My Top Tuner Picks

As companion to my “How to Tune” YouTube series, this guide reviews 5 different tuners that I recommend for use at home.

10 Minute Read

Essentials, Guide, Tuners

There are multiple options for almost any product these days, and tuners are no exception. While having options are great, they can also lead to the question of which one to choose from. To offer some options to answer this question, I have put together a selection of five tuners that I think could help you tune.

First up are standard tuners that have been around longer than their mobile app counterparts.

The pros to having this type of tuner are that they are often very durable (I have dropped the ones listed below several times with no issues), and they only have one or two jobs. If you wish to keep mobile devices out of the practice room, or would like your child to have their own tuner to keep them from sneaking off with your phone, than this is a great option for you.

The cons are that you have to purchase one, wait for delivery if there is not a music store near by, and they need batteries.

Korg CA-1 Chromatic Tuner

The CA-1 is a simple chromatic tuner that takes two AAA batteries or an AC adapter. Its compact size makes it easy to fit in many of the accessory compartments in violin cases. The tuner only has three other buttons on it aside from the power button. The sound button allows the tuner to drone an A and Bb for more advanced tuners who use a drone, and the calibration buttons change the Hz (Hertz) displayed in the left hand corner of the screen. Keep the Hz at 440 unless you know you need otherwise.

The CA-1 is one out of several Korg tuner models whose average price falls between $20-$30.

Intelli IMT-301 Metronome & Tuner Combinations with Thermo-Hygro Meter

Long title aside, this metronome/tuner is fairly straightforward to use. The tuning function works just like the Korg above, but when it comes to sound this tuner can drone every pitch of the chromatic scale. Having a drone for each note comes in handy as you get into more advanced tuning. The Intelli is also a metronome, which means it can keep a steady beat if you are having tempo or counting issues. Many students will need a metronome during their musical studies, so it never hurts to get the two-in-one package.

My favorite aspect of this tuner is the volume. Using only a 9V battery or an AC adapter, this tuner will never make you strain to hear it over your playing. As for the Thermo-Hygro Meter, I keep that feature off. I find that it is not the most accurate, and it also reduces your battery life if you leave it on the display for an extended period of time.

The Intelli IMT-301 is one out of several Intelli models. The price for this tuner is around $40 depending on where you purchase it.

Next up on our list are mobile device tuning apps.

The pros to these apps are that quite a few are free, and it only takes a few minutes to search and download one.

The cons are that free apps usually come with ads that can slow down, or distract. They also offer in app purchases of the full version to remove ads and give you all of the features. In addition, mobile devices allow for other distractions such as texts, games, and phone calls that run a risk of interrupting practice.


Pano Tuner available for iOS & Android

Pano Tuner, by Jung-gun Lim and Kaleloft LLC, is offered free or for $1.99 if you wish to remove ads. For a beginner, this no bell or whistle tuner is more than enough to get you started. This app has one mission, and completes it well.

While there are ads, I find that the small banner at the top of the screen causes minimal distraction. Its display is easy to understand with a stationary needle, rather than one that moves, and a section of color that changes from red to green as you get close to centering the diamond with the correct pitch. Red means you are out, and green means that you are good to go.

InsTuner available for iOS only

It is a shame that this tuner by EUMLab is only available on iOS, because it is my favorite among the free tuning apps. Similar to Pano Tuner, it has both a free and a paid version for $3.99. However, unlike Pano Tuner, I have yet to come across any ads on the free version, so it seems that the $3.99 is mostly to have access to the full capabilities of the app.

I love the simplicity of the screen, and how this tuner combines a moving needle and color strip to help you get your strings in tune. Along with the changing colors, the app will also tell you if you need to tune up or down.

This tuner has a tone generation ability similar to the Intelli tuner we talked about earlier, but unless you have an external speaker it can be difficult to hear when playing. Since mobile devices are multitaskers, rather than specializing at one task, the processor sometimes is not capable of producing pitches that a standalone tuner can. I have this issue on my older model iPad.

TonalEnergy Tuner and Metronome for iOS & Android

TE by Sonosaurus LLC can only be purchased for $3.99, and is geared toward intermediate and advanced students. It has a tuner, tone generation with instrument selection, a metronome, and analysis. When tuning you can select how particular you want the tuner to be about your notes. From wide to ultra-fine, I greatly enjoy this feature as it helps students to tune without being overly punishing about it. For the metronome I often use the “Tap Tempo” button in lessons to help students learn about beats early on, all the way to correcting problem spots in concertos for advanced students.

I love using this app, but do feel that it looks a bit intimidating if it is your first time using a tuner. Perhaps keep it on your list for later if it seems like too much now.

The featured image for this post is an additional screenshot of TonalEnergy. 

Is there a tuner that you use that did not make my list, or questions that I did not address?
Please share using the comment section below.

Nicole Kootz

A Boston based violist and violinist, running around the city each week teaching music and studying Alexander Technique!


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