Every instrument requires some sort of tuning done to have it work properly. Some musicians may like an atonal sound where the instruments are playing in between notes, but you must stay in tune for most scenarios. Since long we have started to move away from the tuning forks and out-of-tune recordings. It is the age of perfect pitch, like it or not.
Clip-on tuners are extremely useful tools in every single scenario where tuning is needed. Most of them can rest on the instrument when they are not being used and can be turned on at any given moment. For a good clip-on tuner, you want to be able to tune even though other things are happening around you. It is why a good clip-on tuner must be explicitly tailored to respond to the frequencies of a particular instrument.
In this listing, we will be looking at our hand-picked clip-on tuners that are the best for their respective instruments. These will work for the bedroom player as well as for the performing live artist, which makes a good clip-on tuner. Most of these tuners will work for any instrument, but it would be wise to look into one specifically made for the instrument you play. For a more in-depth analysis of how clip-on tuners and tuning in general works, please look into the buyers’ guide at the bottom of this listing.
The PolyTune comes in many shapes and sizes. There are mini and standard sized stompbox versions of this pedal too. When a pedal is able to be remade into so many different shapes and sizes, it sends out a hint that it has something working for it. It is not an accident that so many people use the PolyTune tuners for their pedalboards and instruments. We have chosen the PolyTune as the best Clip-On tuner for the acoustic guitar. It has a very rigid clip-on rig that will clip to any guitar and stay where it should be. It has a simple dotted interface with a uniquely dimensioned screen that the player will read in any given situation, be it performing or bedroom practice.
Tailored for guitar
This tuner works perfectly well for an electric guitar as well but is built to perfection when responding to an acoustic guitar. Both in the way, it sits on the guitar and in the way it responds to the frequencies. It has a special six-string tuning mode, which allows tuning of all six strings simultaneously. Also, there is a “capo mode” which automatically adjusts the expected tuning based on which fret the player puts their capo. There are no bigger flaws when it comes to the PolyTune by TC Electronic. It is slightly above the average price when it comes to comparing clip-on tuners, but what you get for that price difference is ridiculously good.
Peterson StroboClip HD Clip-On Tuner – The Best Bass Guitar Clip-On Tuner
Drop Tuning Mode
Tailored for Low Frequencies
- Slightly Expensive
A clip-on tuner for the bass would obviously require to detect lower frequencies better than a clip-on tailored for guitar. Gear for bass, in general, is more expensive. Strings, tuners and pedals. It is because it simply requires more hardware and materials to do the lower frequencies justice. The StroboClip from Peterson does everything that a clip-on for bass is required to do. It is a little more expensive than your average guitar clip-on but averagely priced for a bass clip-on. Just like most clip-ons, it is compatible with most instruments. We chose this tuner for bass because it is extremely accurate, has a fail-proof clip-on mechanism, and can detect frequencies that are an octave under the low B on bass. Having the tuner work this low is almost unnecessary, as it borders on how low of a frequency the human ear can pick up. However, it is big insurance for the player as it proves the StroboClip can handle tuning any frequency that a bass guitar will ever put out.
Just like the first-mentioned tuner, the StroboClip has a special capo mode. It also has a “drop tuning” mode, which is something that a bass player that drops low can celebrate. For the stage, this tuner is perfect. It has a wide and direct viewing angle, and the lighting on the screen allows the display to be fully visible even in daylight. It is a chromatic tuner that is built with high-quality components. If you are bass or stringed instrument player and have a little more money to spend, this would be a go-to choice.
BOSS TU-10 – The Best Clip-On Tuner for Electric Guitar
Perfect for Electric Instruments
- Low-Quality Display
Next up, we feature the best clip-on for electric guitar. Boss makes no mistakes, and they almost always release top tier products. Amongst electric guitarists, Boss is most known as a brand that makes easy to use, affordable and high-quality effects pedals. The TU-10 is no stranger to that concept. The tuner is suited for a guitar range, tuning from C0 (16.35Hz) to C8 (4186Hz). Just like with the stompbox effects pedals, the design of the TU-10 is unique but extremely simple. It can tune within a 1 cent (+-) accuracy, which is more than plenty for an electric guitar.
For this tuner, there is almost no fuzz. It is the hallmark of Boss products. The only feature is that you can switch between two display modes, stream display and cent display. It is extremely simple, clip-on and tune. It fits hand in glove on most electric guitars and is fairly priced. There is only one element of this tuner that we would have to look a bit further into – the display. It does not light up too well and is slightly harder to read than the other wider displays. It won’t get in the way in almost every situation, but if you want a tuner that will work in every imaginable case, you might have to look elsewhere. Overall, we do not quarrel with this tuner. It is made for the electric and will last a lifetime.
KLIQ UberTuner – The Best Clip-On Tuner for Violin
Easy To Adjust
Tailored For Violin
- Low-Quality Hardware
Next on the list is another very affordable tuner. KLIQ has made this tuner tailored for many different instruments, but we chose to crown it as the best clip-on for violin. The extremely visible display and being so easily adjustable make it perfect for tighter spots on the violin. The UberTuner ignores any ambient room noises, which is ideal for orchestral settings with several instruments.
The UberTuner is the cheapest tuner that has been featured so far. It might mean that the components are not of the highest quality and that the battery life will be slightly lower than for the previous listings. But the durability and battery life will hardly be noticed, mostly when used with the violin. The display is outstanding. Very bright colors and simple interfaces make this clip-on tuner one of the best all-around options on this list. It might not be as accurate and as sturdy, but it will get the job done.
Snark SN6X – The Best Clip-On Tuner For Ukulele
- Mass Produced
- Not The Best Quality
Ukulele clip-on tuners are usually not made to work with several stringed instruments. It is a tuner that you are going to want to use only for the ukulele. It is nimble enough to fit onto any ukulele head, and despite being very small, the display still clearly shows where you are going. The SN6X is very cheap, costing no more than an average shoulder strap or a couple of picks.
If you use an electric ukulele, it might be worth getting a stompbox pedal such as the PolyTune mini version. The SN6X is made to go with an acoustic ukulele.
Just like the other tuners featured in this listing, the SN6X can rotate 360 degrees. It means that both left and right-handed players can use it. It is built to respond to the specific frequency range of any ukulele. This tuner could be used for the frequency ranges of a guitar, but it probably won’t clip on and stay on very well. Just like the previously mentioned clip-on, this tuner has very bright colors, allowing it to be seen in any given scenario. As with any low-cost product, however, if you purchase one of these tuners, it might not be as accurate or have as high-quality components as a higher priced one.
Fender FCT-2 – The Best Clip-On Tuner For Banjo
Works Well For Banjo
- Below Average Accuracy
Fender makes high-quality gear for stringed instruments; there is no need to mistrust here. The FCT-2 is made for keeping a lot of different stringed instruments in tune, but it is the only tuner on this list that is marketed for banjo tuning. All of the tuners in this list would work well in the case for banjo, as the banjo covers very similar frequencies to a guitar or a ukulele. If you could attach this tuner to your cat, it would surely meow in Bb. This tuner works for a five-string as well as a six-string banjo.
The FCT-2 is designed to fit well on smaller as well as bigger instruments. It means that it won’t fit perfectly on any of them but surely will fit well enough to do its job on any. It is very cheap and comes with the battery included. The display is easy to read, but the coloration and lighting might make it a little harder than average to read from. Other than that, there are no issues and no special perks with this tuner; what you see is what you get.
All of these tuners are all-rounders to some degree. Except for the ukulele, they are perfectly tailored to most commonly played stringed instruments. For someone who has many different stringed instruments that they want to tune, it is unnecessary to look at a listing such as this and pick an individual tuner for each instrument. Therefore we will crown the best all-rounder.
The TC Electronic PolyTune Clip takes the price in this case. It has an average cost, an excellent display and a durable design. Many tuners in this price range will look and feel plastic and be made out of lower quality components. Due to being such a market dominator, the PolyTune can maintain a lower price and still have extremely high all-around quality. This clip-on will work very well for any of the listed instruments and has the best display design, accompanied by a stainless steel clip that won’t break down anytime soon.
The Best Clip-On Tuner – Buyers’ Guide
In this section, we will talk about some of the specifics regarding clip-on tuners. Some terms need defining and processes that need explaining in order to make the best purchase possible. First off, we will take a look at how the clip-on tuners work, diving deeper and deeper as we go.
How do Clip-On tuners work?
Pitch in music is a term that relates to how high or low a note is. Pitch is commonly measured in Hertz (Hz), an “A” having a standard frequency of 440 Hz. It is important for understanding clip-on tuners because we now know that an A vibrates at 440 vibrations per second. If your tuner detects that your string is vibrating at 450 vibrations per second, the LCD or LED screen will display that your “A” is too high and needs to be tuned lower. How does this work?
With a built-in sensor, the clip-on tuner picks up vibrations via a sensor. These vibrations get converted into an electrical signal and then amplified so that the microprocessor in the tuner can use it. Here, the tuner will match the signal from the vibrations with the closest programmed note and display it. This process of determining the pitch is done via a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) method. We won’t look into details on how that works right in this article, but FFT is a way that you transform a function of time into a function of frequency.
In most of the cheaper versions, the sensor that detects vibrations will be of lower quality. It is one of the reasons why buying a more affordable tuner might result in slightly worse tuning results. Usually, however, the difference between a high-quality sensor and a low-quality sensor is only something like 1-2 cents. It is not enough to be noticed by anyone unless you have absolute perfect pitch (100 cents between notes).
Electric vs. Acoustic tuners
This listing features a fully viable clip-on tuner for the electric guitar. It is not a bad option, but many electric guitar players chose to instead go for a stompbox tuner for their instrument. It is because of the acoustic signal that an electric guitar outputs is so weak and might sometimes not be picked up by a clip-on tuner. Acoustic players will always have enough to work with if they get a clip-on tuner, as the strings vibrate with much more force. For both acoustic and electric, there is also the option of using apps and a phone to tune. It would rarely be easier than using a clip-on tuner but convenient if you forgot the clip-on at home.
Chromatic vs Non-Chromatic
All of the tuners featured in this listing are chromatically programmed by default. It means that when the tuner picks up a vibration from the instrument, it displays whatever note is closest to matching that vibration. In a non-chromatic tuner, these matching notes would already be predetermined to a few specific notes, and thus making it less flexible than a chromatic tuner. There is also an option on some of the listed tuners to tune polyphonically. It means that you can strum all your instrument strings at once, and the tuner will graphically show you which ones are off. It is a very useful feature and is most commonly designed to be used with the standard E A D G B E tuning for acoustic/electric guitar.
Form and Function
There is a wide array of models and designs when it comes to these clip-on tuners. One part of it is form – how will this tuner fit my instrument? The other part comes down to function; how well will I be able to see/interact with the display? What are you paying for when you are paying more for a tuner is higher quality materials all around the board. But in some cases, the display of a very cheap tuner might be better than the display of a more expensive tuner. It’s all about the individual choice. Though it’s true for most cases, a higher price does not always equal a better product.
As previously mentioned, cheaper clip-on tuners will be slightly less accurate than more expensive clip-on tuners. But some may be concerned with the difference between a clip-on and, say, a stompbox, for example. The typical clip-on tuner will have an error margin when tuning of +/- 1 cent. Some might go as high as a 5 cent error margin and some a bit lower. But the bottom line is that this almost never will make a difference in sound. However, it might be a good idea for the purist to invest in a stompbox tuner for any stringed instrument. Stompbox tuners have the lowest error margins going as low as 0.5 cents or under, making them extremely accurate at displaying the correct notes. Pedal tuners are obviously also handy to have for any electric guitarist with extra space on their pedalboard. The pedalboard solution is arguably even more convenient than having a clip-on tuner.
All of these tuners work; they do the job. Some of them just do the job a little bit better than others at specific tasks. It is why it is worth looking into something good at tuning your particular instrument. The difference in clip-on tuners is small, but it is the little things that will add up and matter in the end. If you are careful with every bit of choice you make, your whole rig will feel well thought out and carefully selected. A good clip-on tuner is a safe investment because the technology has pretty much peaked. Apart from self-tuning guitars and slightly more convenient tuners with longer battery life/brighter displays, this is pretty much as easy as tuning a stringed is ever going to get. It is good to learn early on to get comfortable with a clip-on tuner or a pedal tuner, as they are a professional’s best friend on stage. If you are planning on playing on stage in the future, getting a stompbox tuner might simply be the better option, as they allow for the instrument to be muted whilst tuning. Finally, once in a while, it is good to put away the tuner, take a deep breath and try to tune your instrument by ear.