A ukulele capo can transform the instrument to an entirely different voice and tuning.
These devices have several aspects to them that should guide a wise shopper toward the right choice for their particular instrument and level of playing.
To understand what separates the bad from the good, it’s useful to think of the capo as an extra finger and to hold it to the standards demanded of any player.
The device must deliver good and consistent sound, must be able to accommodate the movement of the hand on the fret board and should exert an even tension on the instrument.
Unfortunately, the ukulele still tends to be regarded as a less-than-serious instrument by many musicians, despite the abundance of very accomplished players and the established versatility of the instrument.
This means that many of the products for ukuleles on the market are substandard, and designed around the needs of hobbyists who may only be purchasing the devices on impulse and who have no real need for a quality product.
Good players do have options, however. Understanding what makes a good capo is the first part in identifying what constitutes a good option.
A ukulele capo should provide enough tension on the strings that they will not buzz when played open; but should not be so tensioned that it risks scarring the wood on the back of the instrument’s neck.
There are two main variations of these devices: those that have spring-style clamps and those that fasten by means of a wrap-around strap.
In general, the former are the better choices. The spring-style capos are easier to affix and to remove and provide better sound quality as a rule. They also last longer and almost never lose their grip, which can happen with the cheaper models.
A ukulele capo needs to be smaller than a guitar capo, simply because a ukulele player has less room on the fret board than does a guitarist. Some players attempt to use high-quality guitar capos on their ukuleles, but this oftentimes results in the fret board becoming intolerably crowded.
There are high-quality capos made specifically for ukuleles and these constitute the best choice.
For a compromise, capos made for mandolins and banjos will generally be more suited to being used on a ukulele than will a guitar model, as the size of the necks on both mandolins and banjos is much closer to that of a ukulele.
Using a capo can be great fun.
Some ukulele players tune their instruments to an open tuning— meaning that striking the unfretted strings sounds a chord — and capo up the neck to allow for different fingerings.
Sometimes the players simply raise the open pitch of the instrument, to allow for very complex chords to be fretted more easily.
Either way, capos are a nice addition to anyone’s instrument case. They increase the flexibility of the instrument to a considerable degree.
One must keep in mind, however, that quality instruments demand quality accessories for the best sound!