Tuning the guitar is one of the first things a beginner learns and is often one of the most daunting. But a carefully-chosen guitar tuner can be a big help to beginners and you will soon learn to tune your guitar quickly, easily and accurately.
Most budget guitar tuners are suitable for beginners and are very easy to use… but some are a better choice than others. Here we guide you through some of the features available on modern guitar tuners and which ones you need as a beginner.
LED or LCD?
It is best to choose a tuner with LEDs to indicate sharp (note too high) and flat (note too low) - most tuners have this as standard, along with an “in tune” LED.
Manual note selection can be useful for beginners and a particular feature that is useful for beginners is an off-note indication; this will tell you which way to tune even if the string is a very long way out of tune – a particular problem beginners often face. Many guitar tuners also have a 7-segment LED display to indicate the chosen note, but budget tuners with manual-only note selection may not have this. It is not a vital requirement for a beginner’s guitar tuner, but is is a “nice to have”.
LCDs are popular on many cheap beginners guitar tuners but can be a little more difficult to read than LEDs. Fine if you will only be practicing at home, with good light (and good eyesight!), but LEDs will always be easier to use and have the advantage that you can see easily them in dim light conditions.
[Note: LED = Light Emitting Diode; LCD = Liquid Crystal Display]
Do I need a chromatic tuner?
If you are a beginner at guitar and will be playing only with standard guitar tuning (EADGBE) then you do not need a Chromatic feature on your tuner, but don’t be put off if your chosen guitar has this. Chromatic simply means that any note can be tuned, even sharps and flats (e.g Eb or C#). This is not needed for standard beginner’s tuning. [As an aside, complete beginners may not know that the full range of note in musical notation is: A, Bb, B, C, C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, G# - 12 notes in total. It’s not quite this simple, because Eb is the same as D# etc., but it’s worth noting a basic oddity that there is no such thing as E# or B#!!)
Do I need a microphone or mic?
If your guitar is an acoustic, with either steel strings or nylon strings, then ensure that your chosen tuner has a built-in microphone (or ‘mic’).
The microphone picks up the sound in the same way as you hear it, with no connections to the guitar.
Do I need a socket or jack?
If you will be tuning electric guitars then you will need a ¼” jack socket to plug your guitar lead into and you don’t need a microphone.
When playing electric guitars it is also very useful to have both an input jack and output jack on your guitar. With two guitar leads you can then leave your tuner “in circuit” for ease of use. This means that you don’t have to unplug your guitar from its amplifier to plug it into your tuner. Not vital, but makes checking your tuning easier.
What about clip-on guitar tuners?
Clip-on guitar tuners are a relatively new invention. They can be used for both acoustic and electric guitars and pick up the guitar's notes as vibrations though the guitar itself, not through the air with a microphone. Clip-on tuners are very small and lightweight and clip directly onto the head of the guitar. This can be convenient, as it's close to the tuning pegs, but can be awkward, difficult to read and get in the way! A personal choice, but the author would not recommend clip-on tuners as the best choice for the beginner.
Should I chose a pedal tuner?
Pedal tuners are an excellent choice for all electric guitarists and will usually have all the recommended features mentioned above, nicely packaged in a very robust pedal that will last you for many years. The only down-side is the price, which tends to significantly higher than basic plastic-cased lightweight tuners often chosen by beginners. But if you are learning to play electric guitar or bass guitar and can afford one, pedal tuners are highly recommended.
Pedal tuners are not usually suitable for acoustic guitars, because they do not have a built-in microphone.
Remember, when you are a beginner learning to play the guitar, it will never sound right unless your guitar is in tune! Although tuning your guitar can seem like a chore at first it does get easier with practice and you will be rewarded with the sound of clear harmonious notes and tuneful notes. :)
Good luck with your tuning and your journey in learning the guitar.
Struggling with left hand chord shapes?
Check out this great little gadget from http://guitar-gizmo.com
A great learning and practice aid for beginners, for less than the price of a set of strings!