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Chromatic Tuner Software Basics

TuneLab for iPhone screenshot

Software tuners are available for computers and handheld computers like iPhones and PDAs. A mic is necessary, either built in or external, depending on how and where the tuner will be used. Many titles in this category exist. Rather than list them all, we describe the most prominent titles or those with which we have personal experience or direct reports from others. If you have a recommendation, send your comments to us. Prices are approximate; the more expensive titles may have several different pricing packages. See the respective vendors for current price schedules.

Chromatic Tuner Apps for Mobile Devices

These apps are designed for mobile platforms such as iOS (iPhone and iPod touch), Android and Pocket PC. These span from simple guitar tuners to full featured mini-versions of professional software tuners. The chief advantage of these is convenience of a handheld platform, though the smaller displays may not convey as much information as full computer counterparts. Prices range from free to several hundred dollars.

Consumer Grade Apps

Many consumer level chromatic tuning apps are available. Many are free or low cost. Several we can recommend:

Cleartune, a chromatic tuner for iOS and Android
PitchPerfect, a guitar tuner for iOS or pocket PC.
iStroboSoft HD Tuner from Peterson is a general purpose tuner for iPad, with an iPhone version as well.

iTunes App Store Graphic


Professional Grade Apps

The following titles are the three most popular apps designed for use by professional piano tuners. These are versions of the same companies' consoles or full software titles. All have a longstanding good reputation with professional tuners.

Chromatic Tuner Software for Consumers

Shareware and freeware tuners for computers run the gamut from guitar tuners to piano tuners. Some can have many features, including alternate temperaments, but they will not have the analysis and calculation features of professional tuning software. Like any shareware, quality and support varies, but they are inexpensive, from free to $100 or so. All of them will require a microphone; a built-in mic is adequate, but not ideal. An external mic will serve much better.

  • For the ultimate in value, here is an online browser-based tuner using Java!
  • For Mac OS X, Katsura Shareware offers a basic tuner, a strobe tuner, and a piano tuner as seperate shareware programs from $10 to $100. There are other freeware and shareware tuners for Mac OS, but these Katsura titles are very polished, and Piano Tuner in particular is unique.
  • For Windows, there is a large selection. One free example is PitchPerfect Guitar Tuner. PitchPerfect also comes in Pocket PC and iPhone flavors.

Chromatic Tuner Software for Professionals

These full-featured tuning packages are the software equivalent of professional stand-alone hardware chromatic tuners. Their primary advantage is their large, information rich displays and are easily programmed using a computer interface rather than fields of buttons like the standalones. Those intended for piano tuning can also analyze a note and calculate a stretch for you or a pitch-raise rubric.

  • Peterson StroboSoft is a general purpose tuner featuring a strobe display; starting at $50.
  • TuneLab Pro for tuning pianos; runs about $350; it uses a waveform-based tuning display.
  • Reyburn CyberTuner for tuning pianos; is $1195; its tuning display is based on a circular strobe.

All of these companies offer versions for handheld computers as well.