Tuners – Quality, Pickup, Range

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    renaissancemanohio on #194895

    I am looking for recommendations about an electronic tuner. Please, no jokes about how you can tune a harp but you cannot tuna fish. Here are the features I’m looking for.
    1. Hi quality that can be calibrated to various orchestral pitches, e.g., A440-A443.
    2. Piezoelectric pickup so I can tune in a relatively unquiet environment.
    3. Range that can span the 47 strings on a concert grand harp. So far, the tuners I’ve looked at cannot detect the extremes of a concert grand.
    Any suggestions, recommendations, or comments about models you like and models you’d avoid? Thank you! John

    catherine-rogers on #194897

    I like the Peterson VS-1 Virtual Strobe Tuner. It has a built in mic, but I use a clip-on pickup that plugs into it to pick up the extreme highs and lows. Some people really like the Snark SN2 Clip Electronic Tuner from Sylvia Woods Harp Center.

    Sid Humphreys on #194942

    I use the Peterson app on my iPhone to tune with a pick up mic and adaptor to plug in to the phone. I have yet to find a tuner that easily reads the top and bottom strings on a harp, but with the mic and quiet environment, this app will do it.

    carl-swanson on #194943

    For the purposes mostly of regulating, I use the old fashioned Peterson with the radar like screen on it. Many other tuners I’ve tried have a needle to show you what pitch is coming out of the harp. But the needle jumps all over the place and so that type of machine is useless for regulating.  The Peterson, if I hold it very close to the instrument, will clearly read the pitches right to the top of the instrument. It gets kind of fuzzy  on the lowest notes on the instrument. But I can still read it.


    I’m curious: with these other tuning machines, what exactly are you looking at to tune? Is it a needle that shows if you are sharp or flat?  Is it a light that goes on on the right side of the screen if you are sharp, and on the left side if you are flat?  The visual image, and how stable it is, is very important. For regulating, many of these machines just won’t work.

    Gretchen Cover on #194945

    The Peterson app for smartphones/tablets has a “sweetener”  add-on for $5.99 designed specifically for harp tuning.  I use the Peterson iStroboSoft app on my iPhone. It works very well on the phone and is all right, but not as accurate, on my iPad.

    harp husband on #194992

    I’ve also been using the Peterson app on my Iphone to tune my wife’s pedal harp. At $9.99 plus $5.99 for the harp sweetener it is a bargain and very handy when gigging.

    At some point I may pick up the hardware version but for now the app works very well. As a bonus I can use it to tune all my other instruments.

    charles-nix on #195002

    I’ll second Carl’s recommendation.  For clarity and accuracy, nothing even comes close to an analog strobe Peterson.  Current models run $750-1000 and require 120V AC.  One hint:  Use an inexpensive dynamic mic on a stand into the 1/4″ phono jack, which will greatly increase the sensitivity.

    For day-to-day use, I have used the Peterson VS-1, and the StroboPlus, which replaces the VS-1.  They are about $140; the StroboPlus is Li ion battery like a cell phone.  These are all virtual strobes, meaning the strobe display is faked on the display.  The iPhone app works similarly.

    For the most accuracy–and I don’t want to start a war here–one must learn to tune in the octaves by ear.  Yes, it takes time and devotion.  Yes, it also takes quiet.  I use the tuner as a quick “get it close” for a couple of octaves, then check everything 3rds, 4ths/5ths, octaves by ear to refine, then put the upper and lower end in to match the center.  And, I tune pipe organs and harpsichords for a living, so maybe it is just a lot easier for me.  But I’ve hears such wretched tuning from so many harps, particularly in the top end from relying totally on tuners.  Tuning where the notes didn’t even sound like a scale–but the tuner said it was right, so it was left there–and played there.

    In my opinion, you’ll have a hard time with any thing in the extreme low and high octaves: low because of microphone sensitivity drop off, and high because of way tuners display pitch. At least with the Peterson strobes you are actually displaying beats directly rather than cents.  One cent is a lot of beats per second in the upper range; what one hears objectionably about poor tuning is the beats, not how many cents it is off.

    Oh, all of the Petersons have 1/4″ phono mic inputs.  A dynamic mic or a clip on pickup is a very handy accessory.  The mic works best in general. The clip pickups are “fiddly” but sometimes necessary in noisy situations.

    Charles Nix

    Elettaria on #195176

    Could someone recommend a clip on pickup that would work with an Android phone? I have a Sony Xperia Z3 compact, and am currently using the G-strings app, but the needle wavers around too much in the bass. I’m in Scotland, and I’ve been playing a Starfish 34 string lever harp, although that’s a rental harp which is going back due to needing serious repair work. It’ll be a few months before I get another rental harp, which will hopefully be another Starfish, but meanwhile I have bought a County Kerry 24 string arriving next week. Where are you meant to clip it on?

    Biagio on #195181

    I don’t know about the Android app; however for the County Kerry (for instance) you can clip a pickup to one of the string access holes or one of the tuning pegs.  If the tuner is sensitive enough any string will register sharp when first plucked.  I like an analog Korg for lever regulation and a digital Snark for daily tuning – nether is very expensive. You can clip some Snarks right to the neck; with others to a peg or even your tuning wrench.  Strobes are nice but expensive relative to the other two.



    Elettaria on #195182

    Ideally I want something that’ll work on a 34 string harp too.  If it’s clipped to the access holes on a bigger harp, surely it’s too far away to see while tuning the harp?  How well do they work when clipped onto a tuning peg, do you have to move them often?

    I do love the name Snark, and it’s a lot cheaper than the Korg clip-on tuner.

    Aha, I’ve just spotted an advantage to using a pick-up plugged into my phone: if the cable is long enough, I can clip the pick-up to the soundholes and plonk my phone on the music stand where I can read it while I’m tuning.

    I took a video demonstrating the tuning problems with that rental harp which shows what my tuning app is like.  I am attempting to upload it to YouTube and will post it here when I’m done, and you can let me know what you think of my app and whether I’d be better off getting a pick-up that plugs into my phone, or a separate tuner.

    Biagio on #195184

    Well, no, you can’t clip the Snark to an access hole if you also want to see it, ha ha.  Another disadvantage: the pixels can be hard to see if it is on the wrench, so best to get a large clip that attaches to the neck.

    Most lower priced tuners assume equal temperament, some can be calibrated to alternative reference tones (A 442 vs 440 for instance). I like to keep my life simple and usually tune the middle octave first with the tuner, the rest by ear using “stretch tuning.”  Much faster than constantly glancing at the tuner peg by peg. There was a long discussion on stretch tuning here a while ago.



    emma-graham on #195688

    When I started playing it was a tuning fork and ears! How lucky we are now, phone apps, strobe tuners, pick ups, dynamic mics…..and yet still YouTube is awash with out of tune harps!!

    JackieHarpFan on #212602

    So true, Emma! My daughter gets so frustrated hearing harpists play otherwise beautiful pieces of music on out-of-tune harps!

    catherine-rogers on #212603

    For tuning I like the Peterson Virtual Stobe; lightweight, portable, runs on batteries. For the harps that have built-in mics I attach a quarter-inch cable for direct input, and it picks up the highs and lows. For the harps which do not have mics permanently affixed to them, I used a clip-on pick up and move it from one sound hole to another nearest to the octave I’m tuning.
    For regulating I use my 40-year-old electric (no battery) Conn Strobotuner and the same pick-up systems. It’s a dinosaur but I love it. Sometimes you can find one on eBay; they don’t make ’em anymore.

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