Having a decent guitar tuner is extremely important, whether you’re a seasoned professional or a beginner just starting. If your guitar is out of tune, you won’t sound good, if it’s in tune, you will, it’s as simple as that.
A guitar tuner tells you whether your strings are in tune or not. Most tuners are set at 440 Hz and use a ‘needle’ to tell you whether your string is flat, sharp, or in tune.
There are many different types of guitar tuners available on the market, from clip-on tuners, strobe tuners, polyphonic tuners, pedal tuners, and more.
Although they all do the same thing, each type of tuner has its advantages and disadvantages, and knowing what type of guitar tuner you need is vital when playing guitar.
In this article, we’re going to show you 10 of our favourite guitar tuners, how to find the perfect guitar tuner for you, and 5 tips that will help you keep your axe perfectly in tune.
Best Clip-On Guitar Tuners
TC Electronic Polytune Clip
Over the past few years, clip-on guitar tuners have become increasingly popular due to their lightweight nature and ease of use. One of the best clip-on guitar tuners is the TC Electronic Polytune Clip.
The TC electronic polytune clip is arguably one of the best clip-on guitar tuners available on the market today. Not only is it small and compact, (weighing just 32g and measuring 60mm in length), its polyphonic, chromatic, and strobe mode are features that are unheard of in a guitar tuner of this size. As well as this, you can change the reference tone to A440 and switch to bass tuning mode.
This tuner is great for guitarists who don’t want the hassle of plugging in an extra tuner, for guitar teachers and students who want a simple tuning solution, or for musicians who use acoustic instruments and have to travel light
In practice, the regular modes are great and the TC electronic polytune clip is one of the more accurate tuners available. This tuner works great on acoustic guitars and electric guitars, however, bassists have found that their results have varied.
The polyphonic mode isn’t as accurate as we’d like and often displays inaccuracies, despite the string being in tune. Furthermore, some users may find the small buttons difficult to press, especially if you have large hands.
Overall, this is a decent tuner that works much better than other competitors.
- Features a polyphonic mode, chromatic mode, and strobe mode.
- Available in two different colours, white and black.
- It’s extremely accurate for a clip-on guitar tuner. (+/-0.5 cent in regular tuning mode and +/-0.02 cent accuracy in strobe mode).
- The tuner is adjustable and is very easy to read due to its bright display.
- It’s not as discrete as other headstock tuners.
- Expensive for a clip-on guitar tuner.
Best Guitar Tuner Pedal
Boss TU-3 Chromatic Guitar Tuner
Boss guitar pedals are easily one of the most popular brands in the guitar world. From tuners, overdrives, modulation pedals, and delay pedals, you name it, Boss has made it.
One of their most popular tuner pedals is the TU3 chromatic tuner. Although it’s a simple product, there’s a reason why this pedal is seen on pedalboards all over the world.
The Boss TU-3 is a fantastic pedal for gigging musicians, due to its reliability, robustness, and ability to mute your guitar signal. Its wide variety of tuning modes ensures that this tuner will work for a wide range of purposes.
Whether you play 6 string or a 5 string bass, you can guarantee that this pedal tuner will keep you perfectly in tune.
As well as this, the Boss TU-3 has some unique features compared to other competitors on the market. Firstly, it features an extra power output, meaning you can easily power other pedals with the use of a daisy chain power cable.
Secondly, there is a second bypass output which gives extra routing flexibility depending on the needs of your setup.
Finally, the Boss TU-3 features a 21 segment LED meter with a ‘high’ brightness mode, meaning you’ll be able to see the tuner clearly, no matter what stage you’re on.
As chromatic tuners go, the Boss TU-3 is well worth considering if you’re a performing musician.
- Extremely well built, guaranteed to last for years to come. If it does break, Boss also offers a 5-year warranty.
- It has different tuning modes, including chromatic and strobe modes as well as a drop tuning and flat tuning mode,
- It will work with six string guitars, seven string guitars, and basses.
- Can be powered by either a 9V battery or by a power supply.
- The pedal isn’t true bypass.
- No polyphonic tuning mode.
Best Chromatic Tuner
D’addario PW-CT-20 Chromatic Tuner
Although D’addario is more famous for making guitar strings, recently they have branched into other accessories such as guitar tuners, capos, and guitar straps.
With the rise of mini pedals over the past few years, one of the best chromatic tuners on the market is the D’addario PW-CT-20.
The D’addario PW-CT-20 tuner pedal is small and light due to its aluminum construction. The tuner itself comes in at 353g and is 71mm in length, meaning it can fit on even the tightest of pedalboards.
Furthermore, D’addario even includes velcro to allow you to fit the pedalboard immediately onto your board.
One aspect that we love about this tuner is that it is extremely simple to use. Just plug in, tune-up your guitar, and start playing.
The footswitch enables you to tune silently and if you do require extra tuning flexibility, the PW-CT-20 allows you to switch between 415 Hz and 475 Hz reference tones.
The multi-coloured vertical display ensures that you can see the tuning display clearly. As well as this, the 32-bit processor ensures that this tuner has a quick tuning response. This is great for live musicians who want to tune in as fast as possible.
Despite this tuner having lots of pros, some have complained that the tuning isn’t as accurate as other pedals on the market.
- True bypass ensures that your guitar sound is kept intact.
- The chromatic tuning mode enables you to accurately tune any musical note.
- It’s small, slick, and lightweight.
- The tuner’s display is easily visible.
- 9V batteries don’t last very long with this tuner.
- Having to unscrew the backplate to access the battery can be frustrating for some users.
Best Polyphonic Tuners
TC Electronic Polytune 3
A danish company, TC Electronic has been creating some of the best studio effects and equipment for over 45 years. Used by artists such as Sigur Ros, Guthrie Govan, and Robben Ford.
TC Electronic are pioneers in the audio world. As well as creating fantastic effects, they also create one of the best guitar tuners on the market, the TC Electronic Polytune 3.
If you’re a professional musician who is looking for a dependable tuner with a variety of features, then the TC Electronic Polytune 3 tuner pedal is a great choice.
With polyphonic, strobe, and chromatic tuning modes, this is definitely a candidate for the ultimate pedal guitar tuner.
One of the pedal’s key features is the ability to adjust the alternate tuning modes. You can adjust the built-in tuning presets from below 5 semitones up to the capo on the 7th fret.
This is incredibly versatile and works fantastically for guitarists who down tune as well as users who like to frequently use a guitar capo. However, a great additional feature would be if the users could adjust each tuning note, giving the user the facility to use polyphonic tuning with whatever tuning they desire.
Furthermore, you can adjust the reference tone from 440 Hz as well as power additional pedals from the power output. Overall this is one of the best guitar tuners available and would be at home on stage or in the studio.
- This pedal is great for saving pedalboard space. A ‘2 in 1’ pedal, this pedal features a switch that enables you to change from true bypass to buffered modes.
- This tuner is highly accurate, offering 0.1 cents tuning accuracy in strobe tuning mode and 0.5 cents in standard tuning mode.
- It features a drop tuning mode for guitarists who love to use drop D tuning.
- Automatically changes between different tuning modes depending on what you play.
- The 100 LED screen adjusts the brightness automatically, depending on the light around you.
- The polyphonic tuner modes cannot be customised to alternate tunings such as DADGAD, open E, and open C.
- Some users have found that TC Electronic’s aftermarket support is left to be desired.
Best Budget Tuner
Snark ST2 Clip-On Chromatic Tuner
One of the best guitar tuners available is the Snark ST2. Although this is a budget tuner, don’t let its low price fool you, it’s one of the best clip on guitar tuners in its price range.
The Snark ST2 is great for novice guitarists due to its affordability and accessible price. The bright LED screen is large and extremely easy to read.
The ‘super-tight model can clamp firmly on your headstock, ensuring that the tuner can pick up the notes of your instrument clearly.
This product features an ‘acoustic’ or ‘vibration’ mode, this feature tells the tuner whether to pick up the notes with its internal microphone or via a sensor.
Furthermore, the head of the tuner can be adjusted at a 360-degree angle, however, some users have expressed that this mechanism can be fragile. With this in mind, the Snark ST2 would be great for home use but may struggle in a gigging environment.
Although this tuner isn’t as accurate as other models in this guitar tuner review, the Snark ST2 would be a great addition to any guitarist’s arsenal.
- Good quality, extremely affordable, and easy to use.
- Can tune all types of guitars, including basses, acoustics, and electrics.
- Comes in a variety of colours including red, black and blue.
- This model features a metronome that can help you perfect your timing.
- The tuner can mark your guitar slightly, however, this is easily removed with a microfiber cloth.
- The on/off switch can be easily hit when pressed up against another object.
Best Guitar Tuner App
GuitarTuna by Yousician
Most musicians these days have smartphones, with smartphones, there are hundreds if not thousands of apps available at the touch of a button.
One of our favourite guitar tuning apps is the ‘GuitarTuna’ app, produced by Yousician.
Yousician is an online learning platform whose app-based courses are available for acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, and lots more instruments.
Available on both Apple and Android devices, ‘GuitarTuna’ is easily one of the best free guitar tuning apps available.
Using your phone’s internal microphone, this guitar tuner picks up the sound of the string that is plucked. When you pluck the string, the tuner picks up what string you’re playing and tells you whether it is too high or too low.
This is fantastic for novices who haven’t been introduced to music theory yet and just need to know whether you need to tighten or loosen the tuner. Once the string is in tune, the app produces a reassuring ‘ping’ to tell you that the string is in tune.
Furthermore, this app also has a metronome, chord games, and chord diagrams for major and minor chords in all 12 keys.
The only downside of this app is that it isn’t as accurate as a headstock tuner or pedal tuner, however for beginners who aren’t ready to purchase a physical tuner, ‘GuitarTuna’ is a great option.
- It’s free and quick and easy to use.
- The additional features of a metronome, chord diagrams, and chord games are a nice touch.
- It has a bass guitar mode, ukulele mode as well as other custom tuning options.
- You get free access to the first modules on their beginner guitar courses.
- It isn’t the most accurate tuner in the world.
- The app only works in portrait mode.
Best Strobe Tuner
Peterson StroboStomp HD
Peterson strobe tuners were the trailblazers of strobe tuning in the 1960s.
‘Peterson’ created the world’s first LED tuner and its early tuning products were used in the studio and live by bands such as The Who, Pink Floyd, Queen, and Jimi Hendrix.
Now, one of their best guitar tuners is the Peterson StroboStomp HD.
If you’re looking for the most accurate guitar tuner, the Peterson StroboStomp HD is definitely at the top of the list. Perfect for studio and musicians and guitar technicians, the Peterson StroboStomp HD is one of the best available.
The StroboStomp HD comes in a brushed metal chassis which is stylish and durable. The multi-colour bright LCD is clear and direct. The ability to change the screen colour is a nice touch and is great for people who struggle to see specific colours.
As well as this, this tuner has the largest screen compared to other pedals, making it perfect for viewing on stage.
One feature which makes this product stand out from the rest is its ability to store and recall presets. Peterson has 100s of ‘sweetened tunings’ available for a variety of different guitars and other instruments.
This is particularly useful for guitar luthiers who have to set up a variety of instruments and for musicians who use alternate tunings.
Furthermore, the true bypass switch is silent and prevents any annoying pops which are usually associated with this type of pedal.
One downside of this pedal is that it is much more expensive than other pedals, however, some may argue that this is the last tuner that you would ever have to buy.
- Strobe tuning is the most accurate tuning method available. The StroboStomp HD offers up to 0.1 cent accuracy.
- The switchable modes (true bypass, buffered bypass, or monitor mode) are available without removing the backplate.
- Can run on 9V or via micro USB.
- The variety of colours improve visibility and the large tuning display is perfect for gigging musicians.
- Quite expensive for a guitar tuner.
- Only strobe modes are available.
Best Microphone Tuner
With a deep history rooted in keyboards. synthesisers and studio gear, Korg is one of the best music companies around. One piece of equipment which is essential for guitarists to own is a tuner and a metronome, the Korg TM60 combines both of these tools into one easy-to-use package.
With so many clip-on guitar tuners and pedal tuners available, microphone tuners seem to have been forgotten about by many users.
Despite this, microphone tuners offer many features that regular guitar tuners don’t offer, one of our favourites is the Korg TM60.
The Korg TM60 is an excellent tuner which is great for guitarists who are just starting out. It’s simple to use and has a large LCD screen which is easily readable. Often, beginners can find guitar tuners difficult to use, but the simple nature of this one ensures that there is limited confusion during use.
Furthermore, the backlit screen can be turned on or off, depending on your personal preference.
One unique feature of this product is that it can play a variety of notes. This is extremely useful for musicians who wish to tune to pitch rather than using the needle system of the tuner. As well as this, the tap tempo metronome and tuner can be used simultaneously. This is great for practicing musicians who need quick access to a tuner.
Although this isn’t the most stylish product, its functionality is second to none, making it one of the best guitar tuners available.
- The internal mic works great with acoustic instruments or you can plug your guitar into the input of the tuner.
- ‘Auto-power off’ ensures that the battery life lasts for as long as possible.
- It features a tuner and a tap tempo metronome.
- The large screen is easily visible and the LEDs are useful when using the metronome or when tuning.
- It’s not as slick and modern as other guitar tuners.
- Some users have experienced with the brightness of the screen and with the metronome not being very loud.
Best Soundhole Tuner
Planet Waves NS Micro Soundhole Tuner
One of the main issues with clip-on tuners is that they often leave a look which is left to be desired. It’s not exactly rock and roll when you have a guitar tuner on the end of your headstock. Planet Waves have tried to solve this issue by releasing the NS micro soundhole tuner.
This tuner is great for acoustic musicians who want a tuner that is subtle, but does the job. It’s simple to use and the display is extremely clear. The tuner displays a vibrant red light if you are out of tune and a beaming green light when you are in tune.
The main thing we love about this tuner is that its design enables it to be out of sight but still functional. Furthermore, even the best clip on guitar tuners are easily misplaced, but having this fixed on the guitar itself stops you from losing it, although its small size may be prone to slipping down the guitar’s soundhole.
Despite this being a unique design, it can be difficult to fit and remove and can be easily broken if mishandled. Although the battery is long lasting, it’s extremely frustrating when it dies as you have to take the whole tuner out of the soundhole to change it.
As well as this, some users have found that this clip-on guitar tuner has damaged the finish after long periods of use.
- This tuner is extremely lightweight, unobtrusive and affordable.
- It’s an accurate tuner that quickly responds to the notes that you play.
- The tuner’s display is bright and easy to read.
- The reference tone varies from 435 – 455 Hz.
- Doesn’t work with electric guitars.
- Some users have experienced difficulty fitting the product to their guitars, particularly guitars with scratchplates and thicker woods.
Best Rack Tuner
Korg Pitchblack Pro - PB05
Rackmount tuners are easily the most accurate tuners available. Guitar techs swear by rackmount tuners and are an essential part of any touring or professional rig. One of the best guitar tuners in this category is the Korg PB05, let’s check it out.
The Korg PB05 is one of the most precise tuners available. Its chromatic mode enables you to tune within +/- 1 cent. This is highly accurate compared to others and makes this product one of the best guitar tuners.
Furthermore, the PB05 is able to change the reference tone from 440 Hz to anything that you may potentially desire. Each tuning mode is changed by pressing the display button, you are able to switch from regular, strobe, and half strobe modes.
The regular tuning mode works like a regular tuner, meaning you have to get the LED into the centre. If your electric guitar is flat, the LEDs will light blue, if they are sharp, they will light up green.
The strobe and half strobes are highly accurate, although some may argue that they are a little too sensitive in use. However, this is fantastic if you wish to get your guitar perfectly in tune.
One of the most unique features of this product is that it has a ‘cable checker’ function. This is perfect for roadies who wish to troubleshoot faulty cables. This could also be useful for pedalboard builders and cable makers who need to check whether a cable is working correctly or not.
A concern that we do have is that some users have experienced issues with using this guitar tuner with acoustic guitars, however, this tuner works great with an electric guitar or bass and is a great choice if you’re looking for the best guitar tuner for accuracy.
- The bright LED display is 3D and gives the user excellent visibility.
- It fits perfectly in rack systems, however is not limited to this.
- It has 3 tuning modes, regular, strobe, and half strobe. This gives the tuner flexibility depending on the user’s personal preference.
- The mute function lets you tune silently and the buffered output enhances your tone.
- It’s made of plastic, which could be problematic on the road.
|TC Electronic Polytune Clip||Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner||D’addario PW-CT-20 Chromatic Tuner||TC Electronic Polytune 3||Snark ST2 Clip On Chromatic Tuner||GuitarTuna by Yousician||Peterson Strobostomp HD||Korg TM60||Planet Waves NS Micro Soundhole Tuner||Korg Pitchblack Pro PB05|
|Type||Clip-on tuner.||Tuner pedal.||Tuner pedal.||Tuner pedal.||Clip-on tuner.||App.||Tuner pedal.||Microphone tuner.||Clip-on tuner.||Rack tuner.|
|Tuning Range||A0 (27.5 Hz) to C8 (4186 Hz)||C0 (16.35Hz)–C8 (4186Hz)||Will work with guitar and bass.||A0 (27.5 Hz) to C8 (4186 Hz)||Will work with guitar and bass.||Will tune guitar, ukulele and bass.||C0 – A#8||C1 (32.70 Hz)–C8 (4186.01 Hz)||N/A.||E0 (20.60 Hz) ~ C8 (4186 Hz),|
|Calibration Range||435 Hz – 440 Hz||A4=436–445 Hz||415 – 475 Hz||435 Hz – 440 Hz||415 Hz – 466 Hz||415 Hz – 466 Hz||391 Hz to 490 Hz||A4=410–480 Hz||410-480 Hz||A4 = 436-445 Hz|
|Bypass||N/A.||Buffered.||True Bypass.||Buffered or True Bypass.||N/A.||N/A.||Buffered or True Bypass.||N/A.||N/A.||Buffered Output.|
|Accuracy||Chromatic tuning mode: ±0.5 Cent, Strobe tuning mode:|
|±1 cent||±/- 0.5 cent||Chromatic tuning mode: ±0.5 Cent, Strobe tuning mode:|
|N/A.||N/A||0.1 Cents||Better than +/-1 cent||N/A.||±/-1 cent|
|Modes||Chromatic, Polyphonic & Strobe.||Chromatic, Polyphonic & Strobe.||Chromatic.||Chromatic, Polyphonic & Strobe.||Chromatic.||Guitar, Ukulele & Bass available in free version, extra tuning options available if you pay for the app.||Strobe.||Chromatic.||Chromatic.||Chromatic, Strobe and Half Strobe.|
|Power||CR2032 Li-Mn battery||9V battery or 9V DC.||9V battery or 9V DC.||9V battery or 9V DC.||CR2032 Li-Mn battery||N/A||9V battery or 9V DC.||2 AAA batteries.||CR2032 Li-Mn battery||9VDC.|
|Additional Features||Alternate tuning modes.||Flat tuning and drop tuning modes.||32 bit processor for fast tuning.||Drop tuning and alternate tuning modes.||Built in metronome.||Tuning notes, chord diagrams , mini lessons and a metronome.||25 alternate tuning modes.||Built in metronome and tuning notes.||Bright LED ensures great visiblility.||Cable checker.|
Buying Guide – What type of guitar tuner is best for you?
There are many types of guitar tuners available on the market, let’s take a look at the most common ones.
A pedal tuner is a guitar tuner built into a guitar pedal. These are excellent choices for gigging musicians as they allow you to mute your guitar signal, enabling you to tune silently. As well as this, the LED/LCD screens on these tuners allow you to see them clearly on dark stages.
A clip-on tuner is a guitar tuner that is placed onto the guitar’s headstock or body. Most of the time, the tuner fits on the guitar headstock, however, some versions can be placed in the soundhole of the guitar.
These tuners are great for guitar teachers, novices, and hobbyists. They’re quick and easy to use, reasonably accurate, and work with acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and bass guitar.
Most tuners usually use a ‘needle’ to tell you whether you are in tune. However, some tuners are now controlled by strobe technology.
The strobe analyses the pitch and frequency of the note being played. Once the note is in tune the strobe stops.
These guitar tuners are often the choice of pro studio musicians and guitar techs, are extremely precise, and offer the best tuning accuracy.
These days, every person and their dog has a smartphone. A tuner app works by using the phone’s internal microphone to pick up the pitch of the note.
The app then tells you whether your note is sharp, flat, or in tune.
These are great for guitarists on a budget and hobby guitarists. Although these tuners are good, we don’t recommend using these as your tuner on stage.
Some popular tuning apps include ‘Fender Tune’, ‘Guitar Tuna’ and Boss’s tuning app.
What features should you consider when looking for a guitar tuner?
This is how accurate the guitar tuner is. Depending on what type of guitar tuner you go for, they will have varying degrees of tuning accuracy.
The most accurate guitar tuners are strobe tuners, then pedal tuners, clip-on guitar tuners, and finally app tuners.
Every guitar tuner will put your guitar in tune, however, the degree of accuracy is dependent on the tuner type.
Screen Visibility and Brightness
This is how bright the screen of the tuner is. This comes down to what type of guitarist you are.
If you’re a gigging guitarist you will need something with a bright screen that can be seen on dark stages. But if you play guitar at home, this is less important.
This is how fast or slow your tuner picks up the note and how well it responds to the change in pitch as you turn the tuning peg.
This is an important factor for performing musicians and beginners as being able to tune your guitar quickly will allow you to get playing as quickly as possible whether you’re on stage or at home.
‘Muting’ is whether you are able to turn off the signal of the guitar. This is great for stage and studio musicians as it allows you to tune silently.
This feature is common on pedal, strobe and rack tuners but isn’t common on tuner apps or a clip-on guitar tuner.
Our Top 5 Tuning Tips
Here are 5 of our best tuning tips that will keep your guitar perfectly in tune.
1 – Tune-Up To The Note
One trick that can help stabilise the tuning of your guitar, is to tune up to the pitch of the note.
For example, if you tune your guitar, deliberately tune the note sharp and then come back and gradually turn your tuning pegs until they reach the pitch.
This will help your tuners lock into place and will give you greater tuning stability.
2 – Mute Your Strings
The last thing anyone wants to hear is a guitarist tuning their guitar without it being muted. It’s unprofessional, sounds awful, and is just a big no.
Although it’s a simple tip, you’d be surprised at the number of amateur musicians we’ve seen do this at open mics and bar gigs.
Don’t be like the others, mute your guitar, tune silently and become an instant pro musician in the process.
Pro Tip – If you don’t have a pedal tuner, fear not. You can tune silently by using a clip-on tuner. Just roll down the volume knob on your guitar so the sound doesn’t come out of your amp, and tune away.
3 – Don’t Pick Too Hard
Picking your guitar string too hard can easily pull it out of tune.
When tuning, pick as light as you can. Doing this will give you the most accurate tuning possible.
4 – Double-Check Your Tuning
Sometimes when you first tune your string, it may slip out of place without you noticing. To ensure this doesn’t happen, tune all your strings up to pitch, then double-check them after.
5 – Place The Tuner First In Your Signal Chain
When organising your pedalboard, make sure that your tuner pedal is first in your signal chain. That way, it’s receiving your signal first and will give you the best tuning accuracy.
What’s the Difference Between Chromatic Tuners & A Polyphonic Tuner?
The main difference between polyphonic and chromatic tuners is that a chromatic tuner can pick up all 12 notes of the chromatic scale. These tuners pick up a single note which is played.
Polyphonic guitar tuners can pick up multiple notes. The main use of this is that if a guitarist strums all six strings, the tuner will be able to tell you which string is in tune and which one isn’t.
Are clip-on tuners any good?
A clip-on tuner is a great affordable option for many guitarists. They work best at home, the quieter environment enables the tuner to hear the notes and sound vibrations clearer.
However some musicians have had success in live scenarios, the extra noise at a gig may cause the tuner to not be as accurate.
What is the best guitar tuning?
The most common guitar tuning uses the notes E, A, D, G, B, and E.
However, some guitarists like to experiment with drop tunings such as Drop D, DADGAD, and open tunings such as open E, D, G, and A.
What is the best free guitar tuner app?
There are lots of free tuning apps available, however, the best ones are:
- GuitarTuna by Yousician.
- Fender Tune.
- Boss Tuner.
- insTuner Free – Chromatic Tuner.
These are available on Apple and Android devices.
What is the best electric guitar tuner?
This is totally dependent on what you do as a guitarist. For example, if you are a gigging musician, a pedal tuner is the best option as it enables you to mute the guitar signal and tune silently.
If you work in the studio, a strobe tuner could be a better option as it provides more accuracy or if you just play guitar for fun at home, a clip-on guitar tuner could work perfectly well for you.
It all depends on where you’re at in your guitar journey and what you need from a guitar tuner.