If you want to take your ukulele playing to the next level of awesomeness, look no further than adding a capo to your uke. They raise the pitch of a song to a different key. You can buy capos for ukuleles, though sometimes harder to find. Capos essentially add an extra finger to your fretboard. For those that can add, this equates to six fingers.
Before we get into the nitty gritty on capos, here's a little inspiration. James Hill and Anne Janelle play the song A Good Lover. James has a capo on his uke to match Anne's pitch and making it easier to play. The acoustics are awesome in this video, because they are in an empty penthouse!
Fun fact: The word "capo" is short for the Italian word capotasto, which means "head of fretboard."
How do I use a capo?
When you add a capo on your ukulele, you change the functional tuning of the instrument. Capos can be handy (haha, get it?) when you are trying to match the key to a singer. They can also be helpful if you are trying out a new song in a key you aren't familiar with. Instead of messing around trying to learn the new chords, just slap a capo on!
Think of a capo as a movable ukulele nut. All you have to do is clamp it on the fret of the key you are trying to play in. Take a look at Coustii's Ukulele Capo Conversion Chart below.
What kind of capo should I buy?
When shopping for capos, you want to buy a good quality product. You'll want your capo to meet the following specifications:
- Create enough tensions that the strings are properly held down. Without the proper tension, you'll get a buzzing sounds from the strings vibrating.
- Make sure the capo isn't too tight. This can create scratches to your fretboard.
- Look for a ukulele specific capo. These can be tricky to find, banjo capos and mandolin capos can also do the trick.
There are two different types of capos, elasticated capos and lever capos. The difference is how the hold the strings down and attach to your uke.
Elasticated capos use a strip of fabric to hold down your uke strings. The fabric ensures nothing scratches your fretboard, but it's also hard to get the fabric secured tight enough. This is usually a cheaper option, but I find it more difficult to use.
The image to the right is an elasticated capo. You can buy this Dunlop Elastic Capo for Banjos and Ukuleles at Amazon.
Lever capos clamp on to your ukulele to hold the strings down. This type is more rare than the elasticated capo, especially for ukuleles. Once you get your hands on one, they are easy to attach to your uke and same goes for removal. The image below is a lever capo.
I think it's worth the couple extra bucks, because you don't have to fiddle around with making sure the strings are held tight enough. You also won't hear the strings buzz like may happen with the elasticated capos. If you've decided it's time to add some capo in your life take a look at the String House CUC01, it's a capo made specifically for ukuleles.
Capos are great if you are trying to sing a song, but can't quite reach the pitch. Slap a capo on a few frets up and see if the notes come to you easier. If you have another friend that plays the ukulele, try playing the same song, but one person have a capo on. This is called arranging and adds depth to your song.
Once you get a capo for a ukulele, keep it in your case. Let's say you meet someone and decide to have an impromptu jam sesh. You'll be rip, roaring, and ready to go with whatever chords come your way.
Ten Thumbs has a good video on how to use capos. He uses a banjo capo on his ukulele. You'll also see how to play different chords with a capo.