Can You Leave a Capo on a Guitar?


When playing the guitar with a capo on, you get each note much crispier and more distinct than it would be at a lower pitch. But can you leave a capo on a guitar when not playing /not in use?

A capo shouldn’t be left on a guitar when not in use. The capo’s pressure accelerates the strings’ wear and creates tension on the neck and top of the guitar. The capo can also be damaged by pressure from the strings as it wears out the rubber and locking mechanism. As a result, the guitar will be out of tune when it can’t clamp the strings at the correct pressure.

Would you like to know more about the capo and its uses? Read on, and you will find a lot of interesting info here.

Can Capo damage the guitar when left on?

Capo is a piece of hardware that you can place on a guitar’s neck to raise the strings’ pitch. But do you know that a capo can damage a guitar if left on for longer?.

left guitar with capo

A capo holds the strings on the fretboard, which causes stress on the strings. However, guitar strings are meant to be stressed and eventually break at some point; a capo accelerates this process.

You can only expect damage to the guitar strings and fret when the capo is left on for longer. Not only this, but a capo can also damage the glossy finish of your guitar. Let’s look at how a capo can damage the strings and fretboard of a guitar.

Damage to the strings

As you play your guitar more and more, the strings start to lose their tension, and you need to tighten them to play the perfect tune. Doing so continually puts a lot of stress on the strings. Eventually, they can’t take the pressure anymore and break.

Similarly, placing a capo on the guitar compresses the strings on the fretboard. Although it can damage the strings but not very quick. However, playing the guitar with the capo on at the same spot for a long time will cause potential damage.

You might start to see the strings wear out under pressure from the capo. As a result, you will have to constantly tune your guitar or replace the damaged string but not any time soon.

Damage to the fret

Fret wear happens on guitars when overused. The fret wear depends upon how often the guitar is played. Otherwise, the fret can take longer to get damaged by the strings.

The fret damage caused by the strings is negligible. But with overuse, you can notice dents on the fret where the strings touch. When these dents enlarge, the fret needs to be replaced.

The capo intensifies fret damage when left on for longer. It presses the strings onto the frets closer to it, causing friction. Therefore frets are under pressure when playing the guitar. Which is likely to wear them out quicker and need to be replaced when entirely damaged.

Aside from fret damage, your guitar will not fit its case if the capo is left on when you decide to pack it up.

Tips to prevent capo from damaging your guitar

If you want to save your guitar from potential damage caused by the capo, you can follow the following tips.

Guitar capo on guitar fret

Use variable tension capo

Guitarists use two types of capos, which are spring-loaded and variable tension capos. The spring-loaded capo is more common because they are easy to use. However, the problem is they are either too tight or loose.

A loose springloaded capo will cause the strings to buzz but wouldn’t cause any damage. On the other hand, if it is too tight, it will accelerate the wear-out process of the strings.

The variable tension capo allows manual adjustment of tension on the capo. This prevents overtightening of the capo, thus preventing wear on the strings.

This capo also saves the frets from getting dents and keeps the finish on the guitar neck in good shape. On top of that, you wouldn’t have to tune your guitar very often.

Remove capo after use

Leaving a capo on for a more extended period can cause damage to the strings, fret and neck of the guitar. The guitar strings and fret don’t get damaged overnight and take much longer.

So it is better to remove the capo when you are done playing. Not only does it prevents damage, but you can also save a lot on expensive guitar repairs.

Do not tune the guitar when a capo is on

You should always remember that never tune your guitar with a capo. The guitar can be put out of tune when you clamp the capo on and off.

The guitar strings are already under tension, and tuning the guitar with a capo can break the strings. If the strings don’t break, the guitar will surely be out of tune anyway.

Tuning a guitar without a capo is the best way to get a perfect tune. That way, you can feel the extra tension on the strings and make adjustments.

Where to keep the guitar capo when not in use?

Suppose you have decided not to leave a capo on the guitar when not playing. In that case, there are some ways to keep the capo in easy access without damaging your guitar.

  • Leaving the capo on the guitar nut keeps it within easy access. It prevents any damage to the guitar or impact on the tune.
  • If you play your guitar daily, you can leave it on the guitar’s headstock. This way, your guitar tune will remain unaffected. But make sure not to leave it there for long as it can discolour the finish.
  • If you have a music stand, you can clamp the capo on it and keep it safe.
  • The best way to store the capo is by putting it in a guitar case or bag. Most bags and cases have multiple pockets, which are perfect for capo storage.

Bottom Line

Capo is one of the most incredible tools that make playing the guitar easy for beginners and pros. But it has shortcomings in accelerating the wear and tears on the strings, fret and guitar’s neck.

However, if used appropriately, you can prevent potential damage. Such as remember not to overtighten the capo on the guitar neck and remove them when you are done playing. This way, your guitar will be as good as new and have a crisp tune.

Sourav Biswas

Music is my life and I love to play guitar so much. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents were always supportive of my passion for music. I am also a freelance writer who has been writing for over 10 years. I have written for both online and offline publications, including Amazon and Medium.

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