Smartphones have made our lives a lot easier and more convenient. For those of us who make music that’s no exception.
I’ve already blogged about my favourite free metronome app that means you’re never stuck for a click when you need one. Right next to it on my phone is a free tuner app called gStrings. This is a chromatic tuner which you can use to tune any instrument, or your voice if you fancy singing at your phone.
It’s ever so simple. Open up the program, press the ‘Tune Auto’ button on the bottom right, then play a note. It will tell you what the note is. Adjust note until it’s in tune. Easy as that.
It works for acoustic and electric guitars, even if the electric guitar isn’t plugged in. I just balance the phone on my knee near the strings and it detects the note fine. My (non-scientific) test just now has indicated that it will pick up an unplugged electric guitar sound from about 12 inches away in a relatively quiet environment (that’s about 30cm for you metric folks).
You can go into the settings and choose ‘optimise’ to optimise it for the frequency range of your specific instrument which is a nice touch. However, I didn’t know about this before I started researching this article today. I’ve unknowingly had it set to ‘violin’ for the past 3 years and it’s still be tuning my guitars fine. So it’s clearly not dependent on you setting this parameter right.
I don’t know how many cents it’s accurate to but that’s not really my prime concern. I don’t use it for high-precision activities like setting the intonation on a guitar or preparing for a recording session. I just have it as a handy tool in case I pick up an instrument that’s out of tune and I want to get it back to concert pitch quickly and easily.
Because it relies on a microphone to pick up the sound of your instrument it wouldn’t be any good in a live environment or anywhere with a lot of competing noise. It doesn’t replace a good stage tuner. What it does mean is that next time you’re at a party and someone shoves their battered, neglected acoustic into your hand and requests a song, you’ll be able to get in tune without too much hassle (keeping it in tune might be a different matter).
For a cost of zero pennies, I think that’s a useful thing to have installed on your phone.
In the interest of balance, I should note that there are many other tuner apps out there. I haven’t tried them so I don’t know which is best. gStrings has always done what I’ve needed so I’ve never felt the urge to try any others. Let me know if you have any particular favourites.
iPhone folks – I don’t think gStrings is available on iPhone but I’m sure there are similar products out there.