Automatic Guitar Tuners = Death of Traditional Tuners?

Do Automatic tuners mean the death of traditional guitar tuners?

Is it actually possible that in the not-so-distant future that we may no longer have need for traditional guitar tuners?

That’s what Gibson Guitars seems to think and based on the trend over the past decade it looks like this is a technology that is here to stay.

Like it or not – and trust me when I say that there are plenty of guitarists who don’t like this – automatic guitar tuners are slowly being adopted by guitarists on stage and around the world. Is the death of the guitar tuner near?

History of Automatic Guitar Tuners

Automatic guitar tuners aren’t a new technology.

Roadie automatic guitar tunerEarlier this year I reviewed the Roadie automatic guitar tuner that uses a bluetooth connection with your phone to turn the tuning pegs on your guitar with very little human intervention.

All you have to do is hold the device to the tuning peg, pluck the string and watch the tuning peg turn. It was developed through funding from Kickstarter and has received generally high praise since it was first released in 2013.

But as innovative as the Roadie tuner is, it isn’t the first attempt at automatic guitar tuning. Back in 2005, a German-based company called Tronical started manufacturing an interesting piece of hardware that completely replaced all of a guitar’s tuning heads.

With a simple strum of your guitar, all six strings would get tuned in unison. Within 10 seconds. And you could change your tuning with a few presses of a button.

Obviously the technology didn’t take over the guitar world back in 2005, but the company, which calls its technology “revolutionary,” kept plugging away. Seems like the patience has paid off.

Gibson Adopts Automatic Tuner Technology

To the surprise of many, Gibson guitars announced that their 2015 line of electric guitars would all come with automatic tuners installed.

They call their tuners the Gibson GForce and if you think it looks similar to the Tronical automatic tuner, you’d be right. This latest move by Gibson was done in cooperation with Tronical using their tried-and-true technology.

The Gibson GForce automatic guitar tuner

It is yet to be seen whether other guitar makers will follow suit, but having a big name like Gibson promoting automatic tuning might prove to be a turning point for this trend. Heck, even magazines like GuitarPlayer are singing the praises of automatic tuners.

The Death of Traditional Tuners?

NPR did an interesting piece on this move by Gibson and the reaction by guitarists in Nashville. Seems that not everybody is on board with automatic tuners.

Most of them tend to echo the same sentiment I have when it comes to automatic tuning: If you’re a guitarist and you never learn how to tune your guitar by ear, you’re never going to learn how to play the guitar.

This is just my personal opinion, however. The truth is that I hate traditional tuners as well. They’re cumbersome, they need batteries (which always seems to go dead when I need them most) and they don’t always tune with as much accuracy as my own ear. If traditional tuners as we know them die…I won’t mourn their loss.

Some of us have one big advantage over other guitarists, however: we’ve been training our ears over the past couple decades to not need a tuner.

Tuners won’t die as long as their are beginner guitarists. And there will always be beginner guitarists.

Your Opinion?

This is your chance to share what you think:

  • Will automatic tuners become standard on all guitars within the next decade?
  • Would you own an automatic guitar tuner?
  • Do you think traditional guitar tuners are still necessary?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts. We’d love to hear what you have to say!

12 thoughts on “Automatic Guitar Tuners = Death of Traditional Tuners?

  1. Let’s not be Luddites about this. We were all supposed to be flying around in Jetson-style automobiles by 1995, computers would take over all of our jobs, and by 1984 our Big Brother would be looking over our shoulders all the time [OK, chalk one up to the conspiracy theorists, that one actually came true. For those who don’t remember chalk, it’s the white stick-like substance that teachers would write with on a slate blackboard.] “They” said electronic tuners would be the end of tuning forks, too, but I still have one and use it. These automatic tuners won’t replace “good tuning” by any method, because it’s all dependent upon how well the individual player installs her/his strings. An automatic tuner could burn up a battery in ~10-15 minutes if the strings aren’t installed properly. That could be a lot of fun to watch, and a small bit of Nazi-style torture, when it happens (we may all need to bring ear plugs to live performances). Tuning isn’t playing; it’s just tuning.

  2. I have a bit of a different perspective, I’m almost completely blind and can’t use electronic tuners without practically pressing my face against them. Automatic tuner would be great for my situation. wish I could tune off of a fork or pitch pipe, but I honestly don’t seem to have the ear for it. I guess working at it more should do it, I just need that low e and can go by ear from there so there must be hope, though I’ve been playing for 15 years off and on.

    I’d also like that Jetson’s style car, if that’s an option. 🙂

  3. I don’t think they will ever become standard on every guitar. There will always be purists that will want nothing to do with them. Count me as part of that group. 🙂

  4. Most people don’t like them because they don’t understand them, which is good for me as I can pick them up off ebay cheap. What they don’t understand is that you can fine tune them. So what I do is tune the guitar with the tronical autotuner, then take a very good electronic tuner and test the autotuner accuracy, and from there you can bring up the E string a few cents so that its spot on with the electronic tuner, repeat till the tuning is exactly the way you want it and every time from there the Tronical autotuner will be spot on. And it’s fast, so between songs, all of few seconds and you’re back in perfect pitch.

    First they are locking tuners, on the two different guitars they hold tune very well, tuning is just a push and a strum and yeah while it’s not hard to tune, going from standard tuning to DADGAD, to OPENG, back to Standard is simple. Push a few buttons strum, and I am in OpenG less than 30 seconds, press a few buttons, strump and I am in DADGAD. Sure if I stayed in one tuning I wouldn’t bother but it’s nice.

    I hate putting a capo up past the 2nd or 3rd fret as to me you start loosing the bass (Unless you’re playing ‘here comes the sun’) what I did was create 4 tunings that drop 1/2 step, drop full step, raise 1/2 step, raise full step. So your guitar has 4 capo positions built in now when I need to play a song Bb — I can press a key and tune up 1/2 step and play in A.

  5. As a solo acoustic player the automatic tuner would be a help on stage as I don’t like spending a lot of time between songs. However, I would never recommend a guitarist didn’t developed his ear to the point he can’t tune himself at home or in rehursal studios. Something else to ponder: for the last 50 years I’ve considered myself an acoustic piano player (or keyboard player today), and I’ve never tuned one of those by myself.

  6. I was waiting patiently for Gibson to finally place them on acoustic guitars, but the purist knuckle draggers whined and Gibson killed it… Most so called guitarist never heard of Nick Drake ~ too bad its a lose lose for the innovation, and their lack of knowledge of his non-std tunings.

  7. Just a thought, do they say that unless you know how to tune a piano by yourself that you can never learn to play a piano?
    Not that I’ve heard so I kind of think that the ear training will come along after decades of playing like it has with you but without that small intermediate step in between.
    Absolutely no disrespect meant to anyone but yeah, I think it’s a great step forward just like when my mum would get the tuner in for her piano.
    She knew by ear when it wasn’t quite still in tune but would never attempt to tune it herself.
    I also think that a guitar that is always readily in tune will probably get played far more often than one that needs constant tuning tho that has never stopped millions of guitarists throughout history so I guess there’s lots to say on both sides but personally, I’m looking for an auto tuner for my Ovation, that’s how I ended up on this page in the first place lol.
    To you all, enjoy making your music

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