Woodwind & Brasswind Contributing Writer - Tony Guerrero
Staying in tune is easier than ever with the wide variety of tuners available these days. While developing your ear is always of vital importance, using a tuner in both practice and performance is a great way to make sure you are always "playing well with others".
I was able to spend some time playing with several different brands and models. The good news is, there are many great ones to choose from. The bad news is, you have to choose!
KORG CA-1 Chromatic Tuner
This tuner is housed in a body roughly the size of a compact cell phone. It's display is clear and simple, not too many options to distract you. I noticed right away how sensitive the 'needle' is, showing immediate reaction to any variations in tuning, with a green-light/red-light function that seems to only reward you when you nail your tuning dead on!
The "sound" function generates a clear, loud reference pitch so you can practice tuning with your ears and not only your eyes – this is great for any student!
This is a perfect little tuner for your practice room or any setting where you're able to tune alone without other players making noise. As a horn player, it would not be ideal for a live playing situation because the mic function would pick up everything else. Guitar players could plug into the ¼" jack and it would be fine in a live, noisy setting.
This tuner is very similar to the Korg CA-1 mentioned above, including a "sound" feature and a nicely sized display, although it has a smartly added feature in its attached wire stand, allowing you to prop it up just about anywhere. The CT-40 appeared to make accurate readings on a several different instruments at different volumes and distances from the microphone. This is an ideal tuner for almost any musician, and once again, any player whose instrument enables them to utilize the ¼" input will find this an ideal tuner for live settings.
Korg is another company with a long history of making quality tuners. This small, compact clip-on is no exception. The PC-1 is designed for guitarists, and the clip itself is not ideal for trumpet (it isn't tight enough on the bell, and if clipped to any tubing, the tuner's angle isn't right for viewing) but I tried it on my acoustic guitar and it works like a champ, just as I expected a Korg tuner to do! It's as basic as it gets – no real bells and whistles, just a simple, clear tuner that will do the job.
This was a first for me – a clip on virtual strobe tuner! [Read this article to learn more about the difference between strobe tuners and other varieties]. The sleek packaging alone made me feel like I was opening a new high-end wristwatch, and the unit itself looks great.
While it's slightly bigger than some other tuners out there, the shape of it's stainless steel casing lines up perfectly to the bell of a horn – trumpet, sax, trombone, etc. – and it's generously sized clip looks like it'd latch on to just about anything.
But the real plus here is the virtual strobe feature, which allows you a very precise view of your pitch and shows even the slightest variation clearly. Guitar players will appreciate its "alternate tunings" feature.
Another nice feature is the "Sustain Mode" which will keep a pitch displayed after the sound is gone, until the next note is played.
As a brass player, I love this tuner! While any instrument can use it, it is designed specifically for the brass and woodwind player. Boss has been making great tuners for years, and any musician whose been playing since the 1980s will no doubt recognize this tuner's predecessor, the TU-12 (I have had these in my studio for nearly 30 years!).
What makes this tuner ideal for horn players is that, while its not a compact clip on tuner, it comes with a non-microphone attachment clip-on device that you can attach to your horn and which will allow the tuner to pick up only your sound (via vibrations), even in a crowded orchestra!
Other added bonus features include:
- a "Quick Response" setting which is designed to read pitches quickly even while playing extended musical passages (as opposed to holding a single tuning note)
- an optional AC input so you won't need to constantly replace batteries
- a carrying case, which will help protect your tuner as it sits among all your gear
While its larger body size may not boast the convenient portability of a small clip on tuner, it really seems to be a no-brainer that brass and woodwind players should have this one in their arsenal.