How to Play Mandolin | Mandolin Beginners Guide – The Tune Catcher

The most adventurous and enthusiastic part of a music lover’s life lies in understanding various musical instruments, playing them and how to compose music. The growth from a beginner to an expert is always accompanied by certain challenges. One of the crucial challenges is distinguishing each instrument from the other. In this article, we are going to discuss in deep about one of the very common musical instruments, the mandolin.

If you pick this instrument, you can play all the different types of melodies from various genres. If you are a person who adores listening to different tunes, then the mandolin will be a great choice to pick up the mind-soothing melodies. That’s why it is used widely in numerous recordings and concerts over the years. The Composers have tried their fresh and creative experiments in folk and blue jams using a mandolin. It’s very significant to understand how to play the mandolin for beginners.

What is a Mandolin?

A mandolin is a very prominent stringed musical instrument in the lute family and is commonly plucked with a plectrum. About 2000 years ago, Lutes was initially used in the Middle East. The mandolin is believed to be the descendant of Mandalore. It has some connections with the Spanish instrument “bandurria” too.

The mandolin has a long history and it was even used 300 years ago. The four courses of doubled metal strings are tuned in unison to give a total of 8 strings. It’s very essential to understand how to play the mandolin as it has a unique sound.

Differences Between Mandolin Body Shapes

According to the body shapes, the mandolin can be classified into three types. They are the F style, A style, and bowl-back mandolins.

The F-style mandolin is considered the best one for playing traditional European Folk music. A-style mandolins are commonly used by Celtic musicians and Bowl-back mandolins are used primarily by Classical musicians.

How to Play the Mandolin for Beginners

It’s crucial to identify a musical path as you are a beginner in playing instruments like the mandolin. To understand that, it’s mandatory to listen to all varieties of music styles. This will help you in identifying the favorites among them and the specific genre that you want to work on.

Choose the Right Mandolin for You

After deciding the style of music you want to play, the next step is to choose the right mandolin to suit your prerequisites. According to the music genre, you have to choose a specific design of mandolin. You can try a bowl-backed mandolin if you desire to play classical tunes.  Some of the mandolins in this family include the tenor/octave mandola, the bass mandolin, and the soprano mandolin.

The Flatback Mandolins are commonly used in jazz by U.S. performers for playing bluegrass music as it has smooth flowing curves around the neck.

A-Style Mandolin shows up with an arch-top and is commonly used by rich music lovers. For an intermediate or advanced mandolin player, you can choose the instrument made up of cedar or mahogany for a richer sound. If you are a beginner player, then it’s advisable to choose a mandolin made up of lamination of multiple wooden layers.

Learning to Tune

Learning to tune requires the knowledge of the pair of strings. The pair nearest to your knee is the first string and it must be tuned to E. The second should be matched to A, the third to D, and the fourth to G.

A mandolin’s four strings are tuned to the same notes as a violin’s four strings. You can tune your mandolin’s strings by adjusting them to match the violin pitch pipe’s four notes.

You can also tune both G unison strings of the mandolin by pushing the string down onto the space between the sixth and seventh metal strips and plucking it.

Take Up the Position of Playing Mandolin for Beginners

If you are a right-handed player, then hold the Mandolin such that the headstock is pointing up at an angle of between nine and ten o’clock. Place your left foot on a footstool and it helps to relax the instrument on your knee by relaxing your neck and shoulder.

The playing hang is usually placed behind the bridge to ensure that any part of the hand makes no contact with the strings. Playing mandolin for beginners comes with a set of challenges too. The pair of steel strings can be a discomfort during beginner mandolin lessons. Light gauge strings can assist to reduce that.

Learn About Mandolin Strings

The mandolin is imperfect without its strings. Therefore, it is necessary to understand how to select the best strings for your instruments. Before choosing mandolin strings, you must examine particular criteria:

String gauge, string materials, string construction. It is difficult to play heavy mandolin strings. To attain speed and balance at the same time, more force is needed. This is even challenging for expert players. Heavy strings can be effortlessly used in new models of mandolin, usually made in the U.S. But, if you use the same in the old bowl back instrument, it will get easily destroyed

  • The Elixir strings are impressively ultra-thin because of their unique Nanoweb coating.
  • D’Addario EJ74 Phosphor Bronze Mandolin Strings, also topped among the highly competitive in the marketplace, within their range.
  • Martin M400 Bronze strings are made out of a bronze wound and it is durable over time. These strings are beginner friendly.

Best Resources for Beginners to Learn Mandolin

Numerous resources assist in understanding beginner mandolin lessons. YouTube has tons of resources that gave you lessons regarding how to play the mandolin for beginners. The MandolinTabs is such a YouTube channel, containing multiple videos and tabs for mandolin performers.

  • Irish mandolin playing: a complete guide: This book is written by Philip John Berthoud. It has both the Kindle and the hardcopy editions and emphasizes teaching how to play the mandolin.
  • Mandolin cafe is the website that gives you all information regarding mandolins if you have any concerns.
  • The chord app brings you through all chords and fingerings, enables you to write and import tunes, and shares with your peers.
  • It works perfectly with multiple string instruments such as the ukulele, guitars, and mandolins.
  • Bank ben Clarke’s website is full of free Mandolin lessons led by Ben. If you want to buy individual mandolin tutorials, you can also do so at a lower price.

Is it Easy to Learn Mandolin?

  1. There are some technicalities you need to ace while playing Mandolin.
  2. The challenge appears when you have to press two strings on the mandolin to play one note.
  3. The mandolin isn’t very popular, so it is relatively demanding to get a mentor who will instruct you in one-on-one beginner lessons of mandolin.

Both right-hand and left-hand techniques are essential to play the mandolin. It has a unique pick holding. Beginners must keep their right hand extremely loose otherwise they will suffer hours of pain in the wrist. Some notes are difficult to play as the size of the mandolin is small.

Also Read: How to Play Banjo?


In this article, we discussed in detail how to play the mandolin for beginners. If someone desires to be that expert in playing mandolin, they have to initially identify their style and have to select the right instrument as per the genre, and must utilize the numerous accessible online resources and video tutorials to make learning mandolin more effective.

Before playing mandolin, it’s very inevitable to have a deep idea about the mandolin strings. There are some substantial techniques you can use to make the mandolin easy to play. To play quality music, you have to select the better quality mandolin which is budget friendly too.

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