A Review of the Pick Boy QT01 Chromatic Tuner

by Donald ZEPP

 Note:  This was originally posted to Banjo-L in November of
1996, and has been slightly edited

After 30 years or so of tuning with a tuning fork, I broke down and bought a "Pick Boy" electronic tuner. In general, I find that having an electronic tuner is most helpful when you're in a crowd, and can't really hear your instrument. Many is the time that I've tried to tune one of mine, only to realize that I was tuning to someone else (who may well have been out of tune). This type of tuner also quickly ends arguments about just _who_ it is that is out of tune. OTOH, I rarely use it at home, still preferring to either whack my knee with the old tuning fork or to turn my metronome to its "sound your A for Ehler's" position (anybody remember that?). OTOOH (that's not an alcohol, that's "On the Other, Other Hand") I have a good ear; for those lacking that discrimination or just learning, it makes it a lot easier to get an instrument in passable tune. Of course, relying on the electronic tuners can be a crutch, and can lead to some pretty bad tunings when someone tunes open strings and then doesn't fine tune to compensate for the key he'll be playing in, but, of course, this argument holds just as well for a pitch pipe or tuning fork. Speaking specifically of the Pick Boy QT01, for me, its strong points are: 1) Size. It has about the dimensions of a credit card (and is as thick as 5 or 6 together) so it slips easily in a pocket. 2) Ease of use. It has a LCD display that more-or-less simulates a needle effect to show when the note it's hearing is getting close to being "on." 3) It has both microphone and pickup modes, so it can be used for either acoustic or electric instruments (I have no use for this feature, BTW). 4) It easily compensates for tuning based on something other than A440, i.e., if the dulcimer player/pianist/accordianist/penny whistle player/harmonica player is slightly off, you can adjust the tuner to compensate. N.B. If they're all off, just go have a beer while they fight it out. Not-so-cool features of the Pick Boy brand from my perspective: 1) Size. It's about the dimensions of a credit card (and as thick as 5 or 6 together) so it slips easily in a pocket, therefore could easily wind up in someone else's, in your laundry, or who-knows-where. Mine went out with the newspapers for recycling one day (fortunately, I had turned the house inside out looking for it, and thought to check the paper pile in the garage.) Mine now sports 18-inch tails of orange flagging tape to make it a little less likely to be overlooked. 2) That LCD simulates a needle, but it's really digital, of course. This means there is a whole zone of "right," most of which is better described as "wrong." Consider what happens when you're rounding off your gasoline purchases on a digital pump: You can get that extra squeeze in at $9.99 and nothing happens. You can then get a squeeze or two in at $10.00 before going to the next penny. Same deal with a digital needle. There are some things for which analog displays are so much better... 3) The thing has no auto-off, so you could cook off a battery in short order if you're not careful. I have done this. Would I buy another if mine were now part of a grocery bag at Food Lion? Yep; I think it's really handy, I have a good enough ear to overcome its accuracy limitations, and I have enough flagging tape to overcome the downside of its convenient size 8-)