A Better Musician’s Toolkit in Tunable

I have to tune my ukulele constantly. That’s what I get for buying the blue one with the dolphin on it, right? It looks pretty, but it’s not the best instrument, and it needs constant upkeep or it starts sounding like I’m playing a tree branch.

I have a little device to tune it, a physical thing I have to lug around with me, and while it’s not all that big, it’s one more thing I need to keep on me at all times. Tunable can fix all that. It’s a great little app for tuning, and it can do a whole lot more. But can it replace the tuner I use everyday?

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You Need a Tune Up

Tunable, unsurprisingly, will help to tune your instrument, even if your instrument is your voice. Play a note with your instrument, in my case a ukulele, and Tunable will tell you what note you’re really playing. The app will also give you an idea of how long you stay in tune over several moments with a note history. This wasn’t incredibly useful for me, as I’m either in tune with my uke or I’m not, but as players of wind and brass instruments know, you can go out of tune while playing if you’re not doing everything properly. Same for singers, and Tunable can help them check whether they’re going sharp or flat at the end of a note.

If you're in tune, you'll get a friendly green bar across your screen.

If you’re in tune, you’ll get a friendly green bar across your screen.

There’s a tone and chord generator, too, and they’re in the app to help improve your ear. I’ve used apps that would play tones to help me tune instruments, but that’s not really what Tunable does. An app like that plays a note that sounds like what you’ll get from your instrument, but Tunable plays a tinny, sort of MIDI sound. I’m sure there are people who can tune to that, but as an enthusiastic amateur, I’m not one of them. The tone and chord generator is a good learning tool, though, helping me to train my ear.

Included is an easy-to-use metronome. It’s simple to adjust tempo, beats per measure and subdivision. If you don’t want to manually adjust the tempo, select from one of the predefined tempo markings, such as Adagio, Andante and Allegro. The metronome can be seen and heard from afar, and it flashes on each beat, changing color on the first.

The metronome is useful for keeping a specific beat, and can be set to lots of programmed tempos.

The metronome is useful for keeping a specific beat, and can be set to lots of programmed tempos.

If you don’t know what musical temperament is, leave this alone. You’ll want to stick with equal temperament and will be just fine as you are. If it is something you need to tune your instrument, though, there are more temperament choices here than you can shake a stick at, stuff I’d never heard of and had difficulty finding with a good Internet search. Musicians who regularly tune with one of these systems will be happy to see them in this handy app.

Fine Tuning

There are some settings you can adjust if you’re an expert or ignore if you’re a novice. Tunable calibrates the frequency of A above middle C to 440 Hz, referred to as A440. If that doesn’t suit you, and there are at least a few reasons it wouldn’t, you can change it, but if all of that stuff about frequency sounded to you like the chorus to “Mahna Mahna” by the Muppets, you’ll probably want to leave this as is. If you’re a beginner, tell Tunable that in the settings, because it won’t judge your attempts at tuning as harshly. (Hey, we all had to start somewhere.) If you’re further along, Tunable will want to hold you to a higher standard.

Adjust some advanced settings or keep things simple.

Adjust some advanced settings or keep things simple.

Tunable includes some easy settings for everybody, though. Switch the display between vertical and horizontal alignment, a great one to toggle since you’ll likely have the app running with your phone propped against something while you use both hands to play. Turn the metronome flash off if you find it brings on convulsions — it’s incredibly bright. You can also choose a theme you like best, light or dark, which can help with eye strain if you’re staring at the screen for too long.

Train your ear with the tone and chord generator.

Train your ear with the tone and chord generator.

Final Thoughts

Tunable is a great app for musicians to have in their back pockets. It’s a nice one to turn to for a quick tune or if you always need to have a metronome close at hand. It’s sort of a Swiss Army knife for music. It can’t do everything all your gear at home can, but it sure can do a lot, and it’s in your pocket to boot.

Maybe the best thing about Tunable, besides how cool it looks, is how useful the actual tuner turned out to be. Not only can it help me tune my ukulele or any instrument, but note history will also tell me if I stay in tune when I’m singing or playing my trumpet, priceless information if you’re worried you’re not sustaining the note. That’s pretty spectacular and not easy to find in other tuners. For such a small app, Tunable turned out to be pitch perfect.


Great toolkit tuner to always have in your pocket.