How to Tune a Mandolin

The Mandolin is a remarkable fretted instrument that can play a variety of musical styles: old-time, bluegrass, rock and roll, folk, and indie. No matter which style you play, you’ll need to know how to tune your mandolin to have the best sound. 

Getting to Know Your Mandolin Instrument

Whether you have a new, used, or vintage mandolin, your instrument will probably follow a similar tuning system, with 8 strings and 8 tuning heads. The mandolin might look a little more confusing than, say, a guitar. A mandolin has 8 strings in pairs of two arranged along the neck. The pairs share the same note, meaning that your strings, tuned from low to high, should play these notes: GG DD AA EE. If you are familiar with the violin, you might recognize this pattern.

Each of the 8 strings are attached on the tailpiece and on the headstock to a tuner, and they are grouped in pairs as mentioned above, with the notes going from low to high (same as a violin) GGDDAAEE.

Before you start tuning, make sure your instrument has all 8 strings attached to all 8 tuning heads. We recommend a clip-on tuning device for ease and accuracy, though smartphone app tuners may work, too. If you’re missing any of these parts, check out our tuning devices or contact us at and we’ll find you everything you need to start playing your mandolin.


Tuning Your Mandolin

Now that you’re ready to tune your mandolin, you can pluck the lowest string (the one closest to you when you are holding your instrument on your lap) and see what note registers on your tuner. Remember that your two low strings are G notes, so you’ll want to tune both of those to G. Remember: the tuning head is what allows you to change the note of your string. You can begin by gently turning the tuning head and then plucking the note to see if the tuner has noticed a change in either direction. Most often, turning your tuning head counterclockwise will result in a higher note, but whoever strung your mandolin may have set it otherwise. Keep in mind that the notes sit on a scale that looks like this: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and then starting at A again. If your low string is playing an E you will want to tighten it until you get to G, and if it is playing an A, try loosening it to get down to a G. If your mandolin’s strings feel too loose to play or too tight to keep turning, try going in the other direction to get to your desired note. Complete the same process for each string and you’ll successfully tune your mandolin!

Stop By and See Us at Elderly Instruments

If you have any questions feel free to give us a call at 517-372-7880 or email us at

If you’re looking to take your mandolin game further, we sell new, used, and vintage mandolins, instructional books as well as mandolin accessories and gear.

Contact us to learn more.
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