I honestly can’t remember where I first heard about the partial or half capo but I got one soon after. I’m not usually any type of capo user to be honest but a few things appealed to me about this idea  and now I’m hooked. If you haven’t heard of these capos before and I hadn’t in 40 some years of playing, here’s the deal. 

As the name suggests, the partial capo (A.K.A. Half capo or short cut capo) clamps over half the strings rather than all 6. Usually that’s going to be the A, D and G strings leaving the low E, B and high E open. Obviously you could reverse it and cover B G D – its a free world and half the fun of this is experimenting with it. But for now we’ll stick with former choice.

If you clamp your half capo on at the second fret you instantly have an E version of the fabulous DADGAD open tuning – EBEABE (doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely but sounds great) Its exactlythe same as tuning to DADGAD and putting a standard capo across fret 2 but you’ve done this with one move. This could be handy if you have one or two DADGAD tunes in your repertoire: No need for another guitar or an awkward pause while you retune. If you also happen to have a standard capo to clip above the partial capo you can just move both around to any key you want. 

Instant DADGAD (In E)

This is the most obvious and immedoiate use of the partial or half capo but there are plenty of others. Since you have 3 unaffected strings you can thumb bass lines on the open bottom E and create nice riffs on the high B and E strings. Mine came with a little booklet showing a few chord shapes and key change ideas. There are also plenty of tutorials on Youtube but as I said earlier, its a great thing to just experiment with. 

When I coupled my new half cut capo with another recent discovery my Nashville or high strung tuned acoustic, I soon had a couple of nice song ideas. I’ve also tried it on my Strat with good results. I can get the DADGAD thing going on without tuning down. That sounds a bit clearer to my ears as the bottom string hasn’t been dropped. 

The downside if you can call it that, is that unless you have amazing theory skills and can visualise the fretboard incredibly clearly, it can be hard to know exactly what you’re doing. It might sound great in isolation but could be tricky to arrange other standard tuned instruments around. You can say that about any alternative tuning though and it’s not that big a deal. I’d say its a tool worth having in your arsenal even if you only use it once in a blue moon. 

Buying A Partial Capo

Another advantage the partial capo gives us in the DADGAD or (EBEABE) mode is that we can still play standard chords. Since we haven’t actually tuned down any strings, bar chords fretted underneath the capo are still in standard tuning. Same goes for triads. That means you could have the iconic alt tuning feel in one part of a song and standard tuned parts in another without changing guitars. Cool. 

So to sum up the partial of half capo: If you like that DADGAD feel you can get it in seconds (albeit a full tone higher) without having to retune. If you are looking for some new inspiration it’s  great for just playing around with.  

There are a number of manufacturers of partial capos. I went for a Kyser (who also make a 5 string version) as its the first one I heard of. They also have a couple of good Youtube videos and include a quick reference chord booklet when you buy one.  The Kyser is also the cheapest one I saw although they are all a tad more expensive than your standard capos. 


I'm Dave Menzies a digital entrepreneur, photographer and guitarist. I live on the Argyll coast of Scotland. My partner and I write, record and produce our own music and videos in our home studio. I love to help individuals discover the lifestyle freedom offered by the digital world and guitarists to develop their own style.