View Full Version : Tuning a mandolin like a guitar

04-03-2007, 05:35 PM
I just got re-aquainted w/my Japanese made Epiphone A style mandolin. I have always wanted to re-string it to the Tommy Tedesco studio tuning which is like the top 4 strings of the gtr E B G D as opposed to E A D G. I doubt that I would try to tune up the standard A strings to B's for fear of breakage. Also, I doubt the D and G strings are swappable as the standard G is a heavier gauge string than the D. The mando takes loop end strings.

Any suggestions on pre-packaged sets that are set for gtr tuning or better yet individual gauges of strings?? Any ideas on a supplier for loose mandolin strings?? Thanks...

04-03-2007, 07:32 PM
Any ideas on a supplier for loose mandolin strings?? Thanks...

www.juststrings.com (http://www.juststrings.com) sells singles.


04-04-2007, 11:14 PM
you can certainly do that, but it will be awfully hard to play. look at how many guitar chords are within the span of two or three frets. now look at how close those mando frets are to each other. there's a reason mandolins are tuned in 5ths and guitars are tuned in 4ths, and it involves chord spacing vs. hand size. believe it or not, it would be a lot less work to just learn some mandolin chords.

04-05-2007, 06:18 AM
I tend to agree with Walter. Once you learn the chord/scale patterns on a fifths tuned instrument, it becomes very easy to transpose. For a guy like Tedesco, who'l mainly playing single lines and double stops, it makes great sense to retune to a guitar standard, as then he can READ sheet music easily. If that's your purpose, then by all means. BUT, if you're wanting to learn mando, it's really best to just learn how to do it.

Changing string gauges to fit the tuning is really no big deal though. A small pair of dykes will cut the ball ends out of regular guitar strings.

Jon C
04-05-2007, 06:56 AM
as a guitar player of 40 or so yrs. who just picked up mandolin 2 yrs. ago I think I agree on not going to guitar tuning unless you're just going to play single note lines & double stops... the chords are tricky but easy enough to get down in basics, and you really need that room on the tiny mando fretboard. I love playing the mandolin, as rudimentary as I am at it, and it was not too hard to pick up.

There's a good basic mandolin book put out by Alfred publishing, the author is Greg Horne. I know of him/them through my yrs. at the National Guitar Workshop. It's a great book to help you get going and then some on mandolin.

Here's just one source for it:


04-05-2007, 08:05 AM
I play mandolin a bit and just think of the mandolin as the lowest four strings of a guitar turned upside down.

04-05-2007, 05:28 PM
Thanks to everyone for your input. I do agree w/the general consensus regarding just learning to deal w/the mando tuning. When I first got the instrument 20 or so years ago I really took the time to learn it by using the proper, standard tuning but I havent even looked at this instrument in many years. It was stored at my parents house and became forgotten over time. I just got it back. I think I will just buy some new strings and re-learn the tuning.

The mando itself is a really beautiful Epiphone Japanese made instrument. It is done up in a Gibson tri-color sunburst and matches my '76 335. The quality is great. The neck is very very narrow and the tuners are so so but all in all it has a real pretty sound. Its even in a Epi chipboard case and looks brand spanking new. Im glad to have it back as my father actually bought it for himself and now its finally passed on to me.

04-05-2007, 05:54 PM
Honestly, I think once you kind of internalize the standard mandolin tuning, you'll find it makes a lot of sense. Although I've only played the mando for about 6 months, there are relatively few things I think are easier to play on the guitar than the mando (string bending doesn't count :D) The "trick" to making things work on the mando is getting that pinky involved -- without it, you are starting from a pretty deep hole.

04-05-2007, 09:42 PM
I play mandolin a bit and just think of the mandolin as the lowest four strings of a guitar turned upside down.

I like to think of it as a very small dyslexic guitar, or better yet, a dyslexic bass... ;)