Nick Campling of G7th Capos on What Makes a Premium Capo Worth It

On the surface, it’s easy to assume that all capos are the same. But Nick Campling, founder of G7th Capos, is here to put that thought to rest.

The British brand started on a quest to transform the capo from a humble and sometimes inconvenient piece of hardware into a high–end, functional, and necessary tool for any and every guitarist.

Naturally, we were keen to geek out with him to find out what actually makes a capo "premium" and worth shelling out the extra few bucks.

How did you get into the Capo business in the first place? What motivated you to start?

By training, I’m an engineer and product designer, and I was playing my guitar one day and looked at my capo and thought, "You know what, nobody has ever done a proper design of a capo…"

Nick Campling

They’re all just gadgets designed by players to do a job and, whilst some were more effective than others, the functionality certainly left room for improvement. Not to mention that none of them would win any design awards based on appearance.

So, being the head of a design consulting business, I made it my business to change that.

G7th Capos are beautifully engineered with a price to match. What do you see as the real practical benefits of a well–engineered capo?

When we started the design process, we wanted to make sure that our capo (which became the original Performance capo) would offer real benefits over the current options. So our first step was to specify what our new capo would be like:

  • It would operate by the same action as squeezing down a bar chord
  • Hold down all the strings without buzzing or over pressuring them into the frets
  • Allow for tuning with the capo in place
  • Be easy and ergonomic for the user to position on the guitar neck
  • Be durable and last a lifetime
  • Be safe to put on the guitar — no metal–to–wood contact
  • Look great and be a desirable object

Then, and only then, we started designing and engineering the product. So everything about it is intentional. The benefits are that it now does all the things we specified. It’s an awesome capo and comes with a Free Lifetime Warranty.

How important is it really to match your capo to your fretboard radius? Many guitarists probably just have one capo they use on multiple guitars, but would they really notice a difference?

Well, now, this is an interesting one because this is the main reason that we use rubber as the string pad. A capo has to work on the majority of guitars, so we use rubber because it takes up the variations between guitars quite well, especially when you have control over the tension being applied.

The issue that arises is that if the capo doesn't exactly match the radius, you either get too much pressure on some strings that are pulled out of tune or not enough on others, which then buzz. The other problem is that when soft rubber is used to accommodate the differences, it absorbs vibrations and affects the tone of the instrument.

G7th Newport Capo

Our capos can take up the variation in radius pretty well and is designed to preserve tone. However, when you look for a capo with the "right radius," it isn’t the radius over the fingerboard that matters, it’s the curve over the strings when they're fretted.

On top of that, you have the variations on the neck (even with a constant radius fingerboard), the width differences between the strings up and down the neck, and the gauge of the strings that will affect the final radius on each fret. So a rubber pad is a pretty good compromise to overcome the issue.

To finally answer your question, it’s important to consider radius, and guitarists would notice how much less retuning they’d need to do if they had an exact radius match every time. But the best solution isn't to have a different capo or a different rubber for every radius (despite how many sales we might get), it's to have a responsive capo that could cope with them all.

Is there much room left for innovation in capos? Where do you see there is still room for improvement?

Yes. There are still problems to solve, and the radius over the strings is indeed one of them. We have been working on that for some time and introduced a groundbreaking responsive system we call A.R.T. (Adaptive Radius Technology) into our top–end capo, the Heritage.

G7th Heritage Capo

The system allows the string pad to take up the curve over the strings before applying much pressure to fret the strings. We’ve patented the system, and it has proved very successful in the Heritage. Also, because we now have an exact radius match, we can use a harder rubber, which makes the tone incredible.

Then there are 12–string guitars… the capo nightmare. I’ve been working for some time on an approach to ensure that the pressure on the lower strings and their octave strings is the same. Very tricky with a standard capo. We have a version of the Heritage with this new approach that Don Felder has been using on his double–neck for "Hotel California," and I hope to work that through into less expensive models soon.

We also have a new entry–level capo, the UltraLight, which weighs just 8 grams. Great for lightly constructed instruments. It's also a great capo with adjustable tension at a low price point, making it perfect for beginners. There are always challenges guitar players can throw at capo makers.

What’s the story behind your Celtic engraved special edition capos?

G7th Performance 2 Celtic Special Edition Capo

Celtic is a strong theme in guitar music, and we wanted to celebrate that with a special capo for our many Celtic fingerstyle players, so we commissioned gifted Celtic artist Patrick Gallagher to design us a musically inspired motif to engrave onto the top bar and back of the Performance capo. It’s a beautiful design and has proved very popular all over the world.

You’ve chosen to very publicly partner with Hope for Justice, an anti–slavery charity. How did you come to that decision? Do you feel like the wider gear industry should be doing more to promote ethical trading practices?

I wouldn’t like to prescribe what others in the gear industry do, but I have been horrified by the statistics on modern day slavery, which I think is one of the most horrible and inhumane crimes today.

The UN estimate that there are 27 million people enslaved in the world and, to put that in context, that’s more than half the size of the population of England. That people can treat other people in such a way just appalls me. So the decision to help was not hard, but we are a small company and working out how to help was more of a problem.

We hit on the idea of leveraging our reach to guitar players by including a simple leaflet with our capos. It has an effect far beyond what it costs us, and I think it’s a great model for small companies with limited budgets helping charities. It’s so easy.

What are your plans for the future? Any aspirations to expand beyond capos?

People are always a little surprised when I tell them we have no plans beyond capos. G7th is the authority on capos, and all of our time is spent working on how to improve them for the benefit of players. I don’t want us to be distracted with polish or straps or other merchandise we could buy in and sell on. Our strength is in capos, and we intend to keep it that way.

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