While experienced harpists are usually able to tune by ear, most of us still use electronic tuners to speed up and simplify the process. There seems to be an infinite number of options when it comes to electronic tuners, but here are my 2 favorites. And the good news is one costs less than $20 and the other one is free!
I have an Android phone, and I absolutely love the free tuner app, DaTuner Lite. Unfortunately, it is not available for IOS (so skip to my second recommendation if you don’t have an Android smartphone). The icon is a green box with a white A4. There is a pro version, but I’ve never needed more than the free version. Here is why I love DaTuner:
The display is huge (as big as your phone screen will let it be)
The background is black with brightly colored text, making it easy to read
The tuner is color-coded, meaning when the note is flat the letter name displays in yellow, when the note is sharp it displays in orange, and when the note is within 3 cents of “perfect” it displays green
The colors, sensitivities, etc. can all be adjusted to your preference
It gives you a number for how many cents flat or sharp you are
You can have it auto-detect your notes, or you can do it manually (for a noisy room)
This is the best free app I’ve found to be able to detect almost the entire range of the pedal harp (have to have it touching the harp to detect the highest and lowest notes. I lay my phone on the base of my pedal harp)
Easy to adjust to an A442 tune for orchestra
As you can see I really love the app. Keep in mind that the subscript numbers refer to piano octave numbers, not harp octaves, so don’t get confused. Middle C is 4th octave both on a piano and on a harp.
So what if you have an iPhone or a “not-so-smart” phone? Or what if you want your student/child to be able to tune, and they do not have a phone? Buy a Snark. Seriously, I love them. The display is smaller than the phone app (but that, of course, varies based on your phone screen size anyway). It has a similar feel with the black background and colored notes. The Snark tuner also has a neat feature where you can toggle between having it pick up sound from the microphone or from vibrations. When in a noisy environment (like an orchestra pit), the vibration mode helps it focus on just your harp and not the other sounds around you. The Snark tuner is clipped onto something, such as your music stand or the harp itself. If you buy a Snark, I recommend getting the red kind, as the cheaper blue and black ones I have seen do not have the option of picking up from vibrations.
What is your favorite tuner, and why do you love it? Post in the comments below, or share your thoughts on the Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/HarpStrategies/