Years at Rainbow:
Weekly work schedule: Tuesday-Saturday
What tuner is best for me?
Here’s a riddle: What’s worse than an out-of-tune guitar? Answer- NOTHING! I sell tuners from $19.99 to $110.00. They all tune your guitar so what’s the deal on the price ranges?
The basic tuners ($20-$30 average) are hand-held (or lap or tabletop) and pick up the sound with a built-in mic for acoustics or an input jack for electric guitars. In a quiet room, where noise isn’t going to confuse the mic input, they will work fine, and a beginner certainly doesn’t need more than that. These “guitar/bass” tuners come in standard or chromatic versions for a few dollars more. A chromatic tuner will allow you to tune to ANY note, flats, sharps, etc. instead of just the six basic notes of the unfretted strings. For instance, you just changed strings and you are nowhere close to that “E”. The chromatic tuner will tell you where you are. If it says D# then you need to go higher until it says E, then tune to the reading that indicates you are in tune. The guitar/bass version requires that you be in the “ballpark” and then get it perfect. For many people that is fine. The chromatic is more flexible.
The more expensive tuners have really handy features. For instance, there are clip-on tuners which pick up vibrations directly and eliminate the mic. You don’t have to worry about tuning an acoustic in a noisy room this way. There are “stage” models, the size of a guitar pedal, which light up bright so you can see it easily even though the tuner is on the floor, and mute your amp when you step on it to turn it on. Silent tuning - great feature! Plus, since it is on the floor, you don’t have to turn around, balance it on your lap, etc. Where were these things twenty years ago? I love them! If you are really dealing with minute tolerances, for instance tuning pianos or setting up instruments, or just want the most accurate hand held tuners, there are those with real “needles”, and are on the more expensive side of hand-held tuners. They are extremely accurate but harder to see in the dark. So you are really paying for features and quality. They all are "accurate".
Most guitar players won't need anything more accurate than even the modest priced tuners but the extra features and convenience of the better models sure make life easier, especially in a performing situation.