What is a Ukulele Capo?
A ukulele capo clamps down on all four strings at once by attaching to a ukulele’s neck. By moving the nut up the neck and shortening the portion of the strings that vibrate (scale length), a capo raises the pitch of a ukulele.
By putting the capo on the first fret, you’ll be raising the pitch by one-half step, and by putting it on the second fret, you’ll be raising the pitch by two-half steps.
How Does a Ukulele Capos Work?
Using ukulele capos, players can play in a higher key with chords they already know.
Here’s an example with the C, F, and G chord progression:
You can raise the pitch of the whole ukulele by two half steps by putting a capo on the second fret. If you play the same three-chord shapes as above, the notes you hear will be two half-steps higher: D, G, and A.
You can still play the same shapes, but in a different key (D) by raising the pitch of the whole uke.
Here’s a simple example to show what caps do. It’s not hard for most ukulele players to learn new chords.
What if you played a more complicated progression in keys of Eb, like C7b9, Am6, and D+?
It’s hard for even experienced players to transpose these chords, especially in an unfriendly key like Eb. You can easily switch to Eb without learning any new chords by putting a capo on the 3rd fret.
Does Your Ukulele Need a Capo?
Getting a capo isn’t a big deal for beginners. Knowing what a capo does is important, but focusing on the fundamentals is more important when you are just beginning.
This advice may deviate if you plan to sing a lot while performing. Using a capo may make certain songs easier to perform in this situation.
It is a good idea to have a ukulele capo on hand in case you need one, but you will not likely use it often.
Is it Possible to Use a Guitar Capo on Ukulele?
The capos on some guitars are compatible with ukuleles, while others are not. This is determined by the style of the capo and how it is attached to the neck of the instrument.
It is generally more practical to use a capo specially designed for the smaller neck of a ukulele than a guitar capo, but if you have a guitar capo lying around, there is no harm in trying it out.
Ukulele Capo: How to Use It
A ukulele capo is super easy to use: Just clamp it on your fingerboard and you’re good to go!
Using a spring-loaded capo, you only need to worry about placement, which I’ll explain below.
Ukulele capos with adjustable tension might need a little tweaking before they firmly press down all the strings. Capos that can be adjusted while still mounted on the fingerboard can be changed, but others may require the fingerboard to be removed in order to be modified.
Ukulele Capos Placement
Capo placement should be slightly behind the fret, but not too close. The string should be about 1/4″ from the fret to the capo bar, but that is only a rough guideline.
It is possible for the capo to exert uneven pressure on the strings if it is off-center or rotated towards either side of the neck. It is important to ensure that the capo is centered and flat in relation to the fingerboard.
The placement of the capo is not an exact science, and there is no “ideal” position. If you are having difficulty finding the right spot for your ukulele, I recommend that you just play around until you find it.
Ukulele Capo Types
Spring-Loaded or Trigger Style Capo
A spring-loaded capo puts pressure on the strings by using a spring. Ukulele capos are most commonly spring-loaded, which is the type you’ll see for sale online.
With spring-loaded caps, you can usually apply and move them with one hand. Capos with spring-loaded lids are easy to use because there’s nothing to dial in or adjust.
They’re also simple, which is their biggest disadvantage. The capo can bend your uke’s strings out of tune if it presses down too hard.
It’s easy to adjust other types of caps and you can fine-tune the pressure.
Capos with springs can be found for as little as $5 online, but I’d recommend checking out some of the nicer brands.
Toggle or Snap-On Capos
Ukulele toggle capos allow the top fretting bar to lock securely onto the fretboard.
A popular toggle capo is made by Shubb, a well-known capos brand. Using a patented cam system, the Shubb capo locks into place with a satisfying snap.
This Shubb design has a thumb screw that lets you set the tension easily. When you find the “sweet spot,” just leave it at that setting-you don’t need to reset it constantly.
Shubb capos are compact and minimal compared to most spring-loaded capos. They don’t stick out very far from the neck, and they can be stored on the headstock above the nut when not in use.
Shubb capos have one major disadvantage: they’re slow because you have to use both hands to apply them or change frets.
The Shubb uke capo comes in a variety of colors. Capos from Shubb are made in the USA.
Ukulele capos made of elastic are cheap but hard to use. Basically, it’s a fretting bar attached to a piece of elastic webbing. In order to apply an elastic capo, you must stretch the elastic around the neck and hook it back onto the fretting bar using one of the metal eyelets.
The Most Common Issues With Ukulele Capos
If you hear a buzz while playing with a capo, the capo may not be fretting the notes cleanly, causing the strings to rattle against the frets. In order to resolve this issue, there are a few things you can do.
- Move the capo forward and backward or rotate it side to side to experiment with its position.
- Be sure that the capo is firmly pressed down by checking the tension of the capo.
You should tighten the screw on an adjustable capo in small increments until you obtain a clean tone. Ensure that you do not tighten any further than is necessary, as doing so can cause the notes to start to sound out of tune.
There is a bit more difficulty in adjusting a spring-loaded capo. It is possible to adjust the tension of some spring capos by bending the lower arm.
Notes Bending Out of Tune
There may be times when a capo causes the notes to go a little sharp as a result of out-of-tune strings.
If this is the case, you should first try backing away from the fret a little bit in order to correct the problem.
In the event that this does not resolve the issue, try reducing the tension on the capo. If you have an adjustable capo, you simply have to loosen the tension screw a bit. The tension can be changed by bending some spring-loaded capos, while others may not be able to be adjusted.
Your ukulele may cause problems
Ukuleles can sometimes cause problems with capos.
If a ukulele is set up unusually high or low, it is more likely to experience problems when a capo is applied.
The use of a capo may be difficult on ukuleles with bad necks and uneven fretwork, as well as very cheap ukuleles.
Some people believe that using a capo is a form of cheating. There is no reason why you should use it in place of learning different chords and keys. While it is a “butt-saving device,” it can be incredibly helpful when you are suddenly called out on stage to play a song in a different key that you are unfamiliar with.
Generally speaking, a capo can be very useful when playing the ukulele. It is important to master the different chords and to use the capo only when necessary.