I stood in the green room mumbling the lyrics to my three-song open mic set while tuning my guitar using my brand-new clip-on tuner. High E string. Check. B string. Check. And so on, until each of the six strings was needle-perfect, according to the tuner. Then, the sound guy popped his head through the door and called my name.
I stepped onto the stage and, as is my habit, strummed the first chord of the song before plugging in. To my horror, it sounded . . . off. Way off. At least two of the strings were out of tune.
What had happened?
Did my guitar suddenly freak out somewhere in the 20 feet from the green room to the stage? No, my tuner had simply let me down in a big way.
And that’s not the first time it had happened.
There are dozens of brands of clip-on tuners for acoustic players, some easier to use than others, some easier to read, and some more rugged. Problem is, few of them are particularly accurate.
Enter the TC Electronic PolyTune Clip, my fourth tuner purchase in a year after the first three either disintegrated in my gig bag, or exploded upon impact with a wall after giving me false readings.
Hey, it’s a cruel world.
So you can understand my skepticism the first time I slid open the cute little protective box that the PolyTune Clip comes packaged in. I clipped the tuner onto my headstock, pressed the On button, and started tuning. The readout, I immediately noticed, is large and clear, despite the diminutive size of the tuner itself. The name of the string appears as a large red character, reminding me which tuning knob to twiddle. A bright green line appears in the center, and if a string is flat, a red line appears just to the left of the green at a distance commensurate with the degree of flatness. If a string is sharp, the red line appears to the right of the green one. Get it in tune, and the red line moves on top of the green one, then disappears.
That’s about as simple as it gets.
Thankfully, it’s also about as accurate as it gets. After tuning up, I arpeggiated my cowboy E chord and noticed that each string was bang-on correct.
The TC Electronic PolyTune Clip allows for three different types of tuning: 1) standard chromatic (my favorite); 2) polyphonic (so you can tune all six strings at once); and 3) strobe mode (for those who prefer visual chaos).
Of course, no tuner is absolutely perfect, and the PolyTune Clip is no exception. While you can attach it either vertically or horizontally anywhere on your headstock, and even tilt it, you can’t swivel it. I consider that a tiny fly in the ointment, but it may be a larger insect to some people. As for me, accuracy is king. At just under $50, the PolyTune Clip is far from being the cheapest clip-on you can buy. But it may be the most trustworthy, easy to use, and rugged little dude you’ll ever toss into a gig bag.
TC PolyTune clip
Save and recall default tuning and a reference pitch
Choose from a chromatic tuner or a stroboscopic tuner
Chromatic mode adds familiar feel to single-note tuning
MonoPoly automatically switches between modes
Magnetic needle slows down as you get closer to pitch
Supports drop-D and many other alternative tunings
105 ultra-bright LEDs provide easy visibility anywhere
PRICE $74.99 (MSRP),
This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.