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Mandolin tunings

Page history last edited by Andrew Alder 12 years ago

Neopolitan mandolin


Eight strings in four courses, this is what people normally mean when they just say mandolin.


  • g g - d'  d' - a'  a' - e' ' e' '


Its tuning and scale length are similar to a violin.


Older tunings

The neopolitan mandolin was named, of course, after Naples. There were other historical varieties.


Historical four-course mandolins

These included four-string, twelve-string and sixteen-string types.


Historical six-course mandolins

These include Milanese, Lombard and Brescian.



Newer tunings

Newer tunings have principally been for solid-body electric mandolins, sometimes known as mandocasters, and are based on the neopolitan tuning. There are three reasonably common varieties: four, five and eight string.


There has never been an instrument officially named the Mandocaster. The Telecaster-based electric mandolin by Fender was always called the Fender Electric Mandolin. But the name stuck, not just to it but to all solid-body mandolins.



  • g - d'  - a'  - e' '


  • c - g - d'  - a'  - e' '

This five-string tuning was popularised by Tiny Moore. His first five-stringer was built by Paul Bigsby in 1952.


Eight-string mandocasters are tuned straight neopolitan. And there's an obvious tuning for a ten-stringer there, but possibly no takers yet!




Other registers

There are many other sizes of acoustic mandolin, used particularly in mandolin orchestras and other mando combos.



Also known as the tenor mandola in Europe, or the alto mandola. Scale length is about 16.5 inches (420 mm).


  • c c - g g - d' d' - a' a'  (just like a coursed viola)



Octave mandolin

Also known as the octave mandola or mandole. Scale length 17 inches (430 mm) to 21 inches (530 mm), and typically about 20 inches (500 mm) to 21 inches.


  • G G - d  d - a  a - e'  e'



Scale length is typically about 25 inches (635 mm). The solid-body mandocello was made prominent by Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick.


  • C C - G G - d d - a a  (just like a coursed... wait for it... cello!)


Sometimes strung and tuned instead for octave mandolin tuning or Irish bouzouki tuning.




Essentially, a double bass with a mandolin body. Fairly rare, mandolin orchestras often used an ordinary string bass instead.


  • E' - A' - D - G


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