The Harmonic Capo
By Brian Scherzer
Every now and then some truly innovative invention captures my imagination. It doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering or life-changing invention, and the Harmonic Capo, brought to fruition by Bob Kilgore at weaseltrap.com, is a perfect illustration of a new idea that makes you wonder why someone didn’t think of it before. So, what is the Harmonic Capo, and what does it do?
Unlike normal capos, the Harmonic Capo is not used to change keys. Rather, it is placed over the 12th fret, which allows the player to obtain harmonics on open strings, while still being able to play regular notes between the 2nd fret and the rest of the fretboard. Many might scratch their heads and wonder why anyone would want to do this. My response is to watch and listen to the videos below to better understand what this contraption allows you to do…….which is to give you a new option for a very interesting sound!
No, the Harmonic Capo is probably not something you would use for an entire night’s gig (although you could). It is a tool that can allow you to do things that were not possible before, which would seem to be the very essence of what an invention SHOULD do! I think that the concept is brilliant and for a very reasonable $34.95 you can create music that is substantially different from the masses of guitar players out there.
The Capo is very easy to install on most guitars, particularly the majority of electric guitars that you might own. Bob Kilgore notes that there are some guitars that won’t work well with the Capo, including guitars with extremely low action or scalloped fretboards, and classical guitars or dobros with short 12-fret necks. I tried the Capo on a Les Paul, a Gibson 356 and a Strat with no problems found. It only takes a short time to adjust the 6 padded feet of the Capo so that they are gently touching the strings at the 12th fret. There may be a need to lengthen or shorten the Capo strap, depending on the size of the neck. I found that these adjustments were accomplished within a minute or two. Kilgore also noted in his instructions that you will not be able to use the 1st fret and that, depending on how low your action is, you may have some muting of notes on the 2nd fret. If you happen to have a guitar that is set up for slide work (higher action), you will certainly be able to use the 2nd fret.
The change accomplished by adding the Capo is difficult to describe in words, which is why viewing the videos in this review will tell a better story than I can. In a quick summation, whatever parts of my brain house the “creative side” were quickly put to work. I was getting a totally different sound that I found intriguing. It took a while to begin to make musical sense of the possibilities, but once I adjusted to what the Capo allows you to do, I was off and running. I rarely had to stop to make adjustments to the Capo pads and found myself riveted to a totally new approach to what my guitars could do. Of note, the Capo allows you a lot of flexibility in the tunings you choose and the fact that you can raise the Capo pads on any strings, allowing a combination of strings that produce open-fret harmonics and those that don't. An example of this can be seen in the 3rd video below.
In summary, for $34.95 I was able to create new sounds that I had never before been able to accomplish. I can’t remember ANY device that allowed me to do this for so little money invested. Even if you only play a couple of tunes with the Harmonic Capo at a gig, the small investment can bring a lot of “Wow” factor to your audience. This, my friends, is a truly brilliant idea for guitar players and is VERY highly recommended!