What’s The Best Tuner For You?
by David White
Tuners have come a long way from the days of the tuning fork. The latest innovations include headstock tuners, sound hole tuners, pedal board tuners, and even tuner apps. The choice is a personal one as each of these has its advantages and disadvantages, but it is important you find the best tuner for you.
Before you buy a tuner, bring your instrument to the store and try out several different types. Look for an easy-to-read display. Make sure the tuner covers the entire range of your instrument. A lot of them give you a note name and use orange/red LEDs for notes out of tune and green to indicate “in tune.” Others use a needle, or have a retro display that mimics strobe tuners.
If you are an acoustic player you will need a headstock tuner, sound hole tuner, or a good stand-alone unit. Headstock and sound hole tuners measure the vibrations from the wood so they are efficient in noisy situations. Stand-alone units use a built-in microphone, which doesn’t work well for acoustic instruments when there is background noise. But, sometimes they have a separate plug-in contact microphone to solve that problem. The advantage of stand-alone units is that they often have add-on features like metronomes.
For an electrified string instrument there is an even wider variety of choices, including headstock tuners. Most of the stand-alone units have a quarter-inch input to plug into and tune, meaning they can be used for electrics even in noisy situations. Another option is a pedal tuner. It has a quarter-inch jack input and output to incorporate it into your pedal chain. Look for true bypass so it won’t affect your sound and one with built-in power for the rest of your pedals. Pedal tuners should have a mute function for quiet tuning.
Just like other electronics, tuners are getting smaller and smaller, and this is a great advantage in terms of portability and invisibility to the audience. One other trend is tuner apps. Peterson has a strobe tuner called iStroboSoft, which is very fast and accurate and gives you a reading in cents. You can even buy a mini capsule mic or input adapter to plug into your phone.
Stand-alone tuners are great for practice because they often include a metronome. Along with keeping time, you can keep an eye on pitch while you are playing. Some have headphone and quarter-inch inputs.
Try this: Korg TM-50
Try this: Boss TU-3
Sound hole tuners for acoustic instruments offer the advantage of near invisibility. They are always available while playing and can be left on the instrument in the case. Many of them are instrument specific.
Try this: Korg Rimpitch
Try this: D’Addario NS Micro