The tuner is a typical purchase for those who are starting with the guitar. It is very normal that at first a friend or a relative tunes the guitar for us, or even that we think we can only tune it by taking it to the store.

But in reality, we can learn to do it ourselves by getting a tuner. In this article (it will have a second part in a few days), we’ll take a quick look at the guitar tuner options that exist, so that you can leave here with a clear idea of how many guitar tuners there are and how different they are.

Tuner apps

What can’t our smartphones do today? There are many tuning apps you can download that work with your phone’s built-in microphone, listening to the strings. They are often free, as they carry advertising, or allow you to access more features for a fee. They are usually able to tune the strings by playing them one at a time, and can sometimes be used to tune other instruments, such as basses and ukuleles.

App guitar tuner

Desktop Tuners

This type of tuner was, for a long time, the most widespread, although now it has lost some ground due to the arrival of apps and clip-on tuners.

It is usually a rectangular device, sometimes with a foot to stand up straight which has a microphone. It acts in a similar way to the app: listening to the strings of our guitar played individually, although there are now modern models that give information about all the strings played at once (polyphonic).

Another very interesting feature: if we play the electric or electro-acoustic guitar, in many models we will find a connection to put the cable directly, so that we are not affected by the ambient noise when tuning.

They usually have a screen with more rudimentary information than a smarthpone app, but it’s usually more than enough: red light when we are out of tune (and many times a dial that tells us if we should tighten or loosen the string) and green light when the tuning is correct (often accompanied by a short sound). It also tells us which string it thinks we are trying to tune.

Many of them have modes for instruments other than the guitar, such as the bass, ukulele or even the violin. Another typical feature of this type of tuner is the flat function, which allows you to tune your guitar one or more semitones lower (ideal for setting tunings that some groups and artists have used in their records).

Clip-on tuners

The clip-on tuners are left holding the headstock of our guitar, and they usually use that contact to measure the vibrations and detect if we are in tune or not. Although some have a double system and also have an internal microphone (and in those cases, we can choose between both systems when tuning).

This format has been very successful and nowadays it is possible to get some very cheap ones. One of the secrets of its success is that you don’t need tables or hands to hold it while you tune, since it is attached to the guitar. Many people have even taken it live, as its vibration detection is far less sensitive to outside noise, although it can sometimes be affected (if the drummer can stop practicing while tuning, it’s always better).

They usually tune string by string, but they also exist in polyphonic format, showing the tuning of all six strings at once. As with the desktop ones, the screen is usually much simpler than that of an app, and many times it is quite small. The information it displays is more than sufficient, but if it is for a person with visual difficulties, try to choose the one that shows the largest and clearest information.

Some are very discreet and are well hidden behind the headstock, others are less elegant and look like a black antenna coming out of your beautiful and delicate guitar. There are so many variations of Pokémon, snake-shaped, owl-shaped and even magnetic, such as Korg Magnetune (it sticks to metal tuners).

Clip-on guitar tuner

(To be continued)

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