Guide to Guitar Tuners, Types, and How They Work

There’s a distinct charm in the resonance of a well-tuned guitar—a charm that is crucial whether you’re practicing alone, recording in a studio, or performing live on stage. While some seasoned musicians have the knack for tuning by ear, the precision and ease of using a guitar tuner are unparalleled, especially in a live performance scenario where impeccable sound is important. For gigging musicians, a guitar tuner is not just a convenience but a vital component of their gear. It ensures that each strum harmonizes beautifully with the rest, creating a melodious experience for the audience. With a guitar tuner at their disposal, musicians can swiftly and accurately tune their instruments, ensuring a flawless performance. In the bustling environment of a live gig, where time is of the essence and ambient noise is a constant, having a reliable guitar tuner is a game changer that empowers musicians to deliver their best sound every time.

Guitar Tuner Types

Depending on your skill level and preferences, there are a wide variety of guitar tuners to choose from:

  • A clip-on guitar tuner is a small device that attaches to the headstock of your guitar. It detects the instrument’s vibrations to determine the pitch of the strings, displaying the results on a small screen. This allows you to quickly and accurately tune your guitars by adjusting the string tension. The staff at SBM voted the Nexxus 360 as the best option for a clip-on tuner. The array of features and usability easily puts it at the top of the list.
  • A handheld guitar tuner is one of the most straightforward and accessible types available. It typically features a small screen or display showing each guitar string’s pitch in real-time. When the player plucks a string, the tuner detects the pitch and displays the note to allow for easy adjustments.
  • Strobe guitar tuner: Unlike standard electronic tuners, which use LEDs or a needle to indicate whether a string is in tune, a strobe guitar tuner uses a rotating disc or wheel with a pattern of equally spaced lines or dots on it. When a string is played, the tuner detects the pitch of the string and displays it in a strobing pattern.
  • A tuning fork for a guitar is a small, U-shaped metal tool with two prongs that, when struck, produces a specific musical pitch. Musicians use it as a reference point for tuning their guitars, adjusting each string to match the particular tone on their tuning fork.
  • Chromatic guitar tuner: Wondering how to explore chromatic tuning? This guitar tuner is useful because it can detect and display all 12 chromatic notes, including sharps and flats. This allows for more precise chromatic tuning. To use it, musicians adjust their strings until the tuner’s display shows that the note is on pitch.

Popular Brands of Guitar Tuners

Some of the most popular brands that dominate the guitar tuner market include:

Choosing the Right Guitar Tuner

There are lots of considerations to keep in mind when choosing the right guitar tuner:


When choosing a tuner, make sure to pick one that’s right for your instrument. Some tuners are tailored for acoustic guitars, while others will work on various stringed instruments like banjos and ukuleles.  


Even if you don’t have a lot of cash to spare, you can still buy a great tuner that ensures your guitar is in tune and ready to play every time you pick it up. Some of our favorites that run for under $30 include the Snark clip-on guitar tuner, which works for guitar and bass.

Skill Level

When you’re first starting out, you should opt for a digital guitar tuner with a simpler, user-friendly interface, like the Oasis clip-on multi-instrument tuner. This can make learning how to tune your guitar easier. As you gain more confidence, you can experiment with new and different types and see which you prefer.


If you’re a musician who has a lot of gigs, you’ll need a tuner that’s both portable and durable. You can opt for a digital guitar tuner, but if you can learn how to use it, a tuning fork (like this reliable model from D’Addario) is a good choice. It will never run out of batteries, and it’s easy to slip into your guitar case.

Find the Right Guitar Tuner at Strings By Mail

At Strings By Mail, we make it easier for you to find what you need to keep your guitar in perfect tune. Whether you’re a gigging musician, dedicated guitar teacher, or student at the beginning of their musical journey, we carry a wide variety of strings, tuners, sheet music, and other accessories that can elevate your musical experience and make it easier to do what you love most. Shop our complete collection of guitar tuners here.

2 thoughts on “Guide to Guitar Tuners, Types, and How They Work

  1. Any tuner needs to be visible outside on a bright day. I’ve been using a TC clip on for several years now. Also have a Daddario on my pedalboard but I don’t always bring pedals. IMO a tuner screen only needs 2 of these 3 colors, green, yellow or white. For me red kind of disappears in bright light.
    For setting intonation the clips don’t seem stable enough, and they can be overpowered if everyone is tuning up loudly at the same time.

    1. Great call on the colors. Agreed – tuners in bright light can be difficult to read.
      Matt here this morning, after discussing this comment with him, brought up his personal experience with the D’Addario Nexxus 360. He stated that it does a great job in bright outdoor light. -Ben, SBM

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