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If you play an instrument like the guitar, you probably have a lot of accessories that go along with your instrument and when you pick up something new, like a banjo, it makes sense to wonder can you use a guitar capo on Banjo instruments, and save yourself a trip to the music store.

Banjo vs. guitar

If you are reviewing the banjo versus the guitar, it’s important to understand what their differences are and where their accessories might crossover.

First, the guitar has six strings and most banjos have 5 strings although you can find remedial designs that come with 4 strings and significantly more advanced designs that have six strings or more.

Guitars are usually larger than banjos and for that reason the tools and accessories that you would use with a guitar are slightly larger than what you would use with a banjo, like a capo.

Guitars are usually picked with fingers or strummed but banjos are almost primarily pics with fingers.

The standard tuning for a banjo is with an open G chord and the standard tuning for guitar is EADGBE.

Guitars tend to be more popular than banjos and for that reason it is easier to find resources for the guitar and in some cases easier to find accessories that work with guitars including capos. and while guitars at their most basic level tend to be a bit more versatile, with banjos reserved for folk music, country music, and Bluegrass, if you have the right tools to alter the sound and the key in which you play, you can make a banjo almost as versatile as a guitar.

There are hybrids out there that literally are called the banjo guitar and they are an instrument that is sometimes referred to as a 6-string banjo and has the body of a banjo but the six strings of a guitar and the tuning standards of guitars.

In this case, if you happen to have the hybrid, the guitar capo will likely work very well for you without any adjustments.

How and when to use a capo on a banjo

There are many situations where this tool goes a long way toward helping you play different styles of music, like banjo bluegrass. By placing your capo on another front you can physically change the key in which you are playing.

If you are unsure whether or not to use one, consider open strings. In most cases, you will be better off if you have more open strings with which to work which is why Bluegrass songs in any key but G 10 a capo on your  banjo.

  • If you are playing an uptempo song in a traditional Bluegrass key B, B flat, or A, then it’s good to use one. With these songs it’s appropriate but not a requirement.
  • If you are playing in the key of F, D, G, or C, it’s better to play out of open G open.
  • If you are playing in the key of E, you don’t necessarily want to use a capo but you can on the second fret if necessary.

When you decide to capo the 5th  string, be advised that your banjo should have spikes on that particular string that you can use to raise the pitch on that string alone because your capo won’t reach it.

They work really well and you will likely have to tune the string once you move the spike.

When you want to play in different keys, consider this:

  • Key of A: put the capo on the 2nd fret and 5th string 7th
  • Key of B flat: put the capo on the 3rd fret and 5th string 8th
  • Key of B: put the capo on the 4th fret and 5th string 9th
  • Key of C: put the capo on the 5th fret and 5th string 10th
  • Key of D: put the capo on the 7th fret and 5th string 12th
  • Key of E flat: put the capo on the 3rd fret and 5th string 8th or 10th
  • Key of E: put the capo on the 2nd fret with the 5th string 7th or 9th
  • Key of F: put the capo on the 3rd fret with 5th string on 8th or 10th

Alternatively, for the key of C, you can play out of Open G and for the key of D you can play out of Open G as well with the 5th string open.

A capo is not a requirement. 

Types of Capos

There are different types of capos out there not just the guitar version versus the banjo versions, but different iterations for each instrument.

The types that you find today allow you to adjust the tightness of the device against your instrument’s strings.

You don’t want to tighten it too much because then your strings will go sharp and if you don’t tighten it enough then they won’t produce an accurate sound.

That said, if you can place the device as closely against the front as you can and tighten it just enough to get a clear sound, you will be in a good place.

When you attach it, it’s good to push the capo bar against your banjo strings and then screw it in place to tighten it while holding it in place.

Don’t forget to tune all the strings once you have affixed the capo to make sure that everything is where it should be. It is likely that you will need to make a minor adjustment or two.

Remember that learning how your banjo reacts to this is going to take time and it’s going to take time to learn where to put it, how to tune it, and whether or not you even want to use the capo.

What is the difference on a guitar capo?

Most guitar capos that you have are radiused. This means that you won’t get the right tone from all the strings unless you have a matching, radiused fretboard.

This works just fine on proper guitars but it doesn’t on banjos because they don’t have the same layout. 

If you have a four-string, beginner banjo, the size of your instrument is going to be even smaller than the comparative 5 string standard design and in this situation trying to use the larger capo for a guitar will very likely not work and will have even more problems then you might face trying to make adjustments on a standard 5-string banjo. 

Why not use it?

The short and simple answer is that you technically can use a guitar capo on a banjo, but most musicians wouldn’t recommend it especially when you consider how minimal the investment is to get yourself a proper banjo capo.

And of course if you have a larger banjo with more strings, you might not have any problems at all and be able to seamlessly use your capo on your guitar and your banjo with no issue.

But if you have a smaller design with fewer strings, as mentioned, it will likely prove problematic to get the adjustment right and to reduce the sound you are looking for with the capo. 

More importantly, you do have to consider if you even need one based on the music you are playing in the keys in which you are playing it.

But as a general rule the issues you will face when trying to force a guitar capo onto a banjo include the following:

  • It might not fit the strings ring clearly, so it takes some maneuvering
  • It will likely be a bit too wide
  • If you have a radiused-fingerboard guitar capo, it won’t function the right way on a banjo

That said, there’s nothing saying you can’t use it and there’s nothing saying that it won’t work just fine for you. It really comes down to personal experience and preference and what tools do you have at your disposal.

If you already have a guitar capo guitar, try it out and see what you think, see if it fits, and if it functions properly.

If it does, then you are well on your way to playing a wider range of music in different keys but if it doesn’t, you might consider investing in something specific for banjo.

Can you use a guitar capo on a banjo?

Now you know, when someone asks, “can You Use a Guitar Capo on Banjo instruments, that you technically can, but it isn’t always the best idea.

It comes down to the style of music you are playing, what key you want to play in, and what the design of capo is.

There is no right or wrong answer necessarily because in some situations it might work just fine for your instruments so it’s important just to test it and see if you have any of the problems listed above and consider for yourself whether it’s worth making a second trip to the music store.

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