Is mandolin easy to learn

The most important chords for mandolin

Song accompaniment made easy on the mandolin

(Image: © shutterstock / Von: LuismiCSS)

The mandolin is all the rage and hip like seldom before. What is a real bluegrass or folk song without the charismatic sound of this extraordinary instrument. Not only does it cut a fine figure in a joint session with acoustic guitar or ukulele, it is also perfect for accompanying songs on hot summer days by the campfire. For this you have to have the most important chords ready.

But before you can start, we would like to give you a few tips on correct posture and gripping technique, because with them it starts much easier and faster. Even experienced guitar players often complain that the mandolin is difficult to play, with the small distance between the strings and the high string tension due to the double stringing being major hurdles. It is actually quite simple, and if you heed the following points, you will also achieve quick successes on the mandolin.

Harness & Posture

A belt pin is already installed ex works on many models. So why not use a belt right from the start? This makes the whole thing a lot easier. After all, the gripping hand - as the name suggests - is there to grasp the chords and not to constantly hold up the neck. With F-style mandolins you can attach the other end of the strap to the snail on the body and with A-style mandolins you can simply wrap it around the headstock using a thin ribbon. In general, the instrument should not hang horizontally in front of the body, but the headstock should look upwards at an angle of approx. 30 ° - 40 °. This makes strumming over the strings and playing chords much easier for the gripping hand. The strap stabilizes the mandolin and our gripping hand has maximum freedom to position the fingers correctly over the fingerboard, whereby we are right on the next point, namely the correct fingering.

Correct grip and short fingernails

We actually have very little space on the fingerboard. The double stringing of the mandolin means that we have to push the pair of strings with much more force for the chords than with a normal guitar. Fans of the 12-string acoustic guitar know what I'm talking about. In order for this to work, we have to make sure that we press the string pairs on the respective fret with the fingertip and that we do not accidentally dampen the string pair next to it. Not at all easy, but if the finger hits the fingerboard at a right angle, it is much easier. The prerequisite for this, however, are short fingernails on the gripping hand. The thumb brings the necessary pressure on the neck and lies on the back. You can often see that players apply the necessary pressure to the back of their necks with the entire ball of their hands. In the beginning, don't be surprised if your fingers hurt after a short while. A layer of callous skin has to form first, but that happens very quickly, and if you pick up the mandolin every day, you will make progress very quickly.


The action of the strings is the most important criterion when it comes to the playability of mandolins. If this is poorly set, playing becomes a torture, even on fine instruments. If you buy a mandolin for the first time and have major problems grasping the strings, it is most likely because the strings are too high. This creates frustration and it is not uncommon for newcomers to be so deterred by these initial negative experiences that the mandolin either collects dust in the attic or finds its way back to the dealer. A very well adjusted instrument, on the other hand, is much easier to play and even a very cheap mandolin is a lot of fun right from the start if the strings are right. Some models come from the factory with an excellent string action, others unfortunately do not. If in doubt, it is best to have a guitar technician or luthier check the instrument again.

The right pick

We can make it a little easier not only for our gripping hand, but also for our striking hand. In general, you play the mandolin with a pick. There is an almost endless selection of different shapes, sizes and strengths. In general, the softer the pick, the less resistance it will develop on the strings. On the one hand, this means that the upstroke and downstroke are very easy to handle, but the strings are much less vibrated. Result: the instrument is significantly quieter and less voluminous. A strong pick increases the volume and makes the mandolin sound much more differentiated. Be sure to try different picks, e.g. a mixed set with different thicknesses from 0.46 mm to 1.14 mm. There are also picks with different strengths on every corner, e.g. from Herdim. These also have a very pointed shape, which is why the feel of playing with them is completely different. Incidentally, there are also picks made of different materials such as horn, wood, metal, etc ... Try your best across the range. Start with different strengths and then you can experiment with other shapes and materials. Not only the sound, but also the playability will be noticeably different and you are sure to find your favorites quickly.

Hard strummings

Every beginning is difficult and, especially at the beginning, some chords will not turn out completely clean. It takes some practice. To make the mandolin sound better, you can experiment with the velocity of your right hand. Especially when a chord is not fingered very cleanly and perhaps a pair of strings is completely muted, the mandolin still sounds better if we strike the strings with a lot of self-confidence. A strong attack simply gets more out of the instrument. Also try out the position of the stop. A little closer to the bridge or neck, maybe even above the fingerboard. The playability and the sound will differ significantly.

I hope the tips will help you and you will feel like trying out the mandolin. So that you can get started right away, we have summarized the most important chords for mandolin for you. By the way, you can find out which model is best for you in ourPurchase advisor for mandolin.

And you stay mobile with our complete fingering chart, which is available for download. Print them out or download them to your tablet / smartphone.

The most important chords for mandolin - PDF download