In the course of playing the ukulele, you will come across a device called the capo. It is something that people have divided opinions on and it is only natural to wonder – Is Capo Necessary for Ukulele? Let us find out.
What Is A Capo For Ukulele?
Usually, electronic instruments like keyboards are a lot more flexible when compared to stringed instruments like ukuleles and guitars. One feature that makes this possible is “Transpose”. It allows notes and chords to be shifted around. On a keyboard, it means that you can play the same key and get the sound of different notes. The same goes for chords. Stringed instruments generally do not come with this feature. However, a capo is a simple solution for this. It is basically a clamp that shifts the open notes up and down the fretboard.
What Does A Capo For Ukulele Do?
Normally, the open notes of a ukulele are G-C-E-A. If you put a capo on the second fret, all the notes including the open notes will change by two steps. So, the open notes will become A-D-F#-B. More importantly, each chord will also advance by two steps. So, the chord shape for A major will become B major. Place the capo on the third fret and everything moves up three steps. In short, using the same shape or note position relative to the open notes, you can play any note or chord simply by moving the capo up or down the fretboard.
A very common use case for a capo is to transpose a song you have already learnt. You don’t have to relearn the song. Simply fix the capo in the appropriate position and your original finger positions would still work. Everything will just be in a different key or scale.
Just know the order of scales which is
C – C# – D – D# – E – F – F# – G – G# – A – A#/B♭– B -C
Each fret represents one step in this order. So, a C will become C# when the capo is fixed on the first fret. It will become D with the capo on the second fret and so on. The same applies to the chords as well.
Is A Capo For Ukulele Necessary For Ukulele?
This one comes down to personal preference and the specific scenario you are in. For beginners, using a capo can be a great boon. If you have already learned a song in a specific scale, a capo will allow you to play that song in any key without having to relearn the whole thing.
It allows you to learn just one chord progression and then using a capo you can play the same progression in any key.
Finally, it also helps you understand the relationship between the various keys and chords and is a very practical way of understanding the fundamentals of music theory.
So far, everything we have mentioned is for beginners but it does not mean that the more advanced ukulele players can’t find a good use for a capo. It can help you find a different chord and note voicing to add another dimension to the sounds that the ukulele can produce.
As all these are some great benefits and since capos are generally quite inexpensive, having a capo in your arsenal is almost a no-brainer.
Will A Capo Damage Your Ukulele?
Capos that are specifically designed for ukuleles won’t damage it. They might have a somewhat crude appearance and when fixing the capo, it might appear as if a lot of force is being exerted. However, the ukulele is not as delicate as it might look and it is actually a very structurally sound instrument. Unless you really mishandle the ukulele or try to use some poorly designed homemade contraption, your ukulele should be fine.
How Much Does A Ukulele Capo Cost?
You might be really surprised to learn that you can get a capo for as little as a dollar. You can obviously spend more but $3 to $10 is the sweet spot. Anything higher and you are wasting your money. A capo is a very simple device and as long as it is made from durable materials and is designed to be safe for ukuleles, it will cover all bases. Do not fall for any crazy marketing jargon such as exotic materials or claims that it will improve the tone of your ukulele.
Can A Guitar Capo Be Used On Ukulele?
One small drawback possessed by capos is that they aren’t as readily available as guitar capos. Also, guitarists who are learning the ukulele may already have a guitar capo lying around. So, can it be used on a ukulele? It depends on the design of the capo in question. If the part that goes behind the neck (on the other side of the fretboard) can get enough purchase on the narrower neck of a ukulele, it can be repurposed for use on a ukulele.
Keep in mind that a capo specifically designed for ukuleles will offer a more secure and snug fit. Their smaller size also increases the accessibility of the fretboard. As these are quite affordable, your best bet is to get a capo meant specifically for ukuleles.
Advantages Of Using A Capo For Ukulele
The advantages of using a capo on a ukulele include
- Easiest way of transposing notes and chords
- Gives you a few alternative tunings without actually requiring you to re-tune the ukulele
- Is a great boon for beginners
- Is quite inexpensive
- Adds more musical possibilities as it allows you to use many different chord and note voicings
Disadvantages Of Using A Capo For Ukulele
There is basically one big disadvantage of using a capo and it is one that is shared with the transpose function found on electronic instruments. It can act as a crutch, especially for beginners. Using it instead of learning the fretboard and all the different chord shapes will prevent you from becoming a more accomplished ukulele player. Like all good thing, moderation is the key.
A capo is essentially a tool and whether it is necessary or not depends on how you plan to use the ukulele. It is something that is good to have in your gig bag as it expands your playability and gives you more options. Just make sure not to depend too much on it and use it only to enhance your ukulele playing instead of limiting it.