Are Capos Bad for Guitars? (Explained + 3 Helpful Tips)

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Many guitarists are against using capos, although it can be a great tool for several reasons. 

Certainly, there are many proficient guitar players available today who don’t find the need to use a capo. But there are others who don’t use the capos because they think it will damage their guitars. But how true is this? Are capos bad for guitars, or is it just a misconception?

In short, yes. Capos can be bad for guitars. They can increase the rate at which your guitar frets wear out and can also wear out the neck finish. However, with the right capo tension, you can reduce the risk of damage to the guitar.

Let’s address all of the different questions many guitar players have about guitar damage and capo. And after that, I’ll provide you with some helpful tips on how to properly use a capo without any damage.

Are capos bad for guitar frets?

Some guitarists avoid using the capo because they don’t want to risk damaging their frets. Frets can be expensive to replace, so they tend to stay away from using them altogether. But do capos actually damage guitar frets?

In short, yes. Capos can actually cause guitar frets to wear out faster. Capos lower the action on a guitar, causing the guitar strings to be close to the frets. This means when you play, there is increased friction between the strings and frets, causing the frets to wear out and damage.

There are many factors when it comes to how frets wear out. And whether or not you use a capo, they are eventually going to wear out.

There is no denying the fact a capo will lower a guitar’s action and keep the strings directly on the frets. And many people think that’s the primary cause of fret dents. However, that is not the main thing that causes dents on a fret. 

Fret dents are mainly caused by fretting on the guitar. As you place your fingers on the fretboard to play chords or single notes, your fingers actually move the strings, scratching the surface of the frets closer to your fingers.

Usually, this is not seen, but it happens every time we’re fretting. And this is what causes friction between the strings and the frets, eventually leading to small dents on the fret.

Another guitar technique that accelerates fret dents is guitar string bends. When you are a guitar player that often bends the strings, you’re essentially increasing the friction between the strings and frets. And that will speed up the rate at which the frets damage.

If you are a guitar player that strums really hard, you’re doing more harm than good to your guitar frets. Strumming hard makes your strings wear out your frets much faster than strumming softly. 

Improving your strumming technique will go a long way to keep your frets in good condition for a longer period.

Also, if you’re a guitar player that only plays one or two keys and usually plays the same chord patterns, you are likely to wear out some of your frets faster.

By repeating the same chords and playing in the same key repeatedly, you are gradually wearing out the frets, and eventually, small dents develop in them as a result.

These are all of the different factors that come into play to wear out your frets. With or without a capo, your guitar frets are going to wear out one way or the other over time. It’s inevitable.

However, using a capo will accelerate the wearing-out process of your frets. This is because when you attach a capo to your guitar’s neck, it clamps the strings onto the frets. And that increases the friction between the frets and the strings.

The strings will wear out frets much faster with the capo attached than without. 

This is the reason why guitar frets of worship leaders wear out very fast. Most worship leaders who are guitar players heavily depend on the capo when playing. And also, some of them have poor strumming techniques. 

For this reason, their frets damage faster, and they tend to repair or replace their frets very often. 

Do All Types of Capos Damage the Fret?

There are two main types of capos — spring-loaded/trigger capos and C-clamp/variable tension capos.

The most common type of capo is the spring-loaded capo. That’s because they have been around for a much longer period, and they are easy to use. However, the main problem with spring-loaded capos is, their tension is not adjustable. This means they can be either loose or too tight on your guitar. 

If they are loose, they will cause the strings to buzz, but that won’t lead to any potential damages. If they are too tight, however, they can accelerate frets wear and dents. The reason why has already been explained in the previous section.

On the other hand, a variable tension capo is much safer to use, and you’ll probably not damage your frets using them. Provided you don’t overtighten the capo to the guitar neck; you will less likely damage the frets. 

Does Leaving a Capo on a Guitar Damage the Fret

Many guitar players warn against leaving your capo on your guitar. And the main reason is that leaving your capo on overnight can wear out the frets and develop dents in them. I’ve seen this many times on guitar and musicians forums. 

But how true is this?

Leaving a capo on the guitar over an extended period can damage the frets closer to it. If the guitar is overtightened to the guitar’s neck, the tension exerted by the capo can cause small dents in the frets. However, if you leave it on for a few hours won’t cause any damage to the frets.

As we may already know, different types of capos exert different levels of tension on the strings. 

If you use a non-adjustable spring-loaded capo, which usually has high tension, its tension can cause the closest guitar frets to the capo to develop small dents if you leave it on for at least a week.

On the other hand, if the tension of the capo on your guitar’s neck isn’t too tight, you can leave it on for longer periods without any potential damage to the frets. 

Honestly, whatever the case may be, there is no point in leaving your capo on the guitar when you are not playing it. And it’s simply bad practice to keep them on. 

Besides potentially damaging your frets, keeping a capo on your guitar won’t make it fit in its case if you decide to pack it up. 

Will a capo damage guitar strings?

Short answer, no. Capos don’t damage guitar strings. The tension applied by a capo on guitar strings is not enough to break them. 

There is no denying the fact too much tension can damage strings.

You will easily break your guitar strings if you over-tighten them. That is because, by tightening the strings, you can essentially increasing the tension in them.

However, the tension that a capo exert on guitar strings are simply isn’t high enough to cause them to break. So when using a capo, strings should be less of your worries because they won’t break due to the capo. 

I wouldn’t worry too much anyway. Guitar strings are really cheap, and you probably replace them frequently anyway.

Can a capo damage my guitar neck?

A capo cannot damage a guitar neck. However, it can wear out the neck finish when it is over-tightened to the neck.

Some capos are easier on the guitar neck than others. What do I mean?

The tension of trigger or spring-loaded capos, as mentioned earlier, is not adjustable. This means, if the capo is too tight on your guitar, you will not be able to adjust its tension. And this can not only throw your guitar out of tune, but it can also wear out the guitar neck’s finish. 

Also, if, for instance, you try to take the capo off without engaging the trigger, you can easily scratch off the neck finish.

You will not have these issues with a C-Clamp type capo unless you overtighten them to the guitar neck. 

Tips to Preventing a Capo from Damaging Your Guitar

Here are my three tips to reduce the risk of wear and tear caused by a capo on your guitar.

1. Use a Variable Tension Capo

If you are used to using a spring-loaded, I highly recommend switching to a variable tension or C-clamp capo.

This type of capo allows you to adjust the tension of the capo manually. This means you can set the right for your guitar’s neck and strings. By doing this, the wear and tear caused by the capo will be reduced, and your frets will have a much longer lifespan.

Not only is the variable tension capo good for your guitar frets and neck finish, but they will also keep your guitar in key after you have used them. These were the problems of a spring-loaded capo, all fixed with a C-Clamp Capo.

A C-Clamp capo I’d personally recommend is the Shubb C1 Nickel Capo (on Amazon). Shubb has remained the industry standard manufacturers for C-clamp capos for many years. This model works with 6-string acoustic guitars and electric guitars as well, if you ever decide to use a capo on one. 

They are really easy to use and get the job done for the most part. And because the tension is adjustable, you’ll have less to no issues with frets and neck finish wear, making it the ideal type of capo for every situation.

2. Take off your capo after use

As we discussed earlier, leaving a capo on your guitar can wear out the frets close to the capo over an extended period. And frets can be quite expensive to repair or replace.

I suggest you make it a habit to take off your capo when you are done playing the guitar. You might simply forget it was on. And the next time you pick your guitar up, you may notice that some of the frets have worn out. 

Certainly, this is damage you could have easily avoided by simply taking off the capo. So keep this in mind.

3. Use proper strumming technique

How hard you strum your guitar strings has an impact on how fast your frets wear out. In essence, the harder you strum, the faster your guitar frets wear out. And with a capo on, this wear and tear are accelerated.

If you find yourself repairing your frets very often, then it’s about time you learn how to strum properly. Improving your strumming will not only reduce frets wear and tear, but it will also improve how your guitar sounds.

Final Thoughts

Capo is, undoubtedly, an incredible tool. However, it’s not perfect. It comes with its own shortcomings. It can accelerate frets wear and can damage the guitar neck’s finish.

But by making sure you don’t overtighten the capo to the neck, not leaving them on when you are done playing the guitar, and by using proper strumming technique, you can reduce the risk of wear and tear caused capo.