The chromatic tuner apps on our mobile phones have totally outdated the idea of owning the physical tuners - yet still not entirely. Some people still like to keep one in their collection - at least the folks who hate scouring through their mobile phone in front of an audience. Plus, owning one saves time too, and allows people to have a tuner right at their hand's reach, especially when playing live. Therefore, in this article, we're bringing you the finest stringed instrument tuners of 2021. So whether you're a guitarist, violinist, ukelele-ist, bassist, cellist, or more - these tuners will have your back! And don't worry if you've never purchased one before - we've got a detailed buyer's guide at the end of this article that'll help you choose the one that best fits your needs. So, without any further ado, let's get going!
Buyer's Guide to Finding a Clip-on Tuner for Stringed Instruments
We've hooked you up with our favorite tuners for all our musician fellas - whether you're a guitarist, have a thing for the uke, like doing those cool bass riffs with your sunglasses on, or if you're a violinist fond of throwing buttery sweet tunes out there.
In this section, we'll shed some light on general information about tuners that every musician should know about. Let's start by helping you pick up the right tuner for yourself.
What to Look for When Buying a Tuner
Before you choose a tuner, it'll pay you well if you're mindful about a couple of features in advance. Here's what to look out for when buying a tuner:
Many tuners come with a couple of other features as well - the most common of which is having a built-in metronome. If you're not the sort to carry multiple gadgets with you, this could be a great way to have both in the same device. Besides this, some metronomes come with multiple tuning modes that make the product a lot more versatile.
If you're buying a chromatic tuner, it'll probably be sensitive to any chromatic pitch and display accuracy. However, some tuners out there will be instrument-specific - a guitar tuner for instance will only be good for guitars and even bass. Make sure to scour through these tuning settings beforehand so you know what you're getting yourself into.
There are three primary types of tuners; chromatic, polyphonic, and strobe - we'll be explaining these in a while.
If you're buying a clip-on tuner (usually works by picking up vibrations off the headstock), you need to ensure that it fits right on your instrument. Many a time, mostly with violins - customers experience an issue with fitting a tuner on the violin. This is mostly because the clip-on tuner opens very little as compared to the violin's headstock's thickness. Make sure the tuner you're going for doesn't give rise to similar issues for your instrument.
This is seldom an issue but some faulty devices may have frequency accuracy issues that may make it impossible for you to tune a certain instrument. To be on the safe side, always opt for tuners that come with a money-back guarantee or some sort of manufacturer's guarantee to replace the gadget.
When you're touring or using your tuner live, it's more exposed to being damaged. It's also very easy for it to fall while you're clamping it on - so make sure you're buying a decent product. Similarly, the clip-on should be manufactured out of durable plastic that doesn't break with some mere hard-presses.
The Types of Tuners Out There
There are three primary types of tuners out there, based on how they deal with sounds or different frequencies.
The chromatic tuners compare the incoming signal to one of the 12 notes of the chromatic scale and can only process one note at a time. This is the simplest and most widely used type of tuner - the limitations with this type of tuner work well for most people.
As opposed to the chromatic tuner, a strobe tuner can be set to custom temperaments and frequencies. If you are planning to play outside of the standard western scale, a strobe tuner will serve you well.
The strobe tuners also prove to be very useful if you're planning to experiment with various pitch standards - for instance, basing around 432Hz instead of 440Hz. This type of tuner is the most expensive and specialist option of the three!
Polyphonic refers to a tuner that can process multiple notes simultaneously. This type of tuner is highly useful when playing live since it allows you to strike all the strings together so you can ensure that all is well and everything is lighting up green.
Pitch-sounding vs. Microphone vs. Clip-on Tuners
The pitch-sounding tuners are used to play the correct note, to which you can then match the notes of your instrument. This is done for all the strings of your desired instrument until it's fully tuned.
This is a very tough and many a time, very frustrating way to tune your instruments. Firstly, the surrounding noises on stage don't really let you hear this type of tuner. Secondly, you need a good eye and decent playing experience to tune the instrument by using your ears. This one's our least favorite among the three in this discussion.
The 2nd one - microphone tuners usually just pick up the sound signals out of your source and use those frequencies to signal green as soon as the correct note for a string is hit. These are very desirable too and work perfectly at home, in situations where there isn't any ambient noise.
However, at concerts or when you're playing in front of an audience, you need something that is not affected by the surrounding noise. This is where the clip-on tuners step in and this is exactly where you will find your smartphone tuners to be very limiting. That's why we've reviewed the top clip-on tuners of the market in this guide. You'll usually find them to be most precise, error-resistant, and easy to use!
Stringed Instrument Tuner FAQ
Q: How much does a guitar tuner cost?
A: It will cost you anywhere between $10 to $50 - the $50 ones are usually the ones with big screens or those with a metronome or multiple types of tuning modes in them. If you're looking to buy a tuner you can make do with, a $10 to $20 product will be just as good! Just make sure to zero in on a durable and reliable piece. If you're confused, feel free to scour through the list we've narrowed down for you.
Q: Can I tune my electric guitar with the same tuner I use for acoustic guitar?
A: Absolutely! If you have a chromatic tuner, you'll be able to tune most of your stringed instruments with it. Acoustic and electric guitars share the same set of notes so tuning them is exactly similar. No rocket science there.
Q: Why does my guitar keep going out of tune?
A: Your stringed instruments have strings that are strained to a specific tension for them to produce the desired notes. If your headstock is placed inappropriately - in a way that makes the tuning keys rotate, it'll mess up the tuning. Sometimes, the tuning keys are lost and since strings are naturally very tight, they get loose over time, disrupting the tuned instrument. It's better if it doesn't happen but don't worry even if it does! Just fine-tune it back again and continue playing!
Jack has been a touring guitarist for almost 20 years, playing in a number of country music and rock bands. Jack loves the road and defines himself as a never-ending student of the guitar and other important instruments or tools that make a musician.