In the dark ages, musicians had only one choice for tuning their instrument. The tuning fork was all they needed to get the guitar sounding right. We too often think that our fancy electronics make things easier, when in fact they can do the opposite. When relying on a device to ‘listen for you' it gets easier to become lazy in our critical hearing skills. The tuning fork has no visual feedback, which forces the guitarist to listen intensely. This is the missing link between becoming a better player.
We now live in modern world with about a million guitar tuners to choose from. From big boxes to tiny clamp on devices and even suction based tuners. If your a live musician, it may be best to use one that is discreet and easy to access in a loud environment. I tend to use the clamp on tuners when traveling but at home may even use the built in tuner in Pro Tools. Adventurous types may opt for a chromatic tuner, which allows for access to every single note. Going even deeper are those who stray from the standard 440 tuning. Modern research has found that tuning everything to 432 can bring healing frequencies to the listener. Many of those hit songs from the 60s and 70s used this tuning across every instrument. You may also want to try 425 which is great for drones.
Regardless of which guitar tuner you choose, it's important to also get a simple tuning fork. I try to always keep one of these in D and E. This will keep your ears laser sharp and aware of the slightest changes. This does require a quiet room but you'll be a better listener for it. Even when using a modern electronic tuner, you can be aware of the aural disconnect. It kind of goes without saying, but be sure and have some fresh backup batteries. This can be a lifesaver in live or studio situations. If you are flat broke, there is still a free solution. Some have gone to great lengths to create a free online guitar tuner that can be accessed from anywhere. This means that your smartphone, tablet or laptop can be used as a tuner. The tuner is currently a flash based app but will soon be HTML5.
Best of all, this online tuner forces you to listen and get it right. After tuning by ear, try and follow up with a digital tuner to see how close you were. Keep doing this and over time your hearing will improve and this effects musicality as well. If you are interested in trying this then use our free app at 123 Guitar Tuner. It works on any computer browser or mobile browser.