Listening to a guitarist who is out of tune sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. No matter how good you are, you will be labeled an amateur if you play a out of tune instrument. Fortunately, the clip-on tuner offers a simple solution! But how does it actually work? And what are the differences between all those countless models ?!
Tuning your instrument
For musicians, there is no accessory more important than a tuner. Tuning your instrument properly is one of the most essential parts of your playing. First a brief refresher for the beginners among us. The names of the open strings on your guitar from low to high are: E, A, D, G, B, and E. You can easily remember this using the mnemonic “A Monkey That Doesn’t Eat Bananas.” For a bass guitar, these are the same notes as the four lowest strings of a guitar (but an octave lower), so: E, A, D and G. This is important to know, otherwise the tuning of your instrument will be very tricky, even with a tuner.
What is a clip-on tuner?
A clip-on tuner is a type of tuner. It is characterized by a compact size, a clear display and a mounting clip on the back. There is a vibration sensor built in that picks up the vibrations from your instrument and sends them to the tuning circuit. This means that a clip-on tuner can also be used for other instruments. Think of a violin, ukulele or a trombone. The big advantage over a tuner that uses a microphone to pick up the tone is that you can use a clip-on in a noisy environment! Ideal if a band is already playing or if there is a lot of noise in the room. Clip-on tuners are a popular choice of musicians on the go. No wonder, because the device hardly takes up space and is therefore extremely practical. Moreover, they are hardly noticeable, so you can just leave them on your instrument during a performance. This method of tuning was invented by Mark Wilson of the OnBoard Research Corporation in 1995. He named his first model the Intellitouch Tuner Model PT1.
How do you attach a clip-on tuner?
A clip-on tuner is easy to clamp to your instrument. With a guitar, this is usually done at the headstock, because here the vibration of the strings can be felt well. Just hit a chord and feel at the end of the headline. You can now feel the strings resonate. This is also a good test to test the resonance of a guitar. The more vibrations you feel, the better the guitar resonates, enhancing the overall sound of the instrument. All clip-on tuners have a clamping system on the side or back. Usually the inside of that clamp is made of some kind of rubber. This not only ensures that the tuner remains firmly on the guitar, it also causes no damage. Win win. The more fully equipped models often also have a display that can rotate. This can give you just a little more visibility.
These are our 3 favourite Clip-On Tuners
Are there different types of clip-on tuners?
There are many different models, which work basically the same way, but have some subtle differences. The price can vary from about 6 euros to about 40 euros, but what causes that price difference? In any case, there are three important things to consider when choosing a clip-on tuner.
Competitively priced models often have a simple display. There is nothing wrong with this, but it can be difficult to read the display in a dark environment. In addition, there are models with extensive display options, such as different colors with bright LEDs or shapes that visualize the mood. It just depends on which method you prefer.
Chromatic or non-chromatic
A tuner that is not chromatic is designed to be used for one particular tuning only. In other words, suppose you want to tune the low E string. The tuner will only show how your string is tuned in relation to a low E, so higher or lower. A chromatic tuner shows how you are in tune in relation to the nearest semitone. This is the closest note in the chromatic scale, hence its name. The big advantage of this is that you can use these types of tuners for alternative tunings. In short, a non-chromatic tuner is cheaper, but make sure you buy a model that is suitable for your instrument. In addition, you are also tied to the standard mood. A chromatic tuner is often slightly more expensive, but many times more versatile.
The quality of the sensor
Clip-on tuners earn their existence through the use of a vibration sensor. Cheaper tuners often have a sensor with a less wide frequency range than the more luxurious models. In other words, tuners with less range will sometimes have more trouble tuning the lower strings. Some will therefore not be suitable for bass guitar.
Hopefully you now have a better idea of what a clip-on tuner can do for you.