View Full Version : Tuning with a guitar tuner?

May-08-2007, 11:41am
hi,im a complete novice with the mandolin,and have trouble tuning by ear.i have a led. electric guitar tuner.eg...E,A,D,G,B,E,does anyone know if there is any way i can use it to tune my mandolin?.i just cant grasp the way the mandolin string notes are in reverse.eg,why is the A string a higher pitch than a guitars G?...it is a cheap acoustic mandolin i have,and have a battery guitar tuner with a pickup clamp.im on a low budget,do i need to invest in a led mandolin/violin tuner,or can i get by with my guitar tuner.any ideas would be most welcome, http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif

May-08-2007, 12:10pm
Tuner should recognize frequency of string , and the octave is the only difference

EADG ascend (go up) in 4ths efg,abc,def,ga

Mandolin (and violin) ascent in 5ths gabc,defg,abcd,efga..
decending intervals are reversed.

Jim Broyles
May-08-2007, 12:11pm
An electronic tuner will display a note regardless of the octave, so an A on a guitar at the open 5th string, will read the same as an A at the 2nd fret of the G string. You can tune a mandolin with a guitar tuner. Set your tuner to auto rather than manual, and simply read the notes G, D, A and E and don't use the B. The A on a mandolin is an octave plus one step higher than a G on a guitar, however, just to eliminate confusion, within the same octave, A is higher than G. The G on a mandolin is the same pitch as the G on a guitar, but all the other notes are either one or two octaves higher than the same named note on a guitar.

May-08-2007, 12:38pm
Without knowing the exact tuner you have its difficult to say whether it'll work on mandolin. That said, I don't think I've ever seen a specific tuner made for mandolin. My advice would be to learn to tune by ear and treat it as part of the learning process. I have an expensive "Peterson" tuner and that struggles with the high notes of the mandolin. I always end up tinkering to get a mandolin in tune. The cheapest option would be to buy an "A" tuning fork and work from that.

May-08-2007, 1:56pm
many thanks to all for the speedy replies,im so very gratefull.its a TGI-99B chromatic tuner i have that can clip onto the f hole,and the notes come up on the screen,even the C and F,and in my book it has the mandolin fingerboard notes.so if i still cant manage,maybe im best to buy a new set of ears.:mandosmiley: http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif thanks again.

Ken Sager
May-08-2007, 4:32pm
I'd clip it on a tuner, not an f-hole... but that's just how I am. It should still work and won't risk doing any damage.


May-08-2007, 4:41pm
Clip to the bridge itself , if there needs be a stronger vibrating surface than the headstock.
Soundboard wood is soft , the bridge is a harder wood, so will not leave
potential marks, from the clamping of the clip.

May-08-2007, 5:17pm
I second the tuning fork idea.
Use it to tune the A string, then put it away and learn to tune the rest by ear.

May-08-2007, 5:33pm
True, Tuning fork for 440, the A string, will give you one reference tone.
then training your ear to hear matching sounds can proceed.

up, 7th fret on lower string is the next open string unison pitch
down, 5th fret is octave of open lower string.

May-09-2007, 8:18am
Another trick to try is to pick the strings very lightly when tuning. #A great many tuners respond better to a light touch than a loud pluck. You can actually send too much to the tuner and confuse it.

Training your ear is a basic skill for all musicians. #Believe it or not, it will come almost by itself in time. #You'll get so used to those four notes that you'll recognize them right away. But an accurate reference tone is a real godsend, especially when you're playing with others, as it eliminates worrying about who is in concert pitch. #You can have three players whose instruments are perfectly in tune with themselves, but all three instruments are out of tune with each other. #Indeed none of them may be at concert pitch. Many players quickly learn to identify the intervals between the notes but don't perfectly recognize the pitches themselves. #Tuners (and tuning forks) solve that problem right away.

May-09-2007, 2:17pm
many thanks to all who took time to reply, what a great bunch mandolin players are.
i think iv done it..i got the top strings tuned to G, then fretted the rest at the 7th fret and tuned them to a G also.i think it sounds in tune and i tried playing silent night and it sounded right(bit slow right enough,haha).every ones help has been much appreciated.what a wonderfull website also.:D

Jim Broyles
May-09-2007, 3:01pm
The problem with doing it that way is that no string is a G note at the 7th fret. 3rd string G = 5th fret; 2nd string G = 10th fret; 1st string G = 3rd fret. Or do you mean the you tuned the D string to the G fretted at the 7th fret, etc.? Also, if your intonation is off, meaning if the 12th fret note is not the same as the 12th fret harmonic, the tuning will not be accurate. If this is the case, you'll have to fix the intonation before you can tune it properly. Why won't the guitar tuner work as is on the D, A and E strings?

May-09-2007, 3:47pm
I have a $ 20 chromatic tuner that works fine on auto. Works on b#$@*, guitar and the mando... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

May-10-2007, 6:05am
here is a pic of my cheap but cheerfull mandolin.its a santana bluegrass MD30NA.
it was a guitar playing friend that came up with the idea,he plucked the G string and it came up on my guitar tuner as an F,so he reconed if he fretted the 7th fret on the other 3 strings,and tune them all to F according to my tuner, then it should be in tune.i dont know if you would agree. i will only be playing it at home,so 'relative' tuning is ample for me.
it sounds in tune...but coming from me that does not mean much,haha...all i have to go by is 'silent night' tab...the A-0 2 0,then D 4.
when i tune it normally with my guitar tuner,the D strings note is lower than the G string.i still cant grasp that the mandolin is in reverse. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wow.gif..i know its best to learn to tune by ear,but just now i have no chance of doing that.i feel that will come to me in a few years http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

May-10-2007, 6:14am
just one more thing please...does anyone know of a cheap electric(approx 60-$120)without sound holes,so i can play at night with headphones without disturbing anyone?.
any suggestions would be very much appreciated.:)

Jim Broyles
May-10-2007, 7:02am
Dude, there is no way that your mandolin is tuned correctly if every string is an F at the 7th fret. Here is what your friend probably did: Tuned the G string to correct pitch. Fret the G at 7 = D string; fret the D at 7 = A string; fret the A at 7 = E string. This way, it's in tune, but there is no good reason why the D, A and E strings will not register on your guitar tuner. The D will be higher than the G but IT WILL STILL READ D on the tuner. Here's an experiment which will illustrate what I'm trying to show you. Use the guitar tuner on your guitar to tune your high E string. Now fret the high E at the 12th fret and check the tuner. It still says E, right? The mandolin strings will read D, A and E, but they will be an octave higher, or, as in the case of the A string, two octaves higher than the the same named string on a guitar. See?

Jim Broyles
May-10-2007, 7:04am
Oh, just thread a piece of yarn, or leather or fabric or a pipe cleaner or anything else of a similar nature through the strings just above the bridge, and you will be able to practice quietly.

Patrick Killeen
May-10-2007, 7:47am
just one more thing please...does anyone know of a cheap electric(approx 60-$120)without sound holes,so i can play at night with headphones without disturbing anyone?.
I have seen solid body 8 string electrics on ebay for that sort of price, but I haven't heard any good comments about them.

Another option might be the Risa Mandolin-Solid (http://www.risa-music.de/English/Products/Solids/solids.html), they normally cost quite a bit more but if you keep an eye on the Risa Website Bargain Page (http://www.risa-music.de/English/Bargain/bargain.html) you might get lucky.

The Mandolin-Solids are very quirky, but they are fun as portable quiet practice instruments (if you search these forums for "Risa" you sould find some discusions about them).


May-10-2007, 9:29am
All my tuners work on my guitars, mando and fiddle, and most of them work on bass. It's possible to find a tuner which won't respond to the mando's higher octave, but just try it. If it reads a note, it's going to be the RIGHT note.

May-10-2007, 10:32am
There is no reason that the tuner should not work just fine, but,Check the batteries. Notes are notes, tone is tone. D=D only difference is octave. All been said before. Tune it and pick!

May-10-2007, 4:55pm
RE cheap electric for quiet practice , probably more than you want to pay but Risa has some nylon 4 strings that have no soundbox, so will be pretty silent , Uke strings , or can be set up with baritone uke set, but not steel..
headset jack ..

step one tuning : G-abc(mid'C'on piano),D-efg, A-bcd, E ...

May-10-2007, 9:06pm
The suggestion of winding something among the strings just before the bridge is simply muting. There are a number of good ways to mute a mandolin, several of which involve violin type mutes. Check your favorite supplier for these. Gold Tone has a banjo mute that should work nicely on a mando.

Tim Bowen
May-13-2007, 11:08pm
Depending on the situation, I use either an Intellitouch clip-on tuner, a BOSS TU-2, or a Peterson Strobostomp with my stringed instruments.

Intellitouch is employed more as a 'backup', and for teaching, whereas the BOSS or Peterson are routed within my floorboard signal chain. For the record, I'm an electric/acoustic-electric musician more so than an acoustic musician. Tuners are "quirky" by nature, but each of the aforementioned units will deal with fretted notes and harmonics with reasonable accuracy and minimal fuss, as to my guitars, mandos, and electric banjo. The BOSS TU-2 is the garden variety industry standard of working guitarists, and it's quite the workhorse. I tune mando with this one at live jobs regularly with no major issues. My recording dates might also call for me to play bass, baritone guitar, 12 string or "high-strung" guitar, as well as mandolin. Intonation is a big deal in the studio environment, particularly with an instrument that utilizes unison courses of strings, such as the mandolin. For sessions, I'm pretty much a snob for the hyper-accurate Peterson tuner.