Why do you need a guitar tuner?
The most common use for a guitar tuner is to keep your strings in tune so you don't have to retune or replace them after every song. Another reason to use a tuner is if you want to play along with a CD, a digital piano, or another instrument that's already tuned.
Still, another reason is to know what note you're playing when writing music. A guitar tuner can also be useful as a tuning reference, especially on an electric guitar where the sound of each string might tell you little about whether it is sharp or flat.
A guitar tuner will indicate if the pitch of the string is too high (sharp) or too low (flat). You can also use a tuner to check other types of instruments like violins, cellos, and bass guitars.
Hoes does a free guitar tuner app work?
A guitar tuner app works using a microphone built into your smartphone. The microphone listens to the pitch of the string and tells you whether it's too high or low by displaying either red (sharp) or green (flat). If you're not getting any sound, check that an audio source is selected on your device. And this is the best guitar tuner for beginners because you don't have to spend much on equipment and it saves a lot of space in your bag.
What are the best features of a guitar tuner?
The main thing you need from a guitar tuner is accuracy, so that means choosing one with clear visual indications and very sensitive microphones. The display should be easy to read, even in direct sunlight, so choose something big enough to show up across the room if needed. You'll also want accuracy to be within half a cent or less over the whole range of notes, and a choice of tuning modes, plus saveable reference pitch values.
You'll also want to check if the app's calibration is straightforward and reliable. There are various setups for standard tunings but not all apps will support alternative tunings or custom temperaments. Finally, you might be interested in extras like a metronome, loop recording and export functions, a drum machine, and other practice tools.
Which guitar tuner app should I choose?
This app is the most popular and best guitar tuner app for Android, with a carefully designed user interface that allows you to use it in a variety of situations. It supports all the common tuning standards and has both reference pitch adjustment and tuning mode selection.
Its design is a little bit complicated, as it has two different interfaces for guitar and bass, but it's still a very accurate app.
This is another good choice, with the advantage of having both a basic interface for tuning acoustic guitars and an advanced interface for electric guitars that require more precision. It also comes with an easy-to-use calibration setup system that can display custom temperaments if required.
You can save your reference pitch values in the free version, which makes it great for quick tuning checks when you're out and about, although you'll need to upgrade to get all the features such as alternative tunings and drum beats.
- Pano Tuner
This app is easy to use and has a very accurate display. It doesn't offer alternative tunings, which isn't much of an issue for guitarists, but it's still worth considering if you play other instruments that need alternative tuning modes.
Its design is very straightforward and its reference pitch can be adjusted up or down in steps of 1Hz over the whole tuning range, which is extremely accurate. It also comes with a calibration setup that's just as easy to use.
- G-Riff Guitar Tuner
This app has one of the most highly reviewed user interfaces for guitar tuners on IOS, with an intuitive design that single-handedly makes it worth considering even if it wasn't one of the best-looking apps around.
It supports alternative tunings and only requires two quick settings dialogs before you're ready to tune your instrument. The display is clear but fairly small, so you might need to get close to the device to see it clearly. Otherwise, this is a great choice.
- Guitar Toolkit Pro
This app is one of the most comprehensive guitar tools available, featuring a metronome, chord library, pitch pipe, and chromatic tuner amongst other things. It's also easy to use, with an interface that's split into four main sections.
It supports alternative tunings and includes extensive reference material on various aspects of guitar technique in its built-in web browser. You can even email yourself or open an exported audio file directly in another application for further editing if required.
- GuitarTuna (both IOS and Android)
As a tuner, this app is accurate and easy to use, with a calibration setup that takes just a few seconds. It doesn't display alternative tunings though so if this is something you need it's worth picking one of the other options instead.
On the plus side, GuitarTuna can also be used to tune almost any stringed instrument you care to mention, including bass guitar and even banjo! Its famously excellent microphone permits tuning through built-in speakers too, which can save time when practicing in noisy environments.
For PC (all Windows versions included)
This is a comprehensive tuning system that includes more tools than most of the other options, but its interface has a slightly dated design. It offers chromatic and non-chromatic reference pitch adjustment as well as support for alternative tunings and microtonal temperaments.
It also comes with a very useful calibration setup wizard that allows you to calibrate your device's microphone accurately, which can be helpful if you find the display isn't sensitive enough for quiet recordings of acoustic instruments. It doesn't include any practice aids but it does have sound output capabilities so you could use it to listen through headphones or speakers if required.
As an aside, there are many guitarists who enjoy using two different apps at once due to their various strengths, which is totally fine. Most apps are compatible with this approach since they allow you to open multiple instances of the same app at once on a single device.
If you're one of these people, keep in mind that the most recently opened instance will be used (in other words, if you paused tuning with an app and switched to another one without saving its reference pitch, it would continue using the settings from the first app when reopened).
- TuneLab Chromatic Tuner Plus
This chromatic tuner is similar to TuneLab's own option but it has the advantage of being slightly cheaper than TuneLab. However, it doesn't provide any alternative tuning modes or support for non- temperaments so it's still probably worth picking TuneLab instead if you need these features.
- Tune Smithy
This software is a fully-fledged tuning system with an impressive range of tools. It can generate tunings for any instrument and even supports microtonal tunings, allowing users to create their own temperaments if required.
It also includes a number of different instruments and reference pitches as well as the ability to tune any stringed instrument through its internal studio recording capabilities or your computer's built-in microphone (although this may be time-consuming). The interface has a slightly dated design but it's still very intuitive, making it one of the best options for beginners who are just getting started with alternative tunings.
How accurate are guitar tuner apps?
Like a conventional tuner, a guitar tuner app should be accurate enough for casual use. Some apps have been designed to be more precise than others though so it's worth experimenting with different options to see which you prefer before buying.
The ideal way to test whether an alternative tuning is in tune without having access to another reference pitch (which could be difficult if you're playing solo) is to tune the open strings up or down one semitone at a time until they sound correct when compared against each other.
The only drawback of this approach is that it can take longer and can sometimes feel like trial and error rather than making well-informed adjustments (since it's impossible to know whether your ear has overturned or under sharpened the note in question).
This is where the internal sound tools of many apps come in handy: since they allow you to hear your strings in different ways, you can quickly and easily evaluate your tuning attempts without having to rely on your ears alone.
Keep in mind though that most reference pitches (such as A=440 Hz) aren't perfectly accurate so it's worth using a slightly more scientific approach if possible. For example, play all six open strings and compare them against an electronic tuner - if their pitches differ by less than one cent then they're likely to sound similar when played within a chord.
Tuner accuracy varies between guitar tuner apps so it's worth experimenting with different options so you find the perfect app for your needs.
How can you tune the guitar easily?
There are a number of different approaches you can take to tuning the guitar and some methods will prove more useful than others depending on your needs.
- Tune each open string up or down one semitone at a time until it sounds correct when compared with the frets (on fretless instruments like bass, this approach is known as 'the method of Locrian flats'). This is arguably the most intuitive method but it has the drawback of being time-consuming; there's no way around this other than learning to tune accurately and quickly.
- Use an electronic tuner (a microphone connected to an app should work well for this) and compare your instrument's pitch against that of the reference pitch - if it differs by less than one cent then it's in tune.
- Use another reference pitch (e.g an electronic tuner or another string) instead of the reference pitch on your electronic tuner - this is probably the easiest option but it only works if you have access to some other reference pitches, which isn't always practical.
The key thing to remember when tuning is that the guitar strings are stretched so it takes a little while for them to settle into their correct positions after being adjusted. You'll need plenty of patience and time so don't try to rush things!
Are there any alternatives to guitar tuners?
Yes - there are several approaches you can take, depending on your needs. You could use a 'virtual capo' app to select alternative tunings - most of these will allow you to change the pitch of each string independently so they can be used in place of a conventional guitar tuner.
If you have a suitable microphone, you could tune your instrument using its built-in tuning feature (if it has one) but bear in mind that most computers won't have microphones that are good enough for this purpose. Many electronic keyboards and digital pianos will though, which means that if you're able to connect them to your computer then they may be useful for tuning purposes.
You could also use an amplifier's effects loop with a reference pitch (e.g A=440 Hz) if it has one.
Will these apps fit all guitars?
No - you'll need to find the right type of app for your guitar, which will vary depending on its tuning.
Guitar tuners are particularly useful for guitars that have non-standard tunings, such as those with seven or eight strings. Some apps are also compatible with capos (which can alter the pitch) so if you use one then be sure to check whether an app supports it or not before buying it.
For some alternatives you can download guitar tuner apps, which come in various models and work in different ways.
What other apps are useful for guitars?
Players with guitars that have built-in effects units (which alter the sound) may find apps such as AmpliTube and Guitar Rig useful as they can provide similar features - these are more than just guitar tuners as they allow you to process the sound too.
Alternatives for players who don't want extra equipment include virtual instruments, which work in a similar way to digital pianos and keyboards.
If you only use your computer's built-in microphone then Tuner Lite or Guitar Tune might be suitable alternatives but most phones and tablets should come with microphones good enough to tune guitars.