When you play the banjo, you’ll often use the open G chord a lot. Many rolls are based around this open chord, which is why it can be problematic to play in a different key in some instances. Keys like A can be the bane of a banjo player unless he or she invests in a good capo.
Capos are great for banjo players because they allow them to instantly change their keys without putting a ton of pressure on the strings of the instrument. Here are a few things that all banjo players should know before buying and using a banjo capo.
Finding A Quality Capo – A good banjo capo needs to be built specifically for the banjo. A guitar capo just won’t cut it. You might be able to find trigger or rolling capos for your banjo at your local music store. Ask for other banjo players advice and try to play around with a few different types of capos to make your choice; they all sound the same, but you might find one to be more convenient or long-lasting than the others.
Using The Banjo Capo – To use a banjo capo, you simply place it on the strings and make sure that it’s applying pressure. Try to place the banjo capo right before a fret, not in the middle of a fret, as this will ensure even pressure and better tuning.
Don’t leave your banjo capo on your instrument overnight, as you might wear out the capo.
Getting Banjo Spikes – When you’re using a capo with a five string banjo, you’ll also need to capo up the fifth string (the short string, for those new to the instrument). You can’t really tune this string up, because it will put a ton of tension on it and you’ll probably end up breaking more than a few strings. Fortunately, you can get around the problem by getting banjo spikes.
Also known as “railroad spikes,” banjo spikes are small bits of metal that have a groove in them. You can pull the fifth string into the groove to change its pitch. Many banjo companies now sell their banjos with built in spikes, but if your banjo doesn’t have any, check with your local music store. They’re often very cheap to install and you often won’t even have to leave the banjo with the store if they work on banjos regularly. In any case, banjo spikes are a good supplement to your capo and they’re pretty essential if you want to play the instrument fluently in any style. For those who don’t want the surgery, fifth string capos are also available.
Do you have any other tips for using a capo with a banjo? Post in our comments section below.