In the old days, guitarists had few choices when it came to tuning their guitars.
One option was to use a tuning fork. This is a U shaped two prong fork made of steel, that when struck, resonates a pure tone at a particular pitch determined by the length of the tines.
A guitarist would use the tuning fork to tune one of the strings on the guitar to the proper pitch and then tune the rest of the guitar strings appropriately. (see "Tuning the Guitar")
Another option was to use a "pitch pipe" in a similar fashion. A pitch pipe is a device that, when blown into, produces an audible pitch.
Yet another option was to use a piano to get reference notes for tuning the guitar. Of course this depended on the piano being in proper tuning.
Electronic TunersNowadays, things are much easier for tuning the guitar with the advent of electronic tuners. These devices are designed with input jacks to plug in a guitar for tuning, and also have built in condenser microphones for tuning an acoustic guitar.
Most electronic tuners will have a display on the front to indicate the pitch of the string. Some analog tuners have a VU type needle that indicates the pitch of the string. Newer digital tuners will use a digital replication of a VU meter, or they may display the string pitch with the use of LED lights.
Most of these units are powered with batteries. Many use 9 volt batteries.
There are numerous styles of guitar tuners on the market. Some are simple, inexpensive units that can fit in a shirt pocket. Others are designed similar to an effects pedal to be used on the floor or on stage. Some tuners are made to easily clamp to the guitar and tunes the guitar by sensing string vibrations. Still others are made to be rack mounted.
Some guitar tuners are now available that can be attached to the guitar tuning nut on the headstock and will turn the tuning nut until the string is in tune.
A number of guitar manufacturers are now installing on-board tuners on their new guitars.
Chromatic vs 6 StringBasic guitar tuners are set up to tune the 6 strings on the guitar in a standard "E" tuning. In other words, they are capable of tuning the E, A, D, G, B & E strings.
Chromatic tuners are also available. These tuners are designed to tune "all" the notes in the spectrum, including sharps and flats. These chromatic tuners are especially useful to guitarists that play in alternate tunings such as open "E".
As you might imagine, guitar tuners are available in a wide array of shapes, styles and prices.
A good basic battery operated digital tuner can be purchased for under $10. Beyond that, there are a variety of models available that are designed for different applications and constructed of various materials.
There are models available in a modest price range of $30 to $60, and there are also upper end tuners on the market for $100 or more.
Choosing a Tuner
If you are just starting out on the guitar then an inexpensive basic tuner for about $10 will do the trick for you.
As you progress on the guitar and possibly start playing with a band, a good tuner that sits on stage, in-line with your other pedals, might be a good option.
If you plan on trying out some alternate guitar tunings somewhere down the road, you may want to go ahead and spend a few more dollars for a chromatic tuner.
Irregardless of which tuner you choose, just make sure you get one so you don't have to tune your guitar the pre-historic way, with a tuning fork or pitch pipe!
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions!