November 5, 2007

Clip-On Chromatic Tuners

One thing that all stringed instruments share in common is the need to be tuned. Aside from strings, the accessories that we probably field the most questions about are tuners.

At the simplest, one can use a tuning fork or pitch pipe to successfully tune a stringed instrument. They provide a single reference (in the case of a tuning fork) or a number of references (in the case of a pitch pipe) to tune the pitch of the strings against.

To achieve successful results, the user must have a fairly well-trained ear and patience. But even the best-trained ear will be challenged in a loud room, particularly if other musicians are also tuning their instruments.

At the other end of the spectrum is the strobe tuner. Highly accurate (and rather expensive) these tuners are usually reserved for critical applications like setting the intonation of an instrument in a repair shop, or preparing an instrument for recording in a well-outfitted recording studio.

In the middle are electronic tuners of various shapes, sizes, and price points. Many of them feature a small microphone that picks up the vibrating pitch of the string, and displays that on a meter of sorts, to allow tuning to the desired pitch. While these tuners work perfectly well, they also are subject to interference from ambient sounds. Like the well-trained ear that is put to the test in a noisy environment, these types of tuners can also be challenging to use in such an environment, unless your instrument has a pickup and is plugged into the tuner directly.

The clip-on chromatic tuner is a solution that offers accurate tuning with little hassle. Instead of picking-up the pitch of the string via a small microphone, the clip-on tuner senses the pitch through the vibration carried through the instrument. Typically clipped to the headstock of a guitar, mandolin, banjo, or fiddle, the clip-on tuner is resistant to ambient noise, making it ideal for tuning in acoustically noisy environments. Further, it is easy to read the illuminated display, and it accurately picks up lower pitched strings, (something that isn't always the case for electronic tuners with small microphones.) As it is chromatic, it can be used for any tuning scheme, making it appropriate for a variety of string instruments and altered tunings that are common among guitar, banjo, and fiddle players.

Additionally, these tuners, like the Oasis OH-11 pictured, can be calibrated to standards outside of A=440. This is useful when tuning to keyed instruments that don't feature adjustable tuning.

Small, accurate, flexible, and hassle free - for most players, the clip-on chromatic tuner is an excellent choice for most applications.

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