PHIL KEAGGY - Grammy nominated and seven-time Dove Award winner, is one of the world’s great guitar players and a pioneer in contemporary Christian music.
- August 8, 2016
- Guitar Lessons
"I hold in my hand one of the world’s best online tuners. It’s fast, accurate, and easy to use," the old man said as he slowly lifted his iPhone 6s to the sky…
Okay, so maybe the iPhone is not one of the world’s best online tuners, but it’s a pretty good one. The same tiny little speaker you use to call your bestie and tell them that you’re at the mall can be used to tune those guitar strings up when you’re ready to rock some faces off!
All of the tuners mentioned below work a lot better with an acoustic guitar or amplified electric guitar, especially when there’s minimal background noise.
However, you can plug your electric (or acoustic/electric) guitar directly into your phone with an inexpensive adapter like this one from Peterson:
Getting an adapter like this not only allows you to tune with great accuracy, it lets you use your guitar with all of the recording apps out there. But before you track your next big hit song, let’s tune that six string monstrosity.
Guitar Tuning Apps
There are some great tuning apps out there, both paid and free. When looking for accuracy and ease of use of the best online tuners, there was one that stood above the rest. Cleartune by Bitcount, Ltd. is a great chromatic tuner with the accuracy and flexibility you’d expect from a stomp box style tuner.
As a matter of fact, it’s even more accurate than most floor tuners. While you do have to pay a little bit of money ($4.99 at the time of this writing), it's nowhere near the $100 price of a quality stomp box counterpart. When compared to the highest rated free tuning apps, Cleartune was the clear winner, getting the acoustic guitars we tried spot on every time.
As an added bonus, this is a chromatic tuner, which means that it registers all of the 12 tones in music. It is well suited for tuning, not just guitar, but every instrument under the sun. I’ve seen plenty of studio musicians pull out this same tuner and use it on everything from cello to trumpet during recording sessions.
This tuner is also well suited for tasks like intonation of your guitar because it’s chromatic and you can check the pitch of any fretted note. Just remember to push nice and even to get an accurate reading (pushing to hard on a fretted string will make it ring sharp).
Pro Tip - When you’re tuning a guitar with an extremely accurate tuner like this one, you should let the string ring out for a second or two before adjusting. There's always a little spike in the pitch on initial pick attack because the string vibrates more, and therefore will register sharper. So let the string ring out nice and even as you tune.
Free Guitar Tuning Apps
Let’s take a look at 2 of the best free tuning apps out there. Chromatic Guitar Tuner by Gismart. Rivaling the accuracy and ease of use of Cleartune, this free app has a lot of great qualities. For starters--and most importantly--it was the most accurate of the free tuners, leaving the acoustic ringing clear and true.
In guitar mode, this tuner takes ease of use to a whole new level. It has a brilliant graphic display that will show you which string you’re tuning and even let you know you which way to turn your guitar peg to get it in tune. Flip between over a dozen popular guitar and Ukulele tunings or hit the “A4” icon to switch to a fully chromatic tuner and use it on every instrument (or voice) that needs perfect intonation.
One quite annoying thing about this app is a flashing check mark, letting you know that you’re in tune (I presume), even when you are a couple cents sharp or flat. Ignore that checkmark and get the pitch centered for best results.
Another great free app that deserves mention is Tuner Lite by Plusadd. It’s both accurate and well laid out. No jumpy needle or tomfoolery, this has a clear, concise layout that makes tuning a breeze. One cool thing is the ability to switch backgrounds and customize the look. Nifty.
Pro Tip: for the best results with any tuner that uses a microphone, you need to consider your signal to noise ratio. If you’re in a place with a lot of background noise, you can expect jumpy needles and spinning wheels, as there’s just no way for most tuners to distinguish between that siren down the street and your low E string; hence, it will try to register both. So get somewhere nice and quiet for the sake of all things pitchy.
Best Online Tuners
Simple Tuner http://www.drumbot.com/projects/tuned/ is one of the best online tuners. Modern graphics and quick easy to read display. Not the most accurate tuner, but you can get it pretty close with a little patience and decent signal to noise ratio.
Moving right along, we have the more classic stylings of Pro Guitar Tuner https://www.proguitartuner.com/guitar-tuner/. I found this one to be very accurate, and was ready to give it the highest marks... until it failed to register the B and high E strings on one acoustic and was having difficulty with the Low E and A string on another. Odd. We still recommend to try this one out, though, because it was much more accurate than ‘Simple Tuner’. Hopefully, my experience was an anomaly and it will register every last one of your strings with skill and ease.
Last but not least, in this category, is one of the best online tuners from Fender Guitars. http://www2.fender.com/experience/online-guitar-tuner/ This is a different style guitar tuner than all of the other ones reviewed here.
For this one, you will be given an in tune reference pitch and then you will match that pitch by ear. Not only is this a great way to tune, it is very important for every musician to tune their instrument by ear. They have a wide variety of tunings including standard Drop D and open tunings, but my favorite feature is that the sound you hear is an actual guitar, and a very well recorded one at that. Not some cheesy keyboard guitar sound or computer beep tone.
My second favorite thing is that they provide excellent videos on tuning your guitar right on the tuning page. This is perfect for anyone interested in tuning their guitar or bass and improving their ear. I would highly recommend that you take these tutorials and use this page (even if you wind up using an automatic tuner as your main stay).
There you have it, some of the best online tuners for your computer, tablet, and smartphone. Whichever you choose, all are so much better than playing out of tune.
There were some very high rated apps and online tuners that just didn’t make the cut. Mostly because after tuning with the app, the guitars were just not in tune. Some of them were even plus or minus 10 cents, which is A LOT.
All of the ones listed have their pros and cons, and mostly it boils down to what you feel comfortable with. If we were going to only recommend one, we would probably grab “Guitar Tuner” by Bismart, and pull up the online Fender tuner to practice the essential art of tuning by ear. However, if you have an extra $5 burning a hole in your pocket, we’d go with “Cleartune” for a small degree of extra accuracy and to not have to look at that annoying flashing checkmark… Really Gismart, ditch the checkmark or at least give us a way to turn it off.
Once you decide on a tuner you'll be ready to practice. However, just like tuning your guitar correctly, you’ll next need to learn to play the guitar correctly. Click on the link below and check out our Pro’s. They’ll get you off to the right start!