Guitar Tuner Not Working (try doing this)

Guitar Tuner Not Working? (try doing this)

It can be difficult to tune your guitar to perfect pitch by ear especially if you’re in a crowded or noisy room. One solution is to use a guitar tuner and there are certainly lots to choose from in a range of prices. From £3.99 to £69.00 for clip on tuners and of course there are many online tuners you can use for free. 

Any of these tuners will save you time and get your guitar to near enough pitch to be able to play with the rest of the band. But what do you do if your guitar tuner stops working? This article will look into why guitar tuners stop working and some of the ways to fix them.

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Which Type Of Guitar Tuner?

We have access to so many useful tools nowadays via our mobile (cell) phones and it’s possible to use an online app to tune your guitar. We find however, that as internet coverage can be sketchy at best, we prefer a physical clip on tuner. But in the interest of partiality we’ll cover both in this article.

How Do Guitar Tuners Work?

guitar strings

Guitar tuners work by measuring the frequencies produced by the guitar string as it vibrates and aligns those measurements with notes on a chromatic scale. Once the frequencies match a particular note the display on the tuner will show that note on the LED screen. Online tuners work in one of two ways;

  1. The online app plays the note, you listen and tune your guitar string to match that note.
  2. You pluck a string and via your device’s mic, the online tuner will detect the pitch of that string and give you feedback on how to tune it accurately. 

There are a number of types of tuner available, some work by tuning individual notes one at a time. Others, which are known as polyphonic tuners, measure the frequencies of all the strings at once. All you need to do is strum all of the open strings at once and the device will give you feedback on how close (or far) to being in tune each string is.

SEE ALSO: The Greatest Apps To Learn Guitar Right Now In 2024

What Causes The Clip On Guitar Tuner To Stop Working?

The first place to check if your clip on tuner stops working is the battery compartment. Batteries only last for so long and need frequent changes especially if you use your tuner often or don’t use it much at all. If once you change the batteries it still doesn’t work, it could be one of the following;

Dirty Battery Terminals

If you haven’t used the tuner for some time and you left batteries inside, they could have corroded and left a deposit on the terminals. This deposit will prevent the battery from connecting with the tuner and this will prevent power from reaching the tuner. If this is the problem, just gently clean the terminal contacts using emery board until you see metal again.

Contacts Not Connecting

Another problem that often prevents the tuner from turning on involving the batteries is the actual contacts are pushed too far apart to make a connection with the battery. Gently bend them into the correct position, not too far as this could snap the connectors off.

Wrong Tuner

Some tuners are designed for different types of guitars. There are bass specific tuners, some that are designed for ukuleles, violins etc. If you are trying to tune a guitar using the wrong type or an incompatible tuner, it will not work.

Tuner Needs Resetting

Sometimes guitar tuners just need to be reset, this usually involves the simple process of pressing the reset button and allowing the tuner to reset itself.

Playing The Guitar

Tuner Clipped In The Wrong Place

Some of these clip on tuners are more sensitive than others, clipping the tuner too far up the headstock could cause it to not detect any string vibration. If this is the case, simply moving the tuner and clipping it closer to the guitar body might do the trick.

Faulty Connection (internally)

As they only clip on, at some point the tuner will fall off the guitar and hit the floor. Depending on how far and how hard the floor is, could cause something inside the tuner to become loose or dislodged. Sometimes they can be encouraged to start working again by giving them a quick tap or bang. If this doesn’t work, it’s probably time to buy a new tuner.

No Screen Display

If you clip your tuner on the headstock and the screen doesn’t light up, it could be a contact issue. This is usually caused by the shaft and the ball of the tuner not connecting correctly. If when you were attaching the tuner to the headstock the screen lit up, it’s definitely a contact issue.

You will need to clip the tuner to the headstock and then wriggle the tuner about until it’s in the perfect position for you to see the display and the tuner to detect the string pitch. Then apply glue to the shaft and ball to keep it in this position (taking care to not glue the tuner to your guitar). This is only a temporary fix, it’s really time to replace the tuner.

If All Else Fails…

If after exhausting all of these possibilities, the tuner still won’t work, we suggest you buy a new tuner.

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What Causes The Online Guitar Tuner To Stop Working?

If you’re using an online tuner and it stops working the first thing to check is the internet connection. This can be as simple as moving to a different position within the room you’re in or connecting to a local network. If that’s not the issue check the following;

mobile app

Incorrect Settings Selected

If you’re certain you have a reliable internet connection, and the online tuner still isn’t working, check the settings. Many online tuners have different types of settings but most will have at least some of the following;

  • Various Input Sources (microphone, line-in)
  • Microphone Sensitivity
  • Microphone Noise Level
  • Auto Mode (as opposed to Manual mode)

Microphone Permission

Before an online app guitar tuner can operate, it needs permission to access your phone’s microphone. You will need to approve this manually.

App Doesn’t Seem To Keep Up

Unfortunately this is a common problem and is usually caused by internet speed. This is another good reason for using a clip on tuner.

Built-In Tuner Not Working

Some electro-acoustic guitars have built-in tuners. These can be useful pieces of kit. If your built-in tuner stops working it’s probably the batteries that need replacing. Most built-in tuners are programmed to automatically turn off after a set time. But it’s always best practice to switch the tuner off once you’ve finished using it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my tuner say the second string on my guitar is a G?

If your guitar tuner is saying the second string on your guitar (A) is a G, it is probably because the A string is tuned to low, tighten the tuning and the tuner will recognise it as an A once it gets nearer pitch.

Is a guitar tuner necessary?

If you are going to play guitar with other musicians, a guitar tuner is definitely necessary. Just being slightly off key can throw the sound of an entire band.

Are cheap guitar tuners accurate?

Most guitar tuners are accurate to one or two degrees or cents, this makes them perfectly acceptable for the average guitarist to use.

Do guitar tuners work for both acoustic and electric guitars?

A clip on guitar tuner will work on both electric and acoustic guitars.

Disclosure: We are a professional review site that receives compensation from the companies whose products we review.

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