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Tuners

In retrospect, I find it absolutely fascinating that I managed to play the guitar for 14 years before I bought my first electronic tuner. How the hell did I do it? Well, for starters, most of the time I played by myself, so absolute pitch was definitely secondary to relative pitch. It was only when I started playing in bands that it came to close to being an issue. And even then, most of the time someone would hit the open E string and everyone else would tune from that. For more precision, I used reference tones. So long as we tuned to standard pitch, the dial tone on your average phone was a perfect reference: 440 Hz, or middle A. When we dropped down to D, I would either tune my B string to the phone, or put on Hangar 18 by Megadeth, which has a long intro, all on a D pedal tone. Then I would tune all the other strings after the top string and when I got to the rehearsal space, the other guys would tune after me. I didn’t get a tuner until I started Nox in 1999. I can’t even remember which make it was, but it was black and it didn’t like our E flat tuning, so back to the shop it went after the first rehearsal. Instead I got what I considered to be the gold standard, namely the Boss TU-12H. The Boss was not a bad tuner. It was accurate enough, and it worked with both electrics and acoustics. The problem was that whenever you plugged in an electric, the mike was invariably left on, so that it basically had to be all quiet in the room, or the darned thing wouldn’t do its job. If only I had been aware of the Boss TU-2 pedal tuner when we first started out, it would have saved me lots of grief! But I had committed to the TU-12H, I was too cheap to get a second tuner, and I didn’t want to go through the hassle of trying to sell it during the pre-online classifieds era, so I was forced to soldier on. Improvise, adapt, overcome.

When I finally broke down and bought the Korg DT-10 pedal tuner in 2007, it was a revelation. After eight years of having to shush my fellow musicians to be able to tune up, I could just plug in, hit the switch and tune away, even though a nuclear war might be going on around me. It was such a paradigm change that I could hardly wrap my head around it. The thing with a pedal tuner is that it not only takes up real estate on your pedalboard, it also consumes one DC power outlet and n amount of milliamps of your current budget. That’s why I found a clip-on such a welcome change of pace. Pedal tuners in all honor, but they fall kind of flat when introduced to something that is referred to as an acoustic guitar. A clip-on works with any guitar or even bass. I have reviewed two different flavors of clip-on tuner: the do-too-much Joyo and the just-about-perfect Korg Pitchclip. However, I have found that I am not too fond of them in live use. There is just too much vibration going on with the bass, rhythm guitar, drums and PA system, the little things get confused, on top of which you get a fair bit of user error, since I am usually in a hurry to get set up before the next song. Especially if I want to reset from drop-D to standard-E between two songs, which isn’t exactly rare.

I can’t remember exactly when TC Electronic introduced the Polytune, but it was between five and ten years ago. First, it felt a bit like black magic. Like, how the hell can a piece of software be able to show me the tuning of six strings at once? It turns out that I am considerably less impressed with it in actual use. I happened upon the clip-on version in our rehearsal room and borrowed it for a quick tune-up, out of plain curiosity. It agreed with the Korg all right. But the Poly mode did not agree with the single-string mode! Even my ears did not agree with the Poly mode, it was audibly out of tune. So much for “Strum. Tune. Rock.” I do realize that there could be user error here as well, but I would assume that such a system would be intuitive! Truth be told, I finally went ahead and bought myself a Polytune Clip, just last year. I got a good deal for one at my music store, and lots of people had expressed satisfaction with theirs, so I thought what the heck and got one for myself. If you press and hold one of the buttons for 5 seconds, it goes into Bass mode, which disables the Polytune function and only lets you tune one string at a time, and when I do that, it is actually a damn fine tuner! It just feels more accurate than my old Korg, more solid. I like the utility of it, but if I were to find myself on a stage again, I would definitely spend the cash and sacrifice a spot on my pedalboard for a small pedal tuner.

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Posted by on 26 November, 2017 in gear, review

 

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Review: Korg Pitchclip

The Joyo JT-12B demonstrated the basic validity of the clip-on tuner concept. But, as I pointed out in that review, that tuner is a little too versatile for its own good.

The Korg Pitchclip addresses all of those issues. This is the simplest device you could imagine. There is nothing to configure and consequently no wrong settings. It has one button, ON/OFF, and one pitch standard: 440 Hz. It shows two things: the note name and whether or not you’re in tune. The only feature available is that when you hold the on/off button down, the display is activated upside-down. This is actually more useful than I first imagined!

My only beef with the Pitchclip is that it only comes in funky neon colors. There is no black, so I selected the next best thing: a dark blue. But, as the guy told me when he sold it to me, at least no one is going to steal that pink Pitchclip from you!

On the whole, a simple but purposeful product that is wholeheartedly recommended!

 
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Posted by on 20 April, 2013 in gear, review

 

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Review: Joyo JT-12B tuner

The Joyo JT-12B is a clip-on tuner. You clip it onto the headstock of your instrument, strike a note, and the vibrations will travel through the guitar and be picked up by the device. It is a brilliant concept that goes to show that we have come a long way since those dreadful Boss boxes that worked all right but were as sensitive as military sonar.

The JT-12B does exactly what it’s supposed to. It has a bright and intuitive display that you can see in any light, and it is in perfect agreement with my more elaborate (and expensive!) Korg DT-10. It can be used with electrics as well as acoustics and it can be had for not much money. All of this taken together adds up to a good buy.

But.

I just don’t like electronic gadgets that try to do too much and be too much and consequently are so flexible and helpful that they get in your way all the time. The JT-12B is a good guitar tuner, but it annoys me because it is also a bass tuner and violin tuner and ukulele tuner, and… You catch my drift. Furthermore, you can calibrate it to 440 Hz, or 441, or 442, or… well, simile.

All of this marvellous functionality is operated using two buttons only, and that’s my beef with this gadget. The on/off switch doubles as the instrument selection switch and is way too close to the reference tone selection button. Thus, when you have five seconds between songs and want to do a quick tune-up, you hit the ON button in the wrong way, and all of a sudden, the Joyo thinks you want to tune a ukulele at 442 Hz.

If you are a multi-instrumentalist and regularly gig with ensembles that use different pitch standards, then this device is for you. For us working guitarists who just want a quick and easy way to tune up between songs, it is simply too much, and I don’t care that it is affordable.

 
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Posted by on 20 April, 2013 in gear, review

 

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