Beginners Mandolin Tuning is a myth (or not?). Many people believe that they can not tune a stringed instrument such as the mandolin,especially if they are beginners. But is this the case? Living in the twenty-first century it is hard to believe that this tuning problem has not yet been solved by technology!

Can we verify that?

To give a firm answer, we need to research this issue, i.e.

  • find out why people believe that
  • test the available tools and methods to see if a true beginner could tune a mandolin
  • provide a step-by-step procedure for a beginner to tune her mandolin.

The results are very interesting, as you can read below!

Beginners Mandolin Tuning – What people believe

Asking around to gather the opinions of non-musicians, we see that answers are similar, as most people believe that mandolin or guitar tuning is not possible without music or ear training. Therefore it is clear that tuning is a barrier for people, stopping them from buying and playing a music instrument!

What tools are available

To test this belief, we used the tuning methods and tools available today, in order to recognize the ones that enable us to tune a stringed instrument without a trained ear or music training.

We tested tools and methods such as tuning forks, using other music instruments as reference, using online tuners and using chromatic digital tuners, to conclude that the best tool that allows a beginner to tune an instrument, is the chromatic digital tuner.

The digital tuner

The digital tuner is a rather simple instrument (it can be also a software application) that uses a microphone and a screen.

To tune a string:

  1. You start by strumming the string you are trying to tune close to the microphone.
  2. You check on the screen if the string is tuned to the correct note
  3. If not, you use the tuning pegs to tune to the correct note.
  4. You then fine-tune, again with the tuning pegs.

It is as simple as that!

Step by Step procedure

In this example we will tune the first G string, i.e. the thickest string-pairs of the mandolin.

The first step to tune a string is to strum it close to the microphone. Note, you should strum the G string as displayed in the below image, without pressing any finger on the fretboard (i.e. strumming an open string).

GIBSON G-min

 

The second step is to check on the screen if the string is tuned. In our example we are tuning the G string, but we see on the tuner (screenshot below) red LEDs on the right of the screen, meaning we should increase the string tension to reach G.

 

IMG_3063-min

 

The third step (assuming there is no match at step #2) is to use the tuning pegs to adjust the string tension until you see on the screen the green LED. Note in the image below the G tuning pegs (upper right). These should be used in our example till the tuner displays the green LED.

GIBSON G-min

 

The final fourth step is about fine tuning. Once you see on the screen the correct note (in this example G), it is time to fine tune, using the tuner LED(s) that indicate tuning accuracy. Red means you are not accurately tuned, and in this case you must continue using the tuning pegs till you see it turn green. See below an example screen showing the difference between a not accurately tuned G string on the left and the tuned G string on the right(G is displayed on screen and the LED is green).

 

G string not accurately tuned Accurately tuned G string

That’s it. We managed with four easy steps to accurately tune the G string of our Mandolin.

Repeat the process for every string and you will have a mandolin perfectly tuned!

Where can you find digital tuners?

You can find digital tuners available as iPhone, iPod, iPad or android apps, but for those of you not using a smartphone, you can find standalone digital tunners costing just a few
bucks!

I suggest you check the choices from the Resources section of theMandolinTuner

Beginners Mandolin Tuning – Conclusion

So, there you are, you should not let the lack of tuning skills stopping you from playing and enjoying  a mandolin or a guitar.