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Electronic Guitar Tuners

By Edited May 2, 2015 2 2

Playing guitar is great fun. However, you will never sound good unless your guitar is in tune. It used to be that to tune a guitar well that you had to have a very good musical ear. Today, however, there are electronic guitar tuners that can help you tune your guitar perfectly every time. It is not only beginners who can benefit from electronic guitar tuners, but experienced professionals can use them as well. In many performance situations it is imperative to get your guitar in tune without making any sound, even in a very noisy environment where you can't hear your guitar to tune it.

Electronic guitar tuners come in many different forms for different purposes, and at differing costs. The primary types of electronic guitar tuners include different kinds of displays. The most common include LEDs, a strobe wheel, a needle, and there are also electronic guitar tuners that are made in the form of a foot pedal that you can use while performing on stage.

The biggest difference between the different types is what the display looks like, how you use them, and how accurate they are. Some electronic guitar tuners only have the option to tune the six strings of the guitar, that is, musical notes E, A, D, G, B, and E. Others let you tune any note. Such tuners are known as chromatic tuners. It may seem at the outset like you only need a tuner for the six strings of the guitar, but it would be a mistake to buy an electronic tuner that only will tune those notes. Some guitarists play with altered tunings. That is, they tune their guitar to different notes than are typical. Also, it may be beneficial to use your tuner on a different instrument that uses different notes, such as a pedal steel guitar. You use an electronic guitar tuner on one note at a time. One example of a chromatic tuner is the Korg CA-40 Large Display Auto Chromatic Tuner.

Electronic guitar tuners that use LED displays often display a center light with a different color to each side of it. The goal is to get the center light to light without lighting the LEDs on either side of the center light. Tuners with a needle display show a center point where the note is in tune. If the needle is to the right of the center point, the note is sharp and must be lowered. If the needle is to the left of center the note is flat, and the string must be tightened to make the note higher. A strobe style tuner displays a spinning wheel. When the note is in tune, the wheel appears to be stationary. If the note is flat, it looks like the wheel is spinning counterclockwise. If the note is sharp, it appears that the wheel is spinning clockwise. One example of an extremely high end strobe tuner is the Peterson Strobe Center 5000 II 12 Note Display Strobe Tuner.

Finally, there are tuners that are made in the format of a floor pedal. These can use any of the displays described above.

There are a few more features you should consider when you want to buy an electronic tuner. Most tuners have a jack where you can plug an electric guitar directly in. But – how do you tune an acoustic guitar? Some tuners have both a jack to directly connect, as well as a microphone. That is the electronic guitar tuner you want to buy. That way you can play the note on an acoustic guitar near the tuner and the tuner will react appropriately. Another feature is whether the display lights up. It is much easier to use an electronic tuner if it has a lit display. With some tuners you use a switch to select what note you want to tune. With others, the tuner will "figure out" what note you are near, and automatically select that note.

Finally, look at the specifications of the tuner. Try to buy the most accurate tuner you can afford. Be sure to use fresh batteries or a power supply with your electronic guitar tuner.

Just a side note, now there are automatic tuners that will actually turn the machine heads on your guitar until it is in tune. I don't have any personal experience with those. My recommendation would be to buy a good quality, traditional electronic guitar tuner.



Dec 10, 2010 8:10pm
Good recommendations. I have used electronic guitar tuners and have found varying degrees of accuracy with them, but they are mostly pretty good these days. The one I currently use has a little clip on pick-up. I can clip it to the sound hole on my guitar and it helps tune the guitar in noisy environments.
Dec 11, 2010 12:33am
Yeah - great point! I've not used a clip on one myself, but good to hear you have had a good experience with them.
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