Mandolin tuning takes time and requires finesse to narrow in on the correct pitch. Good thing there are different tuning methods to make your mandolin always in tune! One way is so easy that you’ll be an mandolin tuning expert in no time.
What Is the Standard Mandolin Tuning?
The standard mandolin-tuning is similar to tuning a violin, from low to high, G-D-A-E. But since the mandolin has eight strings, you will have to tune each pair of strings to the same pitch. Therefore, the standard tuning of a mandolin is G-G-D-D-A-A-E-E.
You can also opt for alternate tuning. You can adjust it to G-D-G-B, G-D-G-D, A-D-A-E or G-D-A-D. You can also tune the strings lower by an equal amount while still maintain a relationship between them.
How Is a Mandolin Tuned?
When tuning a mandolin, you should start by identifying the tuners that correspond to each string. Then, you should tune your mandolin starting from the lowest pitch and moving to the highest pitch. Keep in mind that you should always tune the strings in pairs.
Generally, there are different ways to tune a mandolin.
Using Tuning Fork
A tuning fork is a fork-shaped acoustic resonator. You will need to hold the tuning fork between your forefinger and thumb and knock it against your knee. Then, you should place the fork’s base on the bridge and listen to the tone. It is often best to tune up because you can adjust and tune down your string if it is sharp.
Tuning to Another Instrument
You can tune your mandolin to other instruments like a guitar. Play a D on the G string at the 7th fret, then play your D string. Keep adjusting the pitch of the D string till it matches that of a G string at the 7th fret. Repeat this process for every higher string. In tuning, the chords of a mandolin are similar to that of a guitar but in reverse.
Experienced musicians will find this more manageable, but this is not advisable if you are a beginner. Instead, use a tuner. If you can recognize different pitches without a reference point, tune the G strings together and ensure their pitch matches. Repeat the same for the other strings.
Using Mandolin Tuners
As a mandolin player, you need a tuner. There are several tuners you can select from. Often, chromatic tuners are the best choice because they can hear any pitch and let you know whether or not it is in tune. Below are some of the best mandolin tuners.
1. Korg TM60 – Top mandolin tuner
This Korg TM60 mandolin tuner is smaller than a smartphone, and while its style is old school, the updates made to it are modern. The display screen is super easy to read since it is large and backlit. It also comes with a microphone that can tune applications where an input jack cannot work.
It covers C1-C8, and you can set it to calibrate against a different instrument. It has a metronome that covers 30-252 BPM. You will always be in tune.
- Small and excellent tuner
- The metronome covers a lot of rhythms
- Intuitive and beginner-friendly
- Vibration microphone is efficient even in a noisy environment
2. Kliq Ubertuner
This tuner from Kliq has an excellent display. When you turn it on, the color display is bright. You can even adjust the viewing angle so you do not have to squint or put the mandolin’s neck in front of your face.
Another worthy feature of this mandolin tuner is its three adjustment points. This feature lets you position your screen to fit the stringed instrument you are playing. It is convenient, accurate, and affordable, with an adjustable pitch calibration from 430-450Hz.
- It is easy to use
- Bright and easy-to-read display
- Three different adjustment points
- Buttons are a bit on the small size, so it would be best to familiarize yourself with them before getting on stage.
3. Snark SN-8 Super Tight All Instrument Tuner
Just like the Kliq Ubertuner, the Snark SN-8 has an exceptional display. The only difference is the extra features. The Snak tuner comes with a metronome and a transpose tuning feature that allows you to adjust the fret you want. Most importantly, this Snark model can detect the slightest flat. It also comes with a battery-saving feature, which is quite convenient.
- Affordable mandolin tuner
- Easy to operate
- Includes a metronome
- You can turn it on or off at the click of a button
Made from plastic
How to Tune a Mandolin
There is no specific approach to tuning a mandolin. There are different ways, and over time you will find what works for you. Below are a few step-by-step methods you can try and select one that suits you best.
With a Tuning Fork
- Purchase an “A” tuning fork.
- Start by placing its base on the bridge ad paying attention to the note. It helps to tune high. That way, you can tune your string down to the right note if it is sharp.
- Tune a single A string first, then tune its pair and ensure that they match perfectly.
- Once you are done tuning the A strings, use them to tune the other strings.
- Tune the D string next. Ensure your finger is at the 7th fret on the D string, and it gives the same note as the open A string. Remember to tune a single string then match the pair.
- As you repeat the same process with the E, then G string, ensure that your finger is at the 7th fret. Always use the 7th fret because the relationship between the pair of strings is the same on the mandolin.
- Once you are through, check all the strings again. You may have to make some adjustments, but they will be small.
With Another Instrument
- If you intend to tune your mandolin successfully, start by confirming the intonation is great. Ensure that the bridge is set up correctly if the intonation is not good.
- You can use a different instrument like a piano or guitar to tune your mandolin. Start by listening to the reference instrument to acquaint your ear with the pitch.
- Next, tune the first string to the reference sound until it matches. It often helps to tune a single string before tuning the pair. So ensure you tune the first string of each pair first.
- If you are using a guitar, the highest strings on a guitar have the same pitch as the lowest string on a mandolin. Therefore, the second-highest string on a guitar will correspond with the second-lowest on a mandolin.
- Tune all the pairs and ensure that each pair is in tune with the other.
- Ensure you double-check your tuning by repeating the same process when you are done.
With a Tuner
This may vary depending on the tuner you are using. Generally,
- Turn on your tuner
- Check the intonation and, if necessary, rightfully adjust the bridge• It helps that you start tuning with the G string. Therefore, tune one of your G strings to the tuner’s sound.
- Once they match, tune the other G string to match the sound of the first G string.
- Next, adjust the other string pairs and ensure they are in line with the G strings.
- Play all your strings to confirm they are in tune. If they are not, repeat the process until you are satisfied.
When tuning your mandolin by ear you can use an app or other instrument as your reference point. However, in the case where none is available, tune it to itself. And, it would be best to familiarize yourself with the standard tuning because it comes in handy, and your ear can easily recognize a high pitch.
- Always start by playing your G strings when tuning by ear. Strum a single sting first to hear the tune. You can tighten or loosen it till it is perfect.
- Repeat this with the other string and ensure that both strings sound the same.
- Once you have tuned the G strings, follow the same process with the other strings.
- Once you are done double check the tuning by repeating the process.
7 Tips for Easy Mandolin Tuning
Tuning your mandolin may seem like a daunting task at first, but you will get the hang of it over time. Listed below are some tips for getting your mandolin in tune.
- Purchase a tuner that you can clip onto your mandolin
- Invest in a high-quality tuner
- Ensure you change your strings regularly
- Always tune from way down
- Do not go too high to avoid breaking your strings
- Check your octaves
- Use a rest stroke
Mandolin Tuning Frequently Asked Questions
Is Mandolin Tuning the Same as Guitar?
No, it is not the same. However, in reverse, it can be, since the highest strings on a guitar have a similar pitch to the lowest strings on a mandolin.
Can I Use a Guitar Tuner for a Mandolin?
Yes, you can use a guitar tuner for a mandolin. However, it is not easy to recognize specific pitches, but you can figure it out.
What Kind of Tuner Should I Use for My Mandolin?
A clip-on tuner would be an excellent choice since they are affordable, inconspicuous, and easy to use. It would help to ensure that the tuner you get is chromatic.
Mandolin tuning is one of the significant challenges that you will face as a player. There is no need to panic or be discouraged because professionals also struggle now and then. There are different ways of tuning, so find one that works for you and keep practicing. Remember to invest in a high-quality tuner.