Be it for fun, practice, for a weekend gig or for a big open air concert, you need to keep your guitar in tune.
To do this you need a reliable, convenient and accurate tuner. And to help you in finding just that, I present 11 of the best acoustic guitar tuners, chosen based on my many years of experience, for their functionality, durability, positive feedback and user recommendations.
The Different Types of Acoustic Guitar Tuners
Tuners come in various shapes and sizes, but they can be classified under three groups based on their form factor and how they listen to your guitar's tuning. The three main groups include clip-on tuners, acoustic tuners and pedal tuners. Note that some might fall under multiple classifications, especially those intended for use with various types of instruments.
Without a doubt, Clip-on Tuners are the most popular of all the three types, thanks to their ease of use, practicality and flexibility. After clipping them on the headstock, they utilize "piezo" sensors to hear your guitar sound via the vibrations of the wood, instead of having to rely on a microphone or an input jack. This means that you can tune your guitar in situations where noise from other instruments are unavoidable. While they can be fragile and tiny, they can get the job done with proper handling. More importantly, these tuners are more affordable and they reduce the bulk and weight that you have to carry to your gigs.
Because they utilize built-in microphones, Acoustic Tuners rely on actually hearing the sound of your instrument, it's as if a professional musician is helping you tune by ear. The obvious challenge for this type of tuner is that outside noise will easily bleed into it's microphone making it hard to use when tuning with other musicians or at noisy gig venues. While this particular technology may seem outdated, they remain the most flexible because you can use them to tune almost any instrument.
Pedal Tuners with their tank tough metal exterior are the most reliable and durable of the three, making them ideal for gigging musicians. While they maybe bulkier and heavier, the extra protection, better accuracy and bigger display area that they offer, can often spell the difference between a great gig and a gig gone wrong. It's also worth mentioning that its harder to misplace pedals, so you won't end up having to tune on stage by ear! These are only of use If you have a pickup in your guitar or you're using an acoustic-electric and you don't mind having an extra pedal in your rig.
What to Look For When Choosing Which Acoustic Guitar Tuner to Buy
Tuning in smaller venues is one of the many challenges that gigging acoustic guitarists have to face on a regular basis. Since you can't totally mute an acoustic guitar's natural projection, the audience can still hear you pluck your strings as you tune. Although cracking jokes can help distract your audience from the awkward "tuning song", you often have to soften your attack on the strings as you tune so they don't over power your banter with the audience. In line with this, you need a tuner that is sensitive enough to let you tune with the slightest pluck or strum, and you also want it to be as easy to use and discrete as possible so you can transition to playing a song quickly. Clip-on tuners, and acoustic tuners work well for these intimate gigs.
In louder band settings or for bigger venues, tuning silently becomes less of a problem, but tuning fast and accurately is demanded, especially when multiple instruments are tuning at the same time and you can no longer trust your ears. These situations require tuners that will let you tune quickly and accurately without having to actually hear the notes yourself. For these types of gigs, you are better off using pedal tuners since you'll probably be plugged into an amplifier or a PA anyway. Clip-on tuners with bigger displays also work well in this situation.
There are also many tuner apps for smartphones - they're often free which makes them perfect for using at home, but they're far too cumbersome and prone to audio interference to use when playing live or at important rehearsals with a large number of other musicians.
Here are The 11 Best Acoustic Guitar Tuners
TC Electronic PolyTune Clip
Manufacturer: TC Electronic | Price: usually about $50
TC Electronic’s innovative polyphonic tuning allows you to strum the guitar and concurrently tune each string instead of the usual one-string-at-a-time method. Thanks to this technology, tuning time is dramatically cut down without sacrificing accuracy or functionality. Now this same technology is made available in clip-on format, carrying over the same tuning precision and innovative multi-string tuning but in a more accessible and affordable format. This impressive tuner lets you tune your guitar in three ways, polyphonic for quick one strum tuning, traditional chromatic if you prefer to tune by string, and an ultra precise +/-0.02 cents "strobe" tuner mode which is ideal when you are setting up your instrument's intonation. One thing that TC Electronic can improve on is the clip mechanism's limited rotation, which makes it a bit harder to get the tuner into certain positions. Other than that, if you want no less than the best tuning technology then you should get the PolyTune Clip. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Korg Pitchhawk G2
Manufacturer: Korg | Price: usually under $30
Korg have built their reputation by producing quality gear that goes beyond the confinement of guitar accessories, and as such they have more than enough experience to design and mass produce reputable clip-on tuners. The Pitchhawk G2 is the latest version of their popular affordable clip-on tuner, featuring a slimmer body with improved high-contrast high-brightness LCD display. The smaller footprint makes positioning and storage more convenient, and reduces the risk of damaging your beloved acoustic guitar when tuning. The bigger and brighter display ensures that you get great visual feedback whichever position is convenient for you. Other nifty features include over-winding warning for beginners, auto power off and memory backup. While the bells and whistles are limited, you can expect this tuner to have Korg's brand of quality build and reliability. If you're looking for a straightforward and practical tuner with impressive visual flair, then this is the tuner for you. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Manufacturer: Snark | Price: usually under $15
Without a doubt, the Snark SN-2 is the most popular guitar tuner in the market today, thanks mostly to its affordable price and its flexible positioning mechanism. For something so affordable, this clip-on tuner is packed with quite a lot of extra features. This includes pitch calibration which is useful when matching the tuning of another instrument, transposition when you need to change standard tuning and there's even a tap tempo metronome which can be handy for practice. Most notable of the extras however is the built-in microphone which complements the internal vibration sensor, which means that this clip on tuner can also function as a traditional acoustic tuner. While the accuracy of this tuner may not be enough for detailed intonation work, the Snark SN-2 is more than enough to tune your guitar during practice and gigs, you can even lend it to your bassist because this tuner can handle other string instruments. The Snark SN-2 is proof that you don't have to pay more to get a workhorse tuner. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Manufacturer: Peterson | Price: usually under $80
When it comes to precision tuning, many professional artists such as Steve Stevens, Nu-Blu Bluegrass and Rich Robinson trust Peterson Strobe tuners. Thankfully, they made their impressive 1/10 cent accurate strobe tuning available in clip-on format. To achieve this in a compact clip-on format, they created a virtual version of their Strobe tuner technology that takes less space and does not utilize moving parts. Because of its accuracy, it can even tune acoustic guitars with the complex Buzz Feiten Tuning System, and you can do so without much hassle thanks to its intuitive display and controls. In addition to accuracy, the company packed StroboClip with other nifty features, most notable of which is its multi-instrument compatibility wherein it can tune Ukuleles, Banjos, Mandolins and Dobros with ease. Other features include multiple tuning and capo settings that allow for quick tuning changes during live performances. It would've been nicer if the price tag was a bit cheaper, but even still, the Peterson StroboClip is a worthy investment if you're looking for a reliable and accurate tuner. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Acoustic Guitar TunersAt the time of writing, the 4 tuners we've selected in this category are the 4 highest rated tuners in their class on Gearank.com.
Boss TU-12EX Chromatic Tuner
Manufacturer: BOSS | Price: usually about $99
Known for their tank tough and affordable pedals, Boss makes equally reliable and durable acoustic tuners. The Boss TU-12EX Chromatic Tuner is the updated version of their popular TU-12, which some professional musicians have been using for more than 10 years. The update adds pedal tuner like qualities with the addition of input and output jacks for acoustic-electric and electric guitars. There's not much extras in this unit, just a straightforward acoustic tuner with meter display that can handle the frequency range of guitar or bass from E0 (20.6Hz) to C8 (4,186Hz). What makes this stand out is how it does what it does reliably for years - and it does so with good precision of +/-1 cent. The meter display maybe old school but it shows you exactly how close you are from your desired tuning. Ironically, the TU-12EX did not follow Boss' usual affordable price point, well at least when it comes to tuners. Still the price is steal considering the lifetime's worth of tuning you can get out of this box.
Manufacturer: KLIQ Music Gear | Price: usually under $30
Of the many chromatic tuners in the market, the KLIQ MetroPitch is one of the few hidden gems that give you the best value for your hard earned money. For its price, you get three features in one device, a tuner, a metronome and a tone generator all packed in a compact box. At the core of MetroPitch is the fast and versatile tuner which comes with various tuning modes, transposition settings and pitch calibration. It is designed to handle various types of instruments, having a built-in microphone for audio tuning and a 1/4" input jack for accommodating electric guitars and acoustic guitars with pickups. The ability to behave like a pedal and acoustic tuner is complemented by the wider tuning range of A0-C8, making it usable for bass, guitars and other instruments. The Tap Tempo metronome is an added bonus that surprisingly works really well, with an intuitive jog dial interface that lets you adjust the tempo in real time to your preference. Finally, the 88 Note Tone Generator is ideal for ear training, and can be used as reference notes for alternate tuning. My only concern is that some extra handling care maybe needed to extend the lifetime of this multi-purpose tuner. Still this is the best practice friendly tuner in this list, ideal for serious students of the instrument. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Korg GA-40 Guitar and Bass Tuner
Manufacturer: Korg | Price: usually under $20
The Korg GA-40 is an affordable guitar and bass tuner that is as straightforward and traditional as it gets. It utilizes a built-in mic to detect the pitch of your acoustic guitar, and automatically gives you visual feedback via the LCD needle-style display, letting you know exactly how close or far you are from the ideal tone of a particular string. To make it more relevant, Korg expanded the tuning range of the GA-40 and added 1/4" input and output jacks, in order to accommodate modern 7-string guitars and 6-string basses. Interestingly, this expanded range allows the tuner to work really well with other instruments, as seen with the consistently positive feedback that the GA-40 has been getting. From guitars, to violins and even for tuning an acoustic piano, the GA-40 does a straightforward and excellent job of getting the instruments tuned quickly and efficiently. There are some who are concerned about its exterior being prone to damage, but with proper handling, this could be the tuner of choice if you are a multi-instrumentalist, who happen to play guitar. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Planet Waves Universal Chromatic Tuner
Manufacturer: D'Addario | Price: usually about $15
Planet Waves from D’Addario boasts an extensive list of guitar accessories and artist endorsers. Diverse talents such as Pat Metheny, Joe Satriani, Keith Urban and Adrian Belew are just a few of the many professional guitarists that rely on Planet Waves gear to get them through their gigs. As expected, they have designed and produced their own Universal Chromatic Tuner, which as the name implies, comes with a straightforward set of features to make it compatible with more instruments. This simple tuner surprisingly gained quite the popularity, thanks to its affordability and flexibility, which goes beyond what’s expected of its price point. Features include a built-in microphone for tuning acoustics and a ¼” input for pickup equipped instruments. Another noteworthy feature is its combination of LED and LCD display, allowing for good visual monitoring in both well-lit and dark environments. While it doesn’t have anything outside of the ordinary to offer, it does work reliably well as intended. This is ideal if you’re looking for a no-nonsense acoustic guitar tuner that can also tune other instruments. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
TC Electronic PolyTune Mini 2
Manufacturer: TC Electronic | Price: usually under $90
Now that pedalboard space is becoming a scarce commodity, smaller pedals are getting more and more attention. The PolyTune Mini 2 is born out of this need for compact pedals, carrying over the same tuning technology found on the original PolyTune pedal and packing them all inside a form factor that's roughly just half the size of a regular stompbox. Both the polyphonic tuning technology and the chromatic strobe tuner technology were miniaturized to fit into this mini pedal, giving you the same versatility and accuracy without the bulk and weight. As the number 2 on the name implies, this is an updated version which comes with improved display that has 109 ultra bright LEDs for even better visibility regardless of lighting condition. And just like the original pedal, the PolyTune Mini 2 holds up really well both in practice and gig situations, its solid exterior can handle the regular beatings that pedals are expected to go through. The only downside to this pedal is its price tag, but its still a worthy investment as testified by the many users who are thankful for picking the pedal. If you're looking for the best tuning technology that the market can offer in pedal form, then go for the PolyTune Mini 2.Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner Pedal
Manufacturer: BOSS | Price: usually under $100
Boss' reputation for building gear that last a lifetime is without question, and this applies to their popular chromatic tuner pedal, the TU-3. As expected, it comes with the company's tank tough stompbox form factor, which helps guarantee its longevity. Also expected are the simple set of controls that let you engage/disengage the tuner as you want. What sets it apart from the competition is its 21-segment LED meter with high-brightness mode that provides impressive visual monitoring. Be it in low-light or noon-time, you can clearly see how close you are from the correct pitch with the note name and LED indicators. In addition to its good LED Display and virtually indestructible exterior, Boss designed the TU-3 pedal to double as a power supply for other boss products. This makes owning a TU-3 pedal even more rewarding, reducing the cable clutter in your pedalboard and allowing you to power up to seven pedals - that's more than most acoustic guitarists use. The TU-3's basic overall look can be a letdown to some, but if you can get past the exterior cosmetics, you will realize why this pedal into one of Boss' top selling stompbox. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com
Korg Pitchblack Chromatic Tuner
Manufacturer: Korg | Price: usually under $80
While more popular with electric guitar players because of its black motif, Korg's Pitchblack Chromatic Tuner works just as well for acoustic-electrics guitars. Its road tested exterior makes it more than capable of handling the rigors of regular gigging, and its ability to handle downtuned electric guitars and even bass makes tuning acoustic guitars a breeze. The black color is not just for show, because it creates a better contrast for the eleven segment LED meter to shine through, along with large note name display, regardless of light setting. Having said all that though, the Pitchblack pedal is easily the most visually striking among the tuner pedals listed, and can be an easy pick for many based on looks alone. Giving you the incentive to utilize precious pedalboard space on a tuner, Korg equipped this pedal with DC output which you can use to power up your other pedals. Like the Boss pedal, Pitchblack can double as a power supply, making the cost of acquiring one even more justifiable. While it could have been better if it had more features instead of the redundant display options, this workhorse tuner pedal will make a great addition to anybody's rig. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
While it doesn't really matter how long it takes you to tune when playing at home, it's important to look and sound professional when playing live or rehearsing with a band, and this makes it vital to get a great tuner for these situations - it's what the pros do.
If you have any questions about tuners, or tuning, just ask in the comments below and I'll be happy to help.