Game Review

Nintendo DSi Instrument Tuner Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

It's an instrument tuner

The DSi wasn't intended just for games; part of the meaning of the "i" is in reference to using it as a "personal tool," according to some Nintendo rep who may or may not have been full of it. We've already seen some fairly useless applications hit the service already, lending credence to this, so it makes a weird sort of sense for Nintendo to roll out applications for the musical crowd with Instrument Tuner and Metronome. And what do you know, they work well enough to possibly come in handy – if you carry your DSi with you everywhere you play, that is.

Instrument Tuner does exactly what it says and does it in two ways, depending on how you prefer to tune your gear. Start off by choosing your desired frequency in the range of 435-445 Hz and then start sending sound its way. On the touchscreen is a small scale keyboard for tuning by ear, and you can either tap the keys or opt to hold a note indefinitely. If you'd like visual feedback then the top screen displays the note picked up by the microphone — either alphabetic (C, D, E) or syllabic (Do, Re, Mi) — with a meter displaying how tuned your instrument is, just like any other tuner you've ever seen.

We tested the microphone uptake using an already tuned bass guitar as well as a software keyboard. In both instances the app was fairly accurate in interpreting pitch, able to differentiate sharps and flats from wholes. As long as your audio source is sufficiently loud then it shouldn't have any trouble picking up the correct note.

Being a first-party application, there are some Nintendo touches to the whole thing like a Game & Watch theme and a neat minigame called Tuner Fight, which is set in the Balloon Fight "universe," if you will. Balloons with notes float up out of pipes on the bottom screen and you need to play the correct note written on each one to pop them. It turns out to be a good way to practice scales, but since there aren't any options or difficulties it's not something you'd return to very frequently once you've managed to pop the two dozen or so balloons it sends your way each time.


Needless to say, those without instruments will find nothing useful here, and those who are musical most likely already have a tuner kicking around somewhere. Apart from the Nintendo touches, there isn't anything here that you can't get for free either online or on a smartphone, and splitting the metronome and tuner into two separate applications seems silly. What it does, it does well – probably better than expected, in fact – so if you happen to be in the super-niche market for an inexpensive DSiWare Nintendo instrument tuner then look no further.

From the web

User Comments (19)



Token_Girl said:

Looks good for what it is. Would have come in handy back in HS when I actually played an instrument.



Sean_Aaron said:

Groovy. Thanks for the review Jon, now I just need to learn to play an instrument!



Kimiko said:

Oh, this looks useful. One major reason I quickly abandoned all hope to play guitar was that I couldn't even tune it ^^; I'll be sure to pick this up when it comes to Europe.



TheLonelyGamer said:

That Tuner Fight minigame looks cool.
I would probably get this just because of Tuner Fight.
I'm such a sucker for classic NES games.



piguy101 said:

You know real tuners are around 10 dollars. This looks way better than my "A" tuning fork. If this is really exact I can prove that my friends that play trumpet (Sic?) are really flat.



FATEM said:

As a musician who does not have a pitch pipe, tuner, smartphone or computer program to tune instruments, I believe I am part of Nintendo's sole market for this product.



SuperJim64 said:

Actually, this is a bargain. It's comparable in features to the Korg CA-30 (near $20 US), minus the Korgs instrument cable input. However, the DSi tuner feature with the tune by ear, and mic pick up are way past the Korgs ability. Plus you get a pitch training game thrown in, which great for practice for fretboard memorization, singing, and so on. In reality the next step up in tuners from this app is a pedal, or rack mounted tuner which start at near $70. And oddly enough, I placed my DSi in mic range of my Vox AC-15 amp fuzzed out to the max with a Big Muff, and it still was able to work where the comparable Korg fails to recognize any chord. I do not suggest this, as the loud speaker (Massive Alnico/or cobalt Magnets) could brick your DSi.



ramstrong said:

I actually got this, and I like it! I do have a "real" tuner in my violin case, but this DSiWare version will sure come in handy. If you have guitar and violin, and other string instruments, then it will save you some money. However, I do have some complaints.

There is no setting to lock the frequency. Due to the software algorithm, recognizing the correct tone is dicey if the frequency is way off. This is no fault of the algorithm, as it is common failing. I think it's due to the fact that real instruments have "textures" in their frequency. In other words, what makes a trumpet sounds like a trumpet, and a string sounds like a string, even though they're at the same frequency. The problem is that you need to know exactly the frequency rate, instead of a letter. What if it's off by one octave? If you can tune by ear, then no problem, but then you probably be using tuning fork, instead of this digital tuner. So, being able to lock the detector to a single frequency would be useful.

A second feature that is missing, also related to the sound texture issue, is that there is no waveform graph. Sound Recorder on Windows has it, and it has been helpful with my violin learning. So, I would like to have that here, also. It's very useful to identify sympathetic harmonic quality that cause brilliant sound to emanates from the violin. So, I'd like to have that also,

And finally, although the game is very nice, I'd rather have a 3 octave keyboard I can play with. Similar to Photo Graffiti Music mode, except this one features real piano keys. I would love to just jam with it. Extra points would be for composition/recording ability, but I understand that it won't be a 200 point program anymore. The way it is right now, I'm sorely missing that extra DO key at the end. Come on! Even Easy Piano has that key! Can't you tell you need it?

Bonus points if the program has quick settings for guitar, bass, violin, cello, and other tunable instruments.

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