In Praise of Clip-On Tuners


Gimme an "A": Fender's FT-004 Clip-On Chromatic Tuner in action.
Gimme an “A”: Fender’s FT-004 Clip-On Chromatic Tuner in action.

Once in a great while, a technical innovation comes along that’s so simple and yet such an incredibly good idea that you wonder how humanity ever got along without it. You know, like sticky notes.

In this latest Tech Talk, we salute a wonderful and truly useful innovation of the past ten years: the clip-on tuner. If you play guitar, bass or just about anything else with strings, a simple little clip-on tuner will make your life better way out of proportion to what it is and how much it costs.

There are zillions of them out there now. And if you don’t have one, hurry and get one—Fender offers a couple models that are smartly effective and eminently affordable.

Here’s what’s so great about clip-on tuners:

  • They’re really small. A clip-on tuner easily fits in your pocket, even with your phone already in there. And that little compartment on your gig bag or in your case? About a dozen of them will fit in there.
  • They’re really versatile. If it has strings, a clip-on tuner will work. Guitar. Bass guitar. Ukulele. Mandolin. Banjo. Violin. Bouzouki. You name it. Some of them even work for other kinds of instruments, too (horns, for example).
  • They’re really focused. Because they pick up material vibrations rather than sense input frequency—that is, because they don’t use microphones—clip-on tuners aren’t “confused” or “distracted” by background noise. You can be at the center of the maelstrom and still not get screwy intonation readings, letting you tune up quickly, easily and accurately amid the din surrounding you.

And, best of all …

  • They’re really fast and convenient. The best thing about a clip-on tuner is that you don’t have to unplug anything. You just leave everything as is—no unplugging this and plugging in that (at most, maybe you turn your instrument volume down). No need for another stop box, rack-mount device or anything else in your already-crowded signal chain. The genius and the beauty of clip-on tuners is that they so simply circumvent all that fuss and bother. With everything still plugged in and just as it was, you just slap one on your headstock for a minute. It picks up the vibrations in the wood and delivers its readings; you adjust your tuning accordingly, and you’re back in business. Few things in life are as simple.

Most musicians don’t play Wembley. If you do, tuning is neither your problem nor your job because you have people who do that for you. Cool. The rest of us, however, must tune up on our own. And when we need to do so as quickly, simply and efficiently as possible, nothing beats a good clip-on tuner. Thanks for reading, and by all means stay tuned …


The Fender FCT-12 Color Clip-On Tuner.
The Fender FCT-12 Color Clip-On Tuner.



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