You may have seen me talk about clip on tuners for the ukulele on the blog before. If you are starting out, I really think they are an essential purchase, not least because they are so cheap (£10-£20 each). I have a few, but they do have some issues, so I was keen to look at the Snark.
Clip on tuners generally work in the same way, they sense the vibration of the uke when a string is plucked, and display the note being plucked on the screen, usually with an LED needle that moves between flat and sharp allowing you to adjust the note.
My other clip on tuners are fine, but I do find in a gig situation, they sometimes fail to lock on to the plucked string very well. My usual "go to" clip on, a Kala tuner is fine, but is pretty simple in what it offers - it allows tuning, via vibration, for the notes G, C, E and A.
A friend pointed me in the direction of the Snark, and said despite it looking rather odd, it was worth a look. It cost me less than £13 and arrived the other day.
The Snark differs from my Kala tuner in that it is an all instrument tuner. It can do this for two reasons. Firstly, it also has a microphone option, allowing it to pick up notes without being clipped to the instrument. This is activated with a switch on the side. Secondly, it registers all notes, not just GCEA, and therefore would work brilliantly on a guitar or violin as well.
The design is, I must say, rather funky, but I do like it. The clip is nicely padded to protect the finish on your ukulele headstock. The device is connected to the clip via two ball and socket joints on a curved arm. This works brilliantly as it allows the unit to be angled in an unlimited number of ways to make it just right for your eyeline. Unlike other tuners, it could also clip on backwards and be read under the headstock, and works fine for left handed players as the whole unit rotates.
The screen is also different from others I have used - it is large, very clear and in several colours which is nice. The legend and icons are in blue and yellow, red indicates a flat note, green a note in tune, and yellow a note that is sharp. It has a wide range on the needle scale allowing very precise tuning which I like.
On the back are several buttons. With these you can calibrate the unit to a reference pitch (such as a piano that may be slightly out of tune, but you want to tune it to). You can also take the tuning up a number of frets, so you could set it to tune the notes right if the uke was capo's at say, the second fret. Handy.
On the side of the unit is a tap tempo button that I have never seen on one of these devices before. Tap a regular rhythm on the button and the Snark remembers it, displays the BPM and flashes a heartbeat as a metronome. Thats a clever feature!
So how well does it work? Well, my friend was spot on. This thing amazes me. The tuning is super accurate, helped by that large screen and detailed needle indicator, but what really stuns me is how sensitive it is - I can get a reading on this thing with the lightest of plucks on the instrument, plucks I can hardly hear. Barely touching the string brings the Snark into life, and it has displayed none of the issues I have had with other tuners in failing to pick up a note.
If you can get past the looks, this is the best clip on tuner I have yet tried. Highly recommended.