo and here http://bit.ly/OverCapo for examples on Amazon)

    Is one style better than the other? Less intrusive or in the way of your hand?

    And for Pat above: Amazon has those, here it is on the US Amazon site: http://amzn.to/28SJzzf and just $14. It says it fits ukes.

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