How to Use the Tuner
When you first load the tuner page, your browser should tell you that the applet is signed by Seventh String Limited and that the signature has been verified by a trusted source (Thawte in fact). You will need to click the "Run" or "Ok" or "Trust" button to allow the tuner to run. See "Security Issues" below if you want to know why this is necessary.
You need to get the signal from your instrument into the computer of course. You can plug an electric instrument directly into your computer. With an acoustic instrument you will need a microphone, unless your computer has a built in microphone. If the signal is not registering on the tuner's Input Level meter then see "Sound Input Selection" below. For best results, the signal should take the meter at least half way across the scale.
Notes are named as, for instance, "F# 4 -3 cents". The first number is the octave, so C4 is middle C, C5 is an octave higher. The second number is the tuning error in cents - hundredths of a semitone (or "half step").
This chromatic tuner is sensitive (it can get an accurate reading from a quiet sound) and robust (when a note is being played, it is not easily distracted by extraneous sounds). With some tuners you have to be careful about exactly how you play the note. With this tuner, such care should not be necessary. The ability of the tuner to hear notes even against a background of ambient noise does mean that when there is ambient noise with no note being played, the tuner will tend to pick random notes out of the ambience from moment to moment. So in this situation the tuner will randomly wander around, imagining notes. I deliberately kept it this way since if it was less sensitive then it would be less able to detect notes which are being played.
If you want to tune notes which remain totally steady for a long time then you will need to uncheck the "Hum cancellation" box, to prevent such very steady notes from being ignored.
If you want a tuner which plays reference notes for you to tune to, then see the Seventh String Tuning Fork.
The Tuner Controls In Detail
The "Input" box shows the input level the tuner is hearing, and the input frequency and note. This is not affected by any change to Tuning Origin or Transposition (see below).
The "Run/Stop" button is used to turn the tuner on or off. The tuner uses a modest but significant amount of processing power. If you are using power-hungry applications such as multitrack recording software, then you may find it useful to be able to switch the tuner off. Closing the tuner window also stops it of course. However, hiding or minimising the tuner window may not stop it, depending on your browser.
The "Preferences" box has various settings.
The "Note" box reports what note the tuner is hearing. This includes the effect of any Tuning Origin or Transposition you have applied.
Sound Input Selection, with some notes about different systems
Computers typically have multiple sound inputs such as internal mic, external mic, line in, etc. So you need to tell your computer which input it should be listening to, and perhaps adjust the volume too. This is usually done by selecting the "recording" device, which is typically done in your computer's Sound setup. You may need to "refresh" the tuner page after making changes. See below for more specific instructions. The tuner's Input Level meter will indicate the level of signal it is hearing, so if the level meter isn't responding then something is wrong.
Windows Vista & XP: By default have no Java plugin, but in fact most people will already have installed the Sun JRE at some point and if you haven't then you can,
click here for more information and instructions.
Mac OS-X: By default has the Sun Java plugin. You select which input to use for sound in System Preferences - Sound - Input. I find it is necessary to "refresh" the tuner page after making changes.
Linux with ALSA: I've tried Ubuntu and Red Hat. In a console, run alsamixer. You may need to press <tab> to select the "capture" view. Use left and right arrow keys to scroll sideways through the available devices. Hit <spacebar> to select a device for input. The currently selected input capture device will say "CAPTUR" in red. Up and down arrow keys adjust the volume. For more info, "man alsamixer". The tuner may work with other sound managers than ALSA, but I haven't tried it.
Windows 2000: I've had no luck with Internet Explorer (which by default has the Microsoft Java plugin, which doesn't work for us - grey box, and "class not found" message in browser status bar. The Sun JRE can be downloaded and installed, the applet then attempts to run but unfortunately it can't open the sound input line - you get a grey box with an "Audio input not available" error message). However I've been told that if you install the Firefox browser it works.
Windows 95/98/ME, Mac Classic: I haven't tried them.
Tuning adjustments or discrepancies are normally measured in "cents". A cent is a hundredth of a semitone. The difference between tuning to A=440 and A=441 is about 4 cents.
The range of this tuner is from 20Hz (E, an octave below the lowest note on a four string bass) to 10kHz (more than an octave above the highest note on a piano). If you are interested then here is a table giving the frequencies of musical notes.
This tuner uses the even tempered (aka equal tempered) scale, where an octave is a frequency ratio of exactly two and a semitone is a frequency ratio of exactly the twelfth root of two. In the real world however many different temperaments may be used - see
- and octaves too can vary in size, see
The tuner is accurate to a tiny fraction of a cent except at the very bottom of its range. Below 40Hz the error can reach one cent and by the time we get down to 20Hz it may reach 2 or 3 cents maximum. This is unlikely to be a problem as the ear is also considerably less sensitive to the pitch of such extremely low notes.
Another possible source of error is the accuracy of your sound card clock. If it is not exactly 44100Hz then this will cause inaccuracy, and there is no way the tuner can know. A quick look around the web shows that sound card clock accuracy of 50ppm (parts per million) is considered pretty good and is in fact achieved by many sound cards. This is equivalent to an error of about one tenth of a cent, which is excellent for our purposes. But it is conceivable that a poor quality sound card might have an error big enough to notice. Sound card clock speed can also vary with temperature.
Allowing applets to input sound has security implications, as it might allow malicious people to write applets which would eavesdrop on conversations near your computer! The Seventh String Tuner does not, of course, use the sounds it hears for any purpose other than tuning, nor does it save any sound or send any data to any other location.
However, because of this issue, browsers will not typically allow unsigned applets on webpages to input sound. That's why the tuner applet is signed by Seventh String Limited, and you must give it permission to run when asked. If you don't give permission then the applet will report that it is unable to input sound. If you refuse permission then merely reloading the page will not give you a second chance : you must exit your browser completely (close all open browser windows). Then relaunch the browser, revisit this page, and you will be asked for permission again.
As far as I know, the default Java applet security settings for all browsers are that unsigned applets can play sound but not input sound, while signed applets can also input sound if you give permission when asked. These security settings can be changed but that's strictly for experts and I'm not going into it here.
The tuner is a Java applet so if it isn't working properly, or isn't displayed at all, then this is most likely to be a problem with running Java in your browser.
First, try simply refreshing this page. If that doesn't work then try closing all browser windows, then relaunch your browser and visit this page again.
If that doesn't fix it then click here for more information and instructions.
Downloading and Running Locally
We do allow you to download the Seventh String Tuner in order to run it locally on your computer without being connected to the internet. You may also freely distribute the downloaded zip file - see "License Terms and Conditions" below.
Unzipping the file will get you a folder containing tuner.html (the page which displays the applet - this page in fact), sst130513132558.jar (the applet itself) and a tuner icon. Double-click tuner.html to open it in your browser and run the tuner. You can bookmark this page in your browser for quick access subsequently - it doesn't make any difference that the page is stored locally on your hard disk rather than on the internet.
If you encounter any problem then click here for more information and more detailed instructions.
License Terms and Conditions
The Seventh String Tuner is Copyright © 2007-2011 Seventh String Limited. All rights reserved. We provide it on the Seventh String website for free use by anyone, subject to the following conditions:
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