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5th string capo

Posted by Paul Marchand on Thursday, July 2, 2020


I've been using 5th sting capos for about a year now. Ever since I got to the point where my instruction book (Janet Davis) said it was time to learn to use them. I am an amateur banjoist who plays am 1897 SS Stewart Thoroughbred with steel strings amd goatskin head. I use brass finger picks and a plastic thumb pick. I also play acoustic guitar. Sometimes i play in front of small groups. In the distant past I have played in larger venues. While in school in France I played 12 sting guitar in the street for tips. 

About a year ago I needed to learn to use a capo without damaging my classic banjo. Spikes were out of the question. I refuse to do permanent damage to a 120 year old banjo. 

Here re my thoughts:

Reagan capo: 

     Plus side: Small, easily stored by clamping it to the string                    Minus side: Small, you will eventually loose it. Time                                        on the tailpiece side of the bridge when not in                                          consuming when you play in front of 

                       use. It has a beautiful tone (the body is brass with                                    an audience (best to have a few one 

                       a nylon screw).  It can be placed on the string                                             saved up). Pitch and fret accuracy can

                       tightly enough so it is not easily knocked off in violent                              be preserved by placing it just a little 

                       playing. Height is adjustable by grinding off metal                                      below the the fret (toward the tuners)

                       or gluing various materials to the bottom of the metal                             as the accuracy of the frets change when

                      (suggest cork).  Do not glue to banjo.  Does not damage                           tuner is attached. Beware: you can easily 

                      the banjo, Stays out of the way for most playing.                                        put one of these on so tight that you can

                                                                                                                                                      crimp or break the string. Eventually, the 

                                                                                                                                                      Nylock screw will wear out. 


Suspender capo:

                    Plus side. Larger so not easily lost. Quick to apply. You can                         Minus side: Large and bulky. The elastic band 

                   put one in your pocket and have it within easy reach on stage.                    goes across the back of the neck. if you like to 

                   Very easy to correct for inaccuracy of frets (you can clamp it                        like to slide your hand up and down the back

                   anywhere on the string).                                                                                      of the neck to keep track of where you are,                                                                                                                                                             you can easily knock it off. I'm also worried                                                                                                                                                             the heat and UV will quickly destroy the                                                                                                                                                                   elastic making it useless. This has happened                                                                                                                                                           a couple of guitar capos I own. 

Clothes pin:

               Plus side                                                                                                                       Minus side:

               Ultra quick to change. Comes in 3 sizes so you have to experiment,                Small; easily lost,  They do stay out of the way

                banjo in hand, to find the one that fits (I bought all 3 but mostly use             but if you knock one off it is not tightly 

                the medium).  Seems to stay in place for most playing, but if you knock       attached and will leave. The groove on the 

                it off, its gone. They are small and despite their Ivory finish,  are easily         bottom is supposed to lock into a fret, but 

                lost.                                                                                                                              cause slight intonation problems if it changes

               Stays in place for most playing.                                                                               the action significantly. You may need to 

                                                                                                                                                      change to a different size.  Yours may not fit                                                                                                                                                          on your friend's banjo.

There you have it. a quick review of common, non invasive 5th string capos. Hope you found it helpful.

1 comment on “5th string capo”

Paul Marchand Says:
Thursday, July 2, 2020 @9:15:54 AM

Odd, the alignment changed when I submitted this.

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