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Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: Todd's keyboard
Date: October 19, 2020 01:34PM
Yesterday, I bought a Snark Super Tight to use with a new banjo.

I was surprised to read this warning (below) in the instructions. Has anyone heard of any problems with clip-on tuners?

BTW, a response to my query from Recording King has already come in. The rep was surprised by the question and reported no ill effects from using Snark products on their instruments. He speculated that leaving one on for a long time might cause some marring through friction.

Todd’s dueling keyboard

----
Caution: Instrument finishes.
Read this before using the Snark tuner.
We recommend you remove the Snark tuner from your instrument as soon as you finish tuning. Please be aware that any lacquer type finish can be adversely affected if the rubber pad of tuner is left in contact with the finish for a period of time.
Some finishes are more likely to be damaged by attaching the tuner to them, hence it is important that you determine what finish is used on your instrument before using the Snark.
Snark advises not to use its tuner with any instruments having these types of finishes: Nitro cellulose lacquer, polyurethane, French polish, oil finish or Gibson guitars which have nitrocellulose finishes, unless you accept the risk of denting the headstock. We recommend using the Snark SN 10 pedal tuner instead of the Snark clip on tuners for these guitars and finishes.
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: freeradical
Date: October 19, 2020 01:45PM
I'm pretty sure that these finishes are only found on some electric guitars.
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: Thrift Store Scott
Date: October 19, 2020 02:16PM
Quote
freeradical
I'm pretty sure that these finishes are only found on some electric guitars.

Like most things, I'd imagine that someone somewhere was having a tough time keeping their all-original, unrestored 1537 Theorbo (sp?) in tune during medieval music concerts and decided to leave a clip-on tuner attached for an extended time only to remove the tuner and find that the rubber pads had caused a negative reaction in the original finish (most likely a combination of beeswax, mutton tallow, crushed beetles, and oppressed peasant spit or a similar recipe) so the maker of the tuner decided to include a disclaimer to legally cover their butts.



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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: MrNoBody
Date: October 19, 2020 02:19PM
I'm pretty sure that these finishes are only found on some electric guitars.

French polish is found on violins & their 'cousins'.
Nitro Cell is found on older Epiphones, Fenders, Gibsons, Martins, Rickenbackers,
and some others. It's also still used on built to order models from the safe mfrs.
Current US/MiM Fenders are usually a poly-acrylic as are most Gibsons.
Rics been using conversion varnish for several decades except on its acoustics and
the 'oiled wood' models. Martins are almost all lacquer finishes.

Personally, I believe that disclaimer is just CYA documentation, just like drug cos.
put on everything they peddle. The phrase "may cause death" has become very popular.
Blame it all on the friggin' lawyers angry villagers smiley

Edit:Warnings like these came about decades ago with cheap, imported guitar stands
that uses little "rubber" pads, etc. iirc, there were some class-action cases brought.



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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/19/2020 02:33PM by MrNoBody.
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: lost in space
Date: October 19, 2020 02:25PM
The “rubber” pads on the tuner clamps contain a plasticiser that can migrate and interact with the finish on some instruments. A mid to high end banjo could have a lacquer or polyurethane finish, probably not French polish. If there’s a hidden spot where you could test, like the dowel that runs from the neck to the tailpiece, try that first. It’s likely to have the same finish as the peghead.



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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: Acer
Date: October 19, 2020 02:30PM
Not sure why you'd want to leave it on long-term anyway. Won't it be in the way, or at least look ungainly? I can't imagine the plasticizers migrating significantly in 60 seconds of tuning.
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: MrNoBody
Date: October 19, 2020 02:38PM
So Todd, what's your style?
  • Clawhammer
  • Scruggs
  • plain old pick & pluck
thumbsup smiley



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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: graylocks
Date: October 19, 2020 02:40PM
I had a Yairi WY-80 that I had the habit of leaving my tuner on even if it was in the case. it was convenient not to have to fudge with it or hunt it down. I've owned Snarks and other brands of tuners. I had that guitar about 15 years. at some point in those years i was horrified to discover that the rubber on the tuner pads had eaten into the finish and left circles.

both my high end guitars have a Nitro cellulose finish. except for live shows, i no longer leave my Snarks on my instruments at all after tuning.



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Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/19/2020 02:46PM by graylocks.
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: rz
Date: October 19, 2020 02:50PM
Yeah, I just take the tuner off when I'm done tuning. Half the time, I just use the tuner app on my iPhone (PolyTune).
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: JoeH
Date: October 19, 2020 02:55PM
Quote
lost in space
The “rubber” pads on the tuner clamps contain a plasticiser that can migrate and interact with the finish on some instruments. A mid to high end banjo could have a lacquer or polyurethane finish, probably not French polish. If there’s a hidden spot where you could test, like the dowel that runs from the neck to the tailpiece, try that first. It’s likely to have the same finish as the peghead.

That can work for short term testing of problems with the pads interacting with a finish. But most "rubber" pads will eventually interact with a wide range of finishes if left in contact long enough. It may be as little as just a bit of discoloration, to as much as damaging or removing the finish.

There are compounds that won't interact, but those tend be be expensive. In this day of cost cutting at every stage of design and manufacture you rarely encounter them in products sold to consumers.
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: Todd's keyboard
Date: October 19, 2020 03:39PM
Quote
MrNoBody
So Todd, what's your style?
  • Clawhammer
  • Scruggs
  • plain old pick & pluck
thumbsup smiley

Back in the seventies I was inspired by Pete Seeger and used his book to learn a bit of clawhammer.

After decades, I'm still a beginner at clawhammer (haven't played a banjo for over forty years), but I've discovered I'm interested in three-finger, Scruggs style. From a neuroplasticity perspective, coordinating my right thumb and first two fingers for various rolls is fascinating. The initial confusing to slow competence is great.

I'm approaching this as a juggler. Seemingly impossible patterns become accessible after breaking down the components and practicing.

Todd's zen board, beginner's board
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: Will Collier
Date: October 19, 2020 04:04PM
I think that's lawyer CYA. The springs on all the Snarks I've ever used (I confess I am not familiar with the "super tight" version) aren't nearly strong enough to dent finished wood.

As for the rubber bit, I guess it's within possibility that if you leave it on there long enough something might react with the finish, but I suspect you'd be talking about a very rare case when some other substance was also in the mix.

But yeah, if you aren't tuning (or maybe performing), take the stupid thing off.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/19/2020 04:18PM by Will Collier.
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: kj
Date: October 19, 2020 04:48PM
What greylocks describes is no joke. I had a nitro finished bass that was damaged by the rubber on a guitar stand. It was sickening, so make sure it's finished in poly (which it probably is) and you're fine. If it's nitro, find another way to tune (eg. an app on you're phone).

edit: I checked, and there appear to be a lot of recording king banjos with nitro finishes, so I would look at the specs for your model.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/19/2020 04:57PM by kj.
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: Sarcany
Date: October 19, 2020 06:13PM
Been using them for years and never seen a mark from one. I leave em on both of my acoustics and my electric.

It must take a really thick/soft custom lacquer to get marked up from one of those things. I wouldn't worry about it unless you've got some sick expensive gear.



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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: Todd's keyboard
Date: October 19, 2020 06:22PM
Quote
kj
What greylocks describes is no joke. I had a nitro finished bass that was damaged by the rubber on a guitar stand. It was sickening, so make sure it's finished in poly (which it probably is) and you're fine. If it's nitro, find another way to tune (eg. an app on you're phone).

edit: I checked, and there appear to be a lot of recording king banjos with nitro finishes, so I would look at the specs for your model.

Great Scott! Now I'm worried about the stand on which the banjo sits.

Todd's non-reactive keyboard
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: kj
Date: October 19, 2020 07:28PM
Quote
Sarcany
Been using them for years and never seen a mark from one. I leave em on both of my acoustics and my electric.

It must take a really thick/soft custom lacquer to get marked up from one of those things. I wouldn't worry about it unless you've got some sick expensive gear.

It's probably poly that you have, which is just about indestructible. Nitrocellulose is a whole different animal that has lots of positives to me, but durability, etc. are not among them. It's very thin, but it has a really nice natural feel to it, and I believe it allows the wood to be more resonant.

Fwiw, on mine it permanently blackened it and marred the finish. It wasn't super expensive (800 or so) but I would hesitate telling someone it's not a big deal. I mean, I didn't like it.

I definitely feel like it was some kind of chemical thing, like someone above pointed out, plus staining from the black rubber, that almost seemed to mix into the finish.
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: JoeM
Date: October 19, 2020 08:45PM
I can't speak for clip on tuners as I don't use them. I use a Korg pitch-black pedal tuner. But I can speak about guitar stands, most of which can leave marks and effect finishes, especially on vintage guitars or newer ones that have nitro cellulose finishes. You can get around possible problems by draping a white cotton sock over the foam or rubber where it would come in contact with your instrument. I've done this for many years with all my guitars, including vintage instruments from the 60's and 70's and never had an issue. Not sure if that would be a solution for a clip on tuner as far as dampening vibration but you might be able to use a much thinner cloth to get around that and protect your instrument.



JoeM
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: Will Collier
Date: October 20, 2020 06:13AM
Quote
JoeM
I can't speak for clip on tuners as I don't use them. I use a Korg pitch-black pedal tuner. But I can speak about guitar stands, most of which can leave marks and effect finishes, especially on vintage guitars or newer ones that have nitro cellulose finishes. You can get around possible problems by draping a white cotton sock over the foam or rubber where it would come in contact with your instrument. I've done this for many years with all my guitars, including vintage instruments from the 60's and 70's and never had an issue. Not sure if that would be a solution for a clip on tuner as far as dampening vibration but you might be able to use a much thinner cloth to get around that and protect your instrument.

I defer to Joe: Joe knows.
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Re: Potential damage to musical instruments from clip-on tuners?
Posted by: kj
Date: October 21, 2020 02:36AM
Quote
JoeM
I can't speak for clip on tuners as I don't use them. I use a Korg pitch-black pedal tuner. But I can speak about guitar stands, most of which can leave marks and effect finishes, especially on vintage guitars or newer ones that have nitro cellulose finishes. You can get around possible problems by draping a white cotton sock over the foam or rubber where it would come in contact with your instrument. I've done this for many years with all my guitars, including vintage instruments from the 60's and 70's and never had an issue. Not sure if that would be a solution for a clip on tuner as far as dampening vibration but you might be able to use a much thinner cloth to get around that and protect your instrument.

That's a great idea to cover the rubber with something. thumbs up
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