Best Tuner App? (nominations)

I still remember my first tuner. The Seiko Tolv ST-369 – a gigantic brick of a device which probably has the equivalent mass of about 10 iPhones stacked together.

Aside from using it to generate an A to tune my violin to, and for the occasional round of the scintillating “Name That A” game (i.e. is that a 440? a 442? a 441?), I have to admit that I didn’t use it for much else.

My laziness aside, intonation is the bane of many a musician’s existence, and I think most agree on its importance – even if we do sometimes get a bit too obsessed with pitch and neglect to develop other important aspects of musicianship.

I don’t know if there is a clear consensus on how best to develop a keen and discerning ear (check out this interesting and lively discussion), but like our trusty metronome, tuners can be an invaluable tool when used appropriately. Besides, now that we can use a tuner app, instead of having to carry around a separate device, there aren’t many good reasons not to have one at our disposal.

But with so many to choose from, which ones are actually worth paying for?

The plan – and a contest!

I have 5 copies of the newly released Practice+ app to give away!

So, here’s the plan

  1. Nominate your favorite tuner app in the comments below and tell us what makes it stand apart from the rest. This will count as your entry in the contest to win a copy of Practice+.
  2. On Wednesday, I’ll tally up the nominations, report back with your top five recommendations, and give you a chance to vote on the overall winner.
  3. On Sunday, I’ll announce the top tuner app, and do a random drawing to determine the 5 readers who will receive a free copy of the new all-in-one practice app.

(Full disclosure: I received a complimentary evaluation copy from the developers, but am not being compensated in any way for mentioning the app. Just thought it was a pretty handy all-in-one app – especially the ability to quickly record and share audio.)

So…what’s the best tuner app?

There are a couple dozen or so tuner apps currently available to smartphone users. But some are easier to use, more aesthetically pleasing, and unless I’m imagining things, seemingly more accurate and precise as well.

So, which tuner app (either iOS or Android) is your favorite?

Let me know which one you think is the best in the comments below (deadline to submit an entry is Tuesday at 6pm EST — and don’t forget to tell us what makes it stand out from the alternatives!

Update: The contest and voting is now closed! Check out the top five tuner apps and winners here: Five Best Tuner Apps.

photo credit: Autumn Welles via photopin cc

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128 Responses

  1. My go-to tuner is the iStroboSoft tuner. It’s like the old-fashioned strobo-tuner that my band directors had. What is so fantastic about it is the layers of intonation you’re dealing with. It lets you know if your overtones are in tune. It’s a real thrill when you can get all the ‘wheels’ to hold still. It is expensive (9.99), but certainly cheaper than the old Korgs used to be.

  2. Tonal Energy Tuner (TE Tuner) is my favorite so far. Great visuals, tone generator, metronome, and you can set different levels of difficulty/sensitivity.

  3. My favorite tuner app is Tunable. All of the features it has make it my go-to in the practice room. The interface is pretty simple as far as design. I love the visual aspect of the tuning in it; the app shows your wave of sound as you play and even has a setting to account for vibrato width. Not only is the tuner part of it great, but the app is also packed with a metronome and a practice recording device, all of which can multitask and be used while you’re using another feature in the app. By far the best app I’ve tried.

  4. The best stand alone app tuner I have is the Strobo soft by Peterson. My first reason is that it’s a strobe tuner and I can see, not only the pitch I’m playing, but I can evaluate the 5ths and other overtones too. The second reason is the quality noise filter it has, simply press that button in the middle of the orchestra warm up and then play. It will do a great job of just picking me out of the crowd.

    The best all around multi purpose tuner/metronome app is the Tonal Energy Tuner. The top features are the tuner has the ability to go from Equal Temperament to Just / Pure Temperament. It also has a visual aid in that when you are in tune it will show a smily face, which when teaching young students it great! The second feature that I enjoy is the Tone Generator, which I use for drones. Then finally, there’s the Analysis where I can visually see the shape of my sound. Allowing me to view the start, middle, and ending of my sound. Is it swelling into the tone, is my sound steady throughout, is it decaying or swelling at the end and so forth. It’s recording it quick and easy. I feel that it’s weakness is the metronome.

  5. I also love the Tunable app. It has a clear display and is easy to use. There are a variety of temperament choices and the ability to sustain multiple drone notes at a time, so one can tune to a complete chord instead of a single reference pitch.

  6. Tonal Energy is my go-to app. I love the recording feature, the easy accessible drone tones, and you can’t beat a smiley face when you are in tune 🙂 My students love it when I put it up on my Apple TV.

  7. I actually do not find tuners for the iPhone or iPad to be sufficiently reliable; I think this is due to hardware limitations.

    An inexpensive digital tuner device — which is smaller, lighter, and less fragile than my phone — does a far better job and is easier and quicker to adjust.
    I still have a copy of istrobosoft but I no longer use it because it is not reliable; I was interested in strobe tuners but this app is just an ordinary digital tuner app which is made to look like a strobe tuner.
    The only reliable thing I would trust my phone for in tuning a violin is to produce a sample tone, or even to listen to a YouTube recording of someone tuning their violin.

  8. I use Cleartune and Tonal Energy. ( I just downloaded Practice + as the all in one with practice list and metronome and recorder and tuner for just $3.99 seemed like the perfect practice aid) I like these two tuners the best and honestly use the the Tonal Energy when working with new adult amateurs (Green Smiley Face is a very encouraging reward) but use Cleartune because the needle is a quick check on where I am. (It just seems the most familiar) I am a 55 year horn player who plays on a regular basis with my church orchestra and Kings Brass as well as president of the local chapter of New Horizons Music International..

  9. Hate to be boring at this point, but Cleartune is the one for me as well..simple interface, accurate. It is somewhat aesthetics though. Still, have downloaded a lot of tuners and find this one is the one I use most.

  10. PitchLab/PitchLab Pro

    I have tried about 30 different tuner apps on both iOS and Android…

    I used to like ClearTune because of the simple interface, however its pitch sensing algorithm can be easily fooled by strong overtones and its detection needle is unstable and fidgety. PitchLab/PitchLab Pro is my new favorite for its accuracy, stability, and its plethora of useful scientific information. PitchLab uses all of your available mics (my motorola has 3) to detect the first 5 overtones of your sound. So, you can tune up accurately even in a somewhat noisy room. It also gives you several visual options for measuring your pitch including a standard needle, objective frequency reading, +/-cents, various strobe tuners, a configurable open string comparison tool, a key board pitch pipe, and even the ability to accurately detect Chords!! I find the strobe tuners to be the most useful. There is also a screen shows the first 5 overtone in characteristic wave forms (like an oscilloscope) to directly measure the timbre of your sound by each constituent frequency !! You can use this feature to objectively measure the sound quality of an instrument/bow regardless of the room. Very powerful tool if you know what overtones and oscilloscopes mean.

    For customization: you can set up the frequency to match any reference standard or transposition, change the temperament, create a custom temperament, choose between 4 different #/b naming schemes, alter the sampling rate, chose between different sampling algorithms, and even display any two separate tuner screens at the same time, and much more.

    Another VERY cool feature is that the notes are color coded in a rainbow so that each note starts to take on a personality, which possibly could lead to some level of objective pitch. I don’t have perfect pitch, but after using PitchLab for a year, I can often tell when I am out of tune without a tuner…

    Two years ago I had crummy dull ears and could only detect if a note was off by more than +/-30 cents on my cello, and could not even tell you if it was sharp or flat. Lesser tuning apps got my ear to hear differentiate between a range of +/-10 cents, about the same skill as an average audience member.. PitchLab’s detection is so accurate and stimulating, that it got me to hear variations of +/- 2 cents, and when playing double stops I can hear beat differences if the notes are off by 0.5 cents.. PitchLab’s visual needle itself is stable enough to measure 0.5 cents, or 0.1 hertz. The effect on my ear is tremendous. After only playing cello for two years and three months, my intonation is so confident that I can turn the app off and still “know” that I am tune. To me the sign of a good tuner is how little I need to use it.

    1. I live pitch lab for all the same reasons as Ben, as well as the ability to create custom tunes for various fiddle playing gigs along with playing classical. Great app, fun to explore!

  11. I like Guitar Toolkit’s tuner for the quick, precise needle interface, as Cleartune’s spinning dial makes me a little cross-eyed, as do the Peterson-style ones. Guitar Toolkit’s metronome also has a programmable beat function, which I use a fair amount. It was designed for guitar and bass guitar, and works very well for my instrument (double bass), but doesn’t accurately pick up treble instruments. It has pretty good noise rejection, so I can put my phone on my bridge and tune in orchestra. The ipad version has an enormous graphic with a large readout of the exact frequency, so I like to use it with the bass students in their group class as well as practicing intonation to the cent. It does not, however, select for other tuning frequencies or temperaments, so I use Cleartune for 415 days and violone.

  12. I NOMINATE; BAGPIPE TUNER by Murray Blair, it is the most precise tuner I have found for the Bagpipe. It is used on the iPhone or ipad.

  13. I personally use Pro Tuner. I admit the interface isn’t the best, but with all of the (free) apps that I have tried, it was the only one that picked up the low register accurately for me.

  14. For daily use I have a Korg tuner that I like but on my iPhone and iPad I use an app called TuneUp. This was the only tuning app I found that shows you which octave you are in. For a harpist changing strings this is critical. I like the interface and I was able to change the name on the screen so it shows “Harp Heaven.” With all these tuners handy I know I’ll always have one available.

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