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Of the different types of harp tuners, the most basic are those that produce a tone for the player to tune their instrument to and those that listen to the tone produced by the instrument. Tuners that produce a tone can be set to the required note at the required pitch, and then the harpist tunes the harp to match the tone. The other type of tuner listens to the note produced by the harp and then displays a representation of how close it is to the pitch of the nearest note. These tuners are commonly called chromatic tuners, because they can be used to tune an instrument to any note in the chromatic scale. Simplistic harp tuners can also be found on the internet.
Chromatic harp tuners are both the most widely available and the simplest to use. They are generally electronic devices, which provide the player with an external microphone that picks up the notes produced by the harp. The harpist plucks the string that they wish to tune, holding the tuner’s microphone as close as possible. Harp tuners like this recognize the closest note to the pitch produced and display a representation of how close the produced note was to the correct note. This is usually shown with a needle pointing to a certain point on a scale and red or green lights.
Tone-producing harp tuners are less common, and can even be found combined with an ordinary electronic chromatic tuner. These produce a pitch set by the user, who then adjusts the tuning of a particular harp string to match the pitch produced by the tuner. The same basic effect can be achieved with a piano or other instrument capable of producing all possible notes, such as a guitar. This method is not as reliable, however, because the tone produced by an instrument cannot sound out indefinitely like the one produced by a tuner.
Online harp tuners are generally the same as the tone producing tuners. The advantages of online tuners are that they are generally available for free and will tell the user which tones are specifically used by a harp. They also are generally much simpler to operate than tone-generator style tuners, requiring no knowledge of the hertz (Hz) value of notes at concert pitch. The harpist has to listen to the note produced and alter the tunings of the specific harp strings using a tuning key.