Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission. Learn more
What is a Guitar Tuner?
A guitar tuner is an instrument that helps you fine-tune your guitar.
The guitar tuner has a microphone that can detect the tone being played on the guitar and displays whether you should go higher or lower.
The tuner helps you tune your guitar to the desired level.
With a guitar electronic tuner, you can
- VISUALLY IDENTIFY how close the pitch of your guitar string is to the tempered ideal.
- HEAR the perfect tone that is at the tempered level.
- YOU BENEFIT a better-tuned guitar and easier practicing.
A GUITAR TUNER is Affordable.
In the last few years, the price of electronic tuners has dropped drastically, yet the reliability increased, currently for under 25$ you can buy a decent electronic tuner.
Using a guitar tuner is not cheating!
I would thoroughly recommend buying a good tuner for your guitar.
You are right… One should learn how to tune a guitar by ear. However, tuning by ear does require some time and practice.
So, if you are a beginner guitar player it is always recommended to buy an electric tuner since playing an out tuned guitar may discouraging beginners.
And the BEST PROFIT with the tuner is that YOU get to
• Spend more TIME practicing on your guitar.
• And the MORE you PRACTICE, the better guitarist you become.
Also Read: A Guide To Help You Tune Your Guitar!
Play in Tune!
It is difficult enough to play a musical instrument properly. It is nearly impossible to play one that is out of tune. The wonderful thing about electronic tuners is that they require no musical experience! You do not have to have a “good ear” for music to practice and play in-tune.
6 Note Tuners (or guitar tuners) are excellent choices for tuning your guitar, bass, violin or mandolin. Most tuners on the market offer a “hands-free” operation. This means you simply play the string/note you want to tune, the tuner will automatically identify that note through a series of flashing LED lights or LCD/VU needle display. The user may then adjust their tuning to fit the proper pitch!
Chromatic tuners offer all available notes of the scale!
A – A# – B – C – C# – D – D# – E – F – F# – G – G# – A…
These tuners work well for all instruments, including guitars, 5 and 6 string basses and all woodwind, brass, orchestral, folk and altered tuning applications.
Virtually all electronic tuners feature a battery for portability, input and output jacks for electric instruments and a built-in mic for acoustic instruments. Many offer an input jack for optional A/C power.
FACT: Virtually all professional musicians use Electronic Tuners!
Some major guitar brands that offer electronic tuners for guitars are:
• Qwik Tune
I got myself an affordable tuner when I started and I have never regretted the buy.
I currently use the KORG chromatic guitar tuner- GT-12
This tuner can sound a four-octave chromatic scale and measure seven octaves.
It features a LED to help you indicate the concert pitch, also mechanical analog meter to inform you how close the pitch to ideal.
There is another type of tuner which knows as VU meter or sweep that comes with a second set of LED, I don’t recommend them since they are not even accurate nor helpful as the analog tuners.
Here is a list of tuners that I would recommend:
- Seiko SMP20 Chromatic Tuner and Metronome
- Intellitouch PT2 Tuner
- Seiko ST909 Classic Chromatic Tuner
- Korg CA-30 Chromatic Tuner
- Korg DT-3 Digital Tuner
- Yamaha YT150 Tuner
GUITAR TUNER TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
- Auto Tuning – as a note is played the tuner senses and indicates the closest note. No manual switch is necessary to select the proper notes.
- Calibration – standard pitch is A440. Many tuners allow you to modify the pitch up or down in 1 Hz steps (438 Hz – 445 HZ/8 steps). Pitch changes are often necessary when tuning for compatibility with other instruments.
- Chromatic – a chromatic tuner will tune to any note including sharps and flats. Therefore, a single chromatic tuner will tune virtually any instrument.
- Guitar, Bass, Violin, Viola, Cello Tuners – tuners for specific instruments recognize only the notes of that particular instrument. Example: Guitar – E, A, D, G, B, E.
- LED Display – multiple colored light indicators that light in different combinations to indicate when the proper note is in tune.
- Line In – the input jack is used to connect directly to the pickups of electric instruments.
- Line Out – the output jack is connected to the amplifier.
- Mic – a built-in microphone is provided in many tuners for tuning of acoustic instruments. The instrument is positioned as close as possible to the microphone on the tuner while tuning.
- Octave – the same note at a higher or lower pitch. A multiple octave range will be recognized by the tuner.
- Quartz – electronic technology that provides extremely accurate tuning capabilities.
- Reference Note – Some tuner comes with toner generator which sounds a note to help you reach the proper tuning range.
- VU Meter – it is a needle indicator the closet to the center or zero the best tuning you will get.
Of course, just like every product in the market, there are good and bad tuners, but I always suggest guitarists to purchase a digital or electronic tuner that features a needle indication combined with LED to tell you if you are either too low or too high.
There are to types of electronic tuner that can be used for guitar:
- A tuner that allows you to tune the 6 strings to standard pitch.
- On the other hand, the chromatic tuner allows standard tuning notes and any other note too.
Advantages of a chromatic tuner:
• Alternate tuning possible.
• Easier to use even if you just want to tune to a standard pitch.
Tuning a guitar is easy!
Anyone can tune a guitar and
That includes you!
Tuning your guitar is as simple as “give an analogy”. Nowadays, anyone can tune a guitar with the help of the right electronic tuner. There are several simple guitar repairs and adjustments you can do yourself and that includes tuning your guitar. And once you get the hang of it, you soon master the art of repairing and adjusting your guitar.
However, if you have a very old or valuable guitar, better to take it to an expert for repairs. For that matter, if you’re just uncomfortable with the idea of working on your guitar yourself, there’s nothing wrong with having repairs done professionally.
These instructions apply mostly to acoustic guitars, although they can be applied to some electrics.
3 SIMPLE STEPS TO TUNING YOUR GUITAR:
STEP1: Read through all of the instructions in the manual that comes with your tuner.
STEP2: Have all the tools and materials you’ll need on hand.
How to use a standard guitar tuner:
Using an electronic tuner is self-explanatory.
If you intend using a standard guitar tuner,
Always stay within a ½ step of the correct pitch, then the tuner will not know what to show you.
Let take an example to make things simpler to you, let say you want to tune your (E) Or 6th string but it tuned to an F, in this case, the needle won’t register anything since F is a ½ to high.
Worse yet, the needle remains in its default position (to the left), so it may automatically seem that the tuning is too low.
Here are a couple of standard electric guitar tunes that I recommend. They are cheap and are good tuners.
For the best buy, I highly recommend always getting a chromatic tuner.
- Having the option of tuning to any note.
- Remember we mentioned the ½ step range up there? With chromatic tuner, you just need to be in the right octave area to tune your guitar.
But absolute you need to have a basic knowledge of the sharps, flats, and name of the notes.
A A#/Bb B C C#/Db D D#/Eb E F F#/Gb G G#/Ab
Here is one of the most recommended chromatic tuners and I use it.
Diagnosing Guitar Tuning Problems
Even though you correctly use your guitar tuner and have tuned your guitar perfectly, you still find, at the end of the tuning, that your guitar is still out of tune!
- String Winding – Step one is to ensure you are properly stringing your instrument. String slack around the tuners post is the number one cause of the main guitar tuning problems.
- Nut slots – When the gauge of the string is too big for the slots in the nuts the string can bind and catch in the slot easily. It is typical in this situation for the instrument to go sharp once the string has managed to pull through the slot where it was once bound. ..This could be one of the guitar tuning problems…..When tuning, do you hear a repetitive creaking sound? The nut slot may need to be cut larger to avoid squeezing the string. A simple and inexpensive procedure
- Bridge Pins – In acoustic guitar string installation always make sure that the ball end is firmly seated against the bridge pin and plate. If it isn’t, the string may eventually pull upward, seat itself against the bridge pin and cause the tuning to go flat from the loss of tension……one of the guitar tuning problems again! When stringing your acoustic guitar place the ball end of the string at the base of the bridge pin, push the bridge pin into the bridge and give a light upward tug when the pin is seated to ensure there is no slack.
- New Strings – Are they brand new strings or worse…nylon strings? New strings must have the opportunity to stretch. A fresh set of strings will probably require several tunings during their first day of play before they settle in and nylon strings are by far the worst.(also read: How to String an Acoustic Guitar)
- Tuning Technique -When your tuning is too sharp and you tune down, you should tune below the note and bring the note back up to pitch. By doing so you can take up any slack that may be present in the tuners gears.
- Tremolo – Does your electric guitar have a Floyd rose or a tremolo? Just keep in mind if you heavily using them, they can stretch the string and cause a loss of tuning.
- Bad Tuners – Old tuners wear out and can develop a fair amount of slop, which makes tuning very difficult. On some you can turn the tuning knob quite a distance before hearing any change in pitch, that’s because of the wear and slop in the gearing. And it’s frustrating, you’re almost there, then oops, just gone over, ugh!
Cheap tuners can do the same thing. Quality tuners will have better gear ratios, turn smoothly with a fluid-like feel and their gears are precisely matched to eliminate slop and play. Schaller® and Waverly® are far and away two of the best brands. If replacing vintage tuners I would advise seeking a retrofitting tuner if possible. More serious problems other problems can cause tuning problems as well.
What is Tuning Machines
Tuning machines are not expensive, and are quite easy to replace. If you have a broken tuning machine, it’s probably best to replace it rather than trying to fix it. Sometimes a tuning machine just needs to be greased or unjammed, but usually when they stop working you should just put on a new one.
There are 3 kinds of tuning machines.
• Sealed Tuning Machines are permanently lubricated and enclosed in a metal case that screws onto the back of a guitar’s headstock. There is usually an adjustment screw on the end of the tuning knob. Since you can’t open them, you can’t grease or repair them. If they stop working, you’ll have to replace them. Most electric and steel-string acoustic guitars come with sealed tuning machines. They are not available for classical guitars.
• Exposed Tuning Machines are not sealed, and need to be lubricated occasionally. They are also screwed onto the back of the headstock. Sometimes manufacturers try to make them look like sealed machines by hiding them with a screw-on cover. You can tell the difference because they don’t have an adjustment screw on the end of the knobs. If you remove the cover, you’ll find an adjustment screw underneath. (And probably some lint or pet hair as well.)
• Classical-style Tuning Machines are also not sealed. They often come as two sets of three tuners, attached on a strip of metal which is screwed onto the side of the headstock. They are not covered and should be cleaned, lubricated, and adjusted periodically.
If your tuning machines are working smoothly, leave them alone. Don’t try to do anything to a tuning machine without loosening the string it’s attached to. The best time to clean and lubricate the machines is while you’re changing your strings.
To lubricate and adjust tuning machines:
1. Loosen or remove the string. Remove the machine’s cover if it has one.
2. You’ll see a gear with a screw holding it on. Unless the machine is actually jammed, there’s no need to remove the screw. (If you do, be careful. Don’t lose the peg, which will fall out of the headstock when you take the screw out.)
3. Use something lint-free and a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol to remove lint and dirty grease from the gears. (I use sponge-tipped eye shadow applicators for this kind of thing. You can buy a package of several at your local drugstore.)
4. Replace the gear (and the peg) if you removed it.
5. Whether or not you removed the gear, this is a good time to adjust it. Use a screwdriver and tighten it until it just seats, and then a tiny bit more.
6. Re-grease the gears with Vaseline, light machine oil, or graphite. Replace the cover if there is one.
If one of your tuning machines is seriously jammed or broken, you’ll have to replace it. If you don’t have sealed tuners already, this might be a good time to buy a whole set and replace them all at once. A set of sealed tuning machines costs about US$50.00, and it’s worth every penny.
To replace tuning machines:
1. Loosen or remove the guitar string.
2. Unscrew and remove the old tuning machine.
3. If the screw holes aren’t going to line up, fill the old ones with wood putty. Lets the putty completely dry.
4. If the hole in the head-stock is too small for the new machine, use a reamer to carefully enlarge it. Make sure you are making the hole equal, enlarge it little at a time.
The new machine should fit smoothly and easily in the hole without any force.
5. Install the new tuning machine.