Electric Guitar Tuner
An electric guitar tuner is, by far, the most effective and reliable
method to tune a guitar. It is also the method I strongly recommend to anyone seeking advice on guitar tuning.
Almost all professional guitarists employ the use of electric guitar tuners for two reasons: (a) they
understand the importance of being in tune and (b) they know electronic tuners are the quickest and easiest
way to get in tune.
There is a bit of irony surrounding electric guitar tuners: the people who need them most –
beginners to intermediate guitarists – are the very people who are least likely to have or use them. Many beginners
wrongfully feel electric guitar tuners are not worth the added expense. Unfortunately, these guitarists often have
little experience with other musical instruments and therefore their ability to tell the difference between close
but different pitches – an aspect of ear training – has not been developed.
I was first exposed to the guitar in college when a friend let me borrow his guitar. After a few
days, he came over to see how I was doing. I played one of the open chords I had been practicing. He literally
cringed – the guitar was way out of tune. I had never really played a musical instrument before and so I lacked the
ability to hear that the instrument had gone out of tune.
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Additionally, the best way for a beginner to improve his or her ear is to consistently play in tune. In fact,
playing out of tune will, not surprisingly, reduce the speed at which a beginner will develop his or her ear. Throw
in the fact that many beginners start with an inexpensive guitar that goes out of tune easily and you have a real
recipe for frustration.
For electric guitars I highly recommend the Korg Pitchblack tuner. It is the overall best tuner
on the market.
For many years, the Boss TU-2 was the electric guitar tuner of choice. However, the problem with
the TU-2 is that its accuracy is +/- 3 cents (a cent is 1/100 of the distance between consecutive notes). Three
cents is discernible by somebody with a good ear. Furthermore, if two people playing together are tuning with
different TU-2 tuners, they could be as far off as 6 cents, which definitely is not good.
A number of well-known professional guitarists use Peterson strobe tuners. I read an interview
where Slash said he uses a Peterson. (Update: since I originally wrote this, Slash has switched
over to the Korg Pitchblack tuner.) I also attended an Andy Timmons guitar clinic where he mentioned he uses
one. The good thing about these tuners is that they are accurate to +/- 1 cent. But there are two bad things about
Peterson tuners. First, they are too expensive for most of us. Second, they appear to have a quality-control issue.
There are a number of stories on the web where people have bought these tuners and they stopped working. This
situation may be okay if you are a professional guitarist and you have an endorsement from Peterson. But for rest
of us, we’re better off spending our money elsewhere…
In 2008, Korg released the Pitchblack tuner. This tuner combines the best of both worlds (so to
speak). The Pitchblack has the accuracy of the Peterson strobe tuner with the price and quality of the Boss TU-2
tuner. Additionally, it adds some other great features such as four different modes of operation and true-bypass –
which means it doesn’t make your guitar sound worse when you are not tuning.
The Korg pitchblack tuner is the tuner I have on my pedalboard. I strongly recommend this
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