Fretlocks – single string guitar capos

Now, the concept of single-string capos has been around for quite some time, a banjo-playing friend has one and others have mentioned old systems that allow violins to be modulated. For a guitar player (and presumably any other string-instrument player) there’s always the option of retuning the instrument or fretting with both hands, but the Fretlocks system lets you open up a different way of playing, making apparently impossible music possible.


The kind people at Fretlocks sent me a neat, little metal box containing 12 of their hand crafted single-string capos and an applicator tool. Each capo has a sticky back and you move the guitar string aside at the fret you want to capo, stick the appropriate capo (small, medium, large) down behind the fret and then bed the string into the lugs of the capo with the tool. Fundamentally (pardon the pun), it means you can retune your guitar on individual strings to pitches you could not reach with a normal open tuning. of course, the string behind the capo is now essentially off limits to your playing.


I setup my Ibanez six-string acoustic guitar with three Fretlock capos, on on the bottom E-string at the seventh fret to take it up to a B, a second one on the B-string, again at the seventh fret to make it an F# and the third on the first E-string at fret 2 to make that an F# too. I didn’t put an awful lot of thought into those positions, so I ended up with B-A-D-G-F#-F# as my “tuning”, instead of the standard EADGBE. Of course, one could tune the guitar to an entirely different chord, DADGBD, for instance, and then use any number of Fretlocks to shift those pitches again.


They work well, no buzz, and they stay in tune, although intonation is not great if you try and fret within a couple of frets of the capo (but that’s not the point you probably won’t want to do that). I assume that they will actually work even if the sticky back is no longer sticky otherwise these are going to be a one-or-two use gizmo, which would be a shame. Presumably, the string tension will keep them in place even without the sticky. Fretlocks recommends not leaving them on the guitar neck for more than a few weeks otherwise the adhesive might damage the finish on your neck, and you wouldn’t want that.

Anyway, the Fretlocks people were keen for me to have a play and to record a little video of their capos in action on my guitar, so here’s a little footage of me just noodling around on that BADGF#F# setup. I’m not sure I do them any justice, but for a first try it’s okay…sound quality is not great, should’ve switched off my laptop to cut out the fan noise.