Clip-on guitar tuners allow you to quickly get your guitar tuned up, and they stay on your guitar so you can easily keep it tuned while playing.
A good clip-on guitar tuner can help you solve common tuning problems and save you a lot of time. And saving time getting your guitar in tune means you can spend more time practicing, jamming, and playing gigs – which is what it’s all about.
But which is the best clip-on guitar tuner for your specific needs? Are you going to be using it for guitar practice sessions, studio recordings, or live performances? Do you want to experiment with new guitar tunings, or are you a budding guitar tech that wants to learn to adjust intonation yourself?
In this post, we go over all the vital details of guitar tuners and give our picks of the best clip-on tuners for every situation.
How Do Clip-On Tuners Work?
Clip-on guitar tuners are simple, compact devices that clamp onto your guitar and feature a built-in vibration sensor to pick up the sonic frequencies from your guitar strings. They have a clear display on the front that shows whether you’re in tune and which way to adjust your guitar’s tuning machines.
In contrast to microphone tuners that detect all nearby sound, clip-on tuners use piezo sensors that only pick up your guitar without any external noise.
Clip-on tuners are extremely versatile for tuning acoustic instruments, and they can be used for just about any stringed instrument, including guitars, violins, banjos, ukuleles, and even mandolins. Their design makes them perfect for musicians who have to play in various locations and are constantly on the move. They’re also considerably cheaper than chromatic tuner pedals and work with both acoustic guitars and electric guitars.
Clip-on guitar tuners typically clip to the guitar headstock, since the vibrations from the strings resonate there the strongest. Rubber grips on the clamp ensure that the tuner doesn’t fall off while you’re tuning your guitar. Some guitar tuner models have angled displays, so you can see how accurately you’re tuning your strings no matter how you’re holding your guitar. Many musicians leave their guitar tuners parked on their headstocks for quick tunings while playing.
Depending upon the model of tuner you have, the tuning circuit will analyze the vibrations from the strings and tell you just how much farther you have to turn the tuning pegs to get your string to the tuning you want. If you have a chromatic tuner, the tuner will tell you the closest note to the semitone you’re playing, and you can adjust your tuning peg accordingly.
Non-chromatic guitar tuners are fine if you only ever tune your guitar to the standard E-A-D-G-B-E notes or any other common variation, but if you experiment with the tuning on your guitar, you might want to spend a little more and invest in a chromatic tuner for added versatility.
If you’ve never used a clip-on tuner before, here’s a video on how to use one:
How accurate are clip-on tuners?
Since clip-on guitar tuners measure vibrations instead of connecting directly to your guitar through a jack (like a pedal tuner), their accuracy differs from model to model. Some of the best guitar tuners are extremely accurate, while others are at least accurate enough to get the job done quickly and easily.
The accuracy of a tuner is usually measured in cents, such as +/- 1 cent or even +/- 0.1 cents. A cent is simply a division of the note: there are 100 cents between each note (similar to a percent). A lower cent number is more accurate, which is especially useful if you’ll be using your clip-on guitar tuner for adjusting your guitar’s intonation.
Some clip-on guitar tuners may suffer from lower accuracy with bass guitars. Since a bass guitar plays notes that are considerably lower in tuning than standard electrics and acoustics, basic clip-on guitar tuners may have a hard time picking up these vibrations.
However, you’re unlikely to find a clip-on guitar tuner that is so inaccurate that it causes problems. As long as you keep a window of error of 0.1% to 1% when it comes to accuracy – which is relatively small – you’re good to go! Most human ears can’t notice a pitch deviation lower than 5%.
Best Clip-On Guitar Tuner: Our Picks
1. D’Addario NS Micro Clip-on Guitar Tuner
Who would have thought that Snark could be dethroned as the best clip-on guitar tuner for most people? Well, D’Addario has managed to do it with their D’Addario NS Micro. With an accuracy of 0.3 cents, this isn’t the most accurate tuner on the market, but it is extremely compact and easy to use.
This cleverly designed micro clip-on guitar tuner can be positioned behind your guitar’s headstock, making it discreet and able to remain on your instrument at all times. If you want to keep it on throughout your performance, this tuner is low-profile enough to not get in the way.
The clip is adjustable and can swivel into any position. The display can be flipped to see the tuning in the upright position regardless of how it is mounted. The colors that indicate your tuning are easy to see, and the letters are bold and large.
Because it reads vibrations instead of sound waves, it can be used even in the loudest venues, and you can easily customize the pitch setting according to your needs. The NS Micro will remember it and tune your instrument accordingly.
The NS Micro not only functions as a tuner but also as a metronome with adjustable bpm, making it a great practice tool when you’re traveling. However, the tuner itself is so tiny that it becomes easy to misplace, so you might want to keep a backup handy just in case you don’t find it in your gig bag. You might also want to invest in a more accurate tuner if you’re recording, as more expensive tuners can give 0.1 cents or even 0.05 cents of accuracy.
Overall, the NS Micro is D’Addario’s best clip-on tuner to date. It is value for money, small, compact, and with a display bright enough to allow viewing in all environments. If you’re a regular performer at gigs and want a tuner that packs a lot of punch in a small profile, the NS Micro is for you.
Here’s a video showing its efficiency:
2. Super Snark 3
Snark has long been the go-to option for the best clip-on guitar tuner, and deservedly so. The Super Snark 3 offers improved accuracy and a higher resolution screen for faster, more reliable vibration-based tuning on the go.
While Snark does not specify the numerical values for the accuracy of its tuners, suffice to say that the Super Snark 3 should be your go-to when you feel like your regular tuner or reference piano isn’t cutting it. The display is more compact and shows how over-tuned or under-tuned your instrument is in large increments.
The tuner works perfectly for twelve strings because of its superior pitch sensor. This also makes it suited for bass guitars since it has no issues recognizing lower notes and tuning your instrument precisely.
However, this clip-on guitar tuner is not compatible with guitars that have a delicate finish, so be careful about scratching your vintage acoustic guitars. The tuner also does not remember pitch setting, so if you set it to any pitch other than the standard 440 Hz A note, you will have to manually change the pitch every time you use your tuner.
The design of the tuner itself leaves much to be desired since the grooves holding the tuner to the clip are not removable and can break under strenuous use. Thankfully it’s quite affordable, so it’s not difficult to replace.
With its easy-to-read interface, this chromatic tuner is an excellent option for beginners who don’t need too many functions in their acoustic guitar tuner. It’s small and can easily fit in any guitar case. The swivel head makes it easy to see regardless of where you attach it. You really can’t go wrong with a Snark tuner, and the newest edition has made all the minor improvements that the original needed.
3. TC Electronic PolyTune Clip
The TC Electronic PolyTune Clip is the clip-on version of their popular TC Electronic PolyTune pedal tuners. It’s been among the best guitar tuners for several years now and is significantly more advanced than most of its competitors.
Accuracy is a big thing this guitar tuner has going for it. The TC Electronic PolyTune Clip is accurate to 0.5 cents in chromatic mode and to 0.02 cents in strobe mode, which offers the increased accuracy of a strobe tuner built-in.
The TC Electronic PolyTube Clip also features a polyphonic tuning mode that allows you to tune all six of your strings simultaneously. However, the polyphonic tuning range is limited to only popular tuning variations, so if you like to dabble in custom tunings you’ll have to use its monophonic chromatic mode (i.e. tuning one string at a time)
Anyone who is familiar with the TC Electronic PolyTune pedal tuner will feel at home with the interface of the PolyTune Clip, but it may be a bit much for beginners to handle. The PolyTune Clip has a bright LED icon display, making the tuner suitable for use in all environments and positions.
The TC Electronic PolyTune Clip is an excellent option for guitars that have three tuning pegs on either side of the headstock, as it can be clipped onto the back of the head and then laid down flush against the headstock when not in use. Unfortunately, guitars with six tuners along one side of the headstock (like most Fenders or Ibanez) can’t benefit from this design concept.
While the TC Electronic PolyTune caters perfectly to the needs of guitarists playing six-string instruments, the tuner’s single-string mode also makes it one of the best guitar tuners for bass guitarists. Its accuracy and ease of use make it the ideal tuner for advanced guitar players and professionals. The only real con to this clip-on tuner is the hefty price tag.
What really sets the PolyTune apart is its ability to find a pesky out-of-tune string from all six within a second, saving you even more time while recording or performing. It’s a new way to tune, and one worth trying.
4. Korg Pitchclip 2+
Korg has improved upon their previous clip-on tuner by giving the Korg Pitchclip 2+ nearly double the LED lights, giving you greater insight into how well your guitar is tuned. It can clip onto any guitar with its lightweight design and swivel head for easy visuals. True to Korg’s quality, the PItchclip 2+ also has impressive technology and sensing, making its accuracy 0.1 cents, a massive improvement over the 1 cent accuracy flaunted by the Pitchclip 2.
The Pitchclip 2+, along with better display and accuracy, has different modes like chromatic, half-strobe, and full strobe, allowing you to choose what’s comfortable for you. The reversible head makes the tuner accessible for both right-handed and left-handed players. The tuner can be used with ease on any guitar — acoustic, electric, bass, and classical.
The battery life supports eighteen hours of use, and the tuner has an auto-shut-off option after three minutes of idle time. In terms of battery capacity, the Korg Pitchclip 2+ definitely stands out.
The compact and portable tuner can fit in any gig bag and is perfect for both studio use and live gigs. The price is also on the lower side, making it affordable. The only con for this tuner would be the unremarkable aesthetic design, so if you’re someone who prizes their tuners on how good they look, this might not catch your eye. Otherwise, the Pitchclip 2+ offers excellent tuning and is one of the best guitar tuners out there.
5. BOSS TU-03
Boss was the first company to truly offer an industry-standard tuner with the TU-12, and they have used their expertise to produce one of the best guitar tuners today with the Boss TU-03. The BOSS TU-03 works as both a tuner and a metronome to ensure you stay in tune and on time. The tuner’s accuracy is 1%, and the tuner has a bright and straightforward screen.
The tuner has five different modes – guitar, bass, violin, ukulele, and chromatic – and you can have either standard or flat tuning. However, the display does not have a pivot, so you will have to ensure that you’re tuning in a position where you can see the screen.
The tuner itself uses orange lights to signal no tuning or out of tune and green lights to indicate that you are in tune. This chromatic tuner uses a needle to show you exactly how in-tune you are. The added metronome function is great if you need to fix your timing in a jiffy and comes in handy during both practice and recording sessions.
The built-in metronome can be adjusted to any bpm and works in several different time signatures, with different pitched beeps indicating the beginning of a new measure. There are a variety of patterns and beats, as well as an adjustable BPM from 30 to 250, so it works for just about any genre. The metronome is sufficiently loud for most practice environments.
Though not a flashy tuner, the TU-03 is reliable and shows Boss’ top-of-the-line engineering even in their most miniature products. The price tag is a little expensive, but you’re getting the benefit of both a tuner and a metronome for the price, so we’d venture to say that the BOSS TU-03 offers good value for money for all players.
6. Peterson Stroboclip HD
The Peterson Stroboclip HD is easily the best guitar tuner if supreme accuracy is your number one need. With a 0.1 cents accuracy, the Stroboclip HD is one of the most accurate tuners out there and is the perfect choice for professional players who need pitch-perfect tunings.
The accuracy of a strobe tuner is especially vital when preparing for studio recordings, where every Hz matters. Peterson strobe tuners are legendary in the guitar world, and Peterson is also the brand behind the ultimate pedal guitar tuner — the StroboStomp.
The StroboClip tuner comes with a huge HD display, which is easy to view no matter the angle. The soft rubber jaws attach to the headstock securely without damaging the wood, and it comes fitted with settings for sweetened tunings and drop tunings. Plus, the tuner boasts a remarkably wide tuning calibration range from C0 to B6, so you could even tune down to a drop tuning like double-drop C!
For guitars like Telecasters, which often wobble in tuning on the higher frets, the Stroboclip is perfect for setting your intonation correctly (if you know how to do that yourself). The strobe mode also works well for accurate tuning.
One of the main cons of this tuner is it isn’t the most compact tuner available. It tends to stick out when attached to the headstock. However, if you give more weight to the practicality and efficiency of a tuner rather than how it looks, you’ll adore the Stroboclip HD.
7. Korg Sledgehammer Pro
If there’s one thing Korg knows how to do well, it’s making guitar accessories even better than the ones they’ve already released. After releasing the simple and accurate Sledgehammer Clip-On tuner, Korg then did one better by releasing the Sledgehammer Pro, which goes above and beyond its predecessor in every area to be one of the best guitar tuners on the market.
The best feature of the Sledgehammer Pro is that it lets you operate it one-handed. The tubular body has a shuttle switch, which instantly makes the tuner suitable for single-handed use. The display is three-dimensional and bright enough for outdoor use in daylight, but it’s also clear enough with good contrast to let you see what’s going on in darkly lit venues.
The most impressive part of this tuner is that it’s one of the more accurate tuners out there. At +/- 0.1 cent, Korg has knocked it out of the park for professionals and studio musicians who need a reliable clip-on tuner. Other than the fact that this headstock tuner is a little on the bigger side, the technical side of things makes the Korg Sledgehammer Pro a tuner you should not miss.
8. Fender Bullet
The Fender Bullet is one of the best guitar tuners for portability. Clocking in at .029 lbs or just 13.5 grams, the tuner is light and easy to carry around, with an appearance resembling a rifle scope. The barrel design has a circular display, and you can mount the tuner to the back or the front of your guitar headstock. This is also a chromatic tuner, allowing you to experiment with different tunings.
The most eye-catching aspect of the tuner is its compact and lightweight design. This was built for people who don’t want their instruments bogged down by heavy, clunky tuners. The tuner has a decent accuracy of 1 cent, and the display is easy enough to read no matter the angle.
However, it does have calibration fixed at 440 Hz, so you can’t experiment with different frequencies. But if you’re someone who needs a tuner for the most basic needs, the Fender Bullet will suit you well.
9. D’Addario NS Micro Soundhole Tuner
The D’addario NS Micro Soundhole Tuner is a variant that’s specifically designed to install in the soundhole on acoustic instruments, mainly guitars and ukuleles. It’s one of the smallest and least intrusive soundhole tuners currently on the market and is mounted with a universal mounting clip.
The tuner uses a sensitive piezo transducer to detect vibrations from the soundboard, making the tuning response precise to 0.3 cents. The accurate tuning is fast enough to tune in the middle of a performance, and the display is lucid and bright, allowing easy viewing.
Since the tuner is hidden within the soundhole of your acoustic instrument, it won’t spoil the aesthetics of your guitar, ukulele, or acoustic bass. The attachment is also non-marking, which makes installation a breeze. The accuracy is incredible for the price point, and the ease of use and the compact size makes this tuner worth a look.
If you’re on the lookout for a compact, affordable, and accurate tuner that won’t spoil the look factor of your cherished instrument, you can’t go wrong with the NS Micro Soundhole. But you can also get more versatile options if you have any electric instruments.
10. D’Addario Equinox
The D’Addario name comes with a guarantee in itself, and their musical accessories always have minimal competition when it comes to affordability and ease of use. The Equinox clip-on tuner is no exception to this rule. The tuner is affordable, accurate, and easy to carry along everywhere you go.
Although the company hasn’t mentioned the cent accuracy of this tuner, experienced players have reviewed it as accurate enough for live performance and fast enough to tune instruments in the middle of playing.
The Equinox tuner uses a highly sensitive piezo sensor to sense even the most minute changes in vibration. The clip for the tuner is wide enough to be placed even on the thickest headstocks (we’re thinking big classical guitars). Since it is a chromatic tuner, you can experiment with various tunings even in noisy environments.
The display is a significant selling point for this tuner. The screen is big enough to allow for easy viewing, and the color-coded markings for tuning make sure you can tell with a glance whether you’re over tuning or under tuning your string. The pivoting display means you can angle the clip-on tuner however you want regardless of the placement of your guitar, and you can use this tuner to tune guitars, violins, basses, and other stringed instruments.
Perhaps the only issue is some users have reported a faulty unit that drains the battery extra quickly, but you can easily return it in that case. Overall, if you’re looking for a basic clip-on tuner that is portable and simple to use for beginners, the Equinox is a solid choice.
A Buying Guide to Clip-On Tuners
With the variety of tuners available on the market and the list we have provided, it can be a little challenging to figure out which is the best guitar tuner for your use case. All tuners offer almost the same functionality, with the difference often being minute. However, we’ve compiled the major things you need to look out for when choosing a clip-on guitar tuner that will work well for you.
Most musical instruments need to be tuned to a specific pitch range, and the reference note is usually 440 Hz, corresponding to the A4 note (referred to as calibration range a4). However, some musicians prefer pitching their instruments differently from the concert pitch of 440Hz, and some electronic tuners offer you the choice of changing the tuning calibration.
Set the tuning calibration to the frequency you want, and the tuner will take care of the rest. If you need a tuner that does this, the D’Addario NS Micro is worth a look. Not only can you set the calibration frequency, but the tuner also saves the calibration range for the next time you need to tune your instrument. But if you’re sure you’ll only be playing in 440 Hz, just about any tuner can pull that off well.
Tuning Modes and Accuracy
Simple chromatic tuners are relatively easy to use – you just pluck one string, and the tuner lets you know which note it is and whether you need to tune up or down.
Strobe tuners (also called stroboscopes), however, work differently — they work with the help of a spinning disk backed by a set of lights flashing at speeds according to the frequency of the signal they receive. When the signal corresponds to that of a preset note, the strobe tuner “freezes”, indicating that you’ve tuned your instrument correctly. Some players do prefer this since they’re used to it.
All these moving parts make strobe tuners much more expensive than your average chromatic tuners. With the advent of modern technology, however, strobe tuners have become a lot more affordable, and they also now come in the form of clip-on guitar tuners. Strobe tuners are also considerably more accurate than chromatic tuners, so if you’re a studio musician who needs absolute precision for recording, you might want to invest in one.
Besides that, tuners come with various tuning modes built for guitar, ukulele, bass, violin, and more. Some support drop and alternate tunings, while others don’t. So you should consider what you’ll be playing and decide accordingly. Different models also have a different chromatic tuner tuning range, with some struggling to pick up bass notes like C1 or C0.
As for accuracy, an accuracy of 1% (or +/- 1 cent) is quite common amongst most tuners. But if you need more precision as a professional player, especially for studio recordings (or even setting up your intonation perfectly), consider a tuner with 0.1 cent accuracy, such as the Peterson Stroboclip HD.
Like every other guitar accessory, clip-on guitar tuners also come in various sizes. Even though all tuners are made for portability, some are clunkier than others. Some tuners are small enough to stay on your guitar all the time, while others are made for occasional use.
The D’Addario NS Micro and its Soundhole variant are both small enough to stay attached to your guitar without being intrusive. On the other hand, the Snark is bigger and is very obvious while you’re playing. If you’d rather keep your tuner attached to the guitar throughout your gig, you’d likely prefer one of the smaller tuners.
The instrument the tuner will be used with
While most clip-on tuners can tune every stringed instrument out there, some of them, like the D’Addario NS Micro Soundhole Tuner, cannot be clipped on to instruments without a soundhole. The clip of the tuner needs to also fit onto the headstock so that you can see the screen and the tuner can actually feel the vibrations to do its job. Since different guitars have different headstock designs, some clip-on guitar tunes don’t work the same on all designs, so check the guitar model you have.
If you’re considering using the same tuner for both guitar and bass, you need to ensure that the tuner can pick up the pitch of both instruments. Since bass notes are so low, many cheap guitar tuners can’t pick up the frequencies accurately. Snark, for instance, has tuners for specific instruments, even though almost all tuners are built to be switched from instrument to instrument. And if you plan to use an electric guitar or bass guitar exclusively, consider a pedal tuner that can integrate into your signal chain and offer more accuracy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Guitar Tuners
Who should buy a clip-on tuner?
If you’re a guitarist or play any stringed instrument, you should buy a clip-on tuner. Clip-on tuners are affordable, accurate, reliable, and portable. They’re always a good piece of gear to have at hand just in case you find your instrument going out of tune in the middle of a playing session.
Is a clip-on tuner more accurate than a tuning app?
Yes, a clip-on tuner is more accurate than a tuning app. They use piezo sensors that accurately detect vibrations from your instrument, even in noisy areas.
Tuning apps work in the same way as a microphone tuner; they pick up on the note you’re playing via your phone’s microphone, analyze the frequency, and let you know whether you have to tune your string up or down. While their accuracy depends on how well your microphone can pick up subtle frequencies, they cannot be used in loud venues like concerts or gigs. A clip-on tuner is your best bet for both accuracy and ease of use.
What is the most accurate guitar tuner?
The most accurate guitar tuner is the Peterson Stroboclip HD. It’s expensive, but it boasts an accuracy of 0.1% with a strobe feature that lets you tune absolutely perfectly. The Stroboclip is the best guitar tuner for studio recordings, live performances, and setting intonation on your guitar.
Are clip-on tuners reliable?
Yes, clip-on tuners are reliable. Clip-on tuners are your best bet for accuracy and speed. The added portability that comes with clip-on guitar tuners is also a major plus, and they can be used on both acoustic guitars without jacks as well as electric guitars. If you have an electric instrument, then clip-on guitar tuners fall second only to a pedal tuner (which is significantly more expensive).
What other types of tuners are there?
Other than clip-on tuners, there are other types of tuners like microphone tuners, pedal tuners, app tuners, handheld and desktop tuners, rack tuners, and acoustic-specific soundhole tuners. You also have chromatic, strobe, and polyphonic tuners in terms of how they display the information.