While some electronic instruments (like certain keyboards and synths) don’t require tuning, there are many others that need regular and ongoing maintenance (like guitar or bass), or at least once per year (piano).
Now, it’s unlikely you’ll be tuning a piano yourself, but tuners can come to rescue in a variety of situations, whether it’s tuning up your guitar before laying down a track yourself or making sure your client’s violin is in tune.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at the best free tuner VST plugins.
MTuner by MeldaProduction
MeldaProduction is well known for their extensive range of free tools that assist with mixing and general utility.
Their MTuner is a frequency analyzer that was built with tuning guitars and basses in mind. That said, it can easily be used with other instruments too.
Included are a classic monophonic tuner in addition to a high-resolution polyphonic tuner. This is a great feature that can speed up tuning guitars and basses.
MTuner, of course, comes with many of the goodies MeldaProduction plugins are known for – advanced GUI, 64-bit processing, Mac and Windows compatibility, and a great deal more.
If you’re looking for other great effect and utility plugins for mixing and mastering, also check out MeldaProduction’s MFreeFXBundle. It’s free to download and use, though if you want to unlock all the built-in features, you’ll need to upgrade for a nominal fee.
MFreeFXBundle includes some well-loved plugins, including MCharmVerb, MAutoPitch, and MSaturator, among others. A must see for freebie lovers.
Tuna – The Tuner by Aurora DSP
The humorously named Tuna is Aurora DSP’s free tuner VST plugin that’s perfect for live and in studio use. Where other tuners might struggle with notes in a lower register, Tuna can detect notes as low as 40 Hz. That makes this a great choice for tuning basses and other bass instruments.
Tuna is available as a VST3, AU, AAX, standalone formats, and even iOS.
Download: Aurora DSP
GTune by GVST
Anybody who’s been around music production for a while shouldn’t be a stranger to GVST and their range of free VSTs. They’ve got multiple entries that have served the needs of countless producers – GChorus, GDelay, GGate, GSnap, and even GSinth (for a complete listing, check their website).
GTune is their simplistic tuner plugin you can use to tune your guitars and other instrument. If you’ve used other guitar tuners, then GTune’s interface will probably seem quite familiar to you. Which is nice, since you wouldn’t have to learn an entirely new workflow to use it.
For quick and dirty tuning, GTune will do the trick. Having used it myself, I can tell you that it works nicely.
GTune is only available for Windows.
T-1 – Audible Tuner by Samsara Cycle Audio
Dipping into the archives of legacy plugins, we came up with this – Samsara Cycle Audio’s T-1 Audible Tuner.
Just as it sounds, the tuner will produce a tone you can tune your instruments to (choose from sine, saw, triangle, and pulse).
The developer thought of just about every instrument you could ever want to tune, including guitar, dulcimer, balalaika, banjo, bass guitar, mandolin, cello, violin, viola, ukulele, cavaquinho, double bass, and Woodrow.
They’ve included multiple alternate tunings depending on the instrument too. The guitar mode, for example, features standard, 1/2 step down, one step down, drop D, double drop D, D minor, open G, DADGAD, open D, DGDGBE, CGDGBE, open C, and 12 string.
That’s a lot more than some professional tuners have! There’s also a chromatic tuning mode, just in case.
T-1 – Audible Tuner is available for Windows only.
Download: Plugins Archive
Chromatia Tuner by FMJ-Software
FMJ-Software’s Chromatia Tuner is more of a free shareware than strictly a free plugin, but depending on what you’re looking for, you might enjoy it.
Chromatia works with almost any instrument, comes in standalone and VST versions, has a range of nine octaves, features an accuracy of better than 0.1 Hz up to C8, supports many temperaments and scales, and lets you add your own scales and temperaments.
Chromatia also comes with low-latency audio support (WASAPI and ASIO), auto and manual modes, tone option for reference signal, real-time spectrum analyzer, full screen mode, report dialog, calibration for ambient noise level, microphone type, line-noise filtering, and optional MIDI I/O.
NA Chromatic Tuner by Nembrini Audio
Nembrini Audio’s NA Chromatic Tuner comes with a bright, color LED display. It’s set to A=440 by default, but you can calibrate to any pitch standard you wish. It includes a drop / capo mode, and the tuner can auto-transpose notes up or down up to one octave.
NA Chromatic Tuner is compatible with Windows and Mac, and there’s an iOS version for iPhones and iPads as well.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
Tune It! by N.D.C
Donning the appearance of a handheld tuner, Tune It! was designed to be used with any instrument. It doesn’t matter whether it’s guitar, bass, flute, or sax, you can use Tune It! to ensure your instrument is properly configured for performance. Tune It! can also be used to monitor pitches in real time.
Additionally, Tune It! comes with automatic note recognition (from A1 to A6), programmable A440 reference (from 400 to 480 Hz), and programmable precision / latency (very low, low, medium, high, and very high).
Download: KVR Audio Software
Guitar Rig 6 Player by Native Instruments
Naturally, this is a more guitarist-oriented entry than anything, but it just so happens that there are many free guitar VST plugins that also come with tuners. Plus, with all the power that some of these workstations put at your fingertips, you might just end up addicted.
Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig 6 Player is their free version of Guitar Rig 6 Pro, which includes an amp sim with matched cab, 13 effects, and 50 presets.
The effects are comprised of Jump amp and cab, multiple reverbs and delays (studio reverb, delay man, twin delay), distortion, modulation, equalizers and filters (EQ parametric, EQ shelving, pro-filter), as well as Dynamics (limiter, volume, tube compressor, noise gate, and noise reduction).
Guitar Rig 6 Player also comes with multiple helper tools, including a metronome, tapedecks, tuner, and preset volume tool with dry / wet.
So, if you don’t mind your tuner coming with additional effects for guitar (some nice sounding ones, I might add), you’ll probably enjoy Guitar Rig 6 Player.
Download: Native Instruments
AmpliTube 5 CS by IK Multimedia
As with Guitar Rig 5 Player, IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube 5 CS may well be one of the best free guitar workstations available.
AmpliTube Custom Shop comes with 42 pedals, amps, speakers, and rack FX you can combine in any way you see fit. AmpliTube can be used as standalone software, or as a plugin for your favorite DAW software.
In total, you get:
- 10 stomp FX
- Five amps
- Six cabinets (with four selectable speakers)
- Three movable mics
- Six rooms
- Six rack FX
The graphical user interface tells the rest of the story. You can tell from looking at it that AmpliTube comes with basic utility functions like input and output controls, a metronome, and of course, a tuner too.
Download: IK Multimedia
ampLion Free by Audified
Audified’s ampLion Free is yet another holistic guitar tool you can use for a variety of applications, whether practicing, composing, recording, re-amping, or even live situations.
ampLion Free features a five-channel valve guitar amp, two guitar cabs with mic positioning, intelligent metronome, audio player, recorder, nine guitar preamps, seven power amps, 12 speaker types with mic positioning, eight mic types, 30 rack effects, 30 stomp box effects, live mode view, and of course, a tuner.
ampLion Free can be used as a standalone application, or as a plugin module (VST, AU, and AAX).
Bass Tuner BT1 by JSplash Apps
Ever notice how low frequency instruments are sometimes harder to tune? Like, if you used a guitar tuner for a bass guitar that didn’t have a “bass” mode, it might have trouble picking up your E string. You could tune up the rest of the strings and then tune the E string manually, but it’s kind of annoying, right?
Well, that’s why JSplashApps created Bass Tuner BT1 – so you’d have a tool at the ready for tuning instruments with a lower register.
Whether it’s bass guitar, bassoon, double bass, bass clarinet, cello, bass trombone, bass saxophone, or otherwise, Bass Tuner BT1 will give you an accurate readout you can rely on.
If you prefer the reference tuning route, no problem, Bass Tuner BT1 comes with a tone generator too.
Overall, Bass Tuner BT1 features extreme accuracy within 0.1 cents, display (which will show the current note being played as well as how close it is to accurate), historical graph of the pitch, tone generator (that can generate reference tones over three octaves), as well as the ability to set the frequency of A4.
Bass Tuner BT1 is available for iOS and Android.
Download: KVR Audio Software
n-Track Tuner by n-Track Software
As with Bass Tuner BT1, n-Track Software’s n-Track Tuner is an iOS and Android app that can be used for tuning up your guitar, bass, or other instrument.
Simply bring your device as close to your instrument as possible, and n-Track Tuner will automatically recognize the note and give you a readout so you can tell whether it’s flat or sharp.
The built-in spectrum analyzer will give you visual feedback of the note being played. A small arrow will show, letting you know the pitch the tuner is tracking.
If you want to tune manually, you can take advantage of the “Diapason” view and tune to a reference tone you can select using the frequency slider.
The spectrum analyzer view is customizable. You can thicken the spectrum lines, smooth highlight peaks, or even change the accuracy of the spectrum.
Download: KVR Audio Software
Are There Any Other Free, Convenient Tuners I Can Take Advantage Of?
I’m glad you asked!
As a matter of fact, there are plenty of alternatives when it comes to free tuners. It’s just that most if not all of them are not VST plugins.
If you need something that integrates with your DAW, then try one of the above, or explore premium options (most of which should not be very expensive). Otherwise, some or all the following could come in handy:
Did you know that there are dozens, hundreds, possibly even thousands of free instrument tuners online? Here are but a few that are very easy to find in search:
- Online Guitar Tuner with Microphone, Free Guitar Tuning (Tuner-Online.com)
- Online Instrument Tuner | Chromatic tuner for any instrument (The Online Metronome)
- Guitar Tuner | FREE Guitar Tuners | Online Tuners | Fender (includes tuners for acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, and ukulele)
- Online tuner – For guitar, ukulele, violin, and more | Musicca
- GuitarTuna | The #1 Guitar Tuner for Acoustic, Electric and Bass
We’ve already looked at several guitar recording tools and free tuner apps. Again, there are more than you can shake a stick at, whether in the Google Play app store or Apple’s App Store. Here are but a few free / freemium entries:
- Tuner – Pitched! (Stonekick)
- Ukulele Tuner Pro-Guitar Tuner (QING musician Inc.)
- Tuner & Metronome (Soundcorset tuner)
- Tuner – gStrings (cohortor.org)
- Boss Tuner (Roland Corporation)
- Tuner Lite by Piascore (Piascore, Inc.)
- insTuner Free – Chromatic Tuner (EUMLab of Xanin Tech. GmbH)
- Guitar Tuner – Simply True (JoyTunes)
- Guitar Tuner – Chromatic (Last Harmonic LLC)
- Fine Tuner – Chromatic Tuner (9928189 Canada Inc.)
Note that some of the online tuners referenced earlier are also available as apps!
What Is A440?
A440 (440 Hz) is a pitch standard, also known as Stuttgart pitch. It’s the tuning standard most musicians use to ensure consistency across different instruments (like piano, violin, guitar, etc.).
Other tuning standards can be and have been used. For instance, the French standard of 435 Hz of the 1860s was widely used before 440 Hz.
432 Hz music has become increasingly popular in recent years. Many of its users believe that A432 is more in tune with nature and humanity in general. They also may tout certain physical, mental, or psychological benefits.
Whether there’s anything to it is largely up for debate. I’m not too quick to dismiss anything that other violently oppose (there’s usually a very good reason for it), but at the end of the day, pitch standards ensure instruments across the board are in tune (and are therefore more pleasant sounding) with each other.
Top Free Tuner VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
From standalone tuner VSTs and apps to virtual guitar workstations, you’ve now got a few tools to choose from if you need a tuner that integrates with your DAW or your mobile device.
Tuning is an important part of capturing great performances and can help you avoid a lot of headaches later when you’re trying to mix a track and realize that the cello part is out of tune, for instance.
Of course, you might be able to find a pitch correction tool in such a situation, but you use it at the risk of the track sounding less authentic overall. Better to start with great source material than to have to go back and fix it later.
Either way, we hope you enjoyed this guide and you’re all set up for your tuning needs!