I just wrote an updated post for the best clip on tuners. Check it out here! I have used the D’Addario Eclipse for the past 2 years straight and love it. Spoiler alert: the Snark still makes the list.
Maybe you’ve been playing for awhile, maybe you just bought your first guitar, or you’re picking out a guitar for someone as a gift and you heard that you need to buy a tuner with it. Well, that’s some very important advice there. Learning is hard enough, you don’t need to be subjecting your ears to the twangs of wobbly notes many microtones away from the correct pitch. You want a premature lesson in guitar smashing? That’s the way to do it!
If you want to cut right to the chase, here is my favorite clip-on tuner that can be used on any instrument, acoustic or electric, guitars to violins.
And just to be clear, this is why I always recommend clip-on tuner, they work on every instrument whether acoustic or electric.
Snark SN1X Clip-On Chromatic Tuner
- Strong clamp insures tight connection to instrument
- Bright display is easy to read in all light
- Works great on all instruments
The Snark SN1X is the perfect clip-on tuner. Make sure to get this model, and not the SN5X model, which is the guitar specific tuner. But I’m buying this to use with a guitar!! You might say. The problem with guitar tuners is that they only show the notes of the strings. This can be very confusing when the note is considerably out of tune, or completely useless if you want to tuner your guitar a little differently. Want to tune all the strings down half a step? Well too bad tuner peasant! Unless you have the SN1X chromatic tuner that is. And it’s just a couple bucks more, so it’s totally worth it.
The Snark has a nice bright display and doesn’t burn through batteries too fast. I also like the solid clip which makes sure the tuner is well clamped to the instrument, giving you an accurate reading.
Why clip-on? Are there other tuners out there?
Yes! Of course there are other tuners out there, and some really good ones at that. We will cover these other tuners in the future as they deserve a post of their own, but the two main types are floor, pedal tuners, and sound (microphone) based tuners.
Pedal tuners are used for instruments that you plug in to an amplifier or sound system. Have you ever seen a professional musician tuning their guitar on stage? If so then they were using a pedal tuner. Pro musicians use pedal tuners almost exclusively for their live performances. The other option, microphone tuners, are great if you’re always in a quiet environment and they are often paired with tools like a metronome, which is great for practicing.
Clip-on tuners are convenient, accurate, and affordable. Most clip-ons are less than $20, will last a long time, and are very accurate. This is very nice if your playing space isn’t necessarily that quiet all the time. Microphone tuners are much less accurate when there are noises other than the guitar happening, while clip-on tuners work on vibration so it has to be very loud for the ambient noises to mess with the tuning process. Not only that, but they are incredibly convenient. Most clip-on tuners can be left on the headstock and most fit right in the case along with the guitar. A tuner always at the ready? Yes please.
What about phone apps?
I recommend shying away from phone app tuners. While they can be convenient, and I have used them as a last resort, they typically aren’t that great and while having annoying ads, aren’t particularly accurate. Especially if you’re a beginner, a clip-on tuner is a small investment that is well worth it.
Now for the full list of my favorite clip-on tuners. I have personally used all of these extensively through my time at the guitar shop and trust me, I have strong opinions when it comes to guitar accessories.
1) SNARK SN1X
The Snark is an awesome clip-on tuner. The clamp is very solid and feels like it snugs down on any headstock very well. Remember that these tuners tune based on vibrations through the instrument. They require a firm connection to the instrument to work properly. The Snark does that well.
The other thing to consider about a tuner is the display. It needs to be bright enough to see in a well lit room, or outside. I love the Snark display. It’s quite bright enough for any situation, and battery life is great.
The older models of this tuner had a longer neck piece that acted as a swivel between the body and the tuner head. This would often break if it was twisted too far. However, these new models have a much shorter connection that have fixed that problem. You honestly cannot go wrong with this tuner.
2) KORG PC1 PitchClip
This was my go-to tuner for many many years. It’s light and low profile, which I liked the best. It easily would fit onto a headstock and into any case. The LEDs are bright, simple, and easy to read. Battery life is great as it doesn’t have to power a large LCD screen, and it is a no frills tuner.
The clamp isn’t quite as strong as the Snark, but for the most part I never had any problems using this with acoustic, electric, or basses.
3) Fishman FT-2
Fishman makes some great stuff, including incredible acoustic pickups, preamps, and amplifiers. This tuner has a nice large face on it, and a vision friendly green color. The one thing I’m not super excited about on this tuner is the sweeping arm on the right indicating the pitch. This is personal preference, and many people like this tuner, so you might as well.
4) Peterson StroboClip
Now we’re getting into the more pricey tuners. If you want a truly pinpoint accurate clip-on, this is the one you want. Peterson makes an incredible strobe tuner that’s built into our favorite clip-on style! If you haven’t used a strobe tuner before, they are known for their accuracy. Peterson claims that it is accurate to 1/1000ths of a fret. That’s insane!
If you’re looking for the most accurate tuner, this is by far the best. While it is a little more expensive, most guitarists would happily pay a couple extra dollars for the best tuner. Your playing is only as good as the quality of tune your instrument is in. Don’t hesitate to invest in a quality clip-on like the Peterson StroboClip.
5) TC Electronic Polytune
This is another awesome tuner, on the slightly more expensive side. The one thing I love about this tuner is the metal clip it uses on the back. It is well protected so it won’t scratch your instrument, but the clip mechanism with the hinge and spring is all made of metal. This is one of the first places that a clip-on tuner breaks, so it’s great to see these being made so robustly. The tuning is incredibly accurate and the display is bright and easy to read. This is another great option for a premium clip-on tuner. If you’re looking for a great gift, this is the way to go. A lot of guitar players would love a tuner like this but probably wouldn’t buy it for themselves because of the increased cost.
This tuner is also incredibly unique because it will tune all six strings at one time. If you strum, or pluck more than one note, it goes into multi-string mode, showing you the location of all 6 strings against a standard tuning. This is an awesome feature, and can save a ton of tuning time if your strings are slightly off.
Stay Away From These
D’Addario Micro Clip-On
Some people love these, but for me, the display was always very hard to read. The on/off button wasn’t particularly responsive, which was just more annoying than anything. The one great thing about this is its tiny size. If you can get past the harder to read screen, or play in dimly lit places, then you might just love this tuner.
Something about the Fender clip-on just never sat with me right. It didn’t seem to be very accurate and it had a hard time picking up some of the lower end bass notes. As my least favorite clip-on tuner I just recommend staying away from this one.