there are 8 strings on a mandolin (not 5) and they are tuned the same as a violin. GDAE, G is the lowest pitch, thickest string, highest up when looking at a mandolin being played by someone. the strings are doubled, so two identical g, d a and e strings. it's GG DD AA EE. they are not octave strings as on a 12 string guitar, just doubled strings. there are perfect 5ths between each of the note names on open mandolin strings, unlike a guitar which is in perfect 4ths, (GDAE is the inverse in musical math from EADG), so you can't play guitar lines on a mandolin unless you stick to only playing on one string. So like with learning banjo or ukulele, if you already play guitar you will not be able to translate your chording and soloing skills to the mandolin. Chording on the mando needs to be relearned unless you are coming from a violin background (a mandolin is basically a fretted violin with doubled strings that you pluck with a pick instead of bowing or finger picking as with a violin).
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Its the same as you tune a violin... if that helps...
As you may know, Mandolins have eight strings. They are tuned in unison starting with the top or thickest set of strings G D A E the same tuning as a violin.
some electric mandolins have only 4 strings.
Mandolas, are tuned like a viola CGDA
Unlike a 12 string guitar these strings are not tuned in octaves and each set of 2 strings is the same gauge.
One can purchase a automated guitar tuner at any guitar store or, you can buy a pitch pipe or even use a piano.
Some guitarists have tuned their mandolins to a tuning that is similar to a guitars lowest 4 strings. this allows a guitarist to play with a mandolin type sound without having to learn a new instrument, however, this can be a handicap that disallows some chord combinations.
If your mandolin strings are rusty or dark brown it's best to replace them while you're tuning. replace the whole set at once. you'll be glad you did.
if you do replace all the strings do not remove all the strings at the same time. Replace one string at a time. tuning it to close to the right pitch slowly. This will keep your bridge in place and will keep pressure on the mandolin which makes it easier to tune. don't expect to get it in tune on the first try.
I hope this helps and clears up any confusion.
There should be 5 strings on your mandolin. To tune it, start with the thickest one, and tune it just like a guitar.The thickest string should be tuned to E.The next string should be tuned to A.The next string should be tuned to D.Here's where it gets a little tricky. The next two strings should be very close together. Tune them both to G. If you don't know how to tune a guitar you can go here.