There are smartphone apps that can help tune a guitar, but they can’t do as good a job as a dedicated guitar tuner, especially in noisy settings like a live gig—exactly when you need to be perfectly in tune. A good tuner is an essential purchase for anyone getting serious about the guitar.

Easy to Use

This device also sports a metronome built-in, to help you keep time. Snark

Guitar tuning apps on your phone rely on the phone’s microphone to figure out what note is being played. That’s not ideal: for one thing, a smartphone’s mic is hardly the most accurate hardware, but for another, ambient sound can interfere. Dedicated guitar tuners often clip onto the guitar itself and figure out the note via vibration, a far more accurate and foolproof method.

This super-sharp screen can be angled in three positions, for easier viewing. KLIQ Music Gear

Tuners often include settings to tune a wider variety of string instruments. If you’re a multi-instrumental player, make sure to look for a tuner that can handle them. Some tuners have modes for ukulele, bass, even violin or other bowed instruments. If they’re listed as having a “chromatic” mode, that means they’ll just tell you which note is being played, no matter what it is, and help you tune to that—useful for brass and woodwind instruments.

With foot-controlled buttons, this product is ideal for adjusting your sound during live performances—or if you like stomping on things. TC Electronic

There are also really high-end tuners, and one of the most impressive is called a polyphonic tuner. Most guitar tuners have you tune one string at a time, adjusting the tension and then moving on to the next string. Polyphonic tuners allow you to strum all the strings at once, fully open (with no hand on the strings), and it’ll tell you at once which string to tune, if any. That also makes it ideal for alternate, non-standard tunings, which are often pre-loaded. Just plug, strum and tune. It’s much faster (and leagues cooler) than other tuners.