Paige Guitar Capo
By Todd Stuart Phillips
The Paige capo has shown up on more and more guitars in recent months so I decided to take one for a test drive and see why they are so popular. I found mine to be well constructed and more than satisfactory when it came to its main function. It is sleek in looks and only as wide as absolutely necessary. It also has some definite benefits when it comes to ease of use. Any drawbacks show up only in exotic situations and on the whole it is a superior product all the way around.
The capo tasto has been in existence since the 1700s. The modern version comes in many shapes and sizes but all are designed to achieve the same basic goal: raising the pitch of the strings by shortening the neck, without muting the sound and while hopefully maintaining ideal intonation. Since most capos manage this pretty well, the differences between various types of capo have less to do with how well they work and more to do with how they are fitted into place and how well they are put together. This capo scores hi marks in both categories.
The Paige capo contains more movable parts than most. Fortunately it is so well constructed this is not a concern. The main "chassis" is a wide, U-shaped piece of lightweight but sturdy metal. At one tip of the U is a small bolt holding one end of the fretting bar. The fretting bar is hinged to open upward like a toll gate. The free end of the bar falls down across a shallow slot on the other side of the U, where it curves over the edge and is locked into place by a small clasp. The bar has no resistance in its hinge. The clasp was very tight and hard to open and close at first. After using it a few weeks the clasp is easier to maneuver while remaining snug enough to do its job. However, the pressure necessary to open the small, metal clasp may endanger some players' fingernails. As such, the fretting hand may be best suited for this action.
The bar that depresses the strings has a sleeve made out of some kind of plastic. It provides equal pressure on each string regardless of the neck width or how close the E strings are to the edge of the fingerboard. This sleeve is quite resilient and seemingly impervious to ware. Any grooves pressed into it by the strings vanish almost immediately. I experimented by etching deep grooves into the material with my fingernail and the worst of them was gone in a matter of seconds, leaving a tiny divot I could only see if I held it up to a bare light bulb.
The capo is held in place by an inch-long screw that passes through the bottom of the U and into a second piece of metal that acts as the main grip of the mechanism. This gripping piece is bent to a shallow curve and coated with some kind of synthetic rubber. The screw is well made with an easy-to-hold surface on the ample head and deep threads that would be hard to strip. Stripping is not really an issue as it passes through the chassis with little or no friction. One tightens the screw to push the coated grip up against the back of the neck where the rubber protects the relatively soft wood of the neck itself. One nice feature about that movable grip is the fact it rocks back and forth on the screw, with each side rising or falling approximately 30 degrees. This helps insure a snug fit across a wide array of neck shapes. For all the moveable joints involved, the Paige capo is made to last. It would be nearly impossible to ever break this capo though normal use.
One of the key advantages to this style of capo lies in the fact you can move it quickly from one position to another without having to unlock the fretting bar. The player simply loosens the screw and slides it up or down the neck to re-tighten it once it is in the new position. It can even be stored up where the headstock meets the neck, just above the nut and pulled down into use without the guitarist having to go fishing in a pocket when it is time to apply a capo.
The major disadvantage to the Paige capo comes from the fact it is made for the typical, modern 1-11/16" neck. The capo cannot be used above the 6th fret on wider necks, as found on Martin OMs or above the 5th fret on 1-7/8" necks as found on traditional, 12-fret dreadnoughts and like. Paige does make a wide neck capo, but it is designed for wide necks with a low profile, in other words Classical guitars. People who prefer playing vintage style necks may run into trouble. However, it is fair to point out that one rarely uses capos that far up the neck. So the average guitarist will not often encounter this shortcoming. Another potential issue for any capo that closes at both ends of the fretting bar is how it disallows leaving one or two strings uncappoed to achieve instant alternate tunings. But the vast majority of players will never need to do this or even consider such a thing.
Otherwise, the Paige capo has the brand name running down the front of the fretting bar in notable white letters (the entire capo is black). I do not blame them for wanting brand identity. But it does sort of feel like I am putting a NASCAR sponsor sticker on my guitar whenever I use the capo on stage. This is of course a minor nitpick since one has to be very close to the player to make out what the letters say.
The company also makes a 12-string guitar capo that has a unique feature. In addition to the same fretting sleeve as their standard capo they also have wide rings that fit over top of it so different levels of pressure can be brought to bare on the thicker, wound strings and the unwound octave strings spanning the width of the neck. Having never seen one in person I can only speculate as to how much effort goes into adjusting and readjusting those mini-sleeves. But I have a feeling they would be pretty easy to use and provide superior fretting and intonation for finicky 12-string players.
The Paige guitar capo is designed and produced with obvious care from first quality materials. It provides perfect pressure balance across the strings leading to superior intonation without any noticeable muting. It will prove most useful for people who want a capo at their beckon call for frequent application at a variety of positions. Since I do not currently play any pieces requiring a capo higher than the sixth fret and already own capos designed to mimic drop tunings what few shortcomings found in this capo design were of no consequence to me and my Martin OMs. I think guitarists of all levels would find the Paige capo a worthwhile purchase or a very welcomed gift.
Out of a possible 8 Notes on the T Spoon Scale of the Guitaracity I give the Paige Capo a balanced and well rendered 6 Notes.
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