Whether you're a beginner guitar player or a pro, tuners are a must-have. The expedience of a quality tuner cannot be matched, especially in performance situations where you do not have the time or opportunity to sit down in a quiet room and carefully tune your guitar by ear. Thanks to the Internet age, if you own a computer, then you also own a tuner. The proliferation of free online tuners has left musicians everywhere without an excuse for being out of tune.
Digital Guitar Tuner Sites
Digital tuners use your computer's built-in microphone to pick up the sound of your guitar. Typically they use a dial with a marker in the center. If your string is in tune, the needle of the tuner moves to this center marker. A tuner will often light up green when the pitch hits this marker. If the needle is to the left of the marker, the string is flat and its pitch should be raised. If it is to the right of the marker, the string is sharp and its pitch should be lowered.
All digital tuners require Adobe Flash, which is free to download.
- Pro Guitar Tuner uses your computer's microphone and Flash player. You give the site permission to use your microphone and Flash, you play a string on your guitar, and the tuner will pick up the sound that you played. If the needle drifts to the left or right into the yellow or red, you tune the string higher or lower until the tuner shows green.
- Jam Play functions in the same manner as the Pro Guitar Tuner, but it offers both a digital tuner and a tune-by-ear tuner. It has an appealing display with a light grid that illuminates green when you're in tune.
- Truly a five-star tuner and possibly the most interesting digital tuner available online, an-online-guitar-tuner.com uses your computer's microphone like the previous tuners, but as it detects the sound it shows the waveform of your pitch as it fluctuates, down to the most precise measurement called cents. The display screen of the tuner is larger and less cluttered than any other tuner online.
The tuners above can be used with any six-string guitar, acoustic, electric, or classical. With digital tuners you also have the option to bypass the computer's built-in microphone and tune your guitar even if you're in a noisy room or in the middle of a rock concert where you can't hear your notes. To take advantage of this convenient feature, you will need to buy an adapter that plugs your guitar directly into your computer. The tuner will then receive your notes without using a microphone.
If you don't like tuning using a visual guide as described above, you will need a tune-by-ear tuner. This means the tuner simply plays the proper note back to you, and it is your job to then play the corresponding string on your guitar and match it to what you're hearing. The following sites offer excellent tune-by-ear tuners that can be used on any six-string guitar.
- Fender.com the famous guitar manufacturer has a free tuner on its site that plays each note of the six guitar strings when you click on them. It has loop options so that it will play the note repeatedly until you're able to tune your guitar. This tuner also has very high quality audio, and its interface is simple to use. It offers many alternative tunings besides the standard guitar setting.
- Gieson.com provides both a guitar tone and a non-guitar tone for tuning playback, as well as a delay function to make the notes last longer as you tune your guitar to the playback. It also has a separate mode for alternative tunings with dozens of preset tuning configurations.
- Get-Tuned.com gives the guitarist the ability to customize the tuner based on a simple system of choosing which note you want for each string. It does have preset tunings to save you time, but if you need flexibility for tunings that you often create yourself, this site will allow full customization.
- This 12-string guitar tuner, also a Get-Tuned.com design, offers an easy-to-use tuner for 12-string players with clear diagrams of how to tune each of the 12 strings, which can be a daunting task for any level of musician. Fortunately, this site's step-by-step guide makes it simple.
These five tuning sites provide a variety of visual styles and interface designs, from the most simple to the most lavish. As you experiment with each one, make sure to bookmark the ones you like the best.
Understanding How a Tuner Works
Each tuner above, whether it is digital or tune-by-ear, presents the same basic concept: It allows you to check the tuning of each of the six strings of the guitar: E-A-D-G-B-E. Although a musician can play dozens of notes on a guitar, she only needs to keep the six strings in tune to ensure that every note that she plays will sound good. The following bullet points will help you remember which string is which on your guitar:
- The lowest sound string, the one closest to your body as you hold the guitar on your lap, is the low E string.
- The next lowest sounding string directly to the right of the low E is called the A string.
- To the right of the A is the D string.
- To the right of the D is the G string.
- To the right of the G is the B string.
- The string to the right of the B on the far right side of the guitar is called the high E string.
Tuners typically have a diagram that illustrates the points above so that you know which string it is playing. When you tune your guitar, begin with the low E string, then work your way up in the order shown in the points above. If your computer's audio card or speaker does not play a good quality sound with the tune-by-ear tuners, then you may want to purchase headphones or external speakers.
The Importance of Guitar Care
As you become adept at using these tuners, it will make your experience with them less frustrating if you take proper care of your guitar:
- Never leave your instrument sitting in a hot car or a freezing space. Extreme temperatures warp the body of a guitar and make it very difficult to keep in tune.
- Bring your guitar into your local guitar shop once a year to ensure that all of its parts are calibrated and working properly and not sabotaging your tuning efforts. For example, if you play a note on a low end of a string and it is in tune, but when you play a note on the high end of the same string it is out of tune, this is a clear sign that your guitar is in need of a check-up from a professional.
- Change your strings often. Old, worn out strings are harder to tune.
If you take good care of your instrument, you will have a much more pleasant experience tuning your guitar with online tuners. In fact, you might even enjoy experimenting with the wide variety of options that these fantastic tuners offer.