Shubb Deluxe Capo
- reviewed by Todd Stuart Phillips
Other than a tuner or pitch fork, the capo is one guitar accessory I find absolutely necessary. The only one I recommend to other guitar players is the Shubb Deluxe Capo. It is well made, quite versatile and works with a variety of guitar neck shapes and sizes. I have used many capos over the years and use them quite often. Although I have not tried some of the expensive specialty capos recently on the market Shubb's deluxe model already meets every requirement I have in a capo.
The capo's basic function is to shorten the length of the neck, which allows a player to change the key of a song without retuning the guitar or transposing the music by learning a whole new set of chords. This comes in handy when performing songs originally written for someone else because one can instantly change the pitch of the strings to suit their vocal range from song to song. When playing fingerstyle instrumentals the capo can add welcome pitch variation so the pieces in a set don't start sounding too much alike.
Capos also provide a player with a simple way to harmonize alongside other guitars and are used to great effect by some of the most sought after session players and side men. For instance, if the main rhythm guitar is playing in the key if E major one simply has to put a capo on the fourth fret and play a transformed version of the same song in the key of C to add a whole new dimension to the arrangement. Put the capo on seventh fret and play the song with chords from the key of A and suddenly you have the chiming, angelic harmonies of a pseudo-mandolin. A good capo can instantly infuse interesting variations into anyone's repertoire.
I like Shubb capos because they simply work better on a wider variety of guitar necks. I have had a menagerie of acoustic guitars from makers like Martin, Collings, Bourgeois and Fender. Some had low profile necks but most had some variation of V neck profiles. Some have had modern neck widths, others had vintage neck widths of 1-3/4" or wider. The Shubb family of capos has always worked well with each and the deluxe model seems to be flawless. Other popular capo brands, like Kyser, do not work as well with wider fingerboards or necks with vintage thickness or V shaped profiles. They do not allow uniform tension across all six strings the way the Shubbs do.
I also like Shubbs because they are so well made from sturdy, stainless steel with riveted joints. The basic construction consists of a curved bar that reaches around and flattens out over the fingerboard. There is a rubber sleeve covering the bar where it frets the strings. Should the sleeve wear out over time it can be replaced with a new one. This means a Shubb could literally last a player's lifetime.
They are also very easy to use. The capo's fretting bar is held in place against the back of the neck with a lever that has a soft, rubber pad so that no metal comes into contact with the guitar itself. This lever is clamped into place with a second lever that has a screw passing through it so the capo's tightness may be adjusted depending on the thickness of the guitar's neck. To use the capo a player simply lines up the rubber sleeve over the strings and closes the lowest lever into the locked position.
The deluxe Shubb seems identical to the basic model, with one very important addition. It features a small roller employed to hold the capo in place. The basic model has a pointed, rubber tip on the end of the tightening screw. When one locks the capo the screw presses up against the padded lever, which in turn presses against the back of the guitar's neck. The deluxe version's roller is attached to a flexible piece of steel that sits between the screw and padded lever. The screw is used to set the height of the roller, but when you lock the capo into the position the roller moves along the length of the padded lever and wedges into place tightly and more securely. It also seems to employ an even better distribution of fretting tension and that helps with my favorite feature of the Shubb capos.
The Shubb design can be used to affect alternate tunings by attaching the capo while leaving one or two strings uncapoed. Other capos simply cannot do this. When using a Shubb so it comes around the treble side of the guitar's neck one can lock it into place while leaving the padded bar off of the low E string. The result is instant Drop D tuning (only up a step, so it is actually Drop E tuning.) Leaving it off of the A string as well results in an even more exotic tuning. Reverse the capo so it reaches over the bass side and one can expose the B and or High E string while capoing the remaining strings. Use these settings farther up the neck or when in Celtic tunings like DADGAD, or blues tunings like Open G and countless possibilities ensue. Some players go even farther and trim out slots in the fretting pad to expose inner strings for even more exotic voicings. I do not go that far, but I do find the deluxe model works much better when it comes to capoing 4 or 5 strings because the roller gets such a good grip even when employed at an angle on the side of a V neck.
So many professional guitarists have been using these tricks of the trade that Shubb ultimately came out with a special Drop D model and a Partial capo that features an even shorter bar that fretting only three of the innermost strings to achieve unique alternate tunings. I own both and like them, but they cannot serve as a regular six string capo and are currently not made with the deluxe roller in the locking mechanism.
The basic and deluxe models are made to work with acoustic and electric guitars that have a fret board radius between 9.5" to 15". Other Shubb capos are available for older Fender style electrics, 12-string guitars or flat fingerboards as found on Classical guitars.
Unfortunately, the deluxe model only comes in the shiny chrome variety. All their other six string models are available in an attractive vintage bronze color, including the two special models previously mentioned. They look so much classier when on a vintage Martin or a modern guitar with aging toner or fancy gold tuning knobs. I can only hope Shubb will produce a brass colored capo with the deluxe roller someday. But until they do they will their Deluxe Capo shall remain a few quavers shy of being the first product to achieve my top most rating.
Out of a possible 8 Notes on the T Spoon Scale of Guitaracity I give the Shubb Deluxe Capo a sturdy and versatile 7 Notes.
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