Unlock the Secrets of Celtic Mandolin and Learn How to Play!

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If you’ve always wanted to learn how to play celtic mandolin, then you’ve come to the right place! In this article, I’m going to give you a step-by-step guide to unlocking the secrets behind this ancient instrument. From understanding the basics of the instrument to learning traditional celtic melodies, I’m going to show you how to become a proficient celtic mandolin player. So, if you’re ready to get started, let’s dive in and learn all there is to know about celtic mandolin!

Necessary Equipment

Necessary Equipment
To play celtic mandolin, you will need a round-backed mandolin, strings, and a pick. A round-backed mandolin is essential as the shape of the instrument helps to produce the desired tones. Strings should be of medium gauge and should be tuned to G-D-A-E. A pick should also be used to pluck the strings and produce the desired sound.

Tuning the Mandolin

Tuning The Mandolin

  • Place the mandolin in a comfortable playing position.
  • Tune the mandolin by using an electronic tuner or by comparing the notes to those of another instrument.
  • Tune the strings from lowest pitch to highest pitch.
  • Tune the strings to the following notes: G-D-A-E.
  • Adjust the tuning pegs until the notes are in tune.
  • Use a capo to change the pitch of the strings if needed.
  • Check the tuning of the mandolin regularly.

Basic Chords

Basic Chords
Celtic mandolin playing is based on a few basic chords. The most common Celtic mandolin chords are G, D, A, and E. All four of these chords are played in a variety of ways and can be used to create a wide range of melodies. Some other chords that are often used are C, F, and B. These chords are generally used as passing tones or in accompaniment. Learning the basic chords is essential for playing Celtic mandolin music.

G is played with the index finger on the third string, the middle finger on the second string, and the ring finger on the first string. D is played with the index finger on the first string, the middle finger on the second string, and the ring finger on the third string. A is played with the index finger on the first string, the middle finger on the third string, and the ring finger on the second string. E is played with the index finger on the second string, the middle finger on the third string, and the ring finger on the first string.

C is played with the index finger on the second string, the middle finger on the fourth string, and the ring finger on the third string. F is played with the index finger on the fourth string, the middle finger on the third string, and the ring finger on the second string. B is played with the index finger on the third string, the middle finger on the second string, and the ring finger on the first string.

Once these basic chords have been mastered, a musician can begin to explore more complex chords and create unique melodies. With practice and patience, anyone can learn to play Celtic mandolin music.

Strumming Patterns

Strumming Patterns

  • Single Strum: A single down and up strum, usually used as a punctuation between phrases.
  • Alternating Strum: This is a series of down and up strums, alternating on each beat.
  • Double Strum: A pair of strums, occurring on the same beat, then a pause.
  • Triplet Strum: This is a quick series of three strums, occurring on the same beat.
  • Swing Strum: A triplet strum with two down strokes and one up stroke.
  • Rolling Strum: This is a series of alternating strums, with each strum occurring on a different beat.
  • Syncopated Strum: This is a combination of single, double, and triplet strums, occurring on different beats.
  • Staccato Strum: A series of single strums, occurring on different beats.



Arpeggios are a great way to add variety and interest to Celtic mandolin playing. An arpeggio is a technique where the notes of a chord are played in a rapid succession, usually on the same string. In traditional Celtic music, arpeggios are often used to add drama and excitement to a tune.

Chord Arpeggio Pattern
G Major 3-2-0-1-0-3-2-0
D Minor 2-0-1-2-0-2-0-1
A Minor 0-2-1-0-2-0-2-1

To play an arpeggio, start with the lowest note of the chord, then play the remaining notes in ascending order. In standard tuning, the strings on a mandolin are tuned G-D-A-E from lowest to highest pitch. For example, a G major arpeggio would start with the 3rd fret of the G string, then the 2nd fret of the D string, followed by the open A string, the 1st fret of the A string, and so on.

Arpeggios can also be used to spice up a melody. Experiment with different chord progressions and arpeggio patterns to create interesting musical phrases.

Playing Lead

Playing Lead

  • Learn to play melodic lead by playing scales and arpeggios.
  • Learn the chords in the key you are playing in, and practice switching between them.
  • Learn the basic techniques of playing lead on the mandolin, such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, and trills.
  • Learn how to improvise lead lines by playing over chord changes.
  • Listen to recordings of Celtic music and analyze the lead lines.
  • Practice playing lead over backing tracks and recordings.

Irish Tunes

Irish Tunes

  • The Irish Washerwoman
  • The Wearing of the Green
  • The Irish Rover
  • The Irish Jig
  • The Wild Rover
  • Danny Boy
  • The Star of the County Down
  • Whiskey in the Jar
  • Galway Bay
  • Molly Malone

Irish tunes are a staple of Celtic music. They are usually played in a fast, lively tempo and feature complex rhythms. When playing these tunes on the mandolin, it is important to really listen to the melody and emphasize the rhythms. As you get more comfortable with the tune, you can add in some ornamentation to give it a more traditional Celtic feel.

Working with a Band

Playing the Celtic Mandolin in a band is an exhilarating experience. The key to success is to rehearse regularly with the other musicians and to get your sound right. When playing with a band, it is important to practice the tunes together before performing them in public. Listen carefully to what the other musicians are playing and follow their lead.

The Celtic Mandolin is a great instrument for accompanying other instruments. As you learn the songs, experiment with different techniques to add texture and texture to the music. Try playing single-note lines, strumming chords or using a pick to add rhythm.

As part of the band, you will be responsible for providing the rhythm for the music. This can be done by simply strumming chords or by using a combination of strumming and picking. When playing with a band, you should focus on playing the same rhythm as the other musicians. This will help keep the tempo consistent and will create a unified sound.

The Celtic Mandolin is also a great instrument for soloing. When soloing, you can use the same techniques you would use when playing with a band. Try to create interesting licks and melodic lines that will stand out in the mix.

Finally, remember to enjoy playing with a band. Have fun and don’t get too caught up in the technicalities. The most important thing is to create a unified sound with the other musicians and to make the music sound great.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Celtic Mandolin?

A Celtic mandolin is a stringed instrument that is a variation of the traditional mandolin. It has a flat-back body and a long neck, and is usually tuned to a Celtic scale. The strings are usually made of steel, although some instruments have nylon strings. The Celtic mandolin is a popular instrument for Celtic music, and is often used in traditional Irish, Scottish and Welsh music.

What are the Benefits of Learning to Play Celtic Mandolin?

Learning to play Celtic mandolin can be a great way to become a well-rounded musician. The instrument is not only fun to play but has a unique sound that stands out in any ensemble. It is also a versatile instrument which can be used to play a variety of styles such as folk, classical, jazz, and blues. Additionally, the instrument is small and lightweight, making it easy to transport and store. With regular practice and guidance, anyone can learn to play Celtic mandolin and experience the joy that comes with creating music.

How do I get started playing Celtic Mandolin?

Start by purchasing a mandolin that has a good tone. A student-level mandolin should suffice. Next, find a good teacher or online tutorial to learn the basics of playing. Focus on learning the fundamentals of rhythm, tone, and melody. Once you have a good foundation, learn Celtic tunes and practice them until you can play them with ease. Finally, join a local mandolin group to practice with other Celtic musicians. With practice and dedication, you can become a proficient Celtic Mandolin player.

What techniques should I be aware of when playing Celtic Mandolin?

When playing Celtic Mandolin, one should be aware of the different techniques used in this style of music. These techniques include the use of drones, slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and double-stops. Additionally, ornaments such as grace notes and triplets should also be employed to give the music an authentic Celtic feel. Finally, it is important to develop a good sense of rhythm to be able to stay in time when playing with other musicians.

Are there any special considerations when playing Celtic Mandolin?

Yes, when playing Celtic Mandolin, it is important to be aware of the style and ornamentation associated with the genre. This includes using slides and rolls to create a driving rhythm and embellishments such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, and vibrato. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the tuning used in Celtic Mandolin, which is typically a GDAE tuning, an octave lower than a standard mandolin.


The Celtic mandolin is a unique and beautiful instrument, with a rich history and distinctive sound. Learning the basics of playing this instrument can be challenging, but with practice and dedication, it can become a rewarding and enjoyable activity. From finding the right mandolin for your level of skill to mastering the techniques of Celtic mandolin playing, there are many opportunities to explore and enjoy this ancient instrument.


About the author

Country Music Singer, Tayo Reed, grow up listening to Country Music as a child in sweet home, "Alabama". "I am authentically a true country girl at heart. I have only desired to sing one style of music. I have never wavered, in spite of disappointments, delays, rejections, and detours."

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