Staying in tune is a never-ending challenge.
True, the better your axe, set up and tuning heads, the better chance you have of staying in tune longer. But things like bends, string choice, age of your strings, vibrato, style of play, the climate overall, the climate in the venue (heat? air conditioning? number of people in the room?), these variables are all in play. And they all contribute to how well you stay in tune.
Used to be, you needed quiet to tune. Modern clip ons have solved that problem, mostly by measuring the vibration your strings make at a selected frequency, then letting you know where you stand—dead nuts on, flat or sharp.
In the next tuner installment, we’ll discuss pedal models—tuners that you’re plugged into so you can discreetly check your situation.
But clip-ons have their place, too. Generally, less raucous gigs where you’re NOT moving your axe so violently that the laws of physics turn your clip on into a souvenir.
Here are three clip-on tuners highly rated by reviewers. They’re fairly inexpensive, so buying a couple and seeing what works best for you isn’t outside the bounds of reason.
1. Snark Super Snark Clip-On Tuner $29.99
There are three things that help the Snark Super Snark stand out. It is accurate. It has a bright display. And it is fast.
Folks hate watching performers constantly diddling with their instruments. So a tuner that lets you see where you stand quickly, clearly and accurately is a great friend indeed.
Three reviewers rate the Super Snark a perfect 5.0 stars with zero negative comments. Nothing snarky to say about that.
The NS Micro is packed with features but there are several that stand out to me.
First, it’s a compact headstock tuner with a reversible, multi color display (that even includes a metronome). The dual smile clip-on mount gives you lots of angles to choose from. Maybe it’s better for your tuner to be on the underside of your headstock? Maybe the top is right. The point is the NS Micro gives you options.
Three reviewers rate the NS Micro Universal a perfect 5.0 with zero negative comments. One reviewer calls it a “must have.” It’s also $15 bucks less than the Snark above, so if you’re counting coins the NS has that going for it.
Last but not least is the Fender Yngwie Malmsteen FCT15C Clip-On Tuner.
Ease of operation is a key feature with this tuner. Plus it’s bright so it’s easy to see if the stage you’re on is dark or low light.
The built-in sensor gives accurate pitch readings no matter how loud and rowdy the crowd, though pedal tuners might be a better choice if you expect sonic tsunamis.
This tuner is remarkably light—just 50 grams (or 1.7637 ounces) and it is more stylish than the average tuner, with a chrome bezel.
5 reviewers give the FCT15C a total of 4.8 stars. The one substantial comment I saw (read for yourself if you’re interested) is that the screen is on a hinge that can make it a challenge to adjust to the perfect position.