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Mandolins and guitars are somewhat similar in the way they are played, but their differences outnumber their similarities.

Because they are made and played differently, you cannot use the same chord configurations with a mandolin and guitar. 

Understanding the differences between these two instruments is crucial if you are trying to decide which one to start playing.

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Is the Mandolin a Guitar?

Are Mandolin Chords the Same as Guitar

Although they are both in the lute family, a mandolin is not a guitar. These two instruments are very different in their components and how they are played.

The guitar was invented first, in the 16th century. This instrument was derived from the Guitarra Latina, which was an instrument that was played in the late medieval period.

The mandolin was invented in the 18th century and was derived from an instrument called the mandora. 

While both instruments have strings, necks, and sound holes, there is much more than meets the eye regarding how these instruments differ in appearance and playing style.

What Are the Differences Between a Mandolin and a Guitar?

There are some key differences between mandolins and guitars. 

Being aware of these differences and understanding them will help musicians to make the right choice.

·  These instruments each have a different number of strings.

·  Mandolins and guitars are tuned differently.

·  Guitars are used in a wider area of music genres.

·  These instruments are different in size

·  Mandolins and guitars have different pitches.

·  The bridges are different for mandolins and guitars.

·  Guitars are usually less expensive than mandolins.

·  Learning to play the mandolin is not as difficult as the guitar.


One of the key differences many people first notice is the strings. 

They each have a different number of strings, and these strings play differently.

Guitars have six strings, and each of the strings is tuned to a different note. 


Mandolins, on the other hand, have eight strings which are paired in sets of two. Each pair of strings is tuned to the same note.


The notes of the guitar strings are EADGBE. These notes go from thickest string to thinnest string or lowest note to highest.

The notes of the mandolin are GDAE. These notes go from the thickest string to the thinnest string.

You may wonder why there are only four notes when the mandolin has eight strings. This is because the four strings repeat themselves, so the notes are GGDDAAEE.


Both instruments are tuned differently. You cannot attempt to tune a mandolin in the same way you would tune a guitar. Guitars are tuned in fifths, and mandolins are tuned in fourths.


With mandolins and guitars, there is also a big difference in the pitch of each instrument. Musicians will find guitars have a lower pitch and mandolins a higher one.


The bridges of these instruments also differ. A mandolin has a floating bridge, and a guitar has a fixed bridge. 

The floating bridge makes it more difficult to replace the strings on a mandolin. 

Care must be taken to ensure the bridge is placed properly and is not too high or too low.


Another important difference between a mandolin and a guitar is the size. Although there are small guitars, most of them are much larger than mandolins. 

Those with smaller hands may find it easier to play the mandolin, simply because this instrument is smaller.

Can You Learn the Mandolin the Same Way as a Guitar?

Although some musicians will disagree, it is more challenging to learn to play guitar than it is a mandolin, simply because of the number of strings. 

Yes, a mandolin has more strings, but there are only four notes because the four strings are repeated.

When a person is new to the guitar, they will have more chords to learn because there are six strings. 

With more chords to memorize comes a greater challenge.

You will probably find you require a lot more practice time for guitar over mandolin. Although it is easier to learn the chords for a mandolin, this instrument presents a more physical challenge.

Because mandolins have much smaller necks, and musicians must play double strings, it can be cumbersome for some people to play. 

Those with larger hands may find the smaller neck of the mandolin to be too confining.

Many people mistakenly believe once they have learned to play guitar that every other stringed instrument becomes simple, but this is not always the case. 

The playing style of the two instruments is entirely different, requiring a different hand and finger placement.

When in doubt, it is wise to handle both types of instruments to determine how they feel in your hands. 

Going from one instrument to the other can be confusing, especially if you have developed skills with one and are accustomed to either the mandolin or guitar. 

Once a new musician has gotten a feel for each instrument, they will be able to better decide which one will allow their skills to shine through.

What Is a Mando Guitar?

As its name suggests, a mando guitar is a hybrid between a guitar and a mandolin. 

For musicians who cannot decide between the two instruments, this seems like a dream come true.

A mando guitar is shaped like a mandolin, is the size of a mandolin, but has the same number of strings as a guitar. 

It also is tuned the same as a guitar, with one octave higher.

What is the best thing about a mando guitar? 

For those who are accustomed to guitar, it is the fact that they can play the same guitar chords on the mandolin as they did on their guitars. 

Although you are playing the same guitar chords, the tonal range of a mando guitar is the same as a traditional mandolin.

To the trained ear, there are some differences in the way a mandolin and a mando guitar play. 

To the untrained ear, these instruments are likely to sound the same.

Just as with traditional mandolins, you are going to find mando guitars to be much more expensive than guitars simply because they are not as popular. 

Guitars are in high demand, therefore, the prices come down lower. As of now, mando guitars are not mainstream instruments, so musicians are going to pay more.

So, Is a Mando Guitar Right for You?

Those who are finding it difficult to choose between a mandolin and a guitar may find the mando guitar offers the best of both worlds. 

If you find the following ring true, this may be the next instrument you purchase.

1. Musicians who love the way a mandolin sounds, but do not want to devote themselves to learning to play it, will find the mando guitar to be perfect. You can get those melodic mandolin sounds while using the same chords and tuning for guitar.

2. Do you enjoy the genres of country, folk, and bluegrass? If so, you will probably enjoy being able to play a different instrument, besides guitar, in these styles of music.

3. If you appreciate a good jam session, but tire of too many guitarists, having a different instrument to bring to the table makes jamming more fun.

4. Are you in a musical rut? Have you found it boring to play your usual instruments? Do you find yourself putting off practice because you are simply bored to tears? If you answered yes to these questions, the mando guitar could be just the spark that gets you back in the studio. Even though the playing style is the same, the new tones will change the way you approach playing a mando guitar, bringing new life to your practice sessions.

There are some challenges associated with playing the mando guitar, and it is important to keep these in mind before you pick it up.

·  The mando guitar is tiny, with narrow frets, so some guitarists may find it too compact.

·  It is difficult to capo a mando guitar. If you are a musician who loves to use capo with guitar, playing the mando guitar may not afford you this option.

·  Mando guitars, like mandolins, are more difficult to maintain than guitars. The floating bridges make them arduous to string.

Are Mandolin Chords the Same as Guitar? – Conclusion

Unfortunately, the chords on a mandolin and guitar are different, and you cannot approach playing them in the same way. 

That being said, many guitarists reach for the mandolin and learn to play it in time.

If you cannot decide between the two instruments, why not purchase the hybrid? 

With a mando guitar, you can have the best of both worlds and add fresh sounds for your playing pleasure.

Author Profile

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Daniel Johnstone
Daniel Johnstone is an English writer with a love for stringed instruments from around the world.

He shares his love for these instruments through his writing for, a website dedicated to all things related to folk string music.

Daniel's passion for music started at a young age, and he has since become an accomplished musician, playing guitar, cavaco, and recently, the harp.

His dedication to learning and sharing his knowledge of stringed instruments is evident in his insightful and engaging blog posts. Whether you're a seasoned musician or a beginner, Daniel's writing is sure to inspire and entertain you.

When he's not playing music or writing, you can find Daniel exploring new instruments and seeking out new sounds to share with his readers.

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