Top: The Third Hand Bottom: Creative Tunes Spider Capo
reach over it to catch the lower bass notes in
Usefulness Winner of the Summer NAMM
2009 Best in Show Award, it is a versatile tool,
but I have concerns about the time it takes to
adjust, and whether it’s really securely attached.
The Third Hand
This is certainly the lowest-tech capo of the
bunch. I have some of the same reservations
about the Third Hand capo as I do with the
Spider, although it’s a lot easier to put on.
But it’s not a quick change, and it’s a little
finnicky. Once you have it on at the correct
height, and you adjust the rubber string
stops correctly so they’re directly over each
string, it works great and is easy to use, and
I didn’t have any trouble with it sounding
mushy at all. Once again it’s very handy to
have all of the “tuning” options in one tiny
Quality Well made of quality materials, if a little low-tech looking. The elastic band will wear
out after a while, but at $16 you can afford to
get a replacement every couple years.
Ease of use It’s really pretty idiot-proof, and
once you have it set up for your guitar it stays
there, which is great.
Usefulness If you want many “tunings” in one
device, the Third Hand looks like the way to
go, and is the most affordable as well.
Bob Kilgore’s Harmonic Capo
This capo really does something entirely
different from the other capos—it plays harmonics. You put it at the seventh fret (or any
fret where your guitar gives you great harmonics) and pick some strings that you want
to chime, set the pads down until you hear
the harmonic tone, and play. The Harmonic
Capo doesn’t limit your use of altered tunings at all, in fact it fairly begs to be used
with an open tuning, so it really belongs in a
separate category as a completely different
kind of tool.
I got along with this capo better than any of
the others, to a point. You can still fret the
notes you’re “harmonicizing” (for want of a
better word), but it takes quite a bit of planning and adjusting to get used to working
around a device in the middle of the neck.
I was rather hoping to put it at the twelfth
fret, but none of the acoustic guitars at my
disposal were shallow enough at the heel for
the strap to reach over for a solid connection.
I had some fun with the Telecaster, though,
and could imagine someone with an electric
guitar, a room full of pedals and a harmonic
capo plugging in and not being seen for
days. For atmospheric, arpeggio-based
melodic pickin’ it’s extremely cool.
Quality Simply made, low-tech and sturdy,
Weasel Trap offers affordable replacements for
all of the parts that tend to wear out over time.
Ease of use Once you get the hang of playing around it, it will likely force you write new
stuff simply because you have it.
Usefulness I can’t imagine this becoming the
next must-have accessory, but solo guitarists
and singer-songwriters could have loads of fun.
The Final Partial Mojo
Full disclosure time: I’m not partial to partial
capos. As a devotee of altered tunings, I found
these capos frustrating and confining. To my
thinking, the point of an open or altered tuning is to get voicings that are impossible in
other tunings all over the fretboard, not just
when you’re open. Partial capos will not give
you that, at least not in standard tuning.
But, if you don’t want to learn DADGAD
or any other tuning, and you need to play
convincing lead guitar and yet sound like
you’re in one of those tunings, then partial
capos may be a viable way for you to go.
For solo guitarists and songwriters previously confined to the standard-tuning thing,
partial capos may open up some inspiration, and for some, that’s worth the price of
admission right there.