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The Korg TM-40 Digital Tuner & Metronome

Updated on February 15, 2011

Of all music accessories, a metronome and a tuner are among the most essential. Without regular metronome practice, it’s hard to learn to really play in time. And since most of us don’t have perfect pitch, a tuner is invaluable for getting our instruments ready to play, and for checking intonation.

These days, you can get digital tuners and metronomes that are combined into one small unit, saving you both space and money. The Korg TM-40 Digital Tuner & Metronome is a very popular example, and is used by musicians who play a whole range of instruments, from the guitar to the tuba. It’s not the best choice for everyone, however. Let’s look at what the TM40 has to offer in more detail, so you can decide if it’s what you’re looking for.

Korg TM-40 Tuner Features

First, the tuner. Unlike some tuners, this isn’t specific to any instrument, but can be used with just about anything (assuming you’re playing an instrument that uses equal temperament tuning, as most Western instruments do). The controls for the tuner are located on the left side of the unit, with the metronome controls on the right.

Range

This digital tuner will detect notes over a large range – from C1 (32.70Hz) - C8 (4186.01Hz) to be precise. It does a good job of picking up bass notes, which is an area where many tuners fall short. So most instruments will fall within its range, making it a versatile product for musicians of different types.

It’s easy to use too – you just play the note you want to tune, the tuner’s internal microphone picks it up, and the screen displays the note you’re playing. The needle indicator will show whether you’re flat or sharp, and will move accordingly as you correct your tuning. There are also red and green lights that light up when your pitch is off or correct.

If you want to tune your instrument by ear, the device will also play a reference pitch (from C4 to C5). This might seem like going about things the hard way when you can just watch the needle and let the tuner do the work for you, but being able to tune by ear is a skill any decent musician should have too.

You can also choose the frequency for A4 (at 1Hz intervals within a range from 410Hz to 480Hz), so you’re not just stuck with using standard A4=440Hz tuning.

Responsiveness & Accuracy

A good tuner is one that responds well to the notes you play. If you have to keep repeating the note multiple times until the tuner picks it up, this is obviously annoying. The TM-40 performs well in this respect, although not perfectly. Just like any other tuner, it isn’t 100% accurate. In particular, inaccuracies can occur with certain notes on certain instruments, depending on how harmonics (overtones) are generated. In some cases, certain harmonics are emphasised, and the tuner might pick up on those, rather than on the fundamental.

For example, if you play the note E4 (high E string) on a guitar, the tuner will sometimes pick up the note A4, the fourth harmonic, which happens to be quite strong in this case. This will happen with any tuner, so isn’t the fault of the TM40 in particular.

Microphone

The tuner has an internal microphone, which will pick up the sounds you play. This is pretty sensitive and may pick up ambient sounds in the room too, so for the best results keep the tuner as close to your instrument as possible when you’re tuning up.

Optional – The Korg CM100L Contact Microphone

You can also use this contact mic from Korg with this tuner (or any other tuner with an audio input jack). This microphone offers easier and more precise tuning in many situations. The internal microphone does a good job in most cases, but the amount of ambient noise in the environment can affect the results you get. It can also be awkward to position the tuner appropriately and read the display at the same time. Using the contact microphone, helps with both of these problems.

It simply clips to your instrument, and picks up the sound vibrations directly, so ambient sound is less of a problem. Using this microphone also means you don’t have to position the tuner so close to the instrument to get an accurate reading.

Note that this is bought separately (unless you get the 'bundle' pack, which includes both the tuner and the contact mic). I’d recommend seeing how you get along with the internal microphone first – chances are it’ll work perfectly for you, and you won’t need anything else. But if you’re going to be using the tuner in noisy environments, or have trouble positioning it, the contact mic could help.


Korg TM-40 Metronome Features

Next, the metronome. This is a versatile metronome, and like most digital metronomes it offers a number of features over and above those you get with a traditional mechanical model.

Speaker & Sound

The metronome offers both aural and visual beats, with beeps from the TM-40s built-in speaker, and a flashing light on the case.

Although the speaker is pretty loud relative to its size, some people have complained that the metronome isn’t loud enough to hear clearly over louder instruments (like brass for example). The unit does have a volume control, but if you’re going to be playing a loud instrument and/or playing in a very noisy environment, this is something to consider. However, it has a 1.8”/3.5mm output jack, so you could hook the metronome up to an amp or external speaker if you have an appropriate cable, or listen through headphones/earbuds. Either way, you’re not limited to the volume produced by the internal speaker.

The metronome has a light feature too, so you can see the light blinking in time, even if you can’t hear the beeps (and it does beep, rather than click – so if you’re looking for a metronome with the traditional clicking sound, this isn’t it!)

Beat Options

This metronome has a feature called the Beat Mode, where you can quickly choose from commonly used preset tempo and time signature combinations. However, you don’t have to use this, and can also set it up to your own requirements.

The tempo range is from 40 to 208 bpm, which should cover most music that people are likely to want to play. There’s a good variety of rhythmic patterns to choose from too (13 to be precise); as well as the usual 3/4, 4/4 etc, you can select from 0 to 7 beats per bar, and the available rhythms include duplets, triplets and quadruplets (and within these there are options with certain beats omitted, such as the middle beat in the triplet pattern). This makes the metronome suitable for practising lots of different styles of music, including those with unconventional rhythm.

The pitch of the beats changes as the bar progresses, so you can hear where you should be.

Changing The Tempo

When you’re practising a tough passage, it can be helpful to start off practising very slowly, and then adjust the metronome by just one beat per minute each time, as your skill gradually improves. This metronome allows you to do this, although it’s not the default setting (not all the features are immediately intuitive, so reading the manual is a good idea if you want to get the most from this metronome/tuner). You can also adjust the tempo by increments of four, six or eight beats, which can be a time saver when you don’t need such fine control of the tempo.

Tap Function

The metronome also has a tap in function, so you can set the beat by tapping it in yourself. This is useful when you know how quickly you want to play, but are unsure what this corresponds to in terms of beats per minute.

Other Brands of Digital Tuner/Metronome

Other Features

Large Screen

The LCD screen is relatively large in size, with a clear sweeping needle pointer. This makes the pointer easy to read, even from a distance, which is useful if you’re using it to tune an instrument which makes it necessary to keep the unit at some distance away (some wind instruments, for example). However, some of the other info that’s displayed on the screen is a little small in size, which may be an issue if you have eyesight problems.

Unfortunately, the screen isn’t backlit, so using it in poor lighting could present problems (though you could still use it to tune by ear to a reference pitch, and use the light function of the metronome).

Stand

The unit also has a little stand built into the back, so you can have it propped up in front of you. This is a nice idea, as it makes it easier to view while you’re playing.

Battery Life

The TM-40 uses two AAA batteries, and Korg claims that the battery life is around 70 hours for the tuner, or 50 hours for the metronome – which will equate to months of use for most people. The device also turns off automatically if you don’t use it for a while, so you won’t end up accidentally draining the batteries.

Size & Weight

The TM40’s fairly compact size (4.8 x 4.8 x 1.2 inches) makes it easy to carry in a bag or instrument case (or even a large jacket pocket), and it’s lightweight too, at just 6.4 oz.

Simultaneous Use

You can also use the metronome and tuner simultaneously. I’m not sure how useful that feature really is to most people, but it’s a nice touch, and quite unusual among tuner/metronome combinations.

Memory

The unit also remembers your settings for pitch calibration and manual tuning, so you won’t lose them after turning the power off.

Conclusion

Overall, this is a great buy, and performs well as both a metronome and a tuner. Now, if you’re a professional musician or someone who plays at a high level, you might find that it’s not quite what you need, and you’d be better off investing in separate, high-end tuner and metronome devices, which will offer greater precision. But as far as tuner-metronome combos go, this is a good one, and will fulfil both purposes well for most people.

Where To Buy The Korg TM-40 Metronome / Tuner

This tuner/metronome has a retail price of $40, although many places sell it for less than this. You can buy it in many music stores, although you’ll normally get a better price online, since internet retailers usually have a lower overhead, and can pass the savings on.

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