Are Guitar Tuner Apps Accurate?


Tuning is something that has to be done regularly on a guitar. Tuning guitar has never been easier as it is today. Aplenty of different free guitar apps are there for everyone to use.

But are those guitar tuner apps accurate enough? If you need a perfectly tuned strings, you want something you can rely on in every situation.

So, are guitar tuner apps accurate?

Yes, tuner apps are quite accurate. Especially today, with the unstoppable technology progress going on. However, it’s better to use clip-on tuners in certain situations. If you perform live, you’ll need a clip-on tuner that doesn’t react to the loud environment.

How Does A Guitar Tuner App Work?

Guitar tuner app is evaluating a sound signal through the microphone of your android. When you play the string, an app is picking up the sound signal from the environment. The main characteristic of the sound is its frequency.

Tuner app is reading a cycles of frequencies of sound it picks up. After the sound is read by the microphone, it’s immediately compared to the preset target pitches in the app.

If the frequency of the picked up sound from the guitar string is too high or too low from the closest preset pitch, an app is sending a feedback to the user. Let’s say you play a G string which is slightly higher than the preset G string pitch.

In that case, an app will let you know that the G string pitch from your guitar is a bit sharp. The same procedure goes if the string you play is a bit lower in pitch.

There are a few pitch detection methods that can be used to read a sound signal from the outside. Guitar tuner apps often use zero-crossing method for pitch detection.

Zero crossing method belongs to the Time Domain detection method. The tuning device tries to find repeating patterns in the waveform as they’ll give the clue about signal’s periodicity.

Anyway, if you want to know more about pitch detection methods, Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics has an interesting study. Check out the review of the pitch detection methods from their page, here.

Guitar Tuner Apps Disadvantage

As it’s been said at the beginning, at certain situations you’ll want to use a regular clip on tuner. Why?

Well, first of all, guitar tuner apps react to environmental sounds. That means that they are catching sound signals from everything they heard. If you’re in a loud room, guitar tuner apps won’t help you that much.

They will catch noise and incorporate it as a guitar string frequency. If you’re a beginner without tuning experience, you’ll be confused at the app output.

Make sure the environment in which you’re tuning your guitar is soundproofed from outside noise.

Second, sometimes a guitar tuner app can cause an intonation problem. What does that mean? Yes, your guitar will be tuned just fine, but it may not be in tune all along the fretboard.

Clip on guitar tuners are better in this case. That’s because those guitar tuners are in physical contact with guitar body. They’ll catch vibrations of the guitar body. Vibrations of a guitar body may not be always in phase with the vibrations of the string.

Clip on tuners are better at recognizing that subtle changes.

On the other hand, if you’re playing live, you definitely don’t want to use a guitar app. No one in the audience want to listen to you tuning strings loud.

How Do I Tune My Guitar With A Tuner App?

Tuning a guitar with a tuner app is easy and straightforward. First of all, make sure there’s no unnecessary noise in the background. We already described why is that bad for tuning.

Now, open your tuner app.

Play an open string, one by one. Each time you play an open string, a tuner will give you a feedback. If the pitch is too high, you’ll se it on the interface. Most of the tuners let you know how much high or low the pitch from an open string is.

Anyway, if the pitch is too high, loosen up the string a bit. If the pitch is too strong, tighten it up.

Each time you play an open string, wait for a few seconds. The string you play may be in a right pitch for a second, but after that it can go up or down.

That means you need to tune the string more. How do you know the string is tuned totally? When you play an open string, the pitch has to stay in the place as long as the string is ringing.

What Is The Best Guitar Tuner App?

There are a ton of guitar tuner apps you can use. I would say that GuitarTuna is the best one. I use it because it’s simple, free and accurate. There’s a reason why it is the most popular tuner app in the world. It’s best for the Iphone, or every other smartphone that supports it.

It works for all types of guitars. Acoustic, electric, classical, bass, and so on. It even works for the ukulele.

It has over 100 tunings available. There’s also a background noise cancellation technology, which makes it work even in noisy areas.

Anyway, install it from the Google Play, here.

Can You Tune Electric Guitar Without An Amp?

Yes, of course you can. In fact, it is even better to tune your electric guitar without an amp. Amps are usually emitting a lot of background noises which can easily affect the app’s performance.

The cleaner the sound of the guitar is, the better tuning it’s going to be.

If your unplugged electric guitar is too silent for an app, plug it in your phone directly. Of course, you’ll need a suitable cable to do that.

Final Thoughts On Guitar Tuner Apps

As you already know by now, yes, guitar tuner apps are perfectly fine. They are accurate, so you don’t have to worry about it.

In fact, as the time goes by, app tuners will get only better. Technology progress cannot be stopped. Even at this moment, app tuners have developed background noise cancellation technologies which prevent noise signals interfering with the string pitch.

Of course, it’s always better to use high quality clip on, headstock tuners. They are measuring guitar body vibrations directly. And, as you already know, they are better in certain situations when you perform live.

If you use a guitar tuner app for the first time, it’s advisable to look at the tutorial first. Many unexperienced players snap their strings because they don’t know how to tune a guitar.

Anyway, if this gave you a little insight on this subject, I’m more than happy about it.

Don’t forget to check out some other interesting articles I wrote on this site!

Good luck with tuning, and rock on!

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