Every stringed instrument needs a tuner to help you to ensure you are playing an in-tune model rather than a horrible, detuned mess. A violin has just four strings to be tuned, but tuning by ear is incredibly difficult, so the majority of people buy a violin tuner. In this article, we’re reviewing some of the best violin tuner models, and also discussing the importance of a reliable tuner. Should you really shell out for a specific tuner? Won’t a simple online tuner or app be enough? We answer your questions in this guide, as well as recommending some specific models.
In a hurry? Here are our top picks..
How Violin Tuners Work
A little understanding of how these little gadgets work will help you to make the right choice. A violin tuner will give you a signifier when your string is in tune. You will bow one string at a time, and either a light or a sound will tell you that your string is in tune. Most tuners have some sort of a meter, so you can physically see whether you need to tune up or down.
How does this work? Effectively, for each string of the violin, the tuner is detecting the pitch, based on the frequencies that the violin is giving off. It has a record of what each string should sound like and tells you when you’re at the right pitch.
It’s a relatively simple technology, and a lot of the violin tuners on the market are relatively affordable, especially by the standards of most music equipment which can prove to be pretty costly.
Do I Need a Specific Violin Tuner?
You need to ensure that when you are buying a tuner it has the capabilities to tune a violin! The reason we mention this is because of the fact that there are many different tuners on the market and a lot of them are multi-instrument. They may well have a mode that you switch to for tuning a violin, but they can also tune other instruments such as a bass guitar. The violin is usually tuned to G3, D4, A4, and E5. This means it’s tuned in perfect fifths.
While it isn’t 100% essential that you get a tuner made exclusively for violins, you to need to check that there is a violin tuning mode within.
If you play other instruments then it can be really useful to pick up a tuner that can do multiple jobs, but for most violin players this would be overkill, and you can get away with just a violin tuner.
Types of Tuner
We’re not just talking about whether a tuner for violin can be used with other instruments here, we’re talking about the specific style of tuner. Most tuners these days are digital, but not all of them are.
In the old days, before the electronic tuner was invented, a tuning fork would have been used. This is a pitched piece of metal, you literally tap it to get a reference pitch and then tune your violin based on this. It involves using your ear for tuning your violin rather than being told by the technology itself when the instrument is properly in tune.
A clip-on tuner will be used to clip onto the instrument itself. In the case of a violin, this normally means being clipped near the tuning pegs. They’re normally electronic to allow you to get the perfect tuning. Other types of electric tuner might not clip to the instrument, but they can still be used to detect the pitch and correct the violin strings.
Which type you opt for will come down to the environment you are used to playing the violin in, and how good you are at detecting pitch yourself. It can take a number of years to get good at this, and to know exactly how each string should sound. We recommend making it easier for yourself by getting an electric model of tuner to do the hard work here. The best electric violin tuners are usually incredibly reliable.
The majority of tuners are chromatic. A chromatic tuner just means that it shows you the note to the correct semitone, using the chromatic scale. This is the most common method of tuning, so don’t think when you come across a tuner that is described as chromatic that it has some strange added features or anything.
Connecting to the Tuner
Most tuners have a small inbuilt microphone allowing them to detect the pitch. This means that there isn’t any need to connect your violin to the tuner, which is a good job, because most violins are purely acoustic instruments. You can get electric models, and these may give you another option for connecting to the violin tuner itself. Even if you have an acoustic-electric violin, a tuner can connect to the instrument.
You can connect by 1/4 inch jack to some tuners. This means that the audio signal is more reliably picked up and the tuner gets a better idea of what needs to be altered. If you often find yourself needing to tune up in a really loud environment, such as a band practice, this can be very helpful.
Can I Just Use an App?
There are some violin tuner app options, and they’re not bad. A tuner app can be good for beginners and it might save you the expense of having to buy a tuner when you are just getting started, but if you are looking for the very best violin tuning possible, with the ultimate reliability, many of the tuner app options will be a little bit lacking. It also depends on the quality of your phone.
A lot of the models of tuner on the market aren’t that expensive, and for the peace of mind to know that they are doing a good job and keeping your violin properly in tune, then you might as well pay a little bit more and steer away from a violin tuner app. Some of the tuner app options aren’t even free, so you would be paying extra money for them anyway.
Tuners With Other Features
We’ve mentioned the fact that many tuners can be used for more than one instrument, but did you know that some of them include other features to help with your musicianship? The most common added feature for a tuner is a metronome. A metronome can be included to help teach you to stay in time as a musician. This is the most common added extra, though you might find some other cool little features and functions on some of the best violin tuner models.
How to Tune a Violin
There’s no use in having a good tuner if you don’t actually know how to use it and tune your violin to a good standard.
When you tune your violin, start below the note so you are tuning up. This makes it far less likely that you will break a string due to it being too tight. If your tuner has a specific setting for a violin, make sure this is set. You don’t want to be tuning to a bass guitar setting as this will potentially break your strings or loosen them to the point of falling off.
The process of actually tuning involves bowing the note while you use the fine tuners to tweak the pitch. When you get to the right pitch for that string, the tuner should tell you, either by flashing, displaying on a dial, or even giving you a little noise notification.
Remember to do each string at a time, and don’t just stop as soon as you have reached the right pitch, keep bowing the string itself a few times to make sure you have an accurate reading.
Tuning an instrument is the sort of thing that you will only need to do once. If you have a tuner that is easy to use then you will be comfortable with what you are doing after just one or two uses.
The Best Violin Tuners
1. D'Addario NS Micro Violin Tuner – Best Overall
We’ve named the D’Addario NS Micro as the best overall tuner. Violin players will find that this specific model for use with their instrument gives you a nice, clear, and simple use for your instrument due to the fact that it isn’t complicated with other instrument modes.
In terms of features, it has a brilliant locking clamp to hold the tuner onto the instrument, this means it is a clip-on tuner. It manages not to damage or stain your instrument during use either. Instead of using a microphone, this has a quality Piezo transducer which picks up the vibrations and detects the tune regardless of the environment you are in.
If you’re in the dark, the LCD screen can be a godsend. It’s backlit with a reversible mode and you can use it even in really dark spaces such as concert halls, where some musicians will be desperate to tune their violin.
It’s tiny and offers really great accuracy, so you can put it in your bag and be ready for practice.
- Reliable tuning which doesn’t use a mic, but pickups instead.
- Small, lightweight, and portable.
- Easy to see with the color display showing when you are in tune.
- Can’t be used on other instruments other than violas.
If you do specifically want a multi-instrument model of tuner then you can find plenty of models on the list. This is for specific violin players, and if you want the tuning process to be simple and straightforward with a tiny tuner, we really recommend it.
2. KLIQ UberTuner - Professional Clip-On Tuner for All Instruments – Multi-Instrument Chromatic Tuner
If you are looking for a tuner that can be used for multiple instruments as well as perfecting the pitch of your violin strings, the KLIQ UberTuner could be a good option. KLIQ manufactures some of the most popular tuners for guitars, but this model can just as easily be used with other instruments including for violin tuning.
As you can see, UberTuner has a fantastic color display. This makes it really easy to see whether you are in tune or not and perfectly get your violin in pitch every time. It has some clever technological inclusions to help it achieve this. It has a Piezo pickup instead of a microphone and this means that even if there is a lot of other ambient noise within the room, it doesn’t matter fo this tuner as it will be able to detect the pitch.
Luckily, the easy to read display also shows if you are flat or sharp, so you know which way to adjust, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in a dark room or what angle you are looking from. It’s relatively small and portable and definitely built to last with a durable design.
- Good for multiple different types of instrument.
- Easy to read the color display.
- Reliable tuning even with ambient noise.
- Comes with a three-year warranty to protect your purchase.
- Violin tuning is not the automatic mode of this tuner so remember this before you start.
In general, this model is a very food option for those who will also be tuning guitars and similar, it’s a reliable electronic tuner. While it’s not the cheapest option, it is certainly not overly expensive, when you consider the good job it can do on your violin and the fact that it has a three-year warranty. A violin tuner you can surely rely on.
3. Korg TM60BK Tuner Metronome – Best Violin Tuner with Metronome
We have already briefly mentioned the fact that many chromatic tuner models for violin also include metronomes. This may be a feature you are looking for, or it may not. The Korg TM60BK is a great example of a versatile yet easy to use tuner that has a metronome built-in, making it simple for musicians to practice their timing, too, something that could be essential for those wanting to play with other musicians.
This model assumes some knowledge of tuners, and it is only easy to use if you know what you are doing in terms of picking the right pitches for your violin tuner. It relies on musicians to set the tuning range.
The tuner and metronome features don’t have to be used together at all, so you can just use this like you would a tuner app. It has a backlit display and is an improvement on preceding models in the Korg range such as the TM50, which had much worse battery lives.
Because this has a detection range between C1 and C8 (basically the range of a piano) it can tune pretty much any instrument out there. The metronome is flexible too, with 15 different rhythms which can be set between 30 and 252 BPM. It has a memory backup so you don’t have to start again with getting the correct settings every time you switch on your violin tuner.
- Includes a metronome which is very flexible and simple.
- Huge range for tuning virtually any instrument, including a violin.
- Backlit display.
- Some background noise might interfere with this violin tuner. A pickup could avoid this.
- For beginners, it may be tough to get the correct settings.
If you are an experienced musician and you want other features besides violin tuning then the Korg model could be ideal for you. The brand is known all over the world, and this tuner is far better than any violin tuner app, even if it can sometimes be susceptible to a bit of background noise.
4. Rinastore Professional Violin Viola Tuner, Clip-On Large LCD Screen Tuner – Cheap Violin Tuner
We totally understand that starting to play the violin can be really expensive. You don’t have to rely on a tuning fork or a tuning app though, as you can get a cheap tuner that does the job well, the Rinastore.
It doesn’t have the same great features as some of the other tuner app options but that doesn’t mean it should be discounted if you are on a budget. Naturally, you can use this chromatic tuner either for violin or viola, and it is super simple to switch between the two.
In spite of being cheap, it has a Piezo sensor which means the violin tuning is actually pretty accurate even in a loud environment. The tuner is clip-on with a 360-degree swivel clamp. You can see what the tuner display is saying even in the dark. It does require a battery but this comes with the product itself. It also has a one year warranty.
- Backed by a one year warranty.
- Does a decent job even in pretty loud environments.
- The clip-on design isn’t the most reliable and can leave minor, temporary marks on the instrument.
- The battery life could be better, and replacing it can be a bit of an annoyance.
There is always going to be some element of getting what you pay for, but there is nothing wrong with looking for the best cheap violin tuner, especially if you are just getting started and want violin tuning to be easy and inexpensive. If you’re not playing the opera house, you don’t need to spend a fortune on getting a reliable tuner, and this model can do a good job for beginners, plus it’s very small and portable.
Conclusion – Finding the Best Violin Tuners For You
As you can see from the four models of tuner mentioned above, it really depends on what you are looking for – do you need to tune your guitar as well? Or maybe a bass guitar, or another string or wind instrument? Do you want a metronome? Will you be using the tuner a lot in the dark? These questions all need to be considered before you go ahead and buy your tuner. We recommend upgrading from using a violin tuner app and getting a decent little portable tuner to ensure that you are sounding as good as you possibly can.