Learning Mandolin Vs Guitar-which one is better?

Since the advent of music, we haven’t passed a day without hearing our favorite song in our leisure hours or amidst the gaps during our monotonous schedule. Mandolins and guitars are two of the most significant musical instruments which have been widely used in the music industry. Mandolins have their applicability, particularly in certain types of music and so do the guitars. A mandolin is a corded musical instrument from the lute family.  These gadgets are generally wrenched by using a plectrum. Moreover, a guitar is a musical device having frets. As like the mandolins, these are also stringed gadgets. However, these two devices have differences between them, and also the learning approaches for them are different. Learning Mandolin vs guitar is always a debatable topic among music enthusiasts. In this article, we have compared learning of a guitar to that of a mandolin.


Mandolins and Guitars: A comparative study between the two

One of the most significant things about guitars is that you don’t need to learn the new techniques or chord ornamentations if you are looking to switch between electric and acoustic guitars or vice-versa. The learning procedures of both an acoustic and an electric guitar are the same.

The creation of a consistent rhythm and that of harmony are two of the essential objectives of learning a guitar. If you look to create a rhythm, you need to find the lessons which will let you know to strum properly. However, if you are keen to create harmony, you have to find lessons that will teach you to build good finger strength.


A mandolin is a musical instrument that contains eight strings and is appropriately tuned within perfect fifths (G, D, A, E). This configuration is similar to that of a violin.  Being tuned in perfect fifths, the shape of chords which you get used to while learning guitar will not come in any help when you start to learn a mandolin.

Again, this might not be the case with all the chords. It is going to be easier if you consider the mandolin chords to be the bottom four strings of a guitar that are turned upside down. There are different types of Mandolin which is also the case with guitars.

The differences between mandolins and guitars are given below:

1) 6 or 12 strings are integrated with the guitars, but a mandolin has eight strings

2) Guitars are typically tuned within the count of fourths. But a mandolin is tuned in the count of fifths

3) The pitch of the guitar is generally lower, but that of a mandolin is higher.

4) Guitars have got fixed bridges, but mandolins come with floating bridges.

5) Mandolins are much more expensive than guitars of the same quality.

6) The learning tutorials are more available for guitar learners than mandolin learners.




Things that make a guitar unique

One of the most versatile features of a guitar is the neck of this gadget.

Most of the guitar manufacturers construct guitars with different neck thicknesses. There are various sizes of necks for different playing styles, for instance; fingerpicking.

If you are going to purchase a guitar, you will have to find out what your personal preference is. When it comes to deciding the thickness of the neck of your guitar, figure out the type of music you want to play on it.

The materials which go into the total-built of a guitar will also determine the sound of the instrument. For instance, if you want to play some songs of the metal genre on your guitar, you will have to buy a guitar with heavy gauge strings.

Moreover, if you are looking to play country or the blues, you will need to buy a guitar with light gauge strings.


Things that make a mandolin unique

The sound of the Mandolin is different from that of a guitar, which is useful if you don’t find pleasure in the sound of a guitar.

The sound which mandolins produce quickly goes with the sound of a band, which makes it a useful instrument if you are looking to do a bunch of solo works. If you have experience with playing the guitar, you will discover that your picking hand will have an easy time adjustment when it comes to transition. This will make it easier for you to focus on your other hand. This will assist you in learning the new positions and chord shapes.

 What are the challenges you may face while learning to play the guitar?

When comparing a guitar with a mandolin, the guitar is way too challenging to learn than a mandolin because it has got more strings integrated within it. Let’s get an insight into this.

A mandolin has got eight strings, but it has only got four strings which are repeated twice (G, D, A, E, G, D, A, E). But, a guitar has six strings usually (E, A, D, G, B, E) which you have to learn. The more strings an instrument has, the more difficult it is to play. Because then you need to know a lot of chords which is a challenging task.

Before getting into a stage where you can refine your playing technique, you need to learn a lot of chords. This process takes a long time, and you need patience for this. There are also several different techniques that you need for being able to play the guitar fluently, for example; strumming, fingerpicking, plucking, and a few more.


What are the challenges you may face while learning to play the Mandolin?

When it comes to size, the Mandolin is smaller than a regular guitar. This can create some difficulty if you are someone who has got a large stature or big hands because both the body and fingerboard on a mandolin are smaller than the ones which are on the guitar.

A mandolin is also different when we talk about the techniques which are needed to be able to play a musical gadget fluently. You should learn both the right and left-hand techniques. This should not be very complicated to you if you have played a stringed instrument before.

For the people who are trying to learn a mandolin, it is widespread to run across several techniques, for example; ‘chops’, ‘cross picking’, and ‘tremolo’. These are the same techniques of Mandolin. These are some of the most important techniques which you are required to master if you are looking to learn a mandolin professionally.  Another common struggle which comes with learning of Mandolin is that you will have to get used to playing double strings with your fingers.

In other words, your fingers are going to have to get habituated to gripping double strings. This is a challenging task. This can be a big problem if you have larger hands or fingers. For a person having smaller hands and fingers, it may often get challenging to learn playing the Mandolin. With the Mandolin, you are going to grip two strings simultaneously. But if you are someone having larger hands, you may discover that you have to squeeze your fingers to be able to play the correct notes. So even if you have got years of experience and the technique built up from the learning of a guitar, it may take you a long time to eventually switch over to a mandolin and make some quality sound.

Since there is much more tension within the strings due to the short neck, you may feel like you are struggling to push the lines from the bottom part of a mandolin. This can cause your fingers to ache. Moreover, it will feel almost like you have started learning a guitar again for the very first time.



Which one to begin with?

This is almost a certain question nowadays while talking about the guitars and Mandolin.

It depends on that individual. But if he has got larger hands, it is better to get a guitar for your beginning. Then again, you also can learn Mandolin quickly if you know the guitar well. A guitar is way too more comfortable to maintain than a mandolin. Furthermore, when it comes to understanding the musical grammar and chords, the increment in the number of strings results in a larger number of chords. This makes it very difficult for a beginner. A guitar has got 6 to 12 strings which can get very complicated for a beginner to adopt the cords. But a mandolin only has four strings which are easier to learn on.

 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1)   Is Mandolin a complicated instrument to play?

This is one of the most deliberately asked questions when it comes to Mandolin. Yes and no. The mandolins are usually hard on the fingers initially. But it is a very uniform and analytical instrument. If you already know how to play a guitar or violin, you can transfer the majority of your knowledge to your learning of Mandolin. A mandolin is played by using a pick. Playing the standard melodies and chords is a matter of only a few weeks of practice. For developing a complicated rhythmic pattern, it may take a long time. But it can indeed be done with a regular schedule of practice.

2) Will I be able to play the guitar songs on a mandolin?

This question is one of the most frequently asked questions among young music enthusiasts across the globe. The Mandolin is a melodic instrument that is similar to any other bowed string instrument. You can play any chord on a mandolin which you play on a guitar. The Mandolin is such an effective instrument to learn. Because if you know the fundamentals of chords on a guitar or violin, you can easily play them on a mandolin if you can adjust appropriately.

3) Is learning-guitar a time-taking process?

It depends. If you are a beginner and don’t have any idea whatsoever, it will take time. But if you have some thought, it will take much less time. Again, if you have stopped entirely after practicing for a couple of months, you then need to start from zero also. If you are an experienced guitar player and want to develop a skill, it will take a short time to do that.


You can choose your musical instrument depending on your preference and the type of music you want to play. “Learning mandolin vs guitar” has always been a talk among the young learners who want to learn to play music. And you also may be strangled while surfing on the net on this debatable topic. We hope this article has let you know the insights into learning of a guitar and that of a mandolin.