When I was learning guitar, I was always told that using a capo is “for cheats and wimps” and stuff like that. The fact is if I would have started out using a capo, I would be a better guitarist for it now.

I would have learned more songs quicker; I would have jammed more, joined more bands sooner and got bitten by the guitar bug much sooner.

All of that would have led to more skills, more confidence and much more desire to practice during the ‘struggle years’.

Below is a list of 8 very good reasons why you can and should own a capo. This goes for guitarists who are brand new to the instrument or players like myself who have played for over 16 years.

Yes, I still use and love using a capo at the right time.


#1 Using a capo allows you to play more songs with fewer chords

One of the greatest pros, for many guitarists, especially beginners (or those who are mainly singers and want to accompany their singing), is the fact that using a capo allows you to play more songs with less chords.

If you can learn just 5 chords, be able to change back and forth between them, you can play 1000s of songs when you use our trusty old friend—the capo.

Yes, what a winner. The simple chords of G, D, C, Em, Am will open up new avenues to your guitar playing that might not have yet been discovered. Download your free mini eBook here to learn those five along with a few others.

Look at this little list of songs.

If you wanted to learn those songs in a simple acoustic strum-along manner, and you were not using a capo, you would need to learn a lot more chords than just G, D, C, Em, Am.

In fact, you would need to use a variety of barre chords and different chord shapes.

Ouch! For a beginner, that’s a lot of work for just being able to play some simple (but awesome sounding) strum-along songs.

We have all seen those chord books titled something like ‘Learn 60,000 chords’ or something similar. For most guitarists and especially for beginners these books are garbage.


#2 Using a capo allows you to play things that would otherwise be impossible

If you have ever listened in detail to The Smiths, you’ll know that Johnny Marr loves to play some really cool chord voicings. These chord voicings often aren’t possible to play without using a capo.

Some people think, wrongly, that a capo is a cheat’s tool. I’d like them to say that to Mr Johnny Marr. He would probably smack his guitar around their heads, or maybe he is too cool to do that and he would just laugh.

Anyway, if you want to learn how using a capo can be used as a creative tool to create songs, check out The Smiths and songs such as ‘Big Mouth Strikes Again’.

Without using a capo, that song and many other of The Smiths songs wouldn’t be possible to play.

It’s not just The Smiths though. Songs such as ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman and ‘Scarborough Fair’ by Simon and Garfunkel (both of which are in my Fingerpicking Classics course) would be impossible to play in the original key without using a capo and those capo songs are just the tip of the iceberg.


#3 Using a capo helps songwriting and composition

Every now and then a student of mine will tell me how much they really want to learn how to write songs, or even just write one really cool song and record it.

I’m a big believer that every musician should write and record at least one song in their lifetime and ideally write and record at least one every year or so. It’s such a liberating and wonderful thing to do.

Anyway, they often tell me they have no idea where to start. There are loads of different techniques you can use to write a song, but one I love to use with students is where you adapt a song you already know to a point it is no longer recognisable to the original, but is unique sounding to you. One of the ways to do this is to use a capo.

You can take any song you know how to play, let’s say ‘Let It Be’ by The Beatles.

I teach it using G, D, Em, C with a capo on fret 5. Now if you move the capo to fret 1, it will sound different.

If you were to then change the strum pattern it would sound even more different.

Change other aspects of the piece and it will become even more different. The first step was changing the capo position.

It can make things sound drastically different and is a really cool tool for songwriting.

You can even take your favourite chord progression and play it with a capo up in different positions for a similar effect.

To see how using a capo can be a really cool songwriting tool, check out this little video I made a while back.


#4 Changes the key to suit a singer

Imagine a funny little scenario. You are jamming with a singer and this singer’s name is James Blunt. Let’s say that charming twit who is well-loved and well-hated in equal measures is your jam buddy and he turns around and says to you:

“Hey, man, let’s cover You Are The First, My Last, My Everything

Well, you think:

“Dear James, your voice is very high pitched and dear Barry’s was the opposite end of the spectrum. He had a deep, rich and very low pitch. How the hell are you going to sing that with your high pitched voice of yours?”

“The answer, my old deary”, James says, “is to put the capo on and play the song exactly like before.”

Yep, using a capo is a wonderful tool for changing keys to suit a singer’s voice. If you are taking a song that is in totally the wrong key for a singer, you can put a capo on to make it higher, or if there is already a capo on, move it higher or even move it lower if the song is too high for the singer.

When women play and sing songs originally sung by men, they sometimes like using a capo as, generally, females have higher pitched voices than males, but as Geddy Lee from Rush will attest to this isn’t always the case, but that’s another story.


#5 Using a capo makes playing the chords easier

Using a capo will almost always make the chords feel a little easier which will allow you to play more songs and have more fun which will encourage you to practice more. All of which will make you a better player.

Try it now. Play a C chord with no capo. Now play a C chord with a capo on fret 4.

Feels easier? Unless you have exceptionally large fingers and/or a guitar with a neck that is too small for you, you will probably find using a capo that little bit easier.

Of course, some folks will moan, and say:

Why should you make learning guitar easier? It’s better to learn it the tough way, like a real man”.

I’ve spoke before about these misguided fools who like to make learning guitar harder than it needs to be.

Also, because the chord feels easier to play they are often easier to change to and from. The frets are just that little bit closer together which makes playing the chord easier and as your fingers don’t have to travel as far makes the changing of chords easier too.

I’m a fan of making the instrument easier and more fun. I hope you are too. Ok, glad we cleared that up.


#6 Using a capo leaves your fingers feeling less sore

One of the perks of playing things higher up the neck of the guitar is that for most guitarists it feels a little easier on the fingers.

The amount of pressure needed to fret a note at the 6th fret for instance rather than the 1st fret is usually noticeably less.

Using a capo anywhere above the 1st fret usually means the student will stop needing to press as hard and because they don’t have to stretch their fingers a lot when playing chords they are more relaxed.

Being more relaxed is a very good thing as it means a student can focus on using the ‘Minimum Pressure Required’ technique which I discuss a lot in Ninja Chord Changes. 

Using the smallest amount of pressure required to fret a note cleanly will allow you to play for longer and with less soreness.

Keep that in mind especially if you suffer with sore fingers after a practice session.


#7 Using a capo creates a different tone

Play a G Major chord with no capo. Have a good listen to the sound.

Now, put a capo on at fret 5 and play a D Major chord.

Have a listen to the two.

Both chords you have just played are in fact G Major chords. If you are wondering why, then you may need to understand some of the music theory behind what happens when using a capo.

Basically, playing a capo changes everything. The chord shape you play becomes a different chord when a capo is involved.

The point here, though, is not the theory behind it all (that’s for a future post), but it is the tone that both of these different ways of playing G major gives you.

Play them both again and really listen.

They sound similar but one is deeper and bassier and the other is thinner and janglier. It’s a matter of opinion which one sounds best (depends on the situation).

When a student plays a song such as ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ which is mainly a:

G, C, G, D

I often show them how you can play it by putting a capo on fret 7 and play the shapes of:

C, F, C, G

Those chords with a capo on fret 7 sound the same, but with a different tone.

Try it if you don’t believe me!

The two tones complement each other really nicely and create a different flavour which is handy for when two guitars are playing the same parts.


#8 Using a capo gives your left hand a rest

Recently, me and Dale, the other guy in my new acoustic project were jamming out some songs, and one song we did was The Jam’s ‘That’s Entertainment’. I decided to play it without a capo and go through the whole song just playing it with barre chords.

Playing the song with barre chords was no problem, but after a couple of minutes into the song I was thinking to myself, my left hand is actually starting to get a little tired as we had been jamming for about 90 minutes already.

Playing it without using a capo meant I had to play nothing but barre chords throughout the song so my left hand couldn’t rest. I realised how rarely this does happen in the songs I play. Usually a lot of barre chord songs will have moments where your fretting hand will have a breather. Not this one.

The songs we were jamming prior to this one were all tiring on my fretting hand, so I could have done with a breather. Putting the capo on and playing it that way would have allowed me that breather.

If you play long sessions and want to give your fretting hand a rest, learn my lesson and start using a capo. You don’t get extra marks for making things tougher.

Give your fretting hand the occasional break when it needs it.

There you have it.

8 different reasons why using a capo can be a very good thing for your guitar playing. Don’t let anyone tell you they are for “wimps” or “wusses”. They are probably just wishing they used one when starting out.

Leave a comment below and let me know what your favourite song to play with a capo is. There are many I’m sure.



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Alex Kario
May 9, 2016 Reply

I want to ask something about capo and barre chords. When a song has a barre chord such as F chord for example, how can I divert this chord on capo?

May 11, 2016 Reply

I think I get what you are asking. If a song has an F chord, you could put the capo on fret 5 and play a C chord. The capo at fret 5 turns the C into an F chord. Hope that makes sense. Let me know if you need more clarification.

July 31, 2020 Reply

Very easily understood…explained impeccable…i understand more om excited lol

September 16, 2017 Reply

I’ve just discovered the capo afte 15 years of playing and it has change my life ! Seriously, I discovered I’m a capo man !! I had do much problems playin my songs without it and they never really sounded like the way I wanted and now I found the capo.

I found that thing watchin Mac Demarco using one. like “why does he use that ? What does it change ? I’m gonna buy it and see..”

Damn, what a discovery

Thank to you too

September 17, 2017 Reply

Hi Maxime, Thanks for the comment. Capo`s really are great. When I started playing they were well frowned upon but they are great as a technique building tool and as a creative device.

The only downside is when people get lazy with them and use them instead of learning barre chords.

Apart from that, they are awesome. I`ll be posting a review in the next few weeks of my favourite capos so watch out for that.

Guitar Capo Round-Up Review – What Is The Best Capo For Acoustic Guitarists? – Guitar Domination
December 9, 2018 Reply

[…] Capos are a wonderful tool for the 21st-century guitarist. Gone are the days when you get sneered at by some pompous “capos are for wussies” type players who have a chip on their shoulder only because they never used or saw the benefit of using one in their early learning days. […]

5 Tips That Will Instantly Help You Improve Your Barre Chords – Guitar Domination
January 30, 2019 Reply

[…] I have stated before, a capo is a wonderful tool for learning and improving your guitar skills but long-term, make it your goal to get really good at barre chords. Your playing will be free from […]

Orlando Ginarte
June 27, 2019 Reply

A very helpful and interesting article. Thanks.

September 5, 2019 Reply

Thank You Very Much For This Encouragement On The Use Of Capo

Danny T
September 11, 2019 Reply

It`s a pleasure, glad you enjoyed it!

February 10, 2020 Reply

I’m going to try playing with a capo to see if it helps with my carpal tunnel pain… I’m a decent guitarist but my job and playing is taking a toll for sure. I prefer acoustic because i write songs but another option is an electric guitar which i have zero experience with. Was considering buying short scale guitar but I’ll be buying a capo because i think that will allow me to play my nice guitars as if they were a short scale guitar. I too was stubborn and thought it was cheating to use one which taught me how to bar chord and play pretty good but the time has come! Thanks for this post

April 15, 2020 Reply

Very good advice, especially for those of us with smaller hands!

Easy Guitar Songs » 40+ Popular Guitar Song Breakdowns
July 4, 2020 Reply

[…] to worry as its use comes highly recommended to improve your playing. The best part is, you can easily adjust the key according to the song that you are playing while keeping the same finger placement of the […]

Bob Bates
May 29, 2021 Reply

I just don’t get it. In one of your last examples of playing the chords of C, G,C, D on the 7 fret to change the pitch by actually fingering the chords and get the following chords – C, F, C, G. How would anyone figure this out in their head?What is the math behind this? Every fret up the neck would be one higher note or key. Then throw in the fact that there are half steps between E and F and B and C. Then add this in. Your playing in the key of G which has a F#, so do you still play the sharp or is it negated by placing at the 7 fret? If this isn’t music theory, I don’t know what is! I am confused for sure. Any suggestions on how you move up the neck and know what key or chord matches the original? Thanks, your article is fascinating.

February 25, 2022 Reply

Hi Rob,
In any major key, like C or G, to use your examples, the 7th note of the scale is 1 semitone (half step) down from the 8th note.
In G, as you mentioned, the 7th note happens to be F#.
In C, the 7th note is B. There are no sharps in the key of C.
On a piano, the C major scale is all white keys.
It’s very helpful for guitarists to see or be able to visualize a keyboard.
When I taught guitar, one of the first sheets I handed out to beginners was a labelled drawing of a keyboard.
The intervals from note to note in a major scale are: tone tone semitone, tone tone tone semitone.
If you look at a keyboard and apply what I just said to the C scale (C D E F G A B C), you’ll see what I mean.
With G, it’s all white keys except for the F#.
Regarding knowing where you are when you slap on a capo:
An E chord played with no capo is an E. The same chord played with capo on 3 is G, just like the E shaped barre chord played there.
Basically, if you learn the names of the notes on at least the low E and A strings, you’ll get this.
And it helps to understand that most of the strings on the guitar are tuned a 4th apart. E to A is a 4th, and that A is the 4th note of the E scale, and B is the 5th. 7th fret on the E string is B.
All this comes together the more you play and learn songs in different keys, and use the capo to transpose.
Yes, it is music theory, and the more you know, the easier it is figure stuff out, like transposing.
Hope this helped.

Girish Sharma
May 30, 2021 Reply

Thank you so much!
I was literally so confused about this.
Your this piece cleared all my doubts.
Thanks :))

February 2, 2022 Reply

Hello dear,

My instrument has been violin for many years. But recently my neighbour threw a guitar away in the bin. I thought it’s a shame, so I picked it up and disinfected it. I tried to learn how to play it from scratch. Then I came across a song from our deceased singer Michel Berger (I am in France). The song’s title is ‘Quelque mots d’amour’. This guy showing us how to play it used capo 3, which prompted me to wonder if I should buy one. Anyway, I finally bought it today. Am so glad to read your article. And your eight reasons for using it are really plausible. Cheers.

July 23, 2022 Reply

Hi! Excellent article. I am a volunteer entertainer for a Dementia charity, and I encourage people with Dementia to sing. So easy to find a suitable key using a capo. Also. I almost always play in the key of C as many of the chords have lovely ,round, tones., so I can play the C chords all the way up the fretboard to the 7th fret (G) using my capo. Would not be without it.

How Do Chords Change With a Capo? Full Explanation
September 9, 2022 Reply

[…] tension required: According to Guitar Domination, you don’t need to push as hard on the strings because they’re closer to the bridge. Most […]

Ramon rio
December 1, 2023 Reply

How can i know where to put the capo ? In what fret.

Subhabrata Seal
April 6, 2024 Reply

Every word of this article is true. I am a singer and I need guitar accompaniment. Capo made my journey much easier. Now I can invest my time in fine tuning my vocals rather than struggling to hold a barre chord.
I also have heard this many a times, “Capo?! Naaah…!”
Most of the guitar teachers always discourage the usage of capo. The reason is understandable.
Thank you so much for this well explained validation for capo. Please keep us guiding.

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