Smartphone guitar tuners have been steadily gaining popularity among musicians for the past ten years or so.
And with good reason. We carry our smartphones around with us most of the time, so being able to whip it out when you sit down to play your beloved instrument makes perfect sense.
These days, there are a TON of options out there, many paid (with annoying adverts and ‘upsells’) and many paid ones. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the best guitar tuner apps on the market, and give you our two cents on whether they’re any good or note.
We’ve grouped them by Android and iOS, but many will work on both devices.
Types of Tuner
Many of the products below are called ‘chromatic’. Regular tuners only tune to E, A, D, G, B, and E which is how you’d normally tune your guitar. If you ever want to, for example, tune to a semitone lower, you’ll need a chromatic one. For the sake of future-proofing your purchase, it might be worthing ensuring you get one of these.
Strobe tuners are often considered the most accurate, with precision at 1/10th of a cent or thereabouts. The majority of apps are microphone assisted. and work by using a microprocessor to analyze the vibration of the strings.
Strobes, however, work by spinning a disk with a strobe pattern backlit by an array of LED lights – when the speed of the disk matches the rate of the flashing lights – the strobe pattern freezes, indicating the pitch is in tune.
First up we have Guitar Tuna, a very cool looking application which is super responsive and accurate.
This is thanks to the advanced audio recognition algorithm, which means your Android’s microphone picks up note frequencies with very little background interference.
This is really handy, as it means you can use it in noisy areas or even during a gig.
This app is also really diverse, in that it can be used with both acoustic and electric guitars, as well as violin, cello, ukulele, and bass, to name a few.
Another cool aspect is the variety of tuning settings on offer. As well as being chromatic, it boasts over 100 different preset tunings and an abundance of customization settings to choose from.
All this choice may be slightly overwhelming for novices, however, but if you play multiple stringed instruments and want precision when it comes to tuning, this is likely to be the best choice for you.
While this won’t be to everyone’s taste (style-wise), this one is by far the most accurate of all the chromatic types we mention here, thanks to its adjustable sensitivity settings.
This means that no matter which instrument you play, you’ll be able to tap in the most effective microphone setting for optimum responsiveness.
But that’s not all, there are some other handy features included too.
For example, you can set your own tuning or use the pre-set, non-standard versions. There’s also a variety of different temperances to choose from, so you can change your instrument’s consonance, for a sweeter sound.
It packs a ‘vintage dial look’, which is clear and easy to understand, with a green band appearing in the center of the dial when your instrument is perfectly in tune.
The app is also capable of tuning orchestral, non-stringed instruments such as trumpets and piccolos, as well as electric and acoustic guitars and bass.
We’d recommend it for anyone looking for utmost accuracy whilst tuning a range of instruments.
Smart Chords & Tools
The Smart Chords and Tools app is more than just a tuner and a great option for songwriters (it can even help to transpose music) or anyone who’s still learning chords, scales, and alternative fingering styles.
It also includes 350 preset tunings, a chromatic option with nice visuals, and a handy metronome for practicing with.
It’s well designed and includes an optional ‘vibration mode’ for extra accuracy when tuning and other ‘special modes’ for beginners, to help you along if it’s your first time.
If you prefer to tune by ear, Smart Chords and Tools has also included a pitch pipe option too. The makers claim it will work with any instrument and every tuning, so you could use it with a bassoon or a didgeridoo if you like!
Overall, we recommend this app for any multi-instrumental musicians or songwriters looking to explore music theory and tune a variety of instruments. Saying that it may be slightly too much to take in for complete beginners.
This one is widely considered one of the best guitar apps for Androids.
It works so well thanks to an advanced algorithm, which enhances the microphone’s ability to pick up your instrument’s pitch.
This means musical notes are interpreted quickly, with higher accuracy than other, older version.
Another great thing about this application is its chromatic tuning system, which means you can tune to CDEFGA or B and every sharp or flat in several octaves.
It’s pretty easy to read too, thanks to its clear, bright display screen, that shows exactly how far away you are from the note you wish to reach.
There are also several different tuning presets and modes included with the app, so you can set and save specific tunings and use either a pitchfork or chromatic visualization theme.
Whilst its capable of tuning classical stringed instruments, such as the violin and piano, it’s best suited to working with electric guitar, bass, banjo, and ukulele, so take this into consideration before you install it.
The Airyware is the only Android application we mention that features a chromatic strobe function (see above for an explanation).
Another really unique aspect of this software is that it runs via a 64-bit NeatTimbre DSP Engine. This means that both internal and external microphones can receive sound frequencies with an impressive +-0.1 cent accuracy.
The programming also allows the system to calibrate sound at a rate between 300-600HZ, all of which allows for precision tuning.
The Airyware also includes a ‘denoise’ setting, which lets the device adjust to optimum conditions, depending on the level of noise in your surroundings.
This, in turn, means that you can tune your instrument without having to worry about any external interference affecting its accuracy.
The Airyware’s application falls pretty wide too, in that it works with over 400 instruments, including non-stringed instruments, such as flute and bagpipes, as well as guitar.
Additionally, there are over 900 alternative tunings (yes, you read that correctly) to choose from and the app can function as a pitch pipe, if you prefer to tune aurally or as a group ensemble.
Overall, thanks to the denoise technology here, we’d say this app is great for anyone that plays in a noisy house or practice room.
Boss is a division of the highly regarded Japanese manufacturer Roland, with specific expertise in guitar FX pedals, so, of course, we expected their app to be pretty decent.
In particular, this model is designed to closely mimic the TU-3 chromatic pedal, which is popular among musicians.
The best thing about this app is that you can choose from its multiple tuning systems. These include a chromatic setting, with the option of pre-set lower pitches, if you like to down-tune.
In addition, there’s a bass chromatic option and an option to tune via separate strings and modes that work with other instruments like violin and even brass.
In terms of reliability, the software works within an accuracy of +/- 1 cent, which is very precise.
If you’re going to be using it with a large group, perhaps as part of an orchestra or ensemble, there’s also a handy pitch reference tool, so you can match up your instrument’s tuning simultaneously.
We’d recommend this product to any musician that needs accuracy, that can work with a variety of different instruments.
Pro Guitar’s offering has been designed to closely mimic the version available at Proguitar.com.
The app’s algorithm is pretty high-tech and utilizes the built-in microphone, by making it sensitive enough to pick up sound frequencies from a vast array of instruments.
The really cool aspect regarding this one, however, is that it can detect musical pitches from headsets and guitar clip-on mics too.
This means that you can tune more accurately, without as much external interference, if required. It’s chromatic, but also includes pre-set samples of other instruments, if you prefer to tune by ear.
It’s worth mentioning, this ProGuitar product is fully capable of working with unusual instruments such as the balalaika, as well as standard stringed instruments like ukulele, violin, and electric guitar.
So, thanks to its novel technology, we’d recommend this app to anyone that mics up their instrument or plays in noisy environments.
The Cifra Club is a great option for beginners thanks to its numbered, string by string tuning interface.
This makes it slightly easier for the novice guitarist to focus and not get muddled up when tuning different strings.
There’s a chromatic mode too, which usually suits more experienced players looking for extra definition and accuracy when it comes to tone.
If you prefer to tune by ear, there’s also a ‘sound’ setting, which rings out a perfect pitch for you to compare your instrument with.
Although the app itself works best with acoustic and electric guitars, it can also do bass, ukuleles and other stringed instruments, so is fairly diverse.
Another handy feature here is the noise filter, which means it will stay accurate in loud environments. This could work well if you need software to gig with or take to band practice.
The only real downside is that the Cifra Club doesn’t work too well with piano or non-stringed instruments. For these reasons, we’d say this technology is best suited to novice guitarists, looking for an accessible, user-friendly, tuning interface
The Fender Tune has been designed to be easy to use, but extremely precise.
The app includes a DSP (digital signal processing algorithm) which can pick up even the lowest bass frequencies really effectively. This is a pretty handy, as a decent bass tuner, especially a free one, can be incredibly hard to come across.
Of course, Fender’s enhanced pitch detection also works with guitars, acoustics, and banjos too, so all round, this program is pretty diverse when it comes to supporting stringed instruments.
Additionally, Fender’s app also includes handy video tuning tips, to help you make the most out of the three settings: auto, chromatic, and manual mode.
This software is a great choice for any stringed musician (especially bassists), wanting a precision tool that is easy to interpret.
This one has been designed to provide the user with a highly accurate, understandable tuning system.
To do this, its programmers incorporated an algorithm which means the errors in your instrument’s pitch are visualized in red and well-tuned notes in green graphics across the screen.
The best aspect here, however, is its built-in auto-sensitivity, which means you don’t have to mess around changing the settings before you start tuning your instrument.
You can also adjust the settings via the ‘reference frequency adjustment mode’ too, which allows you to tune as part of a group, in an orchestral manner, after the device picks up the reference note from your instrument.
There’s also a large array of non-stringed instruments that can be tuned using this device, such as saxophone, harp, and mandolin.
As well as all this, there’s a convenient screen lock function, which means you can lock onto the note you want to tune to, and visualize how out of tune you are by sweeping the screen from side to side.
Therefore it’s a great option for anyone that plays both stringed and non-stringed instruments as part of an orchestra or ensemble.
The gString functions as a chromatic dial-type product. The thing that sets this one apart from the rest, however, has is its customization options.
You can change the microphone’s sensitivity to pitch, for more accurate tuning, and can apply different temperaments, like Pythagorean, meantone and comma.
This can be helpful if you play certain styles of music, like baroque, renaissance or gothic pieces, or use different instruments, such as organ or harpsichord, as well as guitar.
The gStrings app even lets the user define and shift the frequency settings to aid orchestral tuning, and lets you save custom tunings of your choice, for use time and time again.
This may all sound a little high-tech, but don’t worry, the app is actually really easy to use and understand thanks to its clear display screen and simple design.
Overall, we’d say gStrings is better suited to musicians that play classical types of music, due to its ability to change temperament.
iOS (iPhone) Apps
So, we’ve taken a look at some of our favorite Android tuning apps, now it’s over to iOS.
The best thing about this Cadenza is its accuracy, with a wide pitch detection range that can receive frequencies between A0 to A8.
It also ships with an adjustable, A4 frequency setting, so you can set the pitch to input between either 410Hz or 450Hz.
Another cool aspect is that it includes a pitch pipe, so if you prefer, you can tune by ear or as a group simultaneously.
The package also includes a flash and tap tempo metronome, with the ability to play between 30 – 400 beats per minute. This is great if you want to practice playing in time, or want to build up your picking speed.
The Cadenza app is pretty user-friendly too, in that it can be used in either landscape or portrait mode, has a scroll wheel to adjust the metronome tempo, and can reliably transpose musical compositions by a simple touch of the screen.
One of our favorite aspects of this app, however, is the ‘sequencer’ function which allows the user to set a series of bars containing different time signatures, keys and tempos, to help with songwriting.
Overall, we’d say this would be a great option for anyone wanting reliability and the option to write and record music.
The iStroboSoft app has been designed by Peterson Tuners, a company which boasts over 65 years’ experience in the music industry.
Accuracy is this software’s middle name, as the chromatic strobe can pick up frequencies to 1/1000 of a semitone, with 1/10th cent accuracy, which is very precise.
Whilst strobes may not be every musician’s first choice, Peterson has included visual marker locks and cent display markers, so you can see how far out of tune your instrument is with no hassle.
The enhanced spectrum analyser even features a ‘speed control’ for the strobe display, which can increase the time a note is displayed for.
In terms of diversity, the iStroboSoft works with an vast array of both stringed and non-stringed instruments via the built-in microphone or an external mic device, and includes a noise filter to reduce interference in loud environments.
There is also an upgrade available that allows you to use a ‘sweetened tuning’ mode. This takes into account the individual instrument, to make the most of its physical composition.
Because this app works with tons of stringed and non-stringed instruments, we feel that it would be a great choice for any multi-talented musician looking for precision tuning.
This one is a great choice if you’re on a budget and fortunately, it doesn’t sacrifice much in terms of technology, despite being free to download.
In fact, this software still sports a high tech, DSP algorithm, which is accurate to +- 1/1000 of a semitone.
In terms of design, this software is also really easy to use, as it features a unique fixed note wheel, that complements the chromatic tuner well, and a pitch pipe, so you can tune by ear if you prefer.
It’s designed to be diverse too, in that it can do brass and woodwind, as well as electric guitars and other stringed instruments.
But, above all, our favorite features are its ability to tune via the built-in microphone, as well as line-in systems and clip-on microphones, to meet the preferences of every musician.
It also comes with customizable input options, to heighten your accuracy whilst tuning.
We’d say the only downside here is that your instrument needs to be able to sustain a note fairly well, in order to tune effectively, but with that in mind, that still covers a fair bit of musical ground.
VITALtuner is a pretty cool software package since it comes with four tuning modes, intended to meet the needs of every musician and live scenario.
The options include; advanced, easy, bright and stage mode.
Easy mode shows you which string you’re playing and the note you should aim for, making it great for beginners.
The advanced mode uses a chromatic function and needle to mark your pitch (the note also appears on a grand staff whilst you tune, which can be helpful for classical musicians).
Another great aspect is that it works with both stringed and non-stringed instruments, and includes over 130 different tunings.
This makes it particularly handy if you play several instruments.
The app also features different tuning temperaments, which take into account the type of instrument you’re playing for sweeter tuning.
The only downside here is that you have to pay for this technology and it’s a little pricier than normal, but saying that, you get some really handy features.
We’d say this one is a great option for anyone that plays in ensembles or live thanks to the handy ‘stage mode’ included.
It could also be a good choice for music teachers that need something that kids can use in ‘easy mode’ and also themselves with ‘advanced mode’.
With so much hype surrounding the Cleartune app and support from famous artists like the Gorillaz and Rosanne Cash, we just had to test this thing out.
So, what’s so great about it?
Well, the best aspect here has to be that the Cleartune is both accurate and super easy to understand.
The software has been designed to receive sound via the iOS microphone to +- 1/100 of a semitone, which is very precise.
As well as this, the musical pitch input is displayed via a 25cent fine-tuning, note wheel, which is responsive, clear and easy to read.
This makes it the perfect choice for any musician looking for simplicity and accuracy in one package.
Saying that there are some extra features that you can play about with.
For example, there’s the option of transposing music for different instruments, which is handy if you play among an ensemble or an orchestra.
As well as this, there’s the option of automatic or manual note selection and a pitch pipe, so you can dial in exactly what tuning you need or let it find the closest correct note for you.
For these reasons, we recommend the Cleartune to anyone that wants something easy to read, with decent accuracy.
In total, there are over 15,000 tutorials, missions, and lessons to work through and tons of helpful videos that will help you learn to read sheet music, and to pick up different strumming techniques, scales and chords.
There’s even a ‘challenge mode’ which lets you compete with other Yousicians via the app if you feel like being adventurous.
Bundled in with the program is a fairly accurate microphone assisted tuner. The only downside is that it isn’t quite as accurate as the several options we’ve already mentioned, so it might be worth taking this into account before you install it.
Piascore’s Tuner Lite app features a chromatic function, which is ultra-responsive and able to output at a 0.1 +- cent accuracy, with a 50cent total range.
It’s also user-friendly, with an easy to understand, needle meter and a high/low sound to mark when you’re above or below your target note.
It’s worth mentioning that all of this technology is accompanied by a bright LED display, so you can use it even in the darkest of venues.
It also features a handy pitch pipe generator, which is great if you usually tune by ear, or want to use it with an ensemble.
Of course, the designers didn’t forget to include different temperaments either, so you can get the sweetest tuning out of your instrument, no matter whether it’s stringed or non-stringed.
Overall, we’d say it’s a great option for musicians that want something reliable to work without clip on mics or for a group setting.
As you’ve seen, the field of guitar tuner software is pretty vast. There’s no real perfect choice, rather, it depends on what you need as a musician.
For example, if you want precision then go for the Guitar Tuna or Pano app for Android, or the Cadenza for iOS – they’re all are extremely accurate and won’t disappoint.
If you’re a beginner and wanting something that can help you learn, as well as keeping your instruments in tune, then go for the Chords and Tabs, or Yousician for iOS or the Smart Chords and Tools app for Android.
Both of these are packed full of tabs and lessons and are easy to visualize.
Just remember, some of the programs like Chords and Tabs are more expensive than others, so make sure to check the details before downloading.