There are 3 broad types of guitar tuner. These all work in different ways to help you to tune your guitar.
Within those 3 types there are of course different brands and different display types.
The type of guitar tuner you go for will depend on your budget and your purposes – e.g. if you are playing in a band or group or only by yourself and whether you use alternate tunings or not.
Who Should Use a Tuner?
A tuner is particularly important for anyone who plays live, in a group setting or who records. It is also particularly important to beginners.
A beginner may not have yet perfected tuning by ear so a tuner is a great way to make sure you are always in tune. It’s extremely important for a beginner to be in tune. This is because if you are playing something and it doesn’t sound right you need to know that it is something that you need to correct in what you are plating, rather than it not sounding right because the guitar is out of tune.
If you are forever unsure what is causing the music to sound wrong your learning process will be slow and frustrating. If you are not yet completely confident with tuning by ear then a tuner is a must.
Related: How to tune your guitar
What Type of Tuner is Right for You?
Let’s start out by looking at the difference between chromatic and non-chromatic tuners
Chromatic and Non-Chromatic Tuners
Essentially, in my opinion you want to get a chromatic tuner unless you are on a really tight budget and don’t need the functions of a chromatic tuner.
Non Chromatic Guitar Tuners
A non-chromatic tuner only has capabilities of recognizing the notes of the guitar for standard tuning. So it will only be able to tune EADGBE.
These are often cheaper due to their limited capabilities. So if you think you will only be playing in standard tunings (at least for now) and you are on a tight budget a non-chromatic tuner might be your best bet.
Just know that if you venture into alternate tunings at a later date you will have to invest in a new tuner or tune by ear.
Chromatic tuners will pick up the note that you are playing on the guitar and show how sharp or flat you are relative to the nearest semi-tone.
This gives you much greater flexibility for alternate tunings – even if you just want to tune down half a step from standard tuning – for example, to play along with something that has been tuned down, or if tuning down suits your singing range better (if you like to play and sing), or if your band plays tuned down… and so on
Chromatic tuners can get you in tune for any alternate tunings you need. On average they are more costly than non-chromatic tuners but well worth the extra investment in my opinion.
If you are a beginner and still clueless as to how to tune – even with a tuner – or you could use some clarification on tuning check out the link below. That page takes you through step by step in plain English how to tune (both by ear and using a tuner).
The Different Guitar Tuners You Can Get
As well as chromatic and non-chromatic you can also get a few different types. The right tuner for you will depend on your needs and your budget.
Guitar Tuner Type #1: Standard Tuners
- They often (not always) come with extra features like a metronome.
- You can usually pick one up for a pretty good price – usually around USD$10 to USD$50
- Chromatic and non-chromatic options
- When using with the microphone these can be inaccurate when there are other sounds around you and can get a bit frustrating.
- When plugging in you need to unplug from your amp and plug into it and then unplug it again and plug back into your amp
Guitar Tuner Type #2: Clip on Tuners
They are usually clipped onto the headstock.
- They are compact and small and you can leave them clipped onto the guitar for quick adjustments as you play
- They are pretty accurate and will still be accurate in noisy environments (e.g. band practice, tuning up for a gig)
- You can pick one of these up for a really good price – they usually range from around $8 to $50
- Having to clip and unclip the tuner from the headstock if you don’t like it there whilst playing or if you find you knock it off regularly
- Some people don’t think of them as looking professional
Guitar tuner Type #3: Pedal Tuners
Pedal tuners are great for those who are playing electric acoustic and electric guitars, especially for those who don’t want to have to muck around plugging in and unplugging, or clipping on and unclipping their tuner.
It is the best choice for playing gigs.
- Tuner stays plugged in as part of your set-up (no unplugging or unclipping)
- Can easily tune in loud environments
- They are very accurate
- Can retune easily with a click of pedal
- The pedal can be used for other purposes (e.g. as a mute switch)
- Only works for guitars with electrics
- More expensive than other tuner types (typically range anywhere from $25 to $200)
Guitar Tuner Type #4: Polyphonic
Polyphonic tuners are able to detect all of the strings at once and locate which ones are out of tune. This speeds up the process of tuning the guitar.
They most commonly come as pedal tuners but also come as standard tuners. I haven’t seen any polyphonic clip on tuners as yet.
- Play all open strings at once and locate instantly which strings are out of tune
- Much faster than other tuners
- Pedal versions have all the advantages of pedal tuners with the added advantage of speed of tuning
- More expensive than other tuners (ranging from around $80 to $200)
- Not available in clip-on
- Would have to use the mic function for non-electric acoustics and this is less accurate especially in noisy environments
- Pedal versions only suitable for electric acoustics and electric guitars
Thanks for reading
Thanks for reading and I hope this has helped you decide on which tuner is best suited to your purposes.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments in the comments sections below.