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Guitar Tuners

A needle, LCD or regular LED type tuner uses a microprocessor to measure the average period of the waveform. It uses that information to drive the needle or array of lights. When the musician plays a single note, the tuner senses the pitch. The tuner then displays the pitch in relation to the desired pitch, and indicates whether the input pitch is lower, higher, or equal to the desired pitch. With needle displays, the note is in tune when the needle is in a 90° vertical position, with leftward or rightward deviations indicating that the note is flat or sharp, respectively. Tuners with a needle are often supplied with a backlight, so that the display can be read on a darkened stage.

For block LED or LCD display tuners, markings on the readout drift left if the note is flat and right if the note is sharp from the desired pitch. If the input frequency is matched to the desired pitch frequency the LEDs are steady in the middle and an 'in tune' reading is given.

Some LCDs mimic needle tuners with a needle graphic that moves in the same way as a genuine needle tuner. Somewhat misleadingly, many LED displays have a 'strobe mode' that mimics strobe tuners by scrolling the flashing of the LEDs cyclically to simulate the display of a true strobe. However, these are all just display options. The way a regular tuner 'hears' and compares the input note to a desired pitch is exactly the same, with no change in accuracy. For more on how strobe tuners work see the dedicated section.