Capos are not often seen in experimental guitar situations, but many Avant-guitarists, myself included, find themselves in more traditional, song oriented situations where a capo comes in handy, whether for matching a singer/songwriter’s chord voicings or maximizing open string usage. Thus when I came across (spoiler alert) the ultimate capo, I felt the need to share.
Having spent much of my life playing with singer/songwriters, I have extensive experience with capos, both using them myself, and/or watching them abused by those hiring me.
Heretofore, capos came in two main types: the Shubb style clip-on with adjustable tension, and the Kyser squeeze and release style. Both types have devotees who swear by them (I used the Shubb for years), but I find each has flaws as well as advantages.
The Shubb type can be awkward if you have to rapidly move the capo from the 2nd to, say, the 4th fret, but it allows you to adjust the tension to any additional neck thickness at higher positions so it won’t pull the guitar out of tune.
The Kyser can be moved quickly up and down the neck but, as its tension remains the same, it pulls harder on the strings at higher frets, less so at lower ones. If the neck gets thicker, it may raise the pitch and require retuning of the entire guitar. Unfortunately, my experience is that too many Kyser-using singer/songwriters fail to retune. The guitar remains largely in tune with itself and sounds fine when played alone, while we hapless accompanists find ourselves completely out of tune with the artist.
Enter D’Addario Planet Waves (D’Addario is rebranding Planet Waves back to D’Addario). Their NS Artist Capo utilizes a tri-action geometry to reduce the force required to open and close the capo (Kysers are good wrist strengthening devices), while applying even tension regardless of neck profile. The micrometer tension adjustor and direct horizontal pressure help eliminate pulling the strings side to side and the need to retune during use.
“NS” stands for Ned Steinberger of Steinberger guitar fame. He has applied his genius to the lowly capo and apparently come up with the solution to the Kyser/Shubb dilemma. I found squeezing the capo effortless, and though I might have to re-tune when initially capoing, tuning remained relatively stable when moving the capo up and down the neck. Any discrepancies were restricted to one or two strings or easily rectified by tightening or loosening the tension.
Another plus was that the light aluminum construction added no noticeable weight to the neck. The NS Artist Capo includes an NS Mini/Micro Tuner mounting bracket (the tuner is sold separately, and you will have to decide if adding the tuner makes the whole contraption seem unwieldy). It even has an integrated pick holder.
I have hailed the consistently well thought out ideas emanating from Planet Wave elsewhere, and they have done it again. Given its problem solving capabilities, military grade materials, and under $20 price, it seems silly not to try the NS Artist Capo. And, you may want to buy one for the singer/songwriter you work with as well.
while reading yet another wise and useful article of yours, i kept looking at the pictures and wondered what seemed oddly out of place to my (tired) eyes.
there, i’ve opened the case to the acoustic guitar that i seldom open, unfortunately, and got the Planet Waves / D’Addario / Planet Waves NS Artist Capo that I seldom use, unfortunately.
wordpress won’t let me, but being how a picture’s worth a thousand words, it would be so easy to upload a picture of my own device and show Guitar Moderne readers what D’Addario has come up with, either before or after your article.
my own D’Addario / Planet Waves / D’Addario NS Artist Capo is the same device, but shaped like a mirror reflection of the same (across the axial length of guitar neck): the lever used to open its jaw is behind the fretboard, not in front, right on the neck back side, close to your thumb!
i wonder when and how the switch happened in the D’Addario’s folks’ mind, was it not arranged directly by Ned Steinberger himself, and how long the decision to revert the whole manufacturing process came to life… ah, the misteries of the industrial (guitar) world!
i tried to picture myself how to use the one you’re showing, and going with the whole left hand in front of the strings feels strange to me, being familiar with operating this one from behind… or maybe it’s not the left hand, but the right one that’s preferred choice for your model.
but then, ain’t the whole world a simple matter of butter-side up or butter-side down, when it comes to French baguette sandwiches?
Thanks very much for this. Capo choice has been a source of mystery for me. One question: When was this published? I’ve looked all over the page but cannot find a post publication date, so I have no idea how recent is the information.
You are welcome. The date thing is an issue. That one was 10/14/16. I may have to start dating them at the top of the post, because it is even a pain for me to find out.