What I'd like to do is tune it like the top 4 strings of a guitar (D,
G, B, E - low to high). I'm sorry if this offends anyone. But I've got
over 20 years of guitar experience and I'm set in my ways. I'm having
a really hard time with standard tuning.
I've tried using guitar tuning already, but the strings are either way
too lose or too tight. What gauge strings do I need? I don't want to
damage the neck or break strings.
Please respond by email (drzo...@yahoo.com). Any help will be greatly
personally I feel this defeats the whole reason to play mandolin
but in looking at your desired notes
the mandolin is standard tuned to gdae
so 3 of the four notes are alredy available
just put the "d" mando strings where the "g: ones would go and the "g" ones
where the "D" ones would go
the highest is already a e
and I am sure the "a" would tune up to a "B" with little risk
or look at string sets made for the madochello or possbly octave mandolin
call "Just Strings " and ask them
find them at
whi;e your there you might just find the tip that opens up standard mando
Turn it upside down and play with opposite hands...thus... the top
strings will be the bottom string notes of a guitar.
My idea is dumber then yours.....Ha Ha
Guitarists are no alone in using alternate tunings. Experiment all you
want, just rememer to share with the group when you find something
that works well.
"personally I feel this defeats the whole reason to play mandolin"
Hmmm.. I think the purpose of playing the mandolin is to make music,
not to see how it sounds tuned in 4ths going 1 direction or 5ths going
I play Banjo and use 4 different tunings. I also play guitar and use 7
different tunings depending on if I play bluegrass, gypsy jazz, folk
or Delta Slide. I also play mandolin but have only explored the
The whole idea of different tunings is to explore what you and your
instrument can do. I am sure if you tried to tell Bela Fleck that he
can only use one banjo tuning, you might find yourself walking funny
with an extra 35 lbs of wood and nickel in the wrong place. Mary
McCaslin would have never been able to produce the fantastic guitar
music she does if she stuck to the standard E-A-G-B-D-E tuning.
I certainly understand that it is personal relationship between you
and your instrument but why limit yourself to a single tuning.
Ever tried Blackbird on the guitar in open tuning? Have a tab given to
me by Howard Yearwood in Los Angeles - Fantastic!
Leo Kottke loves open tunings.
Don't even want to think what Jorma Kaukonen would think about this.
On Tue, 25 Sep 2007 07:52:03 -0500, Leonardo <s...@centurytel.net>
Jack of all tunings, master of none?
I've been doing this for years...in the opposite direction. I build an
instrument that allows the violinist/mandolin player to get that
electric-guitar sound more easily: http://thoxbui.com/octavemandolin/
The most efficient way (i.e., least trial-and-error way) to find the
correct string gauge is to google for "string tension charts or
calculators" and compare the numbers.
But there are many others.
There is a really nice string tension calculator at
Using it I came up with the following information;
A mandolin with Gibson's 14.125" scale length, in standard (EADG)
tuning, using standard gauge strings (.011 Plain, .014 Plain,.025
wound, and .041 wound has 180.6 pounds of string tension.
Using the string tension calculator above I did some trial and error
and came up with the following specs to allow you to maintain the
correct string tension when you tune your mandolin to EBGD, like the
first four strings of a guitar. .011 Plain strings for the high E, .
013 Plain strings for the second or B strings, .018 PLAIN strings for
the third or G strings, and .052 wound strings for the fourth or D
strings. The calculator indicates that this will give you virtually
the same string tension at 180.62 pounds. And it keeps the tension on
each of the strings within 1.5 pounds of "standard" so you won't have
ultra tight or floppy strings to contend with.
The string slots in the nut and saddle will need to be widened (and
possibly spread slightly) to accomodate the new fourth strings.
I hope this helps and Good Luck!
There is a really nice string tension calculator at
think how ever you like, its a big world.
Comparing banjo and guitar, with their many respective tunings, to
mandolin is to disregard the most obvious difference (with respect to
tuning): scale length. If you go back to the fiddle family, you find
that fiddles, violas and cellos are all tuned in 5ths, and bass is
tuned in 4ths. Has to do with scale length. With the mando, the most
common tuning is in 5ths, simply because of the short scale length.
Even altered mando tunings generally retain some semblance of tuning
There's no law that says you can't tune a mando in 4ths, like a
guitar; you won't lose your citizenship, and the mandolin police won't
come to arrest you. In fact, Tommy Todesco used to play studio gigs
with a mando tuned like a guitar. BUT, if you go that way, you do tend
to give up some of what makes a mandolin sound like a mandolin. And
you also give up a lot of range.
Just my thoughts
Er, that low D looks wrong to me. The 4th string in his desired guitar
tuning, D, should the same as the third string (D) in mando tuning, 0.025.
Anyway, Tommy Tedesco's gauges for a mandolin in guitar tuning are:
E-.010, B-.012, G-.018 and D- .024
I wouild start off with that and then beef up the E and B after you
get used to the double courses.
Use a 12 string guitar capoed up on the fifth fret and play the DD GG
AA EE strings using guitar chords.
Learning mandolin chords is really not to difficult. I have tended to
use the concept of barre chords from the guitar to assist in my
arranging on the mandolin. So for a E chord I use the D chord shape
and use a barre on the 2nd fret. The music I play tends to use a lot
of sus 2 and sus 4 chords, so using barre chords has helped for sight
reading music/chord charts on the mandolin. I tend to like open
strings, so I generally will use a chord if it has an open string in
the arrangement, unless I am looking for a more percussive sound.
Then I tend to look towards more bluegrass style chord forms.
Our songwriter tends to like chords like Bb, Ab, Gb, Eb, etc...Which
has really caused me to stretch my comfort zone. This has crossed
over to guitar and allowed greater ease in playing chords before that
would have been impossible to play.
The last time we learned a song with "alot of mandolin" on it, it
turned out to be a guitar capoed up, when I went back and listened to
Half the fun is seeing what works and what doesn't.
I believe you should be able to tune any confounded instrument to
anything you want. There is a simple solution to all this. Get two
sets of banjo strings (probably medium) with the loop ends already
there a string the thing up. The scale of a mandolin is near about
half the scale of a banjo, so you could tune it one octave up with no
trouble. Admittedly, you have to stretch those high D strings just a
bit more to get to an E, but I've done it enough times on a banjo that
I know it works. If that seems too tight for you, get the banjo light
strings or lossen the whole thing back on whole step (two frets).
You can use a 5 string pakage or look for plectrum sets. I break
enough high strings anyway that having a couple of extras is no big
And yes, the scale is really short and doing this cuts back the
overall range of the instrument. But that is none of my business. I
have an eight string tenor uke and you are more or less doing the same
Dr. Jim Lowther
> I'm a long-time guitarist who'd like to play a few songs on mandolin.
> I have an inexpensive, but playable A-style mandolin with standard
> gauge strings.
Ok so far...
> What I'd like to do is tune it like the top 4 strings of a guitar (D,
> G, B, E - low to high). I'm sorry if this offends anyone. But I've got
> over 20 years of guitar experience and I'm set in my ways. I'm having
> a really hard time with standard tuning.
Not offended, amazed. Seems a waste. Mandolins are easier to play than
guitars. The tuning is regular fifths, no exceptions. Chords are different
than guitar, but not more difficult than guitar. And for lots of them all
you need are two fingers! See McCartney's "Dance Tonight."
> I've tried using guitar tuning already, but the strings are either way
> too lose or too tight. What gauge strings do I need? I don't want to
> damage the neck or break strings.
Buy one of those spectacularly silly Gibson things that are shaped like a
mandolin but tuned eadgbe an octave above a guitar
I guess you can't teach an old "doc" new tricks. ;-)
Hey Raf how ya doing?
Naw, I was trying to keep the total string tension the same so there
wouldn't be neck problems. Using .024 or .025 for the fourth strings
certainly sounds more sensable but means that you'll have a lot less
tension overall. Maybe with such a short neck it might not make a lot
of difference to the neck adjustment but I'd expect less volume with
less string tension and Rich mentioned that he already tried tuning
the normal strings like a guitar and some were too floppy to play.
Hmmm . . . maybe he could tune the forth string up another octive,
kind of like the fifth string on a banjo. Might sound interesting!
What the heck, try it both ways.
As someone else in this thread said, the purpose of the instrument is
to make music, so get there any way that works for you.
Dave's calculations for string gauges look good to me.
Another suggestion: if standard guitar gauges are too sloppy, you can
tune the whole thing up a little bit, so that it's like a guitar
capoed at the fifth fret.
Of course, if standard mandolin tuning confuses you, that would
probably confuse you even more.
Wade Hampton Miller
I agree. I played guitar for forty years before attacking the mando. I
found it remarkably easy to learn the basics, simple chords and scales.
I'm not saying the mandolin is a simple instrument, and refinements,
such as the essential tremulo, take a lot of work; however, IMO, a
guitar player can learn the instrument easily.
My experience also. In fact, I found the mando easier. So much, that I now
consider myself a mando player that also plays guitar. So I wouldn't rule
out giving regular mando tuning another try. Other than that, there have
been many good ideas mentioned for string gauges to get the tuning you
desire. Either way, it's all good.