How to Play Mandolin: Beginner Mandolin Lessons

How to Play Mandolin

Playing an instrument like a mandolin is a wonderful thing. But you need to know how to play mandolin well. If you crave to play an instrument, maybe guitar, flute, keyboard, or let’s say a mandolin, you need to learn it first. But the basic question is “why do you want to learn? Is it just to play, or to master over the instrument? But analytically, just playing the mandolin or other musical instruments and master over a mandolin are altogether two different things.

It is exactly like cooking. At one hand, you can cook or spontaneously prepare any kind of food to eat without knowing how to cook in a proper manner. On the other, you can join a chef course and professionally know how to cook.

Similarly, learning theoretically to play the mandolin can be preparing food without proper knowledge of cooking. However, there are musicians or mandolin players who play the mandolin pretty well without a classical knowledge of mandolin.

After all, the focus here is how to play the mandolin, and we will discuss how to play the mandolin with a bit of classical or theoretical style. To know more, you can visit wiki how.

What is a mandolin through a historical perspective?

Mandolin is a short-necked small guitar-like a musical instrument with eight strings. This instrument is descendent of the lute and is one of the earliest musical instrument used in human society.

A brief history of mandolin reveals that lute-like instruments were played 2000 years back in the Mesopotamia civilization. An Agnelo Gaddi painting aged back from 1369 to 1396 which is placed in Washington gallery shows an angel with a lute-like an instrument called mandora. The Assyrians called this instrument as Pandura and the Italians as Mandola. The Italians called the smaller Mandolas as Mandolina.

In the course of time, Mandolina or mandolin became a very popular instrument, and eminent musicians like Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan used mandolin in their blues and folk songs. Similarly, Jethro Burns and Bill Monore remarkably played the mandolin and gained name and fame.

How to choose a mandolin?

You can learn and play your preferred music in any mandolin. However, if you want to technically or classically play the genre of your choice, you will have to purchase the specific mandolin which will fit your preferred genre. It does not mean that you cannot play your preferred genre in any type of mandolin. You can still play the genre in any kind of mandolin, but mandolins are often designed to play specific genres so that it is easier for you to learn and master over the mandolin for your preferred genre.

If your quest is how to play mandolin easily within a short span and your preferred genre is bluegrass music, you need to purchase an F style mandolin which has swoopy curl near its neck. Or you can also purchase an A style teardrop shaped mandolin. Mandolins which have bowl backed shape are more convenient to play European or classical folk genres. Finally, if your preferred genre is Irish music, you should purchase a Mandola or bigger A-style mandolin.

In most string instruments, you can press four strings in playing a note while in mandolin you can press two string. This difference makes mandolin a bit difficult to learn especially for the beginners. You will experience finger pains while learning. If you purchase light strings, particularly the Martin lights which are durable and the learning would be much easier and comfortable with less finger pains.

It would be good for you to purchase a heavy pick instead of a light pick. A light pick is a rather a thinner one in comparison to a heavy pick which usually bends and so does not create or difficult to create clear sound while working out notes. To choose a mandolin, you may visit this post.

How to play mandolin – step by step instruction:

In order to technically learn the mandolin, you should take the assistance of a mandolin instrumentalist or a player. You can also search on YouTube for the term how to play mandolin. However, follow the below-mentioned step by step instructions, to begin with, the learning of your mandolin.

  • Step 1: Get the mandolin properly on your lap:

Sit down comfortably on a chair and hold the mandolin on your lap. Your right hand should be over the mandolin and fingers on the strings. Hold the neck of the mandolin by your left hand. Do not lean over the mandolin and keep yourself straight so that you can stay in the posture longer. You can also use a strap to hold the mandolin longer on your lap comfortably. In order to finger the strings by your left hand, keep the neck of the mandolin slightly upward so that while fingering you can see the strings, and easily and accurately place your fingers on the right note.

  • Step 2: Tuning of the strings:

Use a standard guitar tuner to tune the strings of your mandolin. In the case of guitar, you can tune each string separately. But in Mandolin, you will need to tune strings in pair. The needle of the mandolin tuner which should show the note you are playing. In some mandolin, light sparks when you are creating notes through the strings.

The “E” strings or the bottom strings, which play the top octave are called the “top” strings. While tuning the mandolin, the standard tuning from top to bottom should be GG, DD, AA, and EE respectively. (1)

  • Step 3: Playing the chords:

Use your pointer finger and hold the second fret on two A strings. At the same time use your ring finger and hold the third fret of the E strings. Then strum the entire 8 strings to produce G major chord. G major is the top popular chord among all other chords.

Similarly, in order to create C chord, use the pointer finger to hold the second fret of D strings and use your ring finger to hold the third fret of the A strings.

In order to create the D chord, use your pointer finger to hold the second fret of the G strings and use the ring finger to hold the second fret of E strings.

Now, keep on practicing different chords one after the other with rhythm. Once you are habituated with rhythmic chords playing, try playing your mandolin with vocal songs.

Bottom Line

The bottom line of the entire above discussion on how to play mandolin is something about mastering the art. Acquiring the art of balancing between your mind and your fingers with the mandolin instrument requires regular and continuous practice. Even if you take the assistance of an instrumentalist, you will have to definitely go through these three aspects to master over the mandolin. I hope this post ‘how to play mandolin’ will help you a lot.

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