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Play Mandolin Irish Style

Updated on November 9, 2015

Play Mandolin Handy Guide for Beginners

Are you here to play Irish mandolin music? I started to play mandolin by ear, but being a musician I soon progressed to playing mandolin music and it wasn't long before I was really into the toe tapping Irish mandolin style everybody loves! I can teach you to play mandolin Irish style for free. The basics are simple if you already play violin or guitar and playing mandolin is fun. Do you love Celtic Music? I know I do and hearing the mandolin used instead of the fiddle for jigs, reels and hornpipes really got my attention many years ago. My attempts at violin were marred by inability to bow well so the mandolin was a better choice. If you want to play mandolin chords or play mandolin Zeppelin style, please bookmark the page - there will be goodies to come in time - but for today, this is simply "Play Mandolin 101" just to give you the basics!

Photographs and graphics used here are my own, please do not copy.

Play Mandolin Today

Play Mandolin - Easy Guide

To play the mandolin you will need a few basics. The mandolin is an eight stringed instrument, with the strings tuned in pairs. Some people play with four strings, but this loses the lovely chorus effect a true mandolin has. It is not uncommon for guitarists to string up a mandolin to sound like a guitar, this is fine if you want to play mandolin chords and you already know guitar chords. It is not so good for Irish music. A lot of Irish music was composed or made up by fiddle players and falls more naturally u

nder the fingers if you use a violin tuning. This is where violinists raise the first smile! If you play the violin, you will already know where the notes are in standard mandolin tuning! Where guitarists strike gold is with the plectrum technique. The violin is a bowed instrument, but the mandolin is played with a flat picking technique!

Help for Beginners on Mandolin

If you play neither guitar, nor violin, just bear with me. You should find a few graphics will help with the mandolin notes and Irish music is much simpler to play than Vivaldi (who wrote for Italian mandolin players many centuries ago!)

Notes on the Mandolin - Fretboard Diagram and Fingering Chart for Mandolin

Mandolin Fretboard and Music Notes
Mandolin Fretboard and Music Notes

You will find the sharps and flats between the blue notes I have shown in this image! Feel free to save and print this for personal use, or share my page. Please do not use the image on your own website, I have not given permission for wide distribution.

The Irish Mandolin
The Irish Mandolin

A carefully graded series of lessons in notation only suitable for the mandolin player or violinist wishing to come to Celtic Music and Irish mandolin.


Irish mandolin is mostly about melodies.

When I was learning mandolin I was far more interested in playing the melody than the chords (or I would have stuck with the guitar as my main instrument). Here are some basic chords that will cover you for quite a few jigs, reels, hornpipes and airs. Actually there are literally thousands of ways of playing chords on the mandolin, just as there are on the guitar but these shapes are pretty easy.These chords worked for me when I didn't know the tune though, so I am passing them on to you! Hope that helps!

Play Mandolin Chords - Play Mandolin 101 - Chords in Key of G major

Play Mandolin Chords
Play Mandolin Chords

Learn to play mandolin scales - Mandolin Scales useful in Irish tunes - Music and TAB

Play Mandolin Scales
Play Mandolin Scales

You can print this image off to learn your scales, but please do not copy it on other websites!

The Hag with the Money - A Traditional Irish Tune

Irish Mandolin Notes
Irish Mandolin Notes

In case you wondered, this is my own arrangement and you are welcome to print it off for home use!

Irish Mandolin Jigs, Reels, and Hornpipes (Book + CD)
Irish Mandolin Jigs, Reels, and Hornpipes (Book + CD)

Includes a 70 minute CD to play along with and great Irish tunes presented in mandolin TAB with chords to accompany.


Folk Song Arrangements suitable for mandolin and guitar

Easy Folk Tunes for Mandolin

I really enjoy making arrangements of Irish and Scottish traditional music. The melodies of many of these simple arrangements would be quite suitable for mandolin as well as flute or guitar to play. Some are duets, others are group arrangements suitable for a class or perhaps a session.

A Bunch of Thyme for guitar group with optional flute

Carrickfergus - guitar duet with guitar TAB

Fhear a Bhata - guitar duet with flute

MacPherson's Lament - Guitar group (with optional Fiddle and Whistle)

MacPherson's Lament - Guitar Duet

My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose -Guitar Duet with optional flute

Santa Lucia - Barcarolle for Two Flutes and Guitar (with TAB)

Serafina - Halyard Shanty - Harmonica and Guitar duet

Skye Boat Song - Easy Classical Guitar Solo with TAB

Spanish Ladies - Beginner Guitar Duet

The Bluebells of Scotland - Guitar Quartet with optional flute

The Cutty Wren - Beginner Guitar Duet

The Drunken Sailor - Beginner Guitar Duet

The Keys of Canterbury - Beginner Guitar duet

The Mountains of Mourne - Guitar Duet with TAB

The Rattlin' Bog - Fiddle, Flute, Guitar, Bodhran and Bones

The Water Is Wide - Violins, Cello, Flute and Guitar with TAB

Volga Boat Song - Beginner Guitar Duet

Mel Bay Irish Mandolin Playing: A Complete Guide
Mel Bay Irish Mandolin Playing: A Complete Guide

A great resource for both complete beginners and the more experienced player. Uses mandolin TAB as well as notation and includes a 63 track CD too.


I hope you found this page helpful! Thank you for visiting!

© 2012 Lisa Marie Gabriel

Do You Play Mandolin? - Do you love Celtic Music?

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    • CarmellaMaeDunkin profile image

      CarmellaMaeDunkin 4 years ago

      Celtic music is so beautiful! My daughter recently got a mandolin, so I am showing this lens to her also.

    • CircusRunaway profile image

      CircusRunaway 5 years ago

      Yes on the mando.. and yes on the Celtic, Thanks for the lovely lens.

    • profile image

      grannysage 5 years ago

      I am actually working on a lens about my dad who played a mandolin. I tried to learn it but couldn't get the hang of it

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love Celtic music but I don't ^play any instrument. i tried piano..;it was disastrous.

    • OldStones LM profile image

      OldStones LM 5 years ago

      I play the mandolin and I love Celtic music. I am completely self taught so I don't read sheet music, one of these days I need to buckle down and learn how. I am also thinking about taking a formal lesson or two. I am sure I have a bad habit or two to unlearn :) Great article.

    • aurora7 profile image

      aurora7 5 years ago

      No, I do not play the mandolin. However, I do like Celtic music. If I do decide to play the mandolin, I will definitely refer to this lens.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Great info - and wonderful music, as well! Blessed by a SquidAngel!