Why some people say you shouldn’t use capos, and why I think they are wrong


If you play guitar long enough (and if you use a capo), you will inevitably run into people who tell you that you shouldn’t use a capo ever. Or they’ll scratch their heads and ask why you’d ever use one in the first place. The most common things I’ve heard are this:

Why not just play the open chords of the song?

Capos are just a crutch for people who don’t know how to play well

No real guitar players use capos

Let me tell you why I think these people are (almost) always wrong.

Reasons You Should Use A Capo

  1. You can use chord voicings that you like. Let’s say you are playing a song in the key of A, but you really like the way you can hammer on/off and the way the chords sound in the key of G. You can use a capo on the 2nd fret and play in G. How about a song in D – you can use a capo on the 2nd fret and play in C (one of my favorite keys to play in). The capo is not a crutch – it is a tool to get a desired result.
  2. You don’t have to think about playing your guitar. This point is exclusive to worship leaders. Worship leading is a strange deal, and in my opinion, of all the things you are doing when you lead worship, what you’re playing on guitar is one of the least important, especially if you’re backed by a good band. What is more important is actually leading – reading the room, being sensitive to the holy spirit, singing, encouraging people to join alongside you in worship, etc. These things take an incredible amount of mental and emotional energy, and if using a capo can free up some of that energy, it’s a good thing.

The Main Reason You Shouldn’t Use A Capo

I did say that I almost always disagree, so here is my main reason for not using a capo: If you rely on a capo instead of learning new chords, you should ditch it for a while, but do it during your practice times. Don’t let it become the ‘crutch’ that some people say it is – don’t stop improving your craft.

The Bottom Line

Watch video footage on YouTube of worship by the likes of Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Hillsong, etc, and you’ll see capos used all the time. Real (and extremely talented) musicians use them a lot. I believe that instruments, gear, and technology should be used by the artist to create a desired result. So, if you use a capo to get a desired result, then you are using it appropriately. If, on the other hand, you are using it because you feel limited by your knowledge of the instrument, you just need to practice a little more (but in the meantime, feel free to capo it up).

Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments below.