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Guitar Tuning Made So Easy and Precise

Updated on April 20, 2012

...and it only cost $18.99

As a consumer and an amateur musician that has been around for a lot of years, I have purchased a lot of items over the years to help with the creation of music for my own pleasure and sometimes for others. When someone suggests a tool that helps improve this process I listen intently but have always felt that if it isn’t pricey then it probably is not really worth purchasing. Well the sales representative at my newest music store just proved to me that he is worthy of more recommendations. The fact that I am easily more than twice his age (maybe closer to 3 times) also leaves me a little dubious about his suggestion, but not anymore.

I was looking for a way to cheaply amplify my acoustic guitar but it was really to find a simpler way to tune the damn thing since I have at least three electronic tuners now—one in my recently acquired software package called GuitarPro6, one in my guitar effects box and a standalone unit. All told this combination of software and dedicated hardware would have set me back in excess of $300.

So Christian suggested the Apex AT 8 Chromatic Clip-on Tuner. It looked sort of cheap so I was skeptical until I opened the package at home, inserted the flat coin like battery into the unit and clipped it on to the headstock of my vintage Fender acoustic six-string while I installed the much needed new set of strings. I’m thinking the old set was just a little younger than Christian, maybe by two or three years.

It was simply idiot-proof (I got it to work right away). It is well-made; sturdy in construction with rubber contact points where it meets with the guitar finish, but the really important feature is its how well it performs as a tuner. It seems to work via the resonation through the guitar neck. It is set to A440 which is the normal pitch standard for tuning all my instruments. Nothing sounds worse to me than anything off-key, especially someone who knows they can’t sing but still do.

And then I found it isn’t totally idiot-proof since the next time I tried to use it, I pushed the only button on the unit more than once. Like so many products out there, the instruction sheet is very sparse and assumes you are more knowledgeable than the average guitar noob. So it doesn’t mention that the unit has more than one setting as indicated by a letter in the lower right hand corner of the screen. This is for the different tuning modes where G stands for Guitar, B for Bass, V for violin, U for Ukulele (my guess) and C for Chromatic (which should allow you to tune to alternate standards over the basic EADGBE setting for the normal guitar, as an example). It would serve this manufacturer well to have someone write a better instruction set aimed at all levels of potential user of their products. I know someone who would be very good at that.

The key indicator is that the little LCD display (highly readable even for my old eyes) starts out blue but turns green when the string is right on tune. New guitar strings stretch and need constant adjustment initially so this little unit got my one guitar off on the right route. I haven’t really played much for the last 10 years but have the itch now and I no longer have the excuse that tuning is such a pain. This is also the most accurate tuner of the combination of the dedicated unit and the effects box (I haven’t tried the tuner in GuitarPro yet).

Now I didn’t know how it would perform on my electric (unplugged or otherwise) since I left it at the music store to get new pickups installed, new strings and a general tune-up. I expect it will work on the electric just as well. The little tuner is intended to be used in noisy environments so it gives a visual indication of tuning for each string which is a very good idea, in my opinion.

I will edit this paragraph when I get my Ibanez back from the upgrade to show what results I had when the job was done on the electric. I’m sure it will work just fine. And it did just fine with the electric. As a side note, the heavier gauge flat wound strings that I installed changed the action ever so slightly so there is no fret-buzzing as there was with lighter gauge strings and they stay in tune much longer. Heavier strings will cause the neck to bend slightly more since they provide greater tension. Taking the guitar in for a tune-up made this 25 year old treasure a whole new instrument. The Seymour-Duncan pickups have a wonderful sound, the pots and pickup selector switch have no sound when turned up and down and I play better than I have ever done before. Getting your guitar set up properly is well worth it.

Every guitarist out there should have at least one of these tuners, maybe one for every guitar you own and a spare in your case if you play live. Just tell your friends to get their own. Don’t lend it, because you won’t get it back. It’s just that good. If you want more information, contact either Apex or Long & McQuade Music.

And for the music store enter in your browser or enter Long & McQuade in your search engine since the link doesn't seem to want to work through Hubpages.

The only downside I have found so far is that the original medical coin-like battery died within a couple of months. I would like to see this unit with 2-1.5 AAA rechargeable batteries instead of the little 3 volt-2032 medical battery. Yes the unit would have to be a little larger. Not a huge problem and it may have been that the product was on the shelf for some time so the battery wasn't fresh. The new batteries from Duracell had a best before date that is 8 years in the future!! (and it seems the new battery is good for 5-6 months which is a bit of a nuisance since replacements are harder to locate and they are not available in a rechargeable format as yet)


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