If you wanted to play the mandolin for a long time then you might be asking, How To Tune A Mandolin? Well, even though the mandolin is not the most straight-forward instrument on the planet if you wanted to tune it but it is a completely manageable task if you get the correct guidance.
A mandolin is a stringed instrument in the lute family and it is normally plucked with a plectrum. It has four courses of doubled metal strings which are tuned in unison, however, five and six-course versions exist as well.
To make things more simple, the mandolin is a little, lute-like instrument with eight strings. It originally showed up in eighteenth-century Italy.
This instrument has a bright tone and has gotten a staple in styles of music everywhere throughout the world, from traditional to bluegrass and even to jazz. However, that is just a small piece of the history of the mandolin.
The mandolin’s history, without a doubt, is very enriching. The strong wood instrument, which is used in orchestras just as country folks, it is descended from the mandore, the lute, itself, comes from an Arabic pear-molded instrument named the oud. Europe had acquainted with the oud when the Moors occupied the nation of Spain from the eighth to fifteenth centuries.
The instrument we like to call the mandolin first showed up in the workshops of Naples, Italy during the 1700s. However, similar instruments passing by the names mandora, mandola, and mandore set the scene for the Neapolitan mandolin by hundreds of years.
They all came before the mandolin. If you have, at any point, seen a bluegrass music band perform live, you may have seen somebody playing what resembles a little guitar. That instrument is usually a mandolin.
The modern mandolin is at least in the European-style round-back design is still preferred outside of the United States, which is developed from the mandolin between 1750 and 1850.
The background of the mandolin goes back a long time. The instrument, in a way, is a mix of a violin, lute, guitar and banjo folded into one. While the lute’s body is round, the mandolin which is made in various models, it has a hollow body that incorporates a sounding board with a teardrop shape.
Most of the instruments are designed with scrolls or similar-type projections. Out of all the instruments, the mandolin can be a bit difficult to tune.
By learning the nuts and bolts of tuning a stringed instrument and wrangling your instrument accurately, you will be playing like Bill Monroe or David Grisman in a short time.
Though, you should keep in mind that tuning a mandolin can be a difficult job. Since mandolins have strings that are shorter than guitars, narrowing in on the right pitch takes skill and also a lot of time.
Mandolins have four sets of two strings that are tuned to a similar pitch. Some violinists will tell you that it’s far simpler for three violinists to play in tune with each other than for just two.
That same principle makes it a specific challenge for each pair of strings on a mandolin to sound in tune.
Mandolin tuning is so much significant, and something you will certainly need to ace before you think of playing with any other individual. If your mandolin isn’t in tune, it does not matter whether you are a great musician or not because it’s simply not going to sound great.
In case you’re new to learning mandolin, tuning a mandolin is not a very easy process. That is why we hope that you will learn to properly tune a mandolin and also learn more about the mandolin itself from this article.
Through this article, you will learn about how you can tune a mandolin, what you should consider, what should you avoid doing and accessories will you need in your journey with the mandolin. You will also find some of the best tuners for your mandolin here. So, without any delay, let’s dive right in.
Also, don’t forget to see our post on what is a mandolin.
How to tune a mandolin : The Ultimate Guide
Tuning a mandolin can be hard for guitar players at the beginning, however, you can think about the mandolin as the opposite to a guitar. The lowest strings on a mandolin have the same pitch as the highest strings of a guitar.
The mandolin is tuned very similarly to a violin or fiddle but rather than 4 strings, it has 4 sets of strings which are: two E Strings, 2 A Strings, 2 D Strings, and 2 G Strings. This makes it twice as difficult to get in tune.
It takes a lot to tune a mandolin perfectly and to get it right, however, many individuals have mastered the skill to tune a mandolin. So carry on reading this article about mandolin tuning and learn How To Tune A Mandolin.
- First, you have to tune it like a violin. A mandolin has always been tuned G-D-A-E from low to high and each pair of strings tuned to the same tone. So, the instrument is tuned G-G-G-D-D-A-A-E-E while considering every individual string. Now, when you are holding the mandolin accurately, the highest string pair, which is E, ought to be the nearest to the floor. The main difference between a violin and a mandolin is that the mandolin has eight strings and the violin has just four. You tune each pair or course of strings to the same pitch.
- Find the tuners accurately that correspond to every string. Mostly, the tuners on the mandolin for both G strings and both D strings will be on the side of the headstock which is nearest to you, yet the tuners for both A strings and E strings will be on the headstock nearest to the floor, all together. While you tune, you mostly need to tune in clockwise on the tuners, around the headstock, working your way down the instrument and higher in pitch.
- Then, you need to tune each string individually as well as both strings together. In simple words, what makes tuning a mandolin more troublesome than tuning a violin is that there are 8 strings rather than 4, so you must be precise or the instrument will be off tune. It may be very hard to tell which string is out of tune when you are striking them both as one. Use “rest strokes”. Rest strokes usually dampen each string with the pick after playing. By using this method, you can individually isolate each note as you are tuning. This will give a clearer tone on the electronic tuner, or whatever other tuning technique you might be using.
- You need to tune up and not tune down. With any stringed instrument, you would need to tune from flat to sharp while tuning the string in pitch instead of down from a higher note to the right tone. It is because you need to settle the tension in the string toward the gear and not away from it. However, when you tune down, you take a risk of letting the tension slip on the tuning gear as you play, making the string go flat. This is particularly true with new strings.
- One thing you need to make sure is that you use fresh strings. Worn out or strings that are rusted will go out of tune more effectively and damage your fingers as you are learning. Ensure that you change your strings out consistently to keep your instrument in tune. You do not have to change them every night, however, consider changing them after every 4-5 weeks of moderate to heavy use.
- Get the tuning in perfect tune and afterwards fine-tune it. It tends to be difficult to tune right away after putting new strings on the mandolin since it will sneak out after just a couple of moments. Once you put new strings on, each string puts plenty of pounds per square inch of tension on the neck, and the wood will flex a bit. You need to keep an account for this by getting the strings close and then letting the instrument rest for a second before you fine-tune it. You will get it in tune much faster and more precisely.
- If you want to use an electric tuner, then use a high-quality tuner. The most precise and effective method of tuning your mandolin is to purchase an electronic tuner which is made for tuning effectively. A violin tuner or an electronic tuner made for the mandolin are both perfect for your needs. You can use chromatic tuners that clip on to the headstock of different acoustic instruments in case you will be regularly tuning during your practice sessions or gigs.
- Turn the tuner on and ensure that it’s picking up the sound. If the tuner has settings for various instruments, set it to mandolin or violin, and locate a calm space to tune in that will have no background noises that will influence the tuner’s viability.
- Make sure you tighten the corresponding tuner until you get the string generally close. It does not need to be precise yet, due to the reason that you will go back through after you have done a pass. Keep on tuning each one of the strings, tightening the tuning peg up and getting the tension close and viewing the tuner closely. Revisit and do another pass, fine-tuning each string as close as you can. Watch the tuner for signals. Most tuners give you a sign of whether you are flat or sharp, and most of them turn green or flicker when you are perfect.
- Visit the strings again and play each double set to ensure it sounds right. Pluck both G strings and then listen. It tends to be enticing for you to get attached to your tuner, however, you must use your ears as well. They’re not great and each instrument has its perks and habits. Listen with concentration to the doubled strings to check whether it needs further adjustment or not.
While it’s critical to get every note in tune regarding the pitch, it’s a bit much unless you need to play with others. You need to tune the instrument to itself so that you can ensure that you can play and practice in a way that sounds great.
Tips & Tricks for Tuning a Mandolin
By now, you have learned about mandolin tuning. But there are a few vital tips and tricks that will help you in your journey of playing the mandolin. We hope that you can play the mandolin without it getting out of tune. Without further ado, let’s get into the tips and tricks you should know when tuning a mandolin.
- One tip we would like to start with is to use the 7th fret. You need to adjust both E strings until they are in tune with one another. Afterwards, fret the A string at the seventh fret, make that string sound the same like the first string played either open or non-fretted. You should keep on moving down the neck and doing the same with other strings as well.
- You can use a banjo, guitar or in-tune piano to tune to your mandolin. Tell your partner who would be playing alongside you to play each note individually and take as much time as you need for getting it in tune. You also have to memorize GDAE when you instruct your partner. This is a significant skill which would develop your ear training. This would help you to perceive microtones alongside sharp and flat sounds. You will be a great player if you can recognize when you are in and out of tune with your ear.
- You should learn some alternate tunings to add to your repertoire. The main difference between a violin and a fiddle is how it is tuned. Most mandolin players learn how to play the instrument by tuning it to GDAE, however, that does not mean you have to play that consistently. Some American folk singers call it ‘Eye-talian tuning’. They claim it’s formal and fancy. You should learn alternate tunings and begin playing with new methods for fingering the regular old chords. It can open up entire universes for you. You should try GDGD, GDGB and GDAD.
- One thing you should know is that looseness is everything. Your right hand particularly should be completely loose. If not, you will feel hours of pain in your elbow and wrist. Your pick should be held firmly so that it remains in your grasp, and should consistently be at risk of falling out. Work on waving your hand around and shaking your wrist gently with the pick practically falling from between your fingers.
- You should also consider using the pick stroke theory or pick stroke law. Reels are down up, down up, down up, down up. Each stroke is the 8th note with the down on the beat and the up in the off-beat. Jigs are down up down, down up down, down up down, down-up, with the big down on the first note of the triplet. If there is a pull-off or quarter note or hammer-on in there, continue picking inside precisely that pattern, with the down on the beat. This makes the right hand very regular and to drive the rhythm normally onto the beat. I have discovered that it kills the need to find out if a specific stroke should be a down or an up, that gets directed by the note’s position inside the timing signature.
- Another important tip is that you should remember is that you should play a string before you start turning a tuning peg. Because of this, you will know whether you are turning the right peg in the accurate direction or not.
- Ensure that you are fit for a balanced, even weight among downstrokes and upstrokes.
- Next, what you can do for mandolin tuning is to check your octaves. Playing a high and low version of the same note on two strings that are different will assist you with hearing how in-tune you are. Start by playing an A note on the 2nd fret using the low string, and check it against your A String pair beneath it. Then do the same thing for E by coordinating an E played on the D String to your E String pair. You will see that you have to do some slight changes to match these octaves which is fine since mandolins do not generally match notes accurately. However, your outcomes for this will be different from mandolin to mandolin depending on the action. Make sure to make any vital changes while checking the octaves. You need them to sound as near perfect as you can get.
Obsessive and enthusiastic practice, particularly with others, puts you on the road to success. It is generally the number of hours you put in.
You can spread those hours longer than a year or over a lifetime. That part is up to you. If you are a guitar player, that should help you to some degree.
Keep these things in mind when you are tuning your mandolin so that the notes are in-tune.
Also, don’t forget to see our post on Is mandolin hard to learn.
Things You Should Avoid While Tuning a Mandolin
As you have learned How To Tune A Mandolin, there are still a lot of problems you might face when playing the mandolin. Through this article, we hope to enlighten you with some of the problems you should avoid so that you could have a wonderful experience with the mandolin. If you pay attention to these warnings, you will have an enjoyable experience.
- Do not use a lot of string or less string while you string your mandolin. One of the most well-known issues that create tuning problems is re-stringing. This is very common among beginners. If there are a lot of winds of string wrapped around the mandolin tuner, then the string will cross over itself. However, if there are fewer winds, then the string will barely hold tight. You should consider these things when stringing.
- You may want to avoid playing the mandolin with your fingers instead of a pick if you have just started to play the instrument. Mandolins are played using picks, although a few players play with their fingers. For the most part though, and particularly for beginners, we encourage you to use a pick so that you do not end up damaging your fingers. Moreover, we recommend you to use the heaviest pick you can get, and that is because if you pick a flimsy or thin pick, it may twist when hitting the strings. When the pick twists, it makes a type of lag between what you need to play and what comes out of your playing, which you certainly need to avoid so that it does not sound bad.
- Do not be confused between octave mandolins and mandocellos. You should be aware of the fact that they are not the same thing. You will end up with a different sound than you desire if you think mandocellos and mandolins are similar.
- You should not use old strings. Old strings cause tuning issues. You will see this if you use a digital tuner to tune an old string, as you will see that the string tone will not be steady. You will also see that it will be progressively hard to tune the two strings of the pair together. You need to replace mandolin strings whenever there’s any hint of rust, or when you notice an awful tone. Replacing the strings regularly is a good habit that helps you avoid any tuning issue. You should also keep in mind that; you need to choose the string type that is ideal for your mandolin.
- Do not use a cheap tuner. Cheap tuners are not great and most of the time, your mandolin will go out of tune. We do not recommend buying them. Even costly tuners will not exceed your budget, and the quality between the cheapest tuners and the best is massive. if you purchased a learner’s pack, consider replacing your starter-level tuner with a modern one.
- You should not be negligent about the positioning of the bridge for intonation. You should routinely test your mandolin’s sound by checking each string’s notes at the 12th fret and played open and ensure that they are both similar in tune. However, if they are not in tune then you may have bridge or neck issues that a music store can help you to deal with it. An ideal time to check intonation is a couple of hours after restringing your mandolin.
You should avoid doing any of the things mention above and make sure that you are playing your mandolin accurately. You may face some of the issues mentioned above but you must not lose faith and keep on learning more about the mandolin.
What You’ll Need to Tune a Mandolin
Mandolins are great at bluegrass and folk music. It is an excellent instrument and the learning process provides a lot of challenges. Like most instruments, you need to perfectly tune this mandolin if you want it to perform perfectly. You may need some accessories for getting the best out of your mandolin and so that it does not fall out of tune. Here are some of the things you will need for a mandolin or a tuning a mandolin:
For those of you who are new to mandolin, this strap is not used as you would like you were playing the guitar. You do not need it to put it over your head as you do with your guitar. With this strap, you need to use your other shoulder. Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass, played his mandolin with his strap on his correct shoulder.
This strap is at the ideal length for this style. This is a must-have accessory if you intend to play standing up. There are numerous choices of materials and hopes to suit your taste.
This tool clasps on the fretboard which allows you to raise the general pitch of the mandolin so you can play songs in keys that are higher than those they were written in.
This can be particularly helpful for artists whose vocal range is higher than the song’s standard key. Capos are available to fit the neck of the mandolin.
It is functional and totally easy to use. When you are not using it, you can hang it in the tuner peg for the lower D string.
Mandolin players use many types of which includes those made especially for the mandolin as well as guitar picks which we will get back to later in this article.
Mandolin picks can have a large impact on sound and playability of your mandolin like a bow does for a violin. A decent pick can influence your sound, volume and speed. Harder picks like 0, 70mm or thicker will, in general, sound a lot better.
Great mandolin picks are significant for general or professional mandolin players, who are concerned about their sound and how a pick responds while interacts with the approach as they attack the strings for superior playability and tone.
A high-quality tuner will make the work of tuning up your mandolin a lot simpler. A few models have a particular mode for tuning mandolins which makes the process much easier.
We recommend using electronic tuners and getting familiar with the tuning process as well. You will necessarily need to replace strings on a stringed instrument and tuning will be important to make sure you get the best sound and the longest life out of the instrument.
You will have to change your mandolin’s strings sooner or later. A new set of strings can restore the tone of a mandolin that appears to have lost its shine. Strings are made with different materials, each with their moral attributes.
Trying different strings made with various types will help you with finding a tone that is more satisfying and draws out the inborn excellence of your mandolin’s sound.
A significant difference among the mandolin strings and guitar strings is that mandolin strings have a straightforward loop on the end that wraps around a hook under the mandolin’s tailpiece.
Mandolin Cases/Gig Bags
Save your mandolin from scrapes and scratches by using a mandolin bag. They are usually important if you intend to take your mandolin out or perform at gigs.
You can buy either a hard case or a soft case for your instrument which is known as a “gig bag.” Hard cases will, in general, are very costly but they provide better protection than the cheap bags.
A great rule of thumb is to think about how much you have spent on the instrument and use that to settle on how expensive of a case you need to get for it. Nevertheless, you will need to protect the instrument from getting nicks and scratches.
These accessories are very important and will make the course of tuning your mandolin much simpler. Consider getting these if you want to have a pleasant experience with your mandolin.
If you pick the right accessories for your mandolin, you will be able to enhance your playability while having a wonderful time.
Mandolin Chromatic Tuner VS Fixed Tuner: Which One Should You Choose?
There are various kinds of electronic mandolin tuners out there. Some are cheap while some are quite costly. There are generally two kinds of tuners.
There are the tuners that produce a sound and then you tune your mandolin so that it can match that sound and with the other type of tuner, you pluck a string and then it appears on a little screen what pitch you are at and then you tune it until it matches the right note.
As a mandolin player, you will more likely want to purchase a chromatic tuner. This is the type of the tuner that can hear any pitch and reveal to you whether it is in tune or not.
Fixed tuners are mostly intended for guitars only and they can just register certain pitches. You can most likely figure out an approach to tune your mandolin with such a fixed tuner as the G strings on your mandolin are the same pitch as a G string on a guitar.
However, nowadays you can find a chromatic tuner at a similar price as or even less than a fixed tuner.
Chromatic tuner takes your signal and tells you what the note is and afterwards you can tune the string to the ideal note. A fixed tuner has a switch on it which you should preset to the note you need.
So, it makes it difficult to tune to odd notes, for example, Eb or anything outside the normal notes without needing to fret the string somewhere.
If you are confused between the two over which one to purchase, we would recommend you to purchase the Chromatic. We found them significantly more user-friendly and helpful.
Fixed tuners are not as helpful as the chromatic tuner. We believe you would find them at a good price but even if you have to pay extra, just go for it. This tuner helps in making your mandolin tuning experience easier.
Top 3 Mandolin Tuners for 2021
Mandolin tuners are significant and essential once you know How To Tune A Mandolin. Mandolin tuners correspond to each string of the mandolin to provide you with a pleasant sound.
Tuners like Chromatic tuners take your signal and tell you about the note and then you can tune to the string to that note. Mandolin tuners are handy and quite useful if you do not want your mandolin to fall out of tune.
Now without further ado, here are the top 3 mandolin tuners for 2021. We think they are excellent so you can choose the one you like.
D’Addario NS Micro Clip-On Tuner
D’Addario is an organization that specializes in accessories and also in specific accessories that are made for acoustic instruments. The NS Micro Clip-On Tuner is priced at simply over $10.
It is very easy-to-use and it clips on the mandolin perfectly. Its balance of features and affordability make it a top contender. You will not spot or hear the D’Addario’s NS Micro tuner.
You can even clip it to the backside of the mandolin’s head. This makes tuning discrete and direct and it offers you incredible reliability which is rare at this price.
Snark ST-8 Super Tight Clip-on Tuner
One of the most famous clip-on tuners around, Snark’s ST-8 has a fabulous design and it has a great reputation for instruments like the mandolin and the trumpet. Snark’s ST-8 is a well-known device and it deserves its popularity. It offers a smooth aesthetic and refined reliability at a reasonable price.
Korg TM50BK Instrument Tuner and Metronome
With regards to tuners which you can’t clip onto your instrument, Korg is one of the best when it comes to reliability and affordability.
The TM50BK provides you with the bonus of giving metronome capabilities which makes it outstanding amongst other mandolin tuners you can’t clip on.
Most mandolin players will think that it’s easier to stick with a clip-on the tuner, but if you think you will also be using a metronome more often, then the Korg TM50BK could be a good choice.
The tuners that are mentioned above, are some extraordinary tuners. All of them have their advantages and disadvantages but you will not be disappointed with any of them. We hope that you can pick the tuner from here which fits your needs. It depends on your preference.
Also, don’t forget to see our post on best mandolin for the money.
The Best Mandolin Tuner?
Though all of the mandolin tuner we have previously mentioned are great, if you want us to narrow it down to the best mandolin tuner, we believe that it depends on your preference. Based on your needs and usability, you need to decide which one fits you and you will be able to use it for a long time.
Most of the mandolin players decide to use a clip-on tuner. They are very user-friendly, unnoticeable and affordable. While each of the three tuners we mentioned in this article provides a high level of reliability, D’Addario’s NS Micro Tuner offers an unnoticeable design, simple adjustability, and easy to read screen that makes it the best mandolin tuner for your money.
However, if you pick one out of the other two, you will not regret it. They offer an excellent tuning experience and they come close to the D’Addario’s NS Micro Tuner. Snark ST-8 Super Tight Clip-on Tuner is a popular tuner so you may find it available near your location.
Korg TM50BK Instrument Tuner and Metronome is a versatile tuner but it only lacks the ability to clip-on to mandolin. All of them has their strong points, so none of them will not disappoint. We suggest you pick one based your preference and style but in our opinion, D’Addario’s NS Micro Tuner is the better option out of the three tuners. We hope that you will find your tuner from our top picks.
Can You Tune a Mandolin with a Guitar Tuner?
Generally, you should be using a tuner that is made for tuning a mandolin if you want perfect results. But in a short answer, but it is not easy all the time.
Fortunately, most guitar tuners will perceive a pitch except the octave, so a standard guitar tuner will work fine and it will get your mandolin in tune.
A guitar tuner is a gadget that gauges the frequencies delivered by vibrating strings on an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar and even a mandolin. Then it adjusts those measurements to notes on a scale.
If the frequencies coordinate a specific note, the tuner will show the name of that note on its LED display.
If you are wondering how to use a guitar tuner with a mandolin, then keep on reading. Keep in mind, these instructions will vary based on your specific model of guitar tuner but there are some general standards you should remember.
The pitches on a mandolin are higher than those on a guitar aside from the G strings, so your tuner may have some difficulty to recognize the upper strings precisely.
An electronic tuner will show a note except for the octave. So, an A on the guitar at the open fifth string will read similarly as A at the second fret of the G string.
If you have a guitar tuner, you can use that for your mandolin. Set your tuner to auto as opposed to manual, and read the notes G, D, A and E and do not use the B.
The G on the guitar is an octave plus one step lower than the A on the mandolin. Be that as it may, inside the same octave, A is higher than G for avoiding confusion. The G on the mandolin is a similar pitch as the G on the guitar, yet the other notes are possibly a couple of octaves higher than the note named similarly on a guitar.
Another trick is to try to pick the strings softly when tuning. A lot of the tuners react better to light touch over a noisy pluck. You can send a lot to the tuner and confuse it.
All things considered, you should generally tune your lower strings with the guitar tuner and tuning the rest of the strings by ear. Preparing your ear is fundamental expertise for all performers.
Believe it or not, you will able to master it in some time. You will get so used to those four notes that you will remember them immediately. Most of the players quickly figure out about how they can identify the intervals between the notes yet they do not recognize the pitches perfectly themselves.
However, tuners and tuning forks fix that issue immediately. If you want to use a guitar tuner on your mandolin, then you must improve the combination of the tuner and your ear.
A great tuner will make sure that the craft of tuning up your mandolin is significantly less complex. A couple of models has a mode that is for tuning mandolins. That makes the process of tuning a mandolin lot simpler.
We suggest you use electronic tuners. You should get acquainted with the tuning process as well. Though guitar tuners work decently with mandolin, a specific mandolin tuner (especially our top picks) will serve you best.
Mandolins developed from lute family instruments in Europe. Ancestors incorporate the gittern and mandore or mandola in Italy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
There was a range of regional variations of the mandolin, yet the two most boundless ones were the Neapolitan mandolin and the Lombardic mandolin.
The Neapolitan style has spread around the world. You will have a lot of fun playing the mandolins but keeping them in tune can be very difficult. A small mistake can get your mandolins off-tune.
Also, don’t forget to check our post on mandolin vs banjo.
If you are a beginner and you do not know How To Tune A Mandolin, you will spend most of your time in distress, so you need to know the basics of the mandolin and the proper way to tune it if you want to have a pleasant experience with the mandolin.
But the best part about mandolin tuning is that the more you do it, the simpler it becomes. A perfectly tuned mandolin can make your music sound much better. It also helps you with training your ear to the right notes.
Tuning the mandolin is very important to its general maintenance. The mandolin is somewhat, a delicate stringed instrument so you need to ensure that it is tuned appropriately.
You also need to ensure that the instrument is not tuned higher than what is ideal or you can hurt your instrument. Tuning is equivalent to that of a violin, or in the GDAE range. The placement of the bridge is crucial for ensuring that your instrument is tuned effectively.
Then take a look if it is in-place after you replace the strings or tune your mandolin if you do not want any problem with the sound quality soon.
Whether you play the mandolin or plan to play this instrument, you must figure out how to replace the strings on your instrument and tune it as it requires.
Making yourself familiar with the parts of the instrument and its activity will make usual support maintenance a lot easier.
We hope that after reading this article, you have learned how you should tune a mandolin and you are ready to take on the instrument.