Are Mandolin Chords the Same as Guitar?


Mandolins and guitars look pretty similar. Unfortunately, many tend to confuse one for the other. Even while playing the instrument, some may ask, “Are Mandolin chords the same as guitar?

The short answer is No. The mandolin and the guitar have completely different sets of chords that are not interchangeable. However, it is easy to master one if you know the other.

You might wonder how you can transfer your experience with Mandolin chords to the Guitar or vice versa. Keep reading to find out.

Mandolin and Guitar Chords

The two instruments are similar only in looks. You might think playing the mandolin and the guitar will be the same. However, in terms of chords and tuning, they are very different. The mandolin has 8 strings, while the guitar only has 6.

Mandolin Chords

The average mandolin has 8 strings tuned together, but two identical sets of 4 strings go in the following order: G3, D4, A4, and E5. There are also 10 strings and 12 strings versions, but musicians do not favour them. Instead, they are tuned in perfect-fifths, mirroring that of the violin.

Man Playing Mandolin

Guitar Chords

The guitar differs vastly from the mandolin, with just 6 strings, or 12 if in two sets. It goes in the following order: E4, B3, G3, D3, A2, E2. In addition, the guitar is tuned in perfect fourths, making it completely unlike the mandolin.

Even though the guitar has a lower number of strings than the mandolin, it is still more difficult to learn the guitar. This is because the guitar has 6 unique strings, while the mandolin only has 4. Check out the Beginner’s Guide to Learn Guitar on Amazon.

Mandolin vs Guitar – What’s the Difference?

Besides the difference in chords, the guitar and the mandolin also have other distinctions between them that one must understand before learning them together.

It has 8 strings that go GGDDAAEE. The g chord is 0023.It has 6 strings that go EBGDAE. The g chord is 320023.
Higher pitch than the guitarLower pitch than the mandolin
Since the tuning is the same as the violin, genres such as country, folk, bluegrass, and classical music suit the instrument better.Musicians generally prefer the guitar for rock and pop music.
Mandolins often find themselves in orchestras.The guitar has a place for itself in all sorts of concerts.
A smaller fretboard makes the instrument fit for children. The mandolin is also lightweight compared to the guitar.People who play the guitars are mostly adults, due to the instrument’s size and weight.
Mandolins are more expensive due to their rarity. Here’s an example on Amazon.Guitars are more popular and abundant, making them cheaper. You can find one here on Amazon.

If you want to buy and learn one of the two instruments, you need to make a note of the above differences. You also need to understand what exactly your musical goals are, and what type of music you wish to make.

If you are open to a diverse set of skills and wish to take up a challenge, you can learn one after the other.

How to Make a Successful Transfer of Skill?

In most cases, people only know one of the two instruments and may develop a sudden interest in the other. However, the differences in strings and handling might make it confusing. So let us break down some essentials that you need to note.

Mandolin Chord Chart Laminated Popular Chords, Mandolin Fretboard Notes and Circle of Fifths, Useful for Mandolin Beginners Adult or Kid, Large Mandolin Chord Poster Printed Waterproof Paper

$15.88  in stock
as of January 15, 2023 10:32 am

From Guitar to Mandolin

Learning the mandolin will be relatively easy if you have mastered the guitar already. For one, the number of unique strings is less, so you don’t have to learn anything new. You will already understand all 8 strings.


The major adjustment that you will have to make is getting used to the smaller fingerboard of the mandolin. This will require additional practice, especially if your hands are larger.

You also need to note the tuning. The mandolin runs in perfect fifths. Learning the mandolin will make it easier to learn a wide variety of other instruments, such as the mandola, mandocello etc, as they also have four strings tuned in fifths. Moreover, the violin, another orchestra instrument, is also similar to the mandolin.

Proper care of the instrument is also necessary. For example, if you are used to the guitar, you might think that the bridge will also stay fixed on a mandolin when you remove the strings.

However, the mandolin has a floating bridge. It can move or even fall apart when you change the strings. One can wrongly place it too high or too low, which can affect the sound. This is the only major difficulty that you will face when moving from the guitar to the mandolin.

From Mandolin to Guitar

In general, many musicians agree that learning the guitar is harder than learning the mandolin. However, if you have become a mandolin expert already, you have set a proper foundation for the guitar.

Woman Playing Guitar

However, you will have to learn more and put in additional effort. But do not let this intimidate you. Anybody can learn with the right kind of motivation.

You will have to learn 2 new strings when you transition to the guitar. This will take you extra practice until you can memorise them correctly. You also need to make sure that you do not get confused.

The guitar is tuned in fourths. Therefore, it will take a while before you can adjust the sound perfectly to get the proper low pitch.

One advantage that you will have when going from mandolin to guitar is the bridge. The guitar has a fixed bridge, unlike the mandolin. Therefore, you will have an easier time changing the strings.

However, the bigger size of the guitar might make it difficult to handle and play. You can reduce the distance between the strings and the neck at the repair shop. You can also swap the default strings for light-gauge strings that are similar to the mandolin. Check out the Elixir Strings 16550 Guitar Strings with OPTIWEB Coating on Amazon.


The guitar and the mandolin are both excellent instruments that can be the perfect additions to your musical skillset. Many wish to transfer from one to the other, as the instruments are often said to be similar. This begs the question are mandolin chords the same as a guitar.

While the two have entirely different chords and tuning, it is still possible to become a master of both with the right mindset and dedication. Put your best foot forward without hesitation, and you will reach new heights.

Sourav Biswas

Music is my life and I love to play guitar so much. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents were always supportive of my passion for music. I am also a freelance writer who has been writing for over 10 years. I have written for both online and offline publications, including Amazon and Medium.

Recent Posts