It may not be everyone’s first choice but I think a decent tuner is essential. Not just for gigging but home use as well.

I didn’t have one to start with and relied on a keyboard but my ear wasn’t great so it was not easy.   Still, it was a lot better than one of my mates who had this ridiculous pitch pipe thing.  I then bought a cheap analog one where you read a needle on a meter.  That wasn’t much better than the keyboard method, very hard to use and only useful for standard tuning.

A more expensive chromatic digital one like the Yamaha TD-1 above is much easier to use.  I bought this used for about £30 over 15 years ago and it’s still going strong.  It’s compact, about the size of a cassette and easy to use – the in-built mic picks up a strummed electric guitar without even needing to plug it in your amp and turn it on.  There is a 3.5mm input socket on the side of the tuner but I have always just used the mic.  The display is clear and easy to read, showing the pitch with red LEDs which turn green when in tune.  On the photo above it’s easy to see the A is slightly flat.  The beauty of a chromatic tuner is that you can tune to any note so it’s useful for dropped D or open tunings or detuning a semitone as so many bands do.

I didn’t buy one for a while.  Typical guitarist attitude thinking I could buy a pedal, some strings or books instead.  They are well worth the investment though because you can tune up very quickly which gives you more time to play. Let’s face it, if it takes ages to tune up you might not bother playing much because it’s such a chore in the first place and then often doesn’t sound right.

I say that from experience.  I was much more motivated knowing it only took a few seconds before I could start playing.  I was often put off detuning a semi-tone because it was such a job to do it. Similarly, I never used open tunings before I had this tuner.  So not only does it help you get playing straight away, it can open up new sounds and possibilities.