How to Play Mandolin

Mandolins are different from acoustic guitars and ukuleles, they have a sharper and more vibrant tone. Mandolins are an extension of the ancient lute, however, it is not a modern instrument either. Mandolins were a popular instrument in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, in the 20th-century mandolin’s popularity grew after being featured in Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan’s blues and folk songs recordings. 

However, Mandolin has also been played in a diverse category of musical genres. If you are captivated by Mandolins, enjoy listening to its tune, and want to learn how to play Mandolin read our article. Get to know all about their basic playing styles, rhythm, and chords and many more. Stay tuned!

First Five Basic Mandolin Tunes

To learn how to play any musical instrument at first you need to listen to its tune. You can start by listening to your favorite tunes over and over again until you have memorized them.

For Mandolin, you need to start by listening to the first five basic tunes by ear. You need to hear them both in bluegrass jam and old time sessions. You need to be comfortable in all the Mandolin keys starting from A to D. Picking these up will help you pick up other mandolin techniques easily. 

1. Cluck Old Hen

‘Cluck Old Hen’ may sound like an old time melody, but it is one of the most important and basic mandolin tunes. ‘Cluck Old Hen’ is a standard tune of the ‘A-key’ of bluegrass and old-time jam. This melody helps beginners learn and grasp the standard fingering position to play Mandolin.

2. Old Joe Clark

‘Old Joe Clark’ is another favorite jam that is still played at get-together parties all around the world. Learning how to play ‘Old Joe Clark’ helps you learn how to learn fiddle tine typical rhythm. You will also get batter at ‘shuffle-bow’ rhythm.

3. Chinquapin Hunting

‘Chinquapin Hunting’ is another old filled that will help you learn the keys of D. You will be able to grasp the major D scale and also learn the basic of A and G cords. ‘Chinquapin Hunting’ tune also helps people learn the sample strum/bass pattern that helps you to play and pick up other tunes too

4. Angeline the Baker

Perhaps you know about ‘Angeline the baker’ as it is a popular tune that is known by most instrumentalists. ‘Angeline the baker’ helps beginners learn the keys of D. It will also help you learn important notes with down-strokes. Learning how to play this helps musicians learn how to play in a steady temp.

5. Squirrel Hunters

‘Squirrel Hunters’ has a typical modal sound. This piece helps beginners learn how to smoothly slide into playing melody tunes and damp notes. It also helps them improve their rhythmic accent.

Where and How to Start?

If you are looking for hands-on training you should take private Mandolin lessons from a tutor. However, if you want to practice on your own there are several apps, books, and YouTube lessons to help you learn how to play Mandolin. 


If you want to learn Mandolin, all its techniques, and other details, you should start studying about Mandolin methods by reading books. 

  • Mandolin Method Book 1 – This book has been written by the famous mandolinist Richard DelGrosso. It helps beginners grasp the necessary skills like reading musical notes, understanding the perfect tone etc. 
  • Mandolin Cafe – If you are stuck on a note, or how to play a specific tune you will get all the answers in this book’s forum section.
  • Dead Man’s tuning – This book particularly helps beginners learn the tunes of the mandolin. It also helps you grasp alternate tunings too.
  • Mandolin for Dummies – If you are looking for a wide comprehensive introduction in Mandolin, this would be the perfect book for you to improve your playing. 


If you want to learn Mandolin from watching tutorials in YouTube channels we suggest you check these channels out:-

Mandolin Tabs: - Contains many Mandolin songs of various genres

Tergal14:- Helps newbies learn Mandolin slowly, going through all the basics, and has 2 tutorials every month.

David Hansen: - If you want to cover more mandolin tunes in a month you can try this YouTube channel. It teaches 4 lessons every month. 

Mike On the mandolin: - If you want to take free mandolin lessons, this is the perfect channel to start learning from.

Online Courses:

If you are looking for online courses that will teach you how to play mandolin check these out:-

1)  Peghead Nation

You will learn the basics of Mandolin and all the various mandolin playing styles from this course. If you want to learn Irish, Monroe, or other styles you can take this course. 

2) Mando Lessons 

If you are a beginner, then this is a perfect online course to start get your tutorials from. Their courses contain all fundamentals, basic skills, technique, and soon teach you advanced skills from different genres.

3) Mandolin Compass 

If you are someone from a different background with no prior knowledge to music or mandolin playing styles this is the perfect site for you. You will find lessons here for newbies, intermediate, and professional mandolinists.  

4) Mandozine 

This course has plenty of videos to teach you all about cords, rhythms, and tunes. It provides learners with samples and videos of how to play mandolin properly. You will learn how to improve your mistakes and know about in-depth music here.

There are also several apps available in both iTunes and Android that will help you how to play the mandolin. We would recommend you check Chord app for mandolin lessons.

Bottom Line

Now that you have read this article, you should know where to start from. Learning how to play Mandolin does not require any extra skills or talents. Start today and soon you will become a player worthy of covering the toughest tunes. 

Also Read: Active VS Passive Pickups. 

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