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Getting in tune: 6 apps for tuning your guitar

Kirk McElhearn | Oct. 16, 2014
If you play guitar or another string instrument, one of the thankless tasks you do before you play--and in between songs--is getting your instrument in tune. There are several ways you can do this: You can have another instrument--preferably one that doesn't go out of tune--play a note, and then tune your other strings to that one. You can use a tuning fork for one string, and tune the rest of your strings to that. Or you can buy an electronic tuner that you clip on your guitar.

If you play guitar or another string instrument, one of the thankless tasks you do before you play — and in between songs — is getting your instrument in tune. There are several ways you can do this: You can have another instrument — preferably one that doesn't go out of tune — play a note, and then tune your other strings to that one. You can use a tuning fork for one string, and tune the rest of your strings to that. Or you can buy an electronic tuner that you clip on your guitar.

But if you have an iPhone or iPad, why not use an app? There are lots of apps that can help you tune your guitar, or other instruments; here are five of them. 

Guitar Toolkit

Guitar Toolkit ($10) is much more than just a tuning app. It's also got a metronome, a library of 2 million chords, and more than 900 scales with millions of positions. Plus, an optional in-app purchase lets you create chord sheets, use an advanced metronome, and more. For tuning, Guitar Toolkit is very flexible: You set your preferred pitch between 392Hz to 528Hz, and you can even use presets to tune any plucked string instrument. There are dozens of alternate tunings, and you could use it with, say, a violin or cello by setting up a custom tuning.

I find Guitar Toolkit's shaky needle a bit disturbing: It wavers as it's detecting the pitch, and even when I played a tuning fork, it didn't stay immobile. But its flexibility and many additional features make it a great app for anyone who plays guitar.

Gibson Learn & Master

Gibson Learn & Master with StudioShare (free) offers a similar display: A needle that wavers back and forth as you zero in on the right tuning. It wiggles less, and I find it easier to use than Guitar Toolkit. It also displays the precise frequency of the note you've played, and the number of cents you are away from the target.

It's got some additional features as well, including some alternate tunings, a metronome, and a simple chord library. But if you just want a free, easy-to-use tuner, this might be exactly what you need.

Cleartune

Cleartune ($4) is a chromatic tuner that lets you set the desired pitch, choose from a number of temperaments, and use a variety of different types of notation (standard notes, solfège, etc.). It displays a horizontal scale that moves beneath a cursor, as well as a note wheel, and I find it quite easy to use.

You can optionally display frequencies, and in pitch pipe mode, it can play tones at various frequencies for you to tune to. However, I question its accuracy; when I play an A-440 tuning fork, the app finds it hard to settle on what frequency it is, and bounces around a lot. 

 

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