Best Guitar Tuners

Looking for an accurate and easy-to-use guitar tuner? Or do you want a free guitar tuner app that you can download on your smartphone?

guitar tuner

You will find all that you need to know about guitar tuners in this article!

A tuner is a must-have accessory for any guitarist – beginner, intermediate or professional. Unless your guitar is tuned perfectly, it will never sound good no matter which guitar or strings you have.

Unfortunately, all guitars go out-of-tune from time to time.

This could be due to a multitude of factors like changes in temperature, humidity, or because of continuous playing (using techniques like bending or using the tremolo/whammy bar, etc.).

Best Guitar Tuners for 2022

ProductDisplayAccuracyFunctionalityOverall
Juârez GT-135/106/105/108/10
PW-CT-17 Eclipse6/106/106/108/10
KORG CA26/107/107/108/10
Boss TU306/107/109/108.5/10
Behringer TU3008/108/108/108.5/10
TC Electronic PolyTune 39/109/1010/109.5/10

What is Guitar Tuner?

First, let’s understand the physics of it. Each string of a guitar is tuned to some particular frequency (also referred to as a “note”). The frequency of each string is determined by its tension.

The greater the tension, the higher the frequency and vice versa. If the tension in one or more of the strings increases or decreases, then these go out-of-tune with respect to the other strings.

A guitar tuner is an instrument that tells you whether a string is out-of-tune or not by measuring the frequency of the open-string (simply plucking the string without holding any finger on the fretboard).

How to use a guitar tuner?

In order to use a tuner, turn it on and pluck the strings one by one without fretting any note. The tuner will tell you whether the note produced by the open string is above (sharp) or below (flat) the nearest note in the chromatic scale and by how much.

Most tuners use some kind of visual indication like an arrow-head or coloured bars to indicate the same.

The machine heads (tuning pegs) on the headstock of the guitar can then be rotated in the required direction (depending on whether the note is sharp or flat) to reach the target note. Once the correct note is reached, the tuner will indicate the same.

This process needs to be repeated for every string one by one. You also need to ensure that no other string is ringing at the same time or else the tuner might get confused (unless it is a polyphonic tuner)!

If the tuner has a built-in microphone, then you need to ensure that the surrounding environment is quiet enough. Clip-on tuners, however, can be used in a moderately noisy environment as they work by picking up vibrations from the body/headstock of the guitar.

Electric guitars, on the other hand, can be plugged straight into a tuner, just like you would plug it into an amp.

How accurate does a guitar tuner need to be?

The accuracy of a tuner is measured in “cents”. One cent is a hundredth of a semi-tone. In other words, it is the difference in pitch between two adjacent frets of a guitar divided by 100. Thus, one cent is quite a small number in terms of frequency.

Normal human ears cannot even differentiate between two notes that are less than 5 cents apart. Even musicians with highly trained ears can hardly tell the difference between a couple of cents.

Therefore, most commercially available tuners have a tuning accuracy of around 2-3 cents. This should be enough for most guitarists. Although, there are some sophisticated and expensive tuners that are accurate to less than 1 cent.

Can you tune a guitar without a tuner?

Do you need a Guitar Tuner?

A guitar tuner can identify whether a string has been tuned in reference to a fixed frequency or not. There is no other way to know that unless you are amongst a few handfuls of people who have perfect pitch. Hence, having a guitar tuner is a must for every guitarist.

Tuning by Ear

While it is possible to tune a guitar by simply using your ears, it is not recommended to do so. This is because most people do not have perfect pitch (the ability to identify a note without any reference note). Instead, we use relative pitch to tune our instruments. This is done by tuning all the strings with respect to one particular string.

A big disadvantage of this method is that while the guitar may sound in tune by itself, there is no way to tell whether the string that was used as a reference for the others, is actually tuned to the global standard reference of A=440Hz.

And, unless all the strings of your guitar are tuned using this reference, it will sound out-of-tune while jamming with other instruments that are tuned to this standard.

Moreover, as a beginner, it is difficult to identify whether two notes played on different strings have the same pitch, let alone identify different intervals (which takes years of practice).

Therefore, what you might hear as correct may not be so in reality. This will become very apparent when you play a few chords after tuning. You will instantly notice that something is wrong.

Best Method of Tuning

Even after the tuner says that all your strings are in tune, a few different positions on the guitar might not sound in tune (provided your ears are able to catch it).

Therefore, it is very important to play a few different chords all across the neck to verify the tuning.

Bear in mind, that even tuners may not be perfectly accurate. Therefore, it is better to use a combination of your own pitch sense and a tuner instead of completely depending on the latter. Ultimately, it boils down to how good the guitar sounds to your own ears.

Having said that, it is completely fine to rely solely on a tuner if you are a complete beginner.

Free Smartphone Apps for Tuning

It seems we use our smartphones for literally everything these days. And why not? It’s pretty awesome at almost everything that it does. There are two ways that you can use to tune your guitar using your phone:

·         Using the smartphone’s in-built mic

These days, smartphones have two separate mics – one for phone calls and the other for recording audio. Tuner apps use the latter because it records with better quality and is more sensitive.

·         Using an external audio interface

Small and inexpensive audio interfaces are available to connect your guitar to the smartphone. These interfaces connect to a smartphone via the headphone input jack. Plug-in your guitar into the interface and you are good to go. Check this one out on Amazon. It works with both iPhones and Android.

Guitar Tuna

This is one of the best apps for tuning a guitar or ukulele. It is very accurate and stable. It has a simple, beginner-friendly interface.

There are two modes – Auto and Manual. In the auto mode, the app automatically detects which string is being played. In the manual mode, the string being played has to be selected first.

Additionally, it has many games in order to help your ear-training. Some of these games are available even in the free mode.

Pros
  • Nice visual interface
  • Accurate
  • Easy to understand for beginners
  • In-built metronome for practice
  • Beginner-friendly non-chromatic tuner design
Cons
  • Alternate tunings are a paid feature

Pano Tuner

This guitar tuner app has an extremely simple interface (like the ones found in traditional tuner pedals). It displays the names of the notes and has a marker indicating the note that it is currently hearing.

Its interface is customizable even in the free version. You can set your own tuning standard frequency (default value is A=440Hz), note names (A, B, C, Do, Re, Mi etc.), and even the tuning accuracy (10 cents, 5 cents, 2cents).

Pros
  • Simple interface
  • Customizable options
  • Displays the frequency of the note played
  • Chromatic tuner design
  • Can be used for alternate tunings like DADGAD
Cons
  • The marker fluctuates too much in the 2-cent accuracy mode
  • Not beginner-friendly

gStrings

This feature-filled app has everything covered. Its interface is somewhat of a mix between that of GuitarTuna and Pano Tuner.

The best thing about this app is that it allows you to add custom tuning and save it for future use.

Pros

Pros
  • Displays input audio level
  • Easy to use interface
  • Custom tuning options
Cons
  • Response time is a bit slower than other apps

Are Guitar Tuner Apps accurate enough?

The answer really depends on what you are using it for. If you want to tune your guitar for a casual jam or practice session, then you will find smartphone tuner apps to be sufficiently accurate.

However, you might want to consider a real tuner during recording sessions or live gigs.

Digital Tuners vs. Smartphone Tuner apps

Digital tuners are specifically designed for tuning guitars. They are much more accurate and their noise rejection capabilities are far superior.

The performance of tuner apps, on the other hand, depends on the quality of the smartphone that you are using. However, even the best smartphones would be easily out-matched by a good digital tuner.

Therefore, if you are a serious guitar player, investing in a good guitar tuner would be a smart idea. A smartphone should only be used as a backup.

Types of Tuners

There are many different kinds of tuners suited for various applications. Tuners are mostly classified on the basis of how they pick up the sound from the guitar and how the information is relayed to the user.

Chromatic Tuners

Chromatic tuners are named after the chromatic scale (every note including sharps and flats in the western musical scale). These tuners allow the guitar to be tuned to any note in the chromatic scale. Therefore, these are not only good for standard tuning but great for alternate tunings as well.

Non-Chromatic Tuners

These tuners are designed for tuning the guitar to standard tuning only (EADGBe). When a particular string is played, the tuner shows how much it’s frequency deviates from the nearest note among E, A, D, G, B, e in terms of cents.

Strobe Tuners

These tuners are very sophisticated and accurate. They employ a Digital Signal Processor chain to determine the frequency of the note played.

Usually, these tuners display a spinning wheel corresponding to every note. The spinning slows down as the frequency of the string reaches closer to the frequency of the target note.

Once the frequency of the string matches that of the note, the wheel stops spinning.

Polyphonic Tuners

These tuners are relatively new in the guitar world. Polyphonic tuners are capable of detecting multiple notes played at the same time. So if you strum all the open strings at the same time, these tuners will show you which strings are out-of-tune and by how much. This speeds up the entire process to some extent.

Tuners can also be classified as:

  • Clip-on,
  • Microphone, and
  • Pedal-based.

Clip-on tuners pick up vibrations from the guitar body. They are generally attached to the headstock. They work fairly well in noisy environments but are not very accurate.

Microphone based tuners have built-in mics to pick up the sound. They do not work well in noisy environments.

Pedal tuners, just like effect pedals, work with the guitar plugged in. They are quite accurate and perfect for use during live performances. Needless to say, the guitar must have a pickup system for it to work.

What to look for

Type of Tuner

As discussed above, there are a lot of different options that you can choose from. So which type of tuner will best suit your needs? That completely depends on how you plan on using it.

If you are a performing musician and you mostly use an electric or electro-acoustic guitar, then pedal tuners would be the best choice for you.

Clip-on tuners, on the other hand, are more portable and is best suited for beginners who jam at home with their acoustic. Microphone based tuners can also be used by beginners but only in quieter environments.

Accuracy

If a tuner has a lower accuracy (more cents) than what your ears can discern, your instrument may not sound good even after it is tuned. Strobe tuners have the highest accuracy but are too expensive and are mostly used by luthiers and guitar technicians.  

Clip-on and microphone based tuners fall on the other end of the spectrum. Cheap, unbranded ones might not be as accurate as you want them to be.

Pedal tuners usually have a certain level of accuracy that is enough for most applications.

In general, an accuracy of +-5cents or higher (lesser cents) should be fine.

User Interface

The User-Interface includes everything from how easy it is to read the display to how easily the tuner settings can be configured. A complicated display with too much information might not be the best option.

Alternate Tunings

Chromatic tuners can be used for any kind of alternate tunings but may be difficult to use for a beginner. Non-chromatic tuners support standard tuning only but are very easy to use.

Portability

Clip-on and microphone based tuners are very compact and can easily fit inside your pocket. Pedal tuners, just like other guitar pedals, are somewhat larger in size.

Battery

This applies specifically to clip-on and microphone based tuners. The batteries should provide sufficient run-time and should be easily replaceable.

Additional Features

Good clip-on and microphone-based tuners come with additional features such as a metronome, reference frequency adjustment etc.

Pedal-based tuners come with a bypass switch. The switch can either be True Bypass (lets the signal pass through unaffected but there is loss in signal) or Buffered Bypass (Passes through a buffer to minimize signal loss but affects tone).

Best Guitar Tuners in India

Clip-on Tuners

Juârez GT-13

The GT-13 clip-on tuner from Juarez is one of the cheapest but most usable tuners out there. It has a back-lit coloured LCD display that turns green when the string is in tune.

The name of the note that is closest to the one being played is displayed in the centre.

This is a chromatic tuner and can be used for alternate tunings as well.  It is capable of detecting frequencies measuring from 27.5Hz to 4186Hz and, therefore, can handle for Drop-D or Drop-C tunings as well.

Tuning accuracy of +-5cents is good enough for home use. However, this might not be the best option during a recording session.

Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple, easy-to-read display
  • Can be used for alternate tunings
  • CR2032 coin cell provides ample battery life
  • 7-minute auto-turn off feature saves battery
Cons
  • Display is difficult to read in bright daylight
  • Tuning reference frequency cannot be changed
DisplayBacklit, colour LCD
AccuracyMedium
BatteryCR2032
Adjustable referenceNo
Value for moneyVery High

Planet Waves PW-CT-17 Eclipse

A subsidiary of D’Addario and Co., Planet Waves is known for producing high-quality guitar accessories. The PW-CT-17RD Eclipse is a great clip-on tuner that will fulfil your everyday needs with ease.

It’s bright, multi-coloured display tells you the name of the note closest to the one being played. Coloured bars above and below the note tell you how much off-tune the string really is.

Since this is a chromatic tuner, it can very well be used for tunings other than standard. Moreover, it provides you with the option of changing the tuning reference frequency from 430Hz to 450Hz.

Tuning accuracy and response of this tuner is really good and it performs sufficiently well in noisy environments.

Pros
  • Good Accuracy
  • Bright and easy-to-read display
  • Tuning reference frequency can be changed
  • Can be used for alternate tunings
  • Good battery life
Cons
  • Build could have been more robust considering the price
DisplayBright, multi-colour LCD
AccuracyGood
BatteryCR2032
Adjustable reference430Hz to 450Hz
Value for moneyHigh

Microphone-based Tuners

KORG CA2

Korg is a well-established name in the music industry. This microphone based tuner from Korg is a truly well-made product.

No wonder Korg provides a warranty of 5 years! With a traditional arrowhead style display, this tuner is very easy to read and use. Additionally, three LED indicators tell you whether the note is flat(b), sharp (#) or perfectly in tune.

A great feature of this tuner is that it can also sound any note that you choose. You can use this as a reference to tune your instrument by ear.

This tuner allows you to adjust the reference tuning frequency to any value from 410Hz to 480Hz. It also features a 1/4th inch input jack for tuning electric guitars.

Pros
  • Good noise rejection for a microphone based tuner
  • Good accuracy
  • Easy to read display
  • Tuning reference adjustment option
  • 200 hours of battery life
  • 5-year warranty
Cons
  • Cannot tune an electric guitar without a connecting cable
  • Not useful in noisy environments
DisplayLCD, LED indicators
AccuracyGood
Battery2xAAA batteries
Adjustable reference410Hz to 480Hz
Value for moneyHigh

Boss TU30

Boss is known for making everything from guitar amplifiers to tuners and everything in-between. The TU30 is a tuner cum metronome that will surely add value to any guitar player’s arsenal.

It boasts of an accuracy level of +-1 cent. This is sufficient for most applications.

The display is very easy to read and shows a lot of information including the frequency of the note that it is hearing. It can also sound any note in the chromatic scale in case you want to tune by ear. Once your string is in tune it also provides an audio indication.

It runs on 2 AAA batteries and provides an impressive battery life.

The added metronome functionality should prove to be handy for any musician. Electric guitars can be plugged in via the 1/4th inch input.

Pros
  • Very accurate
  • Good noise rejection
  • Adjustable reference frequency
  • Built-in Metronome
  • Audio indicator
Cons
  • Reference frequency adjustment cannot reach 432Hz (preferred by some musicians)
DisplayLCD, LED indicators
AccuracyGreat
Battery2xAAA batteries
Adjustable reference435Hz to 446Hz
Value for moneyVery High

Pedal-based Tuners 

Behringer TU300

If you have just started performing at gigs and need a tuner in your pedalboard collection, then TU300 from Behringer will prove to be the most cost-effective solution.

It has a seven-segment LED to display the note name. An 11-point stream meter shows how close you are to the correct pitch.

When the pedal is activated in tuning mode, it mutes the output so that others don’t have to hear you tune.

And although it has a buffered bypass mode, it does not colour the signal noticeably. It can be run either with a 9V battery or a DC power supply.

The best thing about this pedal is that it gives you different tuning modes – 3 modes each for guitar and bass and a chromatic mode.

Therefore, you get the best of both a non-chromatic and a chromatic tuner. The reference tuning frequency is adjustable between 438Hz to 447Hz.

Pros
  • Both non-chromatic and chromatic modes
  • Inexpensive
  • Sturdy build
  • Easy to read display
Cons
  • True bypass not available
DisplayLCD, LED indicators
AccuracyGreat
BypassBuffered
Adjustable reference438Hz to 447Hz
Value for moneyHigh

TC Electronic PolyTune 3

Polyphonic tuners are an invention of TC Electronic. These tuners help speed up the process by detecting the tuning on multiple strings at the same time.

You just need to strum and the tuner will tell you which strings are out of tune and by how much.

The Polytune 3 features a chromatic mode and dedicated modes for various kinds of alternate tunings.

You can also use it to tune your strings one by one, just like a normal tuner. There are a lot of options that you can play with. This tuner is perfect for live performances.

In terms of accuracy, this tuner is as accurate as you will ever need it to be. It is also quite sensitive and detects the pitch even with the lightest of touches.

It features both a true bypass and a buffered bypass mode.

The buffered bypass mode can be used in case you have very long cables, so that there is minimal signal loss.

Pros
  • Both True and Buffered bypass mode
  • Polyphonic tuner
  • Fast and responsive
  • Very accurate
  • Big and easy-to-read display
  • Solid build
Cons
  • Expensive
DisplayLCD, LED indicators
AccuracyGreat
BypassBuffered and True
Adjustable reference435Hz to 446Hz
Value for moneyVery High

Verdict

Clip-on tuner: Juârez GT-13 (Most value for money tuner for the beginner guitarist)

Microphone tuner: Boss TU30 (Tuner + Metronome combo)

Pedal Tuner: TC Electronic PolyTune 3 (Must-have for any live performer!!)

Some Words of Advice…

Guitar is a delicate instrument. Slight changes in weather conditions can lead to changes in tuning. Therefore, it is very important to verify the tuning every time you pick it up for playing. Playing a well-tuned guitar can be very rewarding. On the other hand, playing a badly tuned guitar can frustrate the hell out of anyone.

The importance of a tuner can never be understated! It is definitely the most important accessory that a guitar player can have.

However, having a tuner cannot always guarantee that your guitar will be in tune. Improper tuning can also be a result of bad intonation. If you feel that your guitar does not stay in tune even after tuning it several times (provided that the strings aren’t brand new), then you should get it checked by a luthier.

 

 

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