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The banjo Capo is designed to make playing techniques easier. The word comes from “capotasto”, a method of raising the pitch by using a pointed finger to stop one of your strings on the fret.
The Capo does this for you by raising the pitch a half step or whole step without you having to strain your fingers.
If you are looking for a way to change the key of your banjo, you can use a helpful tool called a capo.
But what is the best capo for banjo music?
That really comes down to a variety of key features and whether you want something that is permanent or temporary.
To help you make that decision a little bit easier we’ve compiled some information on the qualities you should look for when evaluating different designs, and what features might come in handy depending on your needs.
There are many types of banjos on the market with various string designs. One such design is that of five strings.
This is the most common design you will find, and with it you tend to get an instrument in one key.
But what do you do if you want to play in multiple keys?
This is where different tools and products come into play to help you achieve very sounds and keys, such as a banjo Capo.
How does it work?
Consider this: a regular 5 string banjo is tuned to a G chord. But you want to play in the key of A. To do this, you could place a capo at the 2nd fret to raise your G chord to an A chord.
You would then use a fifth string capoing device to “capo” your fifth string along the point of the 7th fret, which is the same increase you did to the first four strings.
In essence you “capoed” at the second fret and the fifth string at the seventh fret, so your banjo now plays in the key of A rather than the key of G.
Who should use a capo?
Given that there are different types of capos, there is something to fit just about every level of musical ability.
That said people who are looking to change keys and already have some understanding of how to play their banjo should use them but those who are beginners and are just learning the lay of the land so to speak should avoid them.
Beginners need to focus their efforts on learning how to hold their instrument, how to develop their playing technique, read music, and so on.
At this level there is no need to focus on key changes. This becomes a slightly more intermediate or advanced technique.
Consider whether or not you have open strings as well. In most cases the more open strings you have, the better the Capo will work.
This is why many Bluegrass songs that are written in keys other than G are best served with the use of a capo because it helps keep the sound and the up-tempo traditional style.
Types of capos
There are effectively three different types of products you should consider and each seem to be better suited to your level of musical expertise and desire to modify temporarily or permanently your instrument.
- The sliding rail systems have a literal rail that attach to your banjo permanently. These have to be installed by a professional and they remain in place so that you could always use them to adjust your banjo to a different key on command. This is in fact something you can do in the middle of a song which makes it better suited to someone who is a more advanced player or professional who has a need to regularly change keys. Remember that most of the music written for Banjos is written for traditional 5-string banjos in the key of C so beginners won’t need to make key changes as much as an advanced player who is accommodating new types of music, music played by a band for specific audiences.
- Then there are the spikes. Spikes are small and unobtrusive and otherwise invisible to the eye. These are also installed on the instrument but they are somewhere in between a permanent and temporary modification in that you drill holes into which the spikes are placed but if you decide you don’t want them anymore you can take them out and fill them with epoxy with very little visible sign that anything was ever there. These are more for intermediate players who might want something that allows them to change key from time to time without having to reach into their bag to get it.
- You might be interested in the suspender version. This is the quintessential Capo one which is literally clamped on top of your strings. This you clamp on and take off as needed and it’s small enough that you can keep it in your banjo case. This is much better for beginners who might want to practice with capos or are using a rented instrument and therefore cannot make modifications.
What to look for in a capo
If you are looking at different capos and you’re unsure of which one to choose, start with the handle and the design.
You want something that you can grab and operate one handed so that the other hand can continue playing.
You also want something that one positioned, clamps onto the strings evenly across the entire fretboard.
This will give you an even sound. Of course make sure that it is suitable for a banjo.
You can get a capo for just about any stringed instrument so if you accidentally find one for a guitar, it might not fit the neck of your banjo.
Best Capo for Banjo
It really comes down to a matter of personal, ergonomic choice. There is no right or wrong answer, no single design is better than another.
So, with a better understanding of the different types out there, and when to use them or avoid them, it’s important to compare the key features of some of the top products.
To help with that we’ve compiled a list of products that could very well be the best capo for banjo players like yourself.
Kyser Quick-Change Capo for banjos, ukuleles, and mandolins, Black, KBMB
This is designed specifically for banjos, mandolins, and ukuleles. It is the original Quick Change Capo meant for one handed changes.
This has a very sophisticated design to it and is very easy to use. You can work it into position or remove it from your banjo with just two fingers free if you have them which means you don’t have to stop playing to put your instrument down and move on or off.
This becomes particularly important as you increase your skills and start to change keys in the middle of the song.
It is very light given the lightweight aluminum which makes it easy to operate and give you perfect mobility as you are moving it on or off your banjo.
The lighter spring tension is strong but easier to work with compared to most banjo Capo designs which is why you can get away with using just two fingers.
It is otherwise very discreet and in the black design will blend in beautifully when placed on your instrument.
It has a strong, lightweight aluminum design with a steel spring and it can easily be packed in your headstock when you’re not using it.
View at Amazon for more information on how this product could potentially work for you.
- Small and lightweight
- Can be used with one hand
- Lightweight aluminum design with steel spring
- Suspender version, does not remain in place permanently
WINGO Acoustic Guitar Capo Electric Guitar Clip-on Tuner with 5 Celluloid Medium Picks-Pleasant Gift
This design is made of Rosewood on the exterior which might be preferable given the construction material used on your instrument.
It is versatile in that you can use it for multiple instruments so if you happen to play the guitar or the mandolin or ukulele alongside your banjo you can use a single device for all of your instruments.
It comes with a highly accurate tuner.
Most people complain that when using a capo temporarily on the strings of their banjo it eventually forces the fifth string out of tune but this can be easily remedied with the Precision vibration clip tuner that comes with this kit.
It also has a pic holder if you play with a pic made with genuine leather. There’s a brass key ring that allows you to hook it onto your keys or somewhere on your instrument case so that you always have it.
The design looks beautiful and simple but it is highly effective.
The components that touch your strings are covered with rubber so it gives you a secure and even grip lacrosse all of the strings while protecting the surface of your instrument at the same time.
This particular capo can be adjusted to the tension of your strings using the precision micrometer adjustment feature on the outside.
View at Amazon to learn more about how this product could potentially work for you.
- Good for banjo, guitar, mandolin, and ukelele
- Has tuner with it so if it causes the fifth string to go out of tune, you can fix it quickly
- Comes with a brass ring and carrying case for easy transport
- Suspender, temporary design which not everyone likes
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