> Electronic Tuners
Guide to Electronic Guitar Tuners
Electronic guitar tuners come in all shapes and sizes (and prices!),
but they all aim to do the same thing - tune your guitar accurately and
Of course, you don't need electronics to do the work for you.
You can tune just as accurately using the methods on the main guitar tuning page
your ear is "trained" to do it.
Anyway, I thought I should cover the different
types of electronic
tuners out there for those of us who need visual tuning reference (e.g.
when you're gigging or in a noisy rehearsal studio).
On a tight budget? See the top 3 cheap guitar tuners as rated
Let's first, let's look at how
guitar tuners work...
How guitar tuners work
for electric guitar
If playing an electric guitar,
to send the signal from
your guitar to the tuner so it can pick up the pitch of each string and
tell you if its tuned or how out-of-tune it is.
Some tuners come with both
input and output which is useful if you want a quick reference any time
practice or gig. Either the tuner will be built in to your effects
board (if it's multi-effects) or you can sit a tuner behind
the effects and amp as follows...
When it's all plugged into the chain, you can refer to it any
time you need, and because you've fed your guitar's cable through it,
it blocks out any additional noise (e.g. from your annoying
won't shut up for 5 seconds between songs).
microphone or vibration sensor
for acoustic guitar
If you're playing an acoustic,
most decent tuners
come equipped with a small, inbuilt microphone, but obviously it will
pick up any additional noise that's going on around you, so you need to
find a quiet spot to tune up using the microphone.
You can also buy clip-on
tuners that detect the note vibrations from the guitar through the
headstock. More on this type later.
it helps you get
Basically, you play a string,
the tuner recognises
its pitch and then using LED indicators (small red and green lights)
and usually a reference needle, the tuner will tell you if that string
is sharp (tuned too high) or flat
(tuned too low). Here's how
it's typically set up on electronic tuners with an LCD
Some tuners will include more than one flat and sharp indicator to
represent a wider flat and sharp range.
When using the tuner
above, if you strike one of the guitar's
strings, a box will appear around the note you're closest to. If
you're tuned too low, the flat indicator (symbol: b)
will light up and the needle will lean towards the left. As you tune
up, the needle will respond by moving closer and closer to the center
until the green "tuned" indicator lights up. If you're tuned too high,
the needle will lean to the right and the sharp indicator (symbol: #)
will light up. As you tune down, the needle will follow until you're in
tune and the green indicator lights up.
You need to know the note
you're trying to tune to. For example, if you want to be in standard
tuning (E A D G B e), you'll know the 4th string should be D.
Most tuners will also let you
pre-select a note to tune to. This is
useful when there is interference and for some reason it won't
automatically recognise or pin down the note (I've found this does
happen on cheaper tuners). It's also useful when you're quite far off
the desired note (e.g. when you've just put a new string on and you
want an immediate reference to how far you are off the tuned note).
If the tuner is chromatic, it
will be able to
identify and tune around any of the 12 notes, otherwise it will be
pre-programmed to identify the notes within a set guitar tuning (e.g.
standard E-A-D-G-B-e notes). When you strike the note, a note letter
will be highlighted on the LCD screen of the tuner to tell you where
you're at (this display varies).
Common additional features on electronic tuners
- quite a few guitar tuners include pitch
pipes in their feature set, which allows you to hear the note you want
to tune to in a long, continuous tone. If a string is slightly out of
tune, you'll hear this conflicting "vibration" effect between the sound
of the pitch pipe and the guitar string, which becomes flattened once
your string is in tune. Most tuners with the pitch pipe feature play 12
chromatic tones for tuning reference.
common additional feature on tuners
is a metronome. A metronome helps you keep in time to a rhythm when
you're playing by yourself. Actually, you don't need to buy
one if you play guitar by your computer a lot... here's a free
online metronome you can use.
a tuner built in to a peg winder?
Wacky idea... it might just catch on! When you put new strings on your
guitar, a peg winder allows you to get it wrapped in place much quicker
than by hand. Some peg winders are like swiss army knives for guitar,
utilising a string cutter, string stretcher and bridge pin puller (for
allows you to save your own
tuning, string by string, to the tuner's memory. Useful for quick
referencing alternate tunings in the future.
is an Exogenic guitar tuner?
Exogenic tuning continually
"samples" the note you
play to discern and ignore room noise and other unwanted signals. This
means you can tune with less time and hassle even in a fairly noisy
Of course, each tuner is
different, and will come
with a manual to help you figure out the controls and how things will
be displayed to you on the screen.
So, what's the difference
between an analogue and
digital guitar tuner? Not much - analogue tuners can still use digital
functionality except for the reference needle, which instead of being
part of the LCD display, is actually a needle that responds to pitch.
Some guitarists think analogue
tuners are more
accurate because with LCD, the needle has a set number of positions to
light up on the screen, whereas with analogue, the needle is not set to
certain positions meaning you can see if you're even the tiniest
bit out of tune.
Remember - digital is about
"switches" being on or off (the whole "0
and 1" thing). Analogue is constant and has an infinite number of
positions between on and off (or "1 and 0").
Different guitar tuner designs
- clip on tuners can be attached to
your guitar (usually at the head stock) and they will pick up the
vibrations as you strike the string you want to tune. Because it picks
up vibrations, it's totally isolated from other noise around you, which
means you can tune referring to the visual LED and display without any
interference. Plus, they're not too expensive!
guitar tuners - pretty self explanatory! Just
like a regular effects pedal, the tuner has a stomp button and a larger
LCD screen so you can do some shoe gazin' and tune up on set.
I hope this page has given you
a useful guide to some of the guitar tuners available out there. Don't
forget to check the best
guide for more in depth reviews and demos.More on Guitar Tuning