Electronic guitar tuners could be said to be the saviour of the frustrated guitarist struggling to keep their guitar in tune. Certainly for the novice guitarist an electronic tuner can be viewed as an essential bit of kit if they wish to avoid the guitar smashing anger that they may encounter in the daily struggle to keep their guitar in tune.
How do electronic tuners work?
Electronic tuners essentially measure the frequency of a sound wave. Frequency is the measure of the number of peaks in the wave that pass a fixed point in a given amount of time and the unit of measure is Hertz (Hz). Humans detect different sounds due to their different pitch and the pitch of a sound is related to the frequency of the sound wave. Thus a wave with a higher frequency has a higher pitch and a sound with a lower pitch has a lower frequency. The human ear can detect sounds with a frequency range of 8 to 14,000 Hz. The good thing for electronic tuners is that because the pitch of a sound is related to frequency the pitch of each note has a defined frequency which can therefore be measured. For example the A above middle C is always 440 Hz, the middle C is about 261.6 Hz and the E above it is about 329.6 Hz. An electronic guitar tuner compares the frequency of an incoming sound and compares it against these fixed standards. If they match then the tuner recognises the match and therefore registers that they are in tune. If the sound is a little too high or too low the tuner will show that sound as being either too sharp or too flat. Most tuners use an array of LEDs to show when the string being played is in tune with the centre light being in tune and the lights either side of the centre being either too sharp or too flat.
There are many guitar tuners on the market and they are generally relatively inexpensive items to purchase. However, there are some expensive models out there and the recommendation would be to avoid them as the extra price that you pay does not give you any additional benefits. Below we review three good tuners that you might like to consider.
The Technote Clip on Guitar Tuner is a unique tuner that clips onto your guitar and picks up the sound for tuning. It is the sort of guitar gadget that sounds good but doesn’t often deliver but thankfully for the Technote this type of criticism does not apply. The Technote clip on tuner is very simple to use because as the name suggests it just clips onto your guitar and picks up the sound by the resonance created through the instrument. This means that there is no need to connect to the tuner with a lead and so can be used easily with both electric and acoustic guitars. It has a rotatable base allowing you to change the position of the screen so that you can easily view it. It is simple to use, strum the string you want to tune, if it is in tune the face goes green if not it goes red. The only issues we had was a slight drifting on the accuracy of the tuning when the battery life started to fade and changing the battery was a little bit fiddly but generally we found this to be a handy and reliable little tuner.
Next up is the Qwik Tune – Snark All Instrument Clip On Tuner. First thing to say is this is a great looking little tuner which works very well. Not sure about the “all instrument” tag but it works well on guitars both electric and acoustic. As with the Technote tuner the Qwik Tune is a clip on model which adjusts to every angle and has a very clear speedometer style screen allowing for easy tuning. There are two tuning modes which allows you to tune your guitar using either the in-built microphone or the vibration sensor. We found the tuner worked well regardless of the method employed. What we really liked was the responsiveness of the tuner as the screen clearly indicated whether the note was sharp or flat and responded as we turned the tuning peg. The only criticism we have is that where the tuner attaches to the clip looks a bit fragile so may break if handled a little roughly. Other than that this is a great little tuner and we highly recommend it.
Our final tuner is the Korg CA-1 Chromatic Tuner. This is the next generation on from the old workhorse that was the Korg CA30 Chromatic tuner. It is a very basic but excellent tuner which works well and does the job that it is designed to do. It has an LCD display which has a needle dispaly to tell you when you are in tune. Unfortunately the screen is not backlit, which some might see as a problem, but it also has red and green LED lights which also signify when the guitar is in tune. It can be used to tune acoustic guitars, as it has an inbuilt microphone, or electric guitars, which can be connected through the input jack. The tuner also can be used to produce standard notes so that you can tune by ear if you want to. All in all this is a very good reasonably priced tuner and much like the CA30 can be viewed as the plainer looking workhorse of the guitar tuner world.
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