There are many ways that a person can tune a ukulele. It can be tuned by ear, tuned to itself using harmonics, tuned using a pitch pipe, tuned using a digital tuner like the Intelli IMT-500 or eNote and even tuned with the help of a PDA or smartphone. That’s right, you can use the same gadget that you carry in your pocket to remind you of your next dentist appointment, for tuning your favorite 4 stringed instrument. Today I want to tell you about three Palm OS applications, but in the coming weeks, we’ll explore Windows Mobile, OS X, Windows and even Web based apps that can also help make your ukulele playing easier and more fun.
Ukulele Tuner v2.1
by Joe Lauben
This a free application that runs on Palm OS 3.0 or later. It requires 200k of space on your PDA or in my case a Treo 680 smartphone.
The user interface for this program is very simplistic. Before you begin using it to help you tune your uke, you need to choose the type of ukulele that you are wanting to tune. You can choose soprano, concert, tenor, baritone and even a classic guitar.
After you make your instrument choice, you’re shown a screen with buttons for each string and two sliders that will allow you to adjust the volume and duration of the tone that will play when you press a button. This application is the digital equivalent of a pitch pipe. It will not tell you if you have correctly tuned your strings. It just plays the tune for each string so that you then must use your ears to match the string’s tone to the reference tone.
After testing this program for a short period of time, I came to the realization that I’m not that great at tuning by ear 😉 Actually, I’ve been able to do it in the past with a web application that I found, but this Palm application doesn’t seem compatible with my ears. I guess it’s just the sound that is used for each string. It’s kind of an annoying buzz that grates on your nerves really quickly. I also noticed that the tones for the soprano and concert menu choices sounded exactly the same to me.
If you have a good ear, then you might like this freebie application. But for me, I think I’ll keep looking…
Perfect Pitch v1.0
This is a $8.99 chromatic tuner for Palm OS 5.0 or later device with a built in microphone. I tested this with my Treo 680.
When I first stumbled upon this application, I was excited because it looked like it could be a great replacement for my clip-on Intelli IMT-500 tuner that is my current favorite. The user interface can be toggled between color and monochrome in order to help you view it in different lighting conditions.
You’re shown the note being played, with the correct frequency listed under the note and the current frequency directly across the display. The tuner is auto calibrated to A = 440, but you can change that to a different frequency (min. 330, max. 660) if you desire. The trigger slider helps you filter out ambient noise that may make it difficult to tune in noisy locations.
To use Perfect Pitch to tune your ukulele, you just tap the screen to turn it on and then you strum one of the strings. The detected note for that string will show in the upper left corner of the display and the bars will light up to show where on the graph (the center is in tune) your string is currently tuned to. You can also watch the frequency display on the upper right side of the display. You want to get it as close to the correct frequency for the note you’re trying to tune to.
In testing, I found that the Perfect Pitch tuner wanted me to tune my strings lower than the Intelli IMT-500 and eNote tuners. When the Perfect Pitch tuner told me I was in tune, each string was measuring approximately -10 cents lower than what is considered in tune on the IMT-500 and eNote. After tuning the entire instrument using the Perfect Pitch application, it sounded fine, but it left me wondering which tuner is more accurate… I also didn’t care for the fact that the bars would flash and move up and down the graph in a frantic way. As a result, I continue to use my Intelli IMT-500 to tune my ukes…
This isn’t a ukulele tuner, but it is a great little free reference tool that can help you learn your chords. As a person coming from the guitar world, I have found this application to be very handy when I want to look up a chord.
The interface is simple and easy to use. Just tap the chord that you would like to see displayed on the fret board, and it will show up instantly.
You can orient the fretboard left or right depending on your preference. You can also change the tuning from G-C-E-A to A-D-F#-B or D-G-B-E.
Pressing the variations button will show different ways to play the same selected chord.
You can turn on notes so that you can see all the notes on the fretboard. Pretty nifty huh? I really like this application and continue to use it often.
Do you use any software on your Palm PDA or smartphone to enhance your ukulele playing? If so, please share with us!