CapoSonic - the world's most innovative capo?
To a guitarist, the humble capo is nothing new. For most working players it is an essential part of the musician’s tool kit; a nifty little device that clamps down on the fretboard, allowing for a hassle-free way of changing keys between songs. As handy as a capo is though, it has its limitations. What if you want to play a song in an open or alternate tuning?
Until now, the only option has been a rather irritating one: tuning up or down each string of the guitar into an open chord. Guitars are generally designed to be kept in one tuning, and raising and lowering the pitch of the instrument in this way can lead to strings quickly going out of tune or snapping, or worst-case-scenario – irreversibly warping the neck of your guitar. You can pay to have your guitar set up for open-tuning by a professional, but if you decide you want to try another tuning you’ll have to repeat the process yet again.
Working guitarist and CapoSonic inventor Ben Ryan is all too familiar with the hassle of carrying multiple guitars in multiple tunings to gigs. “When I play, I bring a bag of capos and a bunch of pre-tuned guitars,” he explains in the online video for Kickstarter. “And that was such a drag! So I came up with an idea to clamp a chord on the neck of the guitar, and change the voicings easily and instantly.”
The CapoSonic really is like clamping a chord onto the neck of your guitar. The device can not only hold down notes played directly under the capo, it also uses six individual hammers that can "finger" notes one fret up or down from the capo position.
The CapoSonic locks onto the guitar simply by tightening the clamp with your fingers. At no point, however, does any metal part of the CapoSonic touch your instrument. Rubber O rings insulate the hammers that are clamped down on the strings, which is great news for those players who might be hesitant to attach the device to their $10,000 Martin.
Arguably the biggest selling point for the CapoSonic is this: when your guitar is open-tuned (the traditional way), it requires meticulous relearning of the entire fretboard. Because the CapoSonic works like a “clamped-on chord," your ax stays in standard tuning – and allows you to play other chords and scales exactly the same way you normally would.
Originally dubbed “the Freedom capo," Ryan says that the device is the perfect tool for players who find themselves stuck in a musical rut. “People are always saying that all the songs have already been written, that every chord progression has been used and we’re now just recycling the old stuff. But what we haven’t done is explored all the ‘voicings’ that are available.”
By giving you 24,756 possible "tunings" at your fingertips, the CapoSonic allows guitarists to easily discover new voicings that they otherwise may never have conceived of.
Ben Ryan developed the prototype with help from a machine shop in Santa Barbara, California. A Kickstarter campaign was launched in September and ran for just over 30 days. Despite not reaching his intended financial goal, Ryan is quick to point out that he received a lot more than money from the Kickstarter campaign. “Kickstarter to me was a huge market validation,” he says. “We didn’t make enough for an initial production run, but we gained valuable insight from people all over the world and many names of people who are players and early adopters.”
Ben says that in the next 60-90 days, some final, minor changes will be made to the CapoSonic before production begins. The new model is to be lighter, sleeker and possibly made from a different metal than the anodized aluminum prototype. The metal O rings that insulate the attachment mechanism will also be replaced with another superior method and material.
A mailing list has been set up to inform potential customers when the CapoSonic will be available, at CapoSonic.com. The list price is currently set at US$149.
More information is available in the Kickstarter video below.