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Best Clip On Tuners in 2020 for Guitar, Bass & Ukulele

Updated on by Gavin Whitner

Clip on tuners are often used by acoustic musicians. Acoustic guitars in particular have a nasty habit of losing tension during live gigs. When you’re that close to the audience and the sound is that immediate, you simply can’t afford to make any mistakes.

I don’t have the talent to tune a string by checking the tension. And, even if I did, that’s hardly a professional thing to do in the middle of a tune. Using a clip on tuner on the other hand, helps me notice if I’m playing off key.

Now, whether you’re a pro or just starting out, getting your hands on one of the best clip on tuners is not a bad idea.

Even some pros have a hard time noticing when a string is out of tune in the midst of so many instruments on stage. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give the audience your best effort, right?

14 Best Clip On Tuners - Precise & Affordable

These are my favorite clip on tuners among the ones I’ve tested.

I’ll be the first to admit that this tuner might be slightly bigger than what you might have in mind. With that out of the way, the screen is so big and readable that even a blind man might be able to see the tuning.

The StroboClip HD has great accuracy down to 1/1000th of a semitone. This comes in particularly useful if you want to tune your low B string. It uses Piezo pick-up technology which makes it efficient and more reliable when venturing outside the standard EADGBE scale on your guitar.

Perfectly compatible also with bass guitars, 7-strings, and 8-strings, the StroboClip HD is equally impressive with its screen as it is with its tuning accuracy. As already mentioned, the tuner is big. And, unlike competing models, most of the tuner is all screen.

It features a backlit HD display and a wide viewing angle. The anti-glare features also improve its visibility in direct sunlight. This comes in handy for outdoor gigs. The price may be a bit higher for a clip-on tuner, but it’s worth every penny if you value performance quality and ease of use over durability.

  • 0.1 cent accuracy
  • Anti-glare HD display
  • Piezo pick-up
  • 16 – 1,975Hz
  • Average plastic casing

There’s no surprise that the new Snark SN-8 is not packed with fancy features. After all, Snark tuners are so popular that most customers demand accuracy over anything else.

If precise tuning is what you’re going for, this might just fit the bill. Super-tight tuning is its trademark. Sure, the new display is also an improvement over previous designs. It’s brighter and the lines are a bit bigger too.

You can rotate the display 360 degrees. This means you can easily monitor your tuning regardless of your stance or the instrument you’re using. It also has good readability from almost any angles due to the superior quality of the screen.

  • Great overall improvement over earlier designs
  • 360-degree rotating screen
  • Very fine hertz tuning
  • Decent battery life
  • Not as customizable as some musicians would prefer

There’s a very good reason why the Sledgehammer Pro enjoys better sales than its predecessor, despite a serious price difference. You will notice a massive improvement in response time and tuning accuracy from the Pro model.

Of course, if you’re a total beginner, perhaps this is overkill. Nevertheless, the 3D visual meter is very easy to read and looks pretty cool too.

You can even customize your readouts between standard, strobe, and half strobe. You can use the right wheel to calibrate between 436 and 445Hz.

When used in strobe mode, it’s perhaps the best option in terms of accuracy. The battery life is also quite ok for the amount of energy-draining features that thistuner has.

  • Fast frequency recognition
  • Lightweight design with great readability
  • Customizable
  • A bit expensive
  • The clip could’ve been more durable at this price range

This tuner occupies a sweet-spot between the cheapest ones on the market and most midrange models. The D’Addario NS Micro is a very precise tuner that won’t cost you a fortune. The price is slightly higher than the SN5X but it does offer a few more features for the extra buck.

For one, you have a couple of buttons on top which you can use to adjust between tuning methods. You can also use a visual metronome if you want to practice tunes, scales, and specific licks you have yet to master.

It’s also very small and lightweight which makes it great for both big and small string instruments, such as a ukulele or mandolin. Although it’s worth noting that the accuracy on small instruments is a bit lacking.

In terms of readability, this is not one of the best. But overall, it’s one efficient and accurate tuner.

  • Very little bounce when tuning strings
  • Small and canbe hidden behind the headstock
  • Works on multiple instruments
  • Small screen
  • Lacks tuning customization

If affordability is your concern, this is one Fender product that won’t put a dent in your wallet. Fender’s Bullet clip-on tuner is sleek, bright, durable, and budget-friendly.

It’s a standard chromatic tuner with impressive lighting. It can help you tune just one string at a time but it does it with impressive accuracy.

What surprised me the most was the overall build quality. You’re getting your money’s worth with the aluminum casing. You also get a waterproof tuner which will allow you to play in any weather or stage conditions.

The Bullet’s tuning range is between 27.5Hz and 4,186Hz. The accuracy is within one cent which is not bad at all at this price. It’s unlikely that most concert attendees would spot such a small shift in pitch with everything else that’s going on.

  • Very durable aluminum build
  • Waterproof
  • Good tuning range
  • Bright LCD display
  • Affordable
  • Not the best for recording purposes

This clip on tuner has a very long-lasting battery life of up to 18 hours. This makes it one of the best guitar tuners for gigs, rehearsals, and recording sessions. It weighs only 30 grams which means you’ll barely feel it on the headstock.

Although it lets you see the tunings for all six strings at the same time, it only works like that for standard E tuning. You could also use it as a chromatic tuner if you wish. The accuracy is within 0.5 cent. In strobe mode it is even more accurate.

The ultra bright display ensures that you can read the screen even in dark places. It doesn’t matter if you prefer electric or acoustic guitars, the PolyTune Clip works for both and it looks quite elegant too.

  • Three tuning settings: Polyphonic, Chromatic, Strobe
  • Elegant, lightweight design
  • Great readability
  • Superior battery life 
  • Polyphonic tuning only works for standard tuned guitars
  • The polytune feature comes at a premium

Here’s how the Roadie 2 works. You put it on any peg, just as you would any string winder. Then, you pluck the string and let the Roadie 2 start turning the peg until the string is in tune. It doesn’t get any easier.

The device has an advanced vibration sensor which has been designed to work in loud environments. Although slightly bigger than most clip-on tuners, it has a great tuning accuracy of up to ±2 cents.

I also like that even though it’s an advanced tuner that works on any guitar, ukulele, and so on, the battery lasts up to one month on a single charge. And, even better, the Roadie 2 comes with over 40 presets as well as the option to configure your custom tuning.

  • Ideal for use in loud environments
  • Very accurate
  • Variable string winding speed
  • 40+ tuning presets and tuning customization
  • Big and more expensive than most clip-on tuners

The D’Addario Eclipse may be a basic clip-on tuner, but sometimes that’s all you need. Its sensor is highly responsive and very accurate. The color display is visible in bright and poor lighting conditions, which is great for stage use.

Another thing I like is the impressive visibility from all angles. The tuner comes in different colors, but I’d recommend the black model.

Whether you mount it on the front or back of the headstock, it won’t matter. The sensor maintains its accuracy. However, I will say that this may not be the best tuner for instruments besides guitars and basses.

Even with ukuleles, the calibration doesn’t seem the best in this price range. That said, the visual display is the star of the show. The combination of big, bold white letters on a black background and color-coded bars makes it easy to make adjustments on the fly.

  • Impressive visibility from multiple angles
  • Reliable clip-on mechanism
  • Affordable
  • Very accurate
  • Overly simplistic design

KLIQ Music Gear is known for the accuracy of their KLIQ UberTuner. This little gadget doesn’t just help amateurs to stay in key but it is also a popular choice among professional musicians. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the best tuners and a hot-seller.

Of course, there’s more than accuracy involved. Another feature that separates the UberTuner from the rest of the pack is its frequency detection speed.

The battery life is also quite good as it gives you 16 hours of uptime. That’s even more impressive once you notice that this is one of the lightest clip on tuners on the market (including the battery).

The screen readability is great too with its LED backlight that doesn’t draw too much power.

  • Highly accurate
  • Different tuning modes for a variety of instruments: guitar, bass, ukulele, violin
  • Easy to read
  • There are some complaints about its accuracy for nylon strings
  • Some users reported it as being too bright at times

Here’s another Snark clip on tuner for you, and you can't really blame me, because if you’re looking for value, Snark usually delivers. The SN5X clip on tuner is a great example of how good things come in small packages.

It has the same familiar Snark full-color display. It can display frequency ranges for guitars, violins, and bass guitars.

You can also put it on the front or back of the headstock depending on how close you want it. This will only benefit the readability without any effects on tuning accuracy.

This display also rotates 360 degrees. You can also tap a metronome tempo on it, which would come in handy in rehearsals or at home.

  • Easy placement and good readability
  • Rotating full-color display
  • Decent durability
  • Works on multiple instruments
  • Great price point
  • Doesn’t have many bells and whistles for professional and picky musicians
  • Works better for guitars and bass guitars than violins

This small, light and very affordable tuner is one of the best accessories for violins, ukuleles, mandolins, and all other small string instruments.

The display rotates with ease and has quite a bit of brightness to it. It has a traditional green screen with black lettering. It’s a bit situational but overall good in normal lighting conditions. The DT-2’s screen can be viewed from multiple angles too.

I was also surprised to find that this tuner is a lot more sensitive than its price tag demands. It displays above average tuning accuracy. And, even though it may struggle at lower registers, it’s frequency response range still covers and accommodates a wide range of instruments.

The build quality is also worth noting. The DT-2’s plastic case seems rugged enough from top to bottom, including the actual clip.

  • Durable
  • Long battery life
  • 1-Year warranty
  • Chromatic tuning
  • Bright display
  • Less reliable for bass players

The Neuma chromatic clip-on tuner has a large display with impressive visibility in both bright and dark environments. It has one of my favorite features, which is the string number indicator.

I also like that it comes with different tuning modes so that you can accurately tune different instruments. The tuning modes are intuitively named C, G, B, V, U for the first letter of the instrument. C mode is the exception as it stands for the chromatic tuner function.

The battery life may not be super impressive. But, it’s understandable given how many things this little clip-on tuner does once turned on.

More clip-on tuners can tackle more than guitars, but there's a big difference between doing a good job and a great job. Targeted tuning modes are the only way to ensure a high degree of accuracy.

  • Large display
  • String number indicator
  • Five tuning modes
  • Instrument-specific tuning
  • Affordable
  • Average battery life

This clip-on tuner is all about the display. It’s very big, slim, bright, and pretty much anything you need to see what you’re doing at any time of day. It also comes in two colors, black and white.

I like that it comes with a microphone function too and A4 pitch calibration. That makes it somewhat high-end, despite the affordable price tag.

Another cool thing is the rotating design. It will allow you to keep the tuner in front or behind the headstock. Although, its stylish design makes it less bothersome than the usual bulky tuner.

Using the Mode button, you can also switch between the instrument-specific tuning modes for bass, guitar, violin, uke, cello, and so on. What’s nice is that you can also use this tuner, with the mic function for woodwind instruments like saxophones, flutes, and others.

  • Works with an extensive range of instruments
  • Slim design
  • Wide, bright display
  • Swiveling display
  • Slightly fragile build

If you’re looking for something very affordable but without compromising too much on features, then the Ranch Tuner is probably your best bet.

This tuner has been designed with guitars and ukuleles in mid. While not calibrated for other instruments, you can easily switch between guitar and uke modes on the tuner with a light press of a button.

The display is black and has green lettering, a mode indicator, and a string number indicator. The vibration sensor doesn’t care about noise or anything else, so the tuning accuracy is on point.

However, the tuner only works for standard tunings on both guitars and ukuleles. If you play in alternate tunings, you may not have much use for the Ranch Tuner. On the upside, the tuner is ruggedly built and has a very reliable clip.

  • Impressive visibility from multiple angles
  • Reliable clip-on mechanism
  • Affordable
  • Very accurate
  • Overly simplistic design

Sometimes I Favor Speed Over Accuracy

When you’re performing, you don’t have time to be picky. Even the best models on the market could end up failing you on stage. My personal preference is a tuner that reads frequencies fast so adjustments can be made on the fly without impacting the natural flow of a song.

What’s also cool about this is that most clip on tuners work off vibrations. This means you can turn your volume down and tune your string without messing up the song.

Why I Consider Them Must-Haves for Acoustic Performers

You realize that acoustic guitars don’t come with a cord? Electro acoustic guitars do, but I’m not talking about those.

Unless you can tune a guitar by ear or you’re near a computer and have a microphone on hand, it’s hard to accurately tune an acoustic string instrument.

This is why getting your hands on a clip-on tuner is very important, especially if you’re in your learning phase. Playing off key for any amount of time can cause bad habits. You may even have trouble recognizing what a proper tune should sound like if you keep practicing without fine-tuning your instrument.

They’re also way easier to carry around to gigs. Some pedal tuners can be quite heavy and large so you might not be able to fit them in your case. They may be easier to misplace, I’ll give you that, but the smaller models can be left untouched on your headstock without any issue.

Not Every Tuner Will be Suited for You or Your Band’s Style

When shopping for tuners, pay attention to the tuning modes and frequency ranges (or types of instruments) covered.

I myself made a mistake a while back and bought a tuner that couldn’t handle non-standard and custom tunings. Chromatic tuning is your best friend!

FAQ about Clip-on Guitar Tuners

How Does a Clip-on Tuner Work?

When you place a clip-on tuner on a guitar headstock, a built-in contact microphone picks up the pitch when you play. Clip-on tuners work in a similar way as piezo pickups in the sense that they pick up the vibrations from the strings rather than picking up sound or electric signal.

In the past, clip-on tuners were notoriously unreliable, especially in noisy environments. But since 1995 they have improved leaps and bounds and are now a ubiquitous option for use at home and on stage.

How to Use a Clip-on Tuner

There is no science to using a clip-on tuner even if you are a complete novice. There are just a few steps to follow and you are good to go.

  1. Place the tuner on the headstock so it doesn’t come in contact with the strings or pegs.
  2. Turn on the tuner and strum the E string, then move the peg to tune it.
  3. Once the display changes color, you’ve got the note and can move to the next string.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Even though clip-on tuners are quite popular and reliable, they do come with some disadvantages. But let’s first start with the advantages.

First of all, these tuners are very small and so very easy to carry around from one gig to another. They also do a decent job of tuning a guitar in noisy environments. In addition, there is no need to plug in anything when you need to tune an acoustic guitar.

On the other hand, the small form factor might be considered a downside as well. They can be easily lost or broken if you are not careful. At the end of the day, clip-on tuners are not as accurate as the ones that plug in and they don’t mute the guitar volume.

Are Clip-on Tuners Expensive?

The simple answer to this question is no, they are not. You can get a fancy and accurate clip-on tuner for not much. The affordability is, among other things, the reason why these tuners have become so popular.

If you are an aspiring guitarist, you should not think twice about getting a clip-on tuner. It can help you get back in tune more easily and you might even get better at training your ear to the correct key.

What Is a Sound Hole Tuner?

A sound hole tuner is a special type of guitar tuner designed for accurate tuning of acoustic guitars. As its name suggests, it clips onto the guitar sound hole rather than the headstock. One of the best things about these tuners is that they are quite stealthy.

There is an adjustable clamp that allows you to fasten this small tuner securely to the sound hole and forget that it’s even there. This tuner position might be the most natural for a guitarist.

The sound hole tuner works like the clip-on tuner. A piezo transducer picks up the vibrations from the soundboard and displays them as notes.

Clip-On Tuners vs Other Options for Tuning a Guitar

To understand why clip-on tuners are the most used type, you only need to look at their obvious benefits. First of all, clip-on tuners are light, don’t have to rely on a microphone, and are very accurate.

Furthermore, you can keep a clip-on tuner on the headstock at all times. That will give you great visibility and allow you to tune your guitar fast.

It’s also worth pointing out that clip-on tuners are pretty much the cheapest way to tune your guitar unless you’re a seasoned pro. There are ways to tune a guitar, uke, bass, and other string instruments without spending money. But between devices and apps, clip-on tuners are the most affordable.

So what are the other methods of tuning a guitar? Well, you can always use the free method – manual tuning. That means you will tune your strings by plucking them and turning the peg until you get the right tension. Paul Speckmann, bass player and founder of metal group Master, is known for always tuning his strings on stage by tension.

That’s something that everyone can learn in time. Others tune the strings by ear. Whether they have an already tuned string to use as a baseline or not, but not all seasoned pros can do this in every tuning.

Lots of guitarists nowadays also use various phone apps to tune their guitars. But, as good as those apps are, they’re also limited. They won’t be reliable in noisy environments. At least not as reliable as vibration tuners, and not nearly as fast.

One more reliable option is using a rack tuner. A rack tuner will have excellent visibility on stage, it won’t look weird on your headstock, and will likely also come with cool effects and other useful features for your setup.

And, if you’re at home, you can always plug your guitar into your computer and use your favorite DAW software. All of them should have at least one tuner plugin. I recommend doing this often, even if you have a clip-on tuner. It’s a great way of checking the accuracy of your clip-on for future reference.

Using a Clip-On Tuner on Ukuleles and Other Instruments

Not all tuners will work on ukuleles. Basic clip-on tuners that don’t have multiple tuning modes will only be able to show you standard tuning notes. What does this mean? It means that when you’re plucking a string, the indicator may fluctuate too much for you to get a proper reading.

That said, clip-on tuners that have a U or C mode should be able to help you tune your ukulele. These modes usually stand for chromatic tuning and ukulele tuning modes, respectively.

Note that even if you’re using a larger ukulele and you keep it in DGBE tuning, it doesn’t mean that every standard guitar tuner will be able to pick up the vibrations properly. You might run into problems with standard tuners designed for the regular EADGBE tuning.

Fortunately, this is a repeating pattern. The same concepts apply to bass guitars, violins, mandolins, and other string instruments.

What Are Some High-End Tuners?

Generally speaking, high-end tuners tend to have more features. Those features, mainly extra tuning modes and more tuning options, tend to differentiate clip-on tuners.

But, as you can see from these reviews, there are also some bigger and more interesting things on the market, mainly automatic winders.

Automatic winders can be really cool and very accurate. They take a lot of guesswork out of the way, and they use a calibrated winding speed to avoid damaging the strings. Also, they are usually a lot beefier and more durable than small clip-on tuners.

That said, an automatic winder and tuner combo device will likely cost twice or three times the price of a good chromatic clip-on tuner. Should you get one? That’s up to you and how much convenience you need. I personally like them, but I know not everyone is willing to spend too much on a tuner.

Volume up or Down?      

When talking about electric guitars, there’s one more thing to consider. If you’re using a clip-on tuner, you might want to turn the volume down. That ensures that your pickups aren’t active and will be unlikely to interfere with the vibrations.

Granted, this shouldn’t happen at all. But, in some cases, or when it comes to cheap guitars and cheap pickups, it is a possibility.

Final Word

Hopefully this list I’ve made will help you spend less time searching for the best guitar tuner that fits your budget and needs. Remember that you won’t always need fancy features and large screens to get things done.

Of course, just reading about awesome clip on tuners won’t do you much good. Eventually it’s a good idea to just get your hands on one or two and test them out yourself. Not everyone will have the same experience because the instrument of choice also matters.

Gavin Whitner
    Gavin Whitner
     

    A guitar player, songwriter, composer, and also the lead editor of MusicOomph, Gavin is one of the four musician friends behind this site. Outside of music, he's an avid sports fan and hardly misses anything from football (soccer) to F1.

    Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 14 comments
    Avatar
    Russ Seuffert - May 31, 2019

    I have a number of tuners and they all work as expected. However, the D’Addario NS micro is the best for keeping on the guitar because of its small size. It hides very well. When I’m done playing I put the guitar in its case with the tuner still on the headstock and it’s ready to go the next time I play.

    Reply
    Avatar
    Alan L. Wilson - July 31, 2019

    I have a D’Adarrio NS headstock tuner at first I thought it worked great until I had an outside wedding gig in direct sunlight. I am a gigging working musician and have lots of outside wedding gigs. I have to tune in loud environments. Do you know of any good headstock tuners that are visible in direct sunlight?

    Reply
      Gavin Whitner
      Gavin Whitner - July 31, 2019

      The Snark tuner isn’t too bad under direct sunlight.

      Reply
    Avatar
    ed hasnen - August 25, 2019

    My snark super tight tuners go goey, soft on hi humid rooms. The black plastic rubs off with black hands.
    Get me one hard plastic that is not effected by heat and humidity and I’ll try it!

    I have these and can’t touch them if in 100% humidity.

    Reply
      Avatar
      John Maw - March 20, 2020

      I had exactly the same problem. Contacted Snark and had no reply.

      Reply
    Avatar
    ed hansen - August 25, 2019

    What model is hard plastic. The super tight with soft touch; soft rubber works great but the black oil body rubs off and gooey if 100% humid conditions.
    I like to get some unaffected by temps.

    Reply
      Gavin Whitner
      Gavin Whitner - August 25, 2019

      Hi Ed, you can go with the Donner DT-2, they’re pretty rugged!

      Reply
    Avatar
    Jennifer Evans - February 9, 2020

    Thanks for all of your helpful input about tuners. Any tips on a tuner that stays on longer than 10 minutes? I like the D’Addario NS micro but during a gig I am never sure if it is still on and can end up turning it ‘on’ only to realize that I have actually turned it off and then having to turn it on again. I’d prefer not to worry about that when I am performing and for it just to stay on until I turn it off. I don’t mind having to replace batteries.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    Avatar
    Philip Pearson - May 10, 2020

    Gavin, I have just bought a Lizzie Bass. Total novice so just starting out. Looking at the clip on tuners which would you recommend. Money isn’t an issue but just want a simple accurate tuner?

    Kind regards

    Phil

    Reply
      Gavin Whitner
      Gavin Whitner - May 10, 2020

      Congrats, Phil! I’d recommend you to get the Peterson Strobo HD clip-on tuner. It’s a very reliable unit!

      Reply
        Avatar
        Philip Pearson - May 10, 2020

        Gavin, thank you for your prompt reply. Keep safe and well. Phil

        Reply
          Gavin Whitner
          Gavin Whitner - May 10, 2020

          You too, Phil!

          Reply
    Avatar
    Steve Oda - May 12, 2020

    This review of guitar tuners is disappointing for complete absence of price ranges. You have made for a situation where the reader has to leave the website and check EVERY price. Huge waste of time. Next time, please put at least price RANGE for each review.

    Reply
      Gavin Whitner
      Gavin Whitner - May 13, 2020

      Hi Steve, I can understand your frustration. However, we’re bound by certain terms to not mention prices, since they fluctuate frequently. That’s the only reason we don’t mention prices of products in our articles.

      Reply

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