So you’re starting with your first pedal board setup. A tuner is a must have first item in the chain and it may actually provide more than you think!
A tuner pedal is typically placed at the beginning of the signal chain so that it can get the unchanged signal before it will be processed by the other effects that may actually change your tuning deliberately. While not an effect on its own, it is a necessary piece of gear to start with as it gives you the perfect starting point for your performance. There are many ways to tune your instrument. A tuner pedal has a number of advantages over the other types of tuners like clip-ons but also has some down sides.
Let’s start with advantages first:
- It can silence the signal of your guitar when tuning. With other tuners your audience will hear you tuning up.
- It is not influenced by the surrounding noise or vibrations like the acoustic or slip-on tuners.
- Some tuners also allow powering other pedals! So it can also provide power to all your pedals!
A note on clip-on tuners: while they are very handy and portable, they do require batteries (which may deplete at an unhandy moment) and some have problems with recognizing strings, so check reviews before getting one. Of course you can always use an app on a phone, but it depends on the quality of the microphone and on the noise around you while tuning (try with kids playing around…).
But it also comes with some downsides:
- It can only work with the instruments that have electric pick-ups and have a cable to plug-in into the pedal. So it won’t work on your regular acoustic guitar.
- Many pedals will require to be plugged into the power socket. Especially those powering pedals.
Note: if you are looking for a multi-fx unit, it will most likely come with a built-in tuner. Some amplifiers will come with a built-in tuner (albeit limited) as well.
Tuners tend to come in different shapes, colors, etc. There are a couple of things you want to pay attention to:
- Accuracy. The primary purpose of a tuner is to provide accurate feedback on the tuning of your instrument. So the better accuracy the tuner provides the better. Typical accuracy for a modern tuner is 1%. Not many people will hear difference with e.g. 2%, but 1% is a good reference.
- Readability. All tuners will give indication of instrument being in tune, but some are easier to read than others. If you intend to play outdoors this may be even more challenging. See some examples below.
- Extra functionality. Some tuners provide extra power connections, some provide built-in support for alternative tunings or tuning other instruments. If you’re planning to use different instruments or play alternative tunings those pedals may be more interesting.
Read the reviews of several tuners on the next page.