The mandolin is quite a unique instrument in itself, as being classified as a string instrument, it’s actually (and quite obviously) much more than just a simple guitar.
Quite a lot of musicians like to add some depth and life to their pieces, which they often achieve by experimenting on different instruments, string, percussion, or wind, and unsurprisingly, the mandolin is often a top pick for musicians looking to take music to a whole other level.
That being said, amateur mandolin players frequently find it challenging and vexing to tune their instrument properly, given that it has quite a unique structure.
However, this article aims exactly to help amateur mandolin players (which is most likely why you’re here) by giving several options on how to get the right pitches for the mandolin.
Structurally, mandolins can be very intimidating at first glance, especially since it looks nowhere near similar to an average guitar, what with all the strings placed at different intervals.
However, that same structure of the mandolin is exactly why it produces such a rich tone full of depth, as the paired strings create a fatter tone as compared to most other string instruments.
The paired strings will be very easy to tackle in the tuning process, as all you have to do is tune each string to the right pitch and match it with its pair, unlike guitars which you have to tune each string to a different pitch.
The strings closer to each other will be tuned to the same pitch, and while this means that the standard mandolin will only play four pitches, this also means that it’s faster to tune and helps you focus on the kind of sound you’d like to come from the instrument.
Using Tuning Devices
These days, all kinds of tuning devices, traditional or electronic, can be used to tune a mandolin.
However, the question lies in exactly how to use the devices to tune the strings of the mandolin to the right pitch.
This section of the article covers some of the different methods and devices you can use to tune your mandolin, and exactly how to use them to get just the right pitch setup.
Electronic tuners are widely used by guitar players to tune their own instruments, but some of these tuners can be actually quite nifty when it comes to tuning your mandolin.
Programmable and customizable electronic tuners are the handiest for mandolin players like you, as you can easily set it to have a custom tuning or the tuner itself can have a preset that helps you tune your mandolin.
Typically, electronic tuners have a scale that adjusts whenever you pluck a string, and depending on how the tuner was programmed, the direction at which the scale moves will help you determine whether you should tighten or loosen your knob.
A clip-on tuner is another device that can be very useful to mandolin players when used correctly and properly, as it can easily be clipped to the headstock of the mandolin and you will be free to use both hands to tune each string to perfection.
Simply attach the clip-on tuner to the headstock of your mandolin, and start plucking the strings to achieve the right pitch you’re looking for, and remember to match the pitch of the paired strings!
The more advanced clip-on tuners will actually have an LCD display, which is wonderful when working in a room with extra-low light, as you can easily see the pitch you’re getting without having to strain your eyes.
Online tuners are just another marvel of the internet, and as long as you have an internet connection at the ready, these tuners are completely free.
However, you will need to have a good ear for music, as most – if not all – online tuners are not programmed to capture the sound of your mandolin.
Rather, online tuners have options that let you play the pitch you desire, and it would be up to you then how you can precisely match the pitch coming from the website to the pitch coming from your mandolin.
While there are tuning applications that work very similarly to online tuning websites, there are quite a lot that also work by using your microphone to help get your mandolin to the right pitch.
If you find a good application with highly reliable reviews, then you should download it, but many of the high-quality and legitimate apps can come with a price, whereas some other free apps (which can still be reliable) may have ads pop up as you use the service.
Drop D Tuning
Drop D tuning is a sort of customized tuning setup that allows you to play deeper and “darker” tones that are good for a lot of rock or metal songs.
While there are different kinds of drop d tuning you can find all over the internet, we found that the best pitch setup is D – A – D – G, starting from the bottom pair of strings going up.
Knowing how to tune a guitar to drop D will absolutely be helpful to get your mandolin a drop D tuning, as this will allow you to easily set up your strings in such a way that you still have a lot of options when playing while getting that deeper tone.
There are other methods that you can use to tune your mandolin, but it would be much more complicated than using online tuners, as you would need a high skill of deciphering notes and pitches by yourself.
However, the longer you play the mandolin, the more sensitive your ears get to hearing changes in the pitch of your strings.
So, keep playing the mandolin, and don’t give up!
Not a single person on this planet can master anything in just a single go, be they amateurs or professionals; there’s no need for you to pressure yourself into getting it right away! Enjoy playing!