Fewer things are worse for a guitar or bass player than the struggle to get your instrument in tune. Luckily, we’ve picked what we reckon are the best clip-on tuners out there to help you on your way. A good tuner could be one of the most valuable pieces of gear you buy, so it’s worth investing in something that’s reliable and will last you a while.
Clip-on tuners work by detecting the vibrations caused by the strings. Pretty much all parts of the instrument resonate, but the ideal place to put your clip-on tuner is the headstock. It won’t get in the way of your playing, plus you’re already looking at that part of the instrument anyway. Unlike other types, clip-on tuners can be used in noisy environments as they don’t rely on a microphone to detect the note played, making them incredibly useful in practise.
There are a range of options available, but all of the best clip-on tuners allow you to tune precisely, they won’t take up loads of space and they don’t break the bank. There is a slight range in terms of how accurate they are, and there are different designs and displays that will suit different players out there.
If you’re just starting out, then having your guitar or bass in tune is really important for everything to sound right as you’re learning those first chords and scales. For seasoned pros, it’s equally as important; whether you’re in the studio or on stage, having one of the best clip-on tuners handy will ensure that your playing sounds as good as it possibly can.
Best clip-on guitar tuners: Our top picks
There really are some great choices out there, but we found the best clip-on tuner to be the D’Addario NS Micro Tuner. It’s really small so you can barely see that it’s there, plus it clips to the back of the headstock so it’s very much out of the way. It’s also accurate and easy to read, so top marks all around!
The Peterson StroboClip HD is also a great option; it’s one of the most accurate clip-on tuners out there, and it’s incredibly durable and reliable, but it’s expensive!
Best clip-on guitar tuners: Product guide
We all want to keep our guitars looking good, so the small size of the NS Micro Tuner doesn't get in the way of that. But it also offers everything you need from a clip-on guitar tuner.
Its screen can rotate 360 degrees and works effectively at the front or rear of your headstock to be even more discrete. It doesn't scrimp on features either with various calibration modes and a visual metronome. Moreover, it's sensitive response will make it a go-to accessory you'll use everyday.
Whether you're using the D'Addario NS Micro Tuner with an electric, acoustic or bass guitar and any other stringed instrument, it's easy to fit and keep as a permanent fixture in your playing life.
Read the full D'Addario NS Micro Tuner review
The 0.1 cents accuracy of the StroboClip HD is unrivalled in the clip-on tuner field, so if it has to be perfect, this should be top of the list. Peterson has a great reputation in the industry for build, feature and accuracy; the StroboClip HS delivers on all three fronts.
The large HD screen is an attractive proposition and with the amount of features on offer here, you'll need it to keep track of things. In addition to settings to accommodate drop tunings and the use of a capo, Peterson offers over 50 of its 'sweetened tunings' to allow players to access custom tuning presets to accommodate types of instrument (including a specific preset for acoustic guitar) and even the types of chords you may be playing - such as a bias to making major or minor chords intonate better.
TC Electronic turned heads (and ears) when it unveiled its PolyTune pedal in 2010, five years later the Clip continued that good work and it remains a popular option for players with impressive +/- 0.02 cents accuracy in strobe mode and 0.5 cents in chromatic mode.
This is combined with a clear and vibrant LED screen and the polyphonic functionality will reveal which of your strings are in and out of tune by simply strumming your strings.
Another handy feature is auto orientation; if you're left-handed or use the PolyTune Clip at the back of your headstock, the display flips accordingly. But we found the polyphonic accuracy a little hit and miss at times in comparison with the pedal version (it will sometimes say your tuning is out when the chromatic mode says it's in tune) .
The larger size of the Clip also won't be for everyone, but with its two different tuning modes and bright display, this will suit many players.
Read the full TC Electronic Polytune Clip review
Snark has long been a name to trust when it comes to guitar tuners and the ST-2 is a no-frills, reliable approach that should please a lot of players.
Though its accuracy isn't stated in specs, we found performance was good with swift tracking. You can choose between a mic or vibration sensor with the former a preferred option for acoustic instruments in quiet surroundings, while vibration is practical in noisier locations, and with electric guitars and basses.
The screen is bright, easy to read and angled for good visibility – and with instrument design varying, this offers flexibility that's very welcome at an affordable price.
Like TC Electronic and Peterson, Boss is a company with a very strong reputation for quality tuners – specifically the TU series of pedal tuners pedal tuners. So we're pleased to see a Boss clip-on model being offered at such an accessible price-point.
The TU-02's bright screen offers good contrast and visibility, especially considering the impressive 24 hour battery life. This is aided by the tuner's auto power-off feature if you forget to power it down after tuning up.
The choice of chromatic tuning mode, alongside modes for guitar, bass and ukulele is also pleasing to see at this price-point, making this a great buy for general use, or something to store in your gigbag.
You might be surprised to find just how many guitar tuners Korg now offers – but this has to be the most impressively featured of its clip-on models. The OLED screen here and 11 tuning animations are a sign of the premium quality – and there's more.
The +/-0.1 cent tuning accuracy puts this in the pro-level category of headstock guitar tuners, and it offers memory backup for your settings. But it's fun too to brighten up the often mundane task of tuning with animations featuring cats and taps if you want a break from needle and strobe modes.
In addition to the polyphonic tuning, there's a chord finder feature here; it will tell you the chord you're playing and even works with a capo up the 7th fret. Neat!
Fender took a different aesthetic approach than the competition here – though there's still a sturdy clip to keep this Bullet firmly on your headstock. We really like the low key look here that still manages to keep the note and reading on the circular colour display clear.
The one cent accuracy will be good enough for most of us and the response is sensitive and fast, but the option of only 440Hz calibration might be an issue for some players – especially if you play in an orchestra. On the whole though, this is another winner from the big F.
Something different here – and specifically for acoustic guitar players as this NS Micro series tuner fits on the rim of your soundhole, placing the tuner inside the body but still readable. It's so out of the way you can just leave it fitted on your guitar permanently.
It works really well and the accuracy for the price here is even better news – to 0.3 cents with calibration between 434 and 445Hz. There's no reason you can't fit it on other stringed acoustic instruments (though D'Addario offer the PW-CT-NS specifically for ukulele players) .
Korg is a master of technology within the music industry. From synths to studio gear, to guitar pedals and now to this – its Sledgehammer Pro clip-on tuner – Korg knows how to make a quality and reliable product. The curved screen means you don’t need it straight on to be able to read; handy if it gets knocked while you’re playing or tuning. The display is reminiscent of its rackmount studio tuner, so instantly it’s got a premium feel about it. It’s also accurate, which is the all important thing, measuring your tuning to .1 cent.
We also really like the shuttle switch on the hand – it’s really easy to operate and feels a little less awkward than having to reach around to the back or bottom of the tuner to access different modes etc, like you do on some other tuners.
Read the full Korg Sledgehammer Pro review
Another entry courtesy of Boss. It's the maker of the world’s best selling tuner pedal, so it knows what it's doing! As well as good accuracy, the Boss TU-10 offers a slightly different design. This one has a fairly low physical profile, so when it’s clipped onto your headstock, there’s not too much plastic sticking out the top.
It features Boss’s Accu-pitch, which essentially just helps you determine whether you’re sharp or flat, though you can choose to use Stream mode which allows you to tune using a strobe. It can also cater for flat tunings, up to five semitones. It’s really practical, and thought has gone into this clip-on tuner - even on the brightest days, the small screen manages to not reflect too much light, making it really easy to read.
Best clip-on guitar tuners: Buying advice
We’ve put together some advice to help you find the best clip-on tuner for your needs, as they will vary from player to player. Firstly, it’s worth noting that electric and acoustic guitars should work with any clip-on tuner; there’s no difference to how they operate. Most tuners will handle bass too, though some (usually cheaper ones) may not track the lower strings quite as accurately.
Types of clip-on guitar tuner
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There are a few different types of clip-on tuner too, so when you see these phrases being used, you’ll know what they mean.
A chromatic tuner means that it will detect any note being played. In western music, there are 12 notes; of course for all of these you can be either sharp (higher in pitch), or flat (lower in pitch), but a chromatic tuner will tell you which note you’re closest to and how far off you are.
Polyphonic tuners can detect more than one string at once. As technology has improved, manufacturers have been able to make tuners that can track multiple strings being played at once more accurately. Now, some of the best clip-on tuners out there can show you where all six of your guitar strings are tuning-wise, so it’s easy to detect which, if any, need adjusting.
Strobe tuners refer to the way in which the display will read the note back to you. Lights on the tuner’s screen will move quickly when your string is out of tune and gradually get slower as you approach the note. These tend to be very reactive to your tuning pegs, so small adjustments will make all the difference here. They’re very accurate and allow for super precise tuning.
Some tuners will have different modes that will let you tune to the regular strings of a particular instrument. Here are some that you might see:
- G: Guitar
- B: Bass
- U: Ukulele
- C: Chromatic
The design can be important when shopping for the best clip-on tuner. If you’re conscious of how your instrument looks, then you might want something with a fairly low profile, that doesn’t stick out too much or can be hidden easily behind your headstock. Of course, you’ll still want it accessible, so have a think about whereabouts you’re going to have it on your headstock.
How the tuning is displayed on the tuner can be make or break too. Some players might prefer a large, bold display that’s easy to read on a dark stage, or with bad eyesight. Of course, this won’t be a concern for everyone, so clip-on tuners with smaller displays should still be easy enough to read.
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