How to Play the Mandolin

How to Play the Mandolin

This article will help you learn how to play mandolin, it's chords along with tips on the same.
Mandolin is a particular type of lute. It has a rounded wood case with eight strings on it which are fixed up in four pairs. When its strings are plucked, vibrations occur and produce sound. It takes time to learn the mandolin because it is a little more complex than the guitar.


Study the Fretboard
A mandolin fretboard is very different than the guitar's. A mandolin has 8 strings and the notes are E, A, D, and G, with E being the thinnest string and G, the largest. Its unique feature is that two strings are paired together and tuned simultaneously. This gives the instrument a fuller sound. It is therefore essential that you are comfortable with the fretboard. You can refer books or take lessons online to get a hang of it.

Mandolin Fretboard

Tuning the Strings
As mentioned earlier, a pair of light and heavy strings is tuned together to an octave. You should start practicing by getting your tunes right. Use either an electric tuner or a tuning fork to tune each pair separately.

Mandolin String Tuning

Discover a Picking and Plucking Style
When you play it, you will realize that it has a short neck and also lacks the sustenance of a guitar. You need to pick strings rapidly to make the double stringed notes to vibrate and be heard by the listeners. Keep on trying new styles of picking and plucking till you find the most comfortable one.

Mandolin Picking Plucking

Practice Strumming on Chords
You need to start practicing fingering styles once you have understood chord structures of the mandolin well. Keen attention is needed in places where your fingers are placed, when you are forming chords. Your fingers should not touch any other open chord while strumming, or you won't be able to hear the sound. Try placing your fingers vertically on the string, and press them down on the particular string set. Your aim should be to be able to strum, without deadening the strings.

Mandolin Strumming

Pursue the Leader
If you are learning the mandolin to play it in a band, you should listen attentively to the lead musician and constantly take cues to create good music as a band. Learn to play along song changes and chord progressions through the whole song. Doing this will raise your stakes in the band and also result in an exceptional musical score.

Mandolin Musicians

Playing the Chords

Major D Chord
On the second fret on the G string, place either your first or index finger of your left hand. Keep the 'A' and 'D' strings open. On the second fret of the high 'E' string, place your second or middle finger of your left hand. Now start strumming all strings.

Mandolin Major D Chord

Major G Chord
On the second fret of the 'A' string, keep your first or index fingers. On the third fret of the 'E' string, keep your middle or second finger. Leave the 'D' and 'G' strings open. Now start strumming D, G, E, and A strings.

Mandolin Major G Chord

A Chord
On the second fret of the G string, place your first or index finger. On the second fret of the 'D' string, place your second or middle finger. Play 'E' and 'A' strings open. Now start strumming all strings.

Mandolin A Chord

Tips and Tricks
  • You should try to keep your right hand as loose as possible, as it may pain later on, if you keep it tight.
  • You should practice daily as your skills will improve only with time and lots of practice.
  • It is advisable to take classes from a good, qualified teacher. This will help you minimize mistakes you tend to make when you try to learn all by yourself.
  • Keep your instrument well-tuned to get the best possible output.
After reading the above instructions, tips, and tricks, pick up one and start learning. You will require the two Ps - patience and perseverance, to see yourself through and become a great mandolin player.