The ukulele capo is a device that allows you to quickly change the key you are playing in without changing chord shapes. It is helpful in situations where you may be struggling with specific chords or when playing with other musicians. In this article, we will breakdown this nifty device and help you choose the best ukulele capo for your needs!
In a Hurry? Here Are the Best Ukulele Capos
The word capo is short for capotasto, which is Italian for “head of fretboard.” Normally the head or top of your fretboard is the nut, the white bone-like material where your strings rest. While it is impossible to move the nut, we can accomplish a similar feat with our finger or a ukulele capo. Either of these methods will increase the pitch of a string.
The easiest way to raise the pitch is with our index finger as a barre chord. A normal F chord on the GCEA tuned ukulele is fingered as 2010. If we place our index finger across the first fret and then use our middle and ring fingers to make this same shape, we will get F# fingered as 3121. Each barred fret raises the pitch by one semitone.
Unfortunately, barre chords are limited based on how many extra fingers are needed and how far they can stretch. The ukulele capo takes the place of your index finger and holds the strings down on any fret you want. This will free the rest of your hand up, allowing you to play the same chord shapes you know but producing different chords.
Different Styles of Capos
- C Clamp – This style uses a lever that is placed over the strings and then tightened with a screw. It allows for the tension to be fine-tuned and to keep the strings from buzzing.
- Spring – These are large capos that are spring-loaded for quick and easy use. You simply squeeze the handle and place it on the specific fret. They are large and bulky and can’t be fine-tuned.
- Toggle/Elastic – This style of capo is placed on the strings and then a toggle or piece of elastic is wrapped around the back of the neck. They leave a small footprint but sometimes do not hold all the strings down well.
- Rolling – These capos are placed around the neck and have two rubber pads that move. While they do not provide fine-tuned tension they can easily be moved from fret to fret and key to key.
- Spider – These are specialty capos that allow for each individual string to be held down at a time. While they are great for unique tunings, they can be difficult for a novice to use.
How to Use a Capo
First of all even the best ukulele capo is not meant as a way around learning difficult chords. Even the most difficult uke chords will eventually come with practice. The ukulele capo is best used for a different sound with other chord inversions and when jamming with other musicians, especially in an impromptu setting.
Since the device is meant to take the place of our finger, we use it in the exact same manner, by holding the strings down right before the metal fret. Putting it directly on the fret will deaden the sound when you strum. Make sure all the strings are held down and that it is straight up and down and not crooked.
Once you have it in position you will now simply finger the same chord positions that you are used to playing. Without a ukulele capo, play the chords C-F-G. After that take the device and place it across all the strings of the second fret and play the same shapes. Because you moved up a whole note the chords are now D-G-A.
Ukulele Capo Troubleshooting
It is essential that all the strings are completely pressed down right before the metal fret. If this does not happen, we will have dead or buzzing strings. The best ukulele capos will allow you to calibrate the tension to get the sound just right. It may take some adjustment until each string sounds clean and bright.
Another common problem is a string getting slightly bent when putting the ukulele capo on. This will cause the string to sound sharp and the best way to remedy it is by taking the capo off and redoing it. Again make sure it is properly placed so all the strings sound the exact note that they are supposed to.
In some cases, your ukulele capo may not be the issue. It is very possible that the action may be too high or even the neck warped. Because the capo is not flexible like a finger it may not be able to hold the strings down properly. If that is the case then it is sadly probably time to get a new ukulele!
The 5 Best Ukulele Capos
1. Planet Waves NS Ukulele Capo Pro – Best Overall
Located in the state of New York the D’Addario company makes a variety of music instrument accessories, in particular their titanium strings are big sellers with ukulele players. The Planet Waves NS is very popular and on many lists for the best ukulele capo. Not only is it a quality made capo it is also very affordable.
It is a clamp style capo with a micrometer adjustment so you can fine-tune the tension on the strings, which is great for beginners so there isn’t much need for troubleshooting. This ukulele capo is also perfect for professional playing as its lightweight aluminum is incredibly durable and able to take the punishment of touring.
Even if you are not a working musician the Planet Waves NS is perfect for everyone from beginning to advanced ukulele players. The best part about this capo is the small and compact size. The last thing you need when playing is for the device to get in your way when changing to other chords. It will fit securely around your instrument.
2. Shubb L9 Ukulele Capo – Best Features
The Shubb Capo company started in California in the 1970s originally making special capos for 5 string banjos (easy banjo songs). They now sell various music accessories including this popular Shubb L9. It has a duel lever and screw on design allowing the player to adjust the string tension to the exact point of no fret buzz.
Some ukulele capos have issues fitting fretboards that are too small or large, this makes up for that by working on wider and flatter necks. And it is also made of lightweight aircraft aluminum which means it will be very durable in any situation. Every contact point on the ukulele is also padded that way no damage is done.
While it may be a little more expensive than other capos it is clearly worth it as it has many great reviews. It is also just a little bigger than many other screw-on ukulele capos which means there could be more chance of it getting in the way. However the Shubb company has had quite a great reputation over the years, so quality can be expected!
3. Kyser Quick Change – Easiest to Use
The Kyser Musical company started in the ’70s in Texas and originally focused on building guitar capos. They have since branched out into a variety of musical accessories. This particular model will work on ukuleles, banjos, and mandolins. And it is called Quick-Change because it is spring-loaded and easy to move.
It is made of strong but lightweight aluminum and can be rested on the headstock when not in use. While it may not appear to have as much padding as other models it still protects the neck and fretboard from any damage. Once it is put in place it is rather sturdy, it would take a rather hard bump or knock to dislodge it.
As with all spring-loaded ukulele capos there is a chance the larger size can be distracting to the player. Screw-on capos are smaller but take longer to move, so it is kind of a tradeoff. The price is often higher than other capos, but the company backs up all of its accessories with a guarantee and strong reputation.
4. Dunlop 7828 Bill Russell Ukulele Capo – Cheapest Option
Located in California the Jim Dunlop company makes a multitude of music items including the famous Cry Baby effects pedal. This ukulele capo is made of a metal band that lies on the strings and an elastic band that wraps around the neck. It is easily the most affordable capo on this list for those on a tight budget.
It is no secret that some players do not like elastic band capos, as they do not have a screw to adjust the tension and can be a little awkward to place on the neck. However, if done correctly there should be no fret buzzing. Once in place, they can easily be slid up or down the fretboard, so it is not necessary to remove it for key changes.
While they may not have the tension of C-clamps or spring-loaded capos they are the smallest ukulele capo you can find and will hardly be in the way of playing. This makes up for any other problems you may face with them, that and they sure are a lot more colorful than other capos. If you only have the budget for these it’s ok.
5. Spider Capo Mini – Most Unique
This one is going to be the oddball of the list, and some may not define it as the best ukulele capo, however, it all depends upon what your goals are. The Spider Capo is a relatively new invention from two musicians out of New York, their goal was to create a capo that didn’t just lay flat across all the strings of the fret.
This capo can press down on a single string at a time allowing you to play tunings from your wildest imagination. Because of this feature, it clamps on top of the fretboard instead of behind it like other devices. It is made of black plastic and has felt for protecting the uke on the sides of the neck that it attaches to.
If you are playing a show soon and need a reliable capo this is not a great choice. It can be finicky and takes more time than other capos to setup, there is no doubt it has some issues. However, if you are a songwriter or love to explore new tunings this is the best ukulele capo for you. The Spider Capo is for those who love to innovate!
Which is the Best Ukulele Capo?
The best ukulele capo on this and many other lists is the D’Addario Planet Waves NS. It is no wonder this company is so popular as they routinely make accessories that are loved by players of all levels. As a C-Clamp capo, it allows you to fine-tune the tension so that every single string will play correctly with no fret buzz.
It is reliable and durable for home practice or on the road touring and it fits most budgets as it is not too expensive and yet still made of quality materials. As long as it fits your specific model of ukulele it will be a worthy and lasting purchase. Just be sure there is a good return policy in case the capo doesn’t adapt to your neck.
At the end of the day, the best ukulele capo is going to be the one that is convenient, easy to use, and leaves every string sounding clear and bright. If the Planet Waves doesn’t suit your tastes or your uke model than give a spring-loaded capo a try. Whichever one you choose should make it simple and hassle-free to change your key!