After spending many years in search of the good tuner for bass I think I may have finally found it.


Trying to tune your bass can be challenging at best, especially on stage where the lighting can be iffy and the pressure is high.  I have tried the clip-on kind, the plug in ones, and the ones you plug a cable into.


Here is a brief explanation about tuners provided by our friends at Roland, “Electronic tuners can be classified into two categories: guitar/bass tuners and chromatic tuners.”


Guitar/bass tuners only recognize the open strings of a guitar or bass. Therefore, they cannot be used to tune other instruments.  If you only need to tune guitars and basses, a guitar/bass tuner is very easy and convenient to use.  You can easily tune by string number, even if you don’t know the pitch (note name) of each string!

A chromatic tuner recognizes each of the twelve chromatic (semitone) steps of the equal-tempered scale (C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B).  And as such, it can be used to tune any instrument.  If you use a chromatic tuner to tune your guitar or bass, however, you’ll need to know the pitch (note name) of each string.


Since switching to a five string bass I have noticed it is very difficult to get a tuner to recognize the low B string.  Most tuners are great for the four string players, but for us five stringers it’s not happening.  My criteria also requires that it be easy to use at a gig.  Most of the tuners are not that gig friendly.  For example, if you do any running around on the stage at all eventually a clip on tuner will come off.


And, for me, just about anything else is unacceptable for stage use.  So, my needs are for a tuner to be able to stand up to a stage show and to be able to tune quickly and quietly.


Here’s a sample of some of the tuners I’ve owned in no particular order:


Boss TU-12 Chromatic Tuner

Korg Pitchjack

Fender AX-12 Chromatic Auto Tuner

The Intellitouch Tuner by Onboard Research

Korg Pitchblack


For clarity sake, I do not have an endorsement deal with any of these companies.  I paid for these tuners with my own hard earned cash.  I’m just hoping to pass on some advice.  I’ve gone through the pain so you don’t have to.




None of these tuners are junk: they all do what they are supposed to do.  It just that only one of the bunch fit my criteria of what I need a tuner to do.



boss tu-12 052913a


The Boss TU-12 Chromatic Tuner is a good tuner and can be run in line with your rig but does not mute your sound when tuning.  Hearing someone tune can be very annoying to the band, the audience, the waitresses, the club owner…


It’s not very easy for me to see the tuner in my pedal board from my height, and even worse in the sunlight.  And, sadly, it does not recognize the open low B sting (it will however recognize the harmonic, which is an octave higher). The BOSS TU-12 chromatic tuners provide a mode in which you can tune by string number if you don’t know the note name for each string.  I got this on eBay for $40.00.



korg pitchjack 052913a


The Korg Pitchjack is great when you’re home, but not all that good for gigging at all.  It also has a tough time with the low B sting.  It does have a switch on the side to change from bass to guitar.  One cool thing is it has a built in light which you can use as a flashlight. Flat tuning mode allows for tuning seven semitones below original pitch, which is cool if you’re playing with a piano. It tunes seven-string guitars and six-string basses. This one cost me $120.00.



fender ax-12 052913a


The Fender AX-12 chromatic tuner features a highly visible LED meter, three tuning modes, low battery warning, easy re-calibration, and input/output jacks for in-line operation and a 9v AC adapter jack. With both input and output jacks, it can be used in a pedalboard, however it lacks a mute switch for silent tuning.   As with the Boss TU-12 I can’t read it standing over my pedalboard and actually have to bend down to use it. This cost me $40.00.



PT1 052913a


The Intellitouch PT-1 by Onboard Research is a little tuner that clips to the headstock of your instrument. The PT-1 tunes from vibration, rather than pitch. The backlit display swivels to allow you the ability to easily tune, and then move the tuner out of the way. As you might expect from the slightly expensive price tag, the Intellitouch PT-1 is a really good tuner. Just not for my 5 string and certainly not for a gig that I’m running around on. Now to be totally honest did not pay for this one, it was given to me by my brother as a present, but the price on this is around $70.00.


Yes, I did save my favorite one for last.



korg pitchblack 052913a



The Korg Pitchblack I have recently discovered this pedal and fell in love with it.  I was loaned this tuner on a recent gig where I was subbing for their bass player, and had to have one of my own.  This tuner has no problem with my low B string. It tunes in silence so no one can hear. It is easy to read from the floor.


 Here is a brief overview from Korg:


100% True Bypass output keeps your tone intact

Choose from 4 types of display modes: Strobe, Half Strobe, Meter & Mirror

Compact pedal sized guitar/bass tuner that fits in your pedal board

Large bright LED meters clearly show any tuning discrepancy

A broad detection range from E0 (20.60 Hz) to C8 (4186 Hz)

Calibration is adjustable from 436-445Hz

A 9V DC output jack is provided for cascading the power supply to other pedals


This is the best tuner I have ever owned…and I am planning on getting another one to keep in my gig bag (my first one lives full time on my pedalboard.  The list price is around $70.00, but they can be found on eBay for between $45.00 and $70.00.  They also have started making them in 3 different colors this year, as well.


So, there’s a brief rundown of some tuners to think about.  Again this is my opinion and just my own findings.  Of course, your needs and preference of features may be different!


Good luck and keep it low.


– Scott Woodward



Originally posted 2013-05-29 20:36:53.