Play a Mandolin

How to Play a Mandolin

How to Play a Mandolin: An instrument in the lute family, the mandolin has been around since the 18th century, making it one of the oldest stringed instruments still in use today. The mandolin shares much of its design with the violin, but it has only four strings instead of four or five (or even six) like other stringed instruments in its family, such as the violin and viola. These differences make learning how to play the mandolin different from learning how to play other lutes and stringed instruments, which means you can learn how to play it fairly quickly!


The mandolin gets its name from being in the same family as lute instruments like the mandola, mandore, and mandocello. It first appeared around 1790 in Naples, where local instrument makers developed small-sized versions of instruments for street musicians. The first use of the mandolin dates back to 1799. Since then, it has become popular all over Europe and United States. In Italy, it is mainly used by folk musicians and professional orchestras. The mandolin was also an essential instrument in bluegrass music, particularly during its formative years. Today, it’s one of America’s most popular acoustic instruments.

Playing Position

Before playing the mandolin, you must know how to hold it. The instrument is held diagonally across your body, with one end in your left hand and one in your right. Because of its shape, it’s hard for beginners (and even experienced players) to get their fingers on all four strings simultaneously. For beginners, it may be easier to use the alternate or third position. You place your left index finger on the second string from bottom E in the third position.

Your middle finger goes on G string 2nd fret, while your ring finger rests on B string 3rd fret. In an alternate position, also known as cross-stringing, you place your index finger on G string 1st fret; middle finger goes onto B string 1st fret; ring finger rests on E string 1st fret; pinky rests on D string 1st fret.

Fretting Hand

The fretting hand is your left hand, which you use to press individual strings on your instrument. The fretting hand should be just below where you’re pressing down with your picking-hand fingers. To produce a sound with your instrument, all notes must be adequately fretted, that is, without buzzing. It takes practice, but in time you’ll improve and be able to place each finger right where it needs to go.


Play a Mandolin
Play a Mandolin

To play any song on a mandolin, you must first learn how to strum. Strumming consists of hitting one string at a time with your pick in various ways that will form chords. The most common way is down-up-down-up (d u d u). You can also try alternating between two strings (u d u d) or three strings (u d u d u). You’ll want to experiment and see what sounds best for each chord you’re playing. Once you have a feel for strumming, it should be easy to apply it when learning songs.


The most basic and essential aspect of mandolin playing is learning to make different chords. Chords are essentially combinations of several notes played together. For example, an A minor chord includes four notes: A, C#, E, and G. If you strum all four strings at once, you’ll hear that familiar A minor sound.

You can also play three-note chords by leaving out one note in each chord—for instance, if you leave out the C# in an A minor chord, it becomes a D major chord. This technique is called barring because you bar your index finger across all six strings to create these simple chords.


Play a Mandolin
Play a Mandolin

There are two methods of tuning a mandolin. The first is open, which means that each string is tuned relative to itself: typically, you go A–D–G–B–E (all strings going down) or E–A-d-g-b (strings going up). You can quickly get your mandolin in tune by moving up or down one fret at a time. This process can also be used for fretted instruments like guitars and violins.

To tune an instrument using open tunings, play each string individually while turning its corresponding tuning peg.
Once you’ve reached an appropriate pitch, stop turning and strum all six strings together to ensure they’re still in tune with one another. If not, adjust accordingly until they are. If it helps, use a reference tone—like a piano—to help determine when your instrument is ideally in tune with itself.

Also read:- Play a Mandolin

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