I’m going to talk about a common problem that I hear quite often when I’m out listening to bands. It’s a problem I’ve encountered working with various musicians in my studio as well. The problem that I’m talking about is the use of several different electronic tuners while tuning the various instruments in a band. You would think that a tuner is a tuner and that they’re all properly calibrated but the truth is that any individual tuner can be slightly out of calibration. If you have two different tuners and they’re both a little bit out of calibration, let’s say one is slightly sharp and the other is slightly flat, you’ll hear a big difference in tuning between the different instruments that have been tuned on them. The audience will simply hear an out of tune band which isn’t good for any performance by a live musician.
Another problem with simple electronic tuners is that the accuracy of the display scale is limited by the number of lights or increments on the dial. Some tuners will show a light every half semitone until you’re “in tune” but even when the “in tune” light is on, you may still be off by up to 100 cents (a half-step). I hope you can see how using multiple tuners onstage can lead to serious tuning problems.
So how can you deal with this problem? The easiest thing to do is to have everybody sharing the same tuner. This way, if you all tune on the same device then even if it’s a little bit out of perfect tune the band will still be off an equal amount which will still sound “in tune”. Of course, if you keyboard is not adjustable to the tuner, then you’re in trouble again. The best solution of all is to get one of the extremely accurate strobe tuners from Peterson and have everyone in the band tune with that. I wrote a post yesterday about the Peterson Autostrobe 490ST which is accurate to 1/1000th of a semitone! The reason strobe tuners are so accurate is because of the moving strobe wheel on the device. The following video details the history of the strobe tuner and how they work. It also discusses the new and extremely affordable LCD readout strobe tuners such as the Peterson StroboFlip VS-F. The great things about the StroboFlip are, it’s as accurate as any other strobe tuner, it’s very affordable and it’s extremely portable. This would be the perfect tuner to tune your entire band with.
Strobe Tuners: Their History and How They Work
So as you can see, the strobe tuner is really the way you want to go if you want your band to be in perfect tune.
Lastly, here are a couple more tips for working with tuners. You can also check tuners against each other by tuning with one and checking that the other tuner agrees with the first. All tuners can go out of calibration, luckily most Peterson tuners can be re-calibrated by playing a recorded reference tone into the tuner which the tuner will read and re-calibrate to. Even cheap tuners will usually offer some simple calibration settings in case they get off. So be sure to check your cheap tuners against your expensive strobe tuners. Better yet, just buy a Stroboflip VS-F!