The Twelfth Fret • Guitarists' Pro Shop
The Twelfth Fret ~ Since 1977 ~

Two Small Clip On Tuners

Electronic tuners have come a long way in the last few years, and have had a significant impact on guitar sounds – it’s a lot less common to find people playing way out of tune and this has made playing guitar (and other stringed instruments including banjos) easier and more enjoyable for all concerned.

Up to the 1980’s, tuners were usually large, expensive devices using strobe lights and spinning wheels, and were capable of detecting one note at a time. The advent of microprocessors, A/D converters and low-power displays started the trend towards much smaller tuners capable of deciding what note was being played without the user having to take their hands off the instrument.

For onstage use with electrified instruments, it’s often a good plan to use pedal-sized or rack tuners; these tend to be more sensitive and accurate, and the larger and brighter displays make them easier to use in a hectic stage setting. These often have mute switches for silent tuning.

However, clip-on tuners have become very popular with the availability of increasigly miniaturized displays. They are very convenient and accurate, can be passed around from instrument to instrument and carried in a pocket.

Today we’re looking at two small clip on tuners that are popular in our shop; one sells for $19 and the other $25. Both work well, and have their respective advantages.

The D’Addario Planet Waves NS Micro Tuner ($19)is tiny, and clips onto the edge of the headstock so the display is on the back of the head facing the player. This makes it visually unobtrusive, but some players of some instruments find it harder to see. While it’s very easy to clip on and take off, it works well as a semi-permanent install and usually doesn’t have to be removed to fit the instrument in its case.

The Fishman FT2 Flip-On Chromatic Tuner ($25) clips onto a headstock and is turned on by flipping up the display. The display is larger and brighter than the NS Micro, making the screen easy for the player to read, but the tuner is quite visible to the audience, too.

This type of tuner usually doesn’t have a microphone. The sensor is part of the clip-on mechanism, so the sound of other instruments shouldn’t interfere with operation too much.

Not all clip on tuners allow calibration of the A reference pitch – this requires extra controls. The Planet Waves NS Micro allows calibration from A=410 to A=480 hz; the Fishman FT2 Flip On has no buttons and is fixed at A=440. Normally, you’d use this if you are playing with an instrument that is off pitch slightly and can’t be easily retuned, such as an acoustic piano, or when playing with a recording that’s not at A=440.

One great feature most clip-on tuners have is multi-coloured displays. While this sounds like it might be gimmicky, it’s been used in an clever way; the display is usually amber or red until the pitch is close to the note, and then it turns green. Some, like the Fishman Flip-On, use three colours – amber for flat, green for at pitch, and red for sharp. The Planet Waves NS Micro uses the colours in a different way – red is far from pitch, amber is close, and green is within an acceptable range. This use of colour makes it very easy to get quite close to pitch in a hurry.

These displays do come with a price. Brightness means power consumption, so don’t forget to keep extra batteries on hand! These small tuners use standard coin-type batteries that can often be found at many places including convenience stores and pharmacies.

While tuners like this are extremely helpful for on the fly tuning, they aren’t ideal for tasks like setting intonation. They can be used for close results, but the displays aren’t always detailed enough for fine adjustments. It should be said that ultimately, there’s no way to get a guitar ‘perfectly’ in tune! A well-tuned guitar is actually the best set of compromises. Normally, intonation is set by moving the saddles so that two notes an octave apart match on the tuner. Common choices are the open string and the octave fret, or the 5th and 17th fretted notes.

D’Addario Planet Waves NS Micro Tuner: $18.95 Canadian
Fishman FT2 Flip-On Chromatic Tuner: $25.00 Canadian

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The Twelfth Fret

Guitarists’ Pro Shop
2132 Danforth Avenue
Toronto, Ontario  M4C 1J9
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