Capos are widely used by many artists. They aren't just used for cheating. I use them to get into keys that allow allegros and transitions in specific keys, D, for example. There are a lot of interesting finger style progressions using all six strings that don't translate well into F or Eb, etc. Capos also give an acoustic guitar a "different" sound, via pitch, and add flexibilty and variability. They can be used as cheaters, but they also have their place in folk music. More interesting sounds and fingerings can be achieved by partial capoing, using the capo on only three strings, for example. Surf the on line stores for capos, and you'll find lots of possibilities. I find them just as useful and interesting as alternate tunings. I use a Shub on the low neck positiion, Kayser on the higher. I look at capos as an extension of my skill as a guitarist. There are books out there on using them, but my main experience is by just trying stuff.
Don't mean to reply back to back but this topic's got my blood boiling. I've heard that term "cheaters" in reference to the capo almost all my guitar life and it's so dang irritating. I sat down with a college student in a coffee shop the other day. He mentioned that he wanted to really start playing the guitar but it was so hard to learn the "right" way. Something inside of me snapped and for a moment, I could see Richard Dreyfus's character in Mr. Holland's Opus working with the red-haired clarinet player, when he asked her the huge question, "Was it ever fun?"
So I told my college student that the first pre-requisite of music is sheer enjoyment. And that he should decide right then and there if he was gonna enjoy playing the guitar or not. There's forty-leven different ways to tune a guitar so you can enjoy playing it. Plus... (ok, I'm really gonna get yelled at now) I don't believe there is one right way to do it. All that to say, that capoes are simply another way to minimize the technical difficulties so you can enjoy the darn thing and the music it will produce! Ok... off the soapbox, and I'll take my answer off-air.
You had me worried for a moment - but I agree. And I also agree with that teacher. A good guitarist shouldn't need a capo. That said, go ahead and use them when applicable, but to make the music work for you, not just to make it "easier".
On brands, I have tried and use all the cheap ones. My favorite is the Planet Waves, clean and neatly made, effective and not in the way, plus highly adjustable. I am not happy with Keyser. It's the easiest to use, granted, but is bulky and will not open wide enough to fit on the chunky neck of my Duolian. It stops working when the frets get worn (or has on one guitar that I have), while the Planet Waves continues to work fine. The Shubb is small, adjustable and easy to use, but has to be fiddled with if you use it at various spots on the neck. And the Bird of Paradise is my least favorite, even below the old rubber band ones.
But I still use them only upon infrequent occasion. I am comfortable playing in the 6 main keys (A, C, D, E, F, G - I knew someone would ask).
"A good guitarist shouldn't need a capo."
I'll disagree and point out there are major tonal differences in play when using a capo. Take for example a Bb barre chord played at the 1st or 6th fret. Both have tonal differences. Now put a capo on the 3rd fret and play a Bb (G formation). The tonal difference of this chord is totally different than the 1st or 6th fret Bb barre chords.
If a teacher wants to say a good guitarist shouldn't need a capo then they are not listening and have probably never used a capo (the tool) extensively enough to understand it.
I'm kind of caught in the middle here. I assumed that teacher was workiing with a beginning student, intermediate at best, someone who was just trying to get along and to better their playing. When they get to the stage where they recognize the difference in how the Bb sounds played in different positions, they are well beyond the beginning stages and, if they still use a teacher, are with one who works with advanced students.
Though mostly of a conciliatory nature, I have no shortage of personal opinions. One is that I really don't think that in general play, capos aren't needed nearly as much as you see them used. That said, if you feel you can get the nuances you want only by using one, then go right ahead, be my guest. It'll be best for you. When an accomplished player uses a capo to get a particular sound he wants, that is far different than someone less skilled using one to keep his fingering in G because he does not know how to finger in A, which is more in the line of what I was referring to. You see that done a lot in Bluegrass (and, yes, there can be reasons for that besides laziness or inability). Personally, I most often prefer the sound of open notes, a note cut off by the nut, not by a capo; it's just another nuance. But we are all different people, playing different music in our own ways - and thank goodness for that. I have ways that I like to play and recognize that others have their own ways, which will differ from mine.
And also I understand that capos make it easier for someone who is still on the novice side. And that's not bad either, especially if it is but a step along the way to becoming truly skilled and then using capos in a knowledgeable way instead of as a workaround. If I am not mistaken, we all started as novices. If anyone is going to be at all serious about playing, they'll want to get beyond the stage of being a singer who uses a guitar to back themselves only because they have no one to do that for them.
Many of these kinds of discussions disregard the very real differences between ability and skill levels between individuals as we tend instead to think that everyone is like us with the same goals.