Tuners have become a standard part of the modern Highland piper's gear. Certainly, pipe bands the world over have realized their value. It is a common sight to see a random bloke circling the band with a tuner, adjusting drones.
For the soloist, a tuner can provide valuable ear training and, though it is possible to achieve great skill in tuning your bagpipe without it, it is something every piper should at least be familiar with. Here is a brief overview of the more popular tuners available for Highland pipers.
Korg CA40 Tuner and CA50 Tuner/Metronome
The Korg CA40 is probably most pipers’ first tuner. It can be calibrated from 410 to 480Hz, which is just shy of the upper range of the modern bagpipe. It can be used for higher pitches, but that requires some mental math and changing of keys. The display shows a pointer that indicates when your pitch matches the tuner’s setting. It’s an effective drone tuner (clip on mics are available). For those who are starting out or working on steady blowing, this workhorse is a cost effective solution. Upgrade to the CA50 and you have a pretty good metronome in the same unit.
The HBT-3 adds some bells and whistles missing on the CA40/50. Calibration settings are extended to 499Hz, eliminating the need for "piper math" on those higher pitches. It features two different settings, one for drones and one for chanter. This makes it an effective tool for balancing the individual notes of your chanter. The display also features a pointer like the Korgs, but when you hit your target pitch the entire face glows green, a helpful confirmation. It is usually sold with an included clip-on mic, which is a hidden savings.
The name would have you believe that this is a lower model then the HBT-3. It's actually a completely different take on the tuning process. Calibration setting range is a little more narrow (430 to 499Hz) but still well within the useful range for the piper. The tuning indicator changes from a speedometer type to a vertical axis. Specifically designed to help balancing a chanter. It also includes a metronome, but for my tastes, the metronome functions are a bit too intrusive and get in the way of the tuning functions.
Peterson StroboPlus HD Tuner
Peterson takes us into new territory with the StoboPlus tuner with accuracy down to .1Hz. The display features a series of rotating rings which move slower as you get closer to in tune, then stop when you hit the target pitch. It can be calibrated from 390 to 490Hz. Peterson offers what they call "sweetened" tunings for the Highland Bagpipe (and 89 other instruments) which will allow you to fine tune your chanter. Its battery is rechargeable lithium-ion. You can use a clip on or plug in mic, and Peterson offers an extending arm that makes it a breeze to go around a pipe band circle and quickly and super accurately tune drones.
HBT-C1 Blair Professional Bagpipe Tuner
The HBT-C1 is specifically designed for tuning bagpipes. With similar range and sensitivity as the HBT-3, this top of the line tuner adds a second display for increased visibility, and a 32-bit internal process to speed response time.