Strumming chords is a nice way to begin playing songs on the mandolin. But, as you may already know, there are a lot of chords and for each chord there are many ways to play it, i.e. many variations. So, is there a set of chords that a beginner can play?

Yes there is, and this set of five mandolin chords covers the majority of songs and is at the same time easy to play.

Playing easy, two-finger “open” Mandolin Chords

The left hand is the difficult one when trying to play chords. So, a good idea is to focus on the simplest chords, i.e the ones that require only two fingers of your left hand. These are the G, C, D, A and E, when played on a specific way.

These simple chords and their chord progressions, i.e. series of chords played sequentially, are a basic part of many songs. Actually, there is always a chord progression in every song and although the mandolin is frequently used to play the melody, it can also be used to accompany the melody, by strumming along with chords and therefore playing or keeping the rhythm.

Two-finger Chords

There are many Mandolin Chords that are easy to play. The simplest ones, are the so-called two-finger open chords.

These are chords that use only two fingers of your left hand, so we have two strings that are un-fretted, or open. Nice, huh?

Which Ones?

The five easier to play are: G, D, C, A, E

One finger - two strings

Two chords, require you to press down on two string pairs, using just one finger (the index).

If this seems difficult, don't worry. You may as well use two fingers (index & second) for these chords as well!

 

The five chords described in here, can be described as open chords, as they include strings that are played unfretted or “open”.

How to practice playing chords

For each chord you try, follow the following steps to ensure that the chord is played properly, after placing your left hand fingers on the fretboard:

  1. Strum first the chord (all strings) once – Notice how it sounds.
  2. Strum now each string separately – Check that no string is muted. If a string is muted or you hear a buzzing sound:
  3. Try slightly changing your fingers position on the fretboard – Is now the sound clearer?
  4. If that does not work, try pressing your fingers harder on the fretboard – Is the sound better?
  5. Strum again the chord (all strings) – Notice how now the chord sound is fuller.
Note that pressing your fingers harder on the fretboard may hurt a bit at the beginning, but the more you play and practice the less your fingers will hurt. Why? Your fingertips will develop calluses!.

Once you understand how to play these easy two finger chords, you can use one of the best tips around to get to the next level. Practice mandolin chords, by struming along recorded songs.

This has two benefits:

  • You will get a good feeling of rhythm.
  • You will see how most songs actually use just a few chords.

Two-finger G Major “open” Mandolin Chord

G Major Mandolin Chord

This is how you place your left hand on the fretboard:

  1. Index finger on second fret of second string. This way you play the note B on the A string.
  2. Second finger on third fret of first string. This way you play the note G on the E string.
  3. Leave third and fourth string pairs un-fretted.

The G Mandolin Chord described here, contains the following notes:

  • G (unfretted G string)
  • D (unfretted D string)
  • B (2nd fret of A string)
  • G (3rd fret of E string)

Two-finger C Major “open” Mandolin Chord

C Major Mandolin Chord

This is how you place your left hand on the fretboard:

  1. Index finger on second fret of third string. This way you play the note E on the D string.
  2. Second finger on third fret of second string. This way you play the note C on the A string.
  3. Leave first and fourth string pairs un-fretted.

Note that because the first note is G, we call this chord C/G, meaning that this is a C Major with the first note being G.

The C Mandolin Chord described here, contains the following notes:

  • G (unfretted G string)
  • E (2nd fret of D string)
  • C (3rd fret of A string)
  • E (unfretted E string)

Two-finger D Major “open” Mandolin Chord

D Major Mandolin Chord

This is how you place your left hand on the fretboard:

  1. Index finger on second fret of fourth string. This way you play the note A on the G string.
  2. Second finger on second fret of first string. This way you play the note F# on the E string.
  3. Leave second and third string pairs un-fretted.

The D Mandolin Chord described here, contains the following notes:

  • A (2nd fret of G string)
  • D (unfretted D string)
  • A (unfretted A string)
  • F# (2nd fret of E string)

Two-finger A Major “open” Mandolin Chord

A Major Mandolin Chord

This is how you place your left hand on the fretboard:

  1. Index finger on second fret of third and fourth strings. This way you play the note A on the G string and the note E on the D string. Alternatively, you can place your second finger on second fret of third string.
  2. Leave first and second string pairs un-fretted.

Notice that you need to press the 2nd fret on both G and D strings. You can easily do that by using just one finger (the first finger of the left hand). If you think this is difficult, try using instead first and second finger of the left hand.

The A Mandolin Chord described here, contains the following notes:

  • A (2nd fret of G string)
  • E (2nd fret of D string)
  • A (unfretted A string)
  • E (unfretted E string)

As only two notes are played (A and E), we are missing the third note of the chord, which is C#. Therefore this chord is neutral, i.e. can be used as both a Major or a minor chord. Think of it as a simpler version of the A Major chord.

Two-finger E Major “open” Mandolin Chord

E Major Mandolin Chord

This is how you place your left hand on the fretboard:

  1. Index finger of left hand, on second fret of both second & third string pairs. This way you play the note E on the 3rd string (the D string) and the note B on the 2nd string (the A string). Alternatively, you can use your second finger of left hand, on second fret of second string. This way you play the note B on the 2nd string (the A string).
  2. Leave first string pair un-fretted.

The E mandolin chord described here, contains the following notes:

  • G (un-fretted G string)
  • E (2nd fret of D string)
  • B (2nd fret of A string)
  • E (un-fretted E string)

This chord is also a simplified version of the E chord, as it includes only two notes, E and B, and it lacks G. Also, we use again one finger to hold two string pairs.

 

 

 

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