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.