I’ve long wondered why a very useful musical feature is not included in all mixing consoles: a digital tuner.
This realization led a few of my record clients to connect a tuner, via an additional buffered output, to the output of the monitor solo bus or even right across the stereo monitor bus.
I’ve also routed one effect send bus output to a tuner input as well, so the guitarist can tune up anytime even while his track mix plays and he can’t hear himself.
One producer I work with, Oliver Leiber, actually has a Korg DTR-1000 rack-mount tuner installed right up in the soffit along with his large control room monitors and video monitors.
From anywhere in his control room, at anytime, you can see the Korg moving to detect and read pitch.
Korg makes many different tuners, including the OT-120 that has an optional CM-100 contact mic for attaching to classical instruments for no-interference from other orchestral members also tuning.
Now, that’s fine for musicians recording direct and sitting in the control room, but what about out in the studio or on a live stage? The Roland TU-12H tuner or one of Roland’s many variants has been a mainstay for years, especially among guitarists.
Korg DTR-1000 (click to enlarge)
Acoustic guitar players can be seen balancing one on their knee so the built-in microphone can pickup the vibrations of their quiet instrument’s individual string pitches. My immediate suggestion was to connect the tuner’s input into the guitar’s 1/4-inch output jack to get the guitar’s signal directly from the built-in pickup.
Korg OT-120 (click to enlarge)
Works great - no interference from other sound sources or noise (since the jack mutes the tuner’s mic), and you can leave the tuner plugged in all the time without affecting the guitar’s acoustic sound. But what if your guitar doesn’t have an internal pickup?
My next thought was to plug the tuner directly into the cue system’s headphone box. If your guitar is on-mic, fader up, and heard in the PA or ready to record in the studio, there should be some of the guitar’s sound in the monitor mix and/or headphones.
Roland TU-12H (click to enlarge)
I find this works very well, but from time to time, you may require the engineer to solo your guitar in the cue mix if other musicians are making noises that throw the tuner off.
Obviously, any added effects like reverb, chorus, flangers or harmonizers should be muted while tuning, but compression and EQ doesn’t matter.
The next time you see your guitar player struggling to tune up in the studio or on stage, you may want to suggest one of these methods.
Barry Rudolph is a veteran L.A.-based recording engineer as well as a noted writer on recording topics. Visit his website at www.barryrudolph.com