By Wayne Erbsen
Compared to the guitar, mandolin chords are EASY. In fact, most mandolin chords only use two fingers or sometimes only one.
In the mandolin chord charts below, each horizontal line represents a pair of mandolin strings. The E string is the one closest to the floor, as you hold your mandolin in playing position, and the G string is closest to the ceiling. The numbers represent the fret. Be sure to place your fingers between, not on, the fret. The letter to the left of each chord chart tells you the name of that chord. The letters on the strings tell you the name of the note where you put your fingers. Each chord chart also tells you what fingers to use. An “X” means you don’t play that string.
When you’re making a chord, it’s essential that you go to the chord with both fingers landing on the strings at exactly the same time.
In the key of G, for example, you’ll normally need these three chords: G, C, D.
In the key of D, you’ll need D, G and A.
And in the key of C, you’ll need C, F and G.
For more on this, check out my article Easy Two Chord Mandolin Songs.
Wayne Erbsen has been teaching banjo, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin since dinosaurs roamed the earth (really, about 50 years). Originally from California, he now makes his home in Asheville, North Carolina. He has written 30 songbooks and instruction books for banjo, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin.
8 thoughts on “Easy Two-Finger Mandolin Chords”
arthritis has really taken a toll on my hands. Without two finger play and instruction I would have to give up playing.
As a beginning mandolin player I can relate to any one’s challenges learning the instrument. But if arthritis is an issue, eliminating dairy food can REALLY help. And drastically cutting back on meat. I’m serious. This really works. None of my many 70-something-old friends who don’t eat dairy have any problems with arthritis, including me (72). Best of luck!
How can I play a F chord on the mandolin instead of the three figure?
I’m a newbie, but I play the two finger F as
Second fret on the G string
Third fret on the D string
What does it mean to cord in open position?
It means that your not playing a barre chord, which is where you “bar” the frets with youre index finger, kinda like a capo.
I’m just learning to play the mandolin and your 3 chords g,d,and c have helped me very much. How can I get to know the rest of the major chords like these 3? Like G,C,D, is one chord but what goes with A, B, F,and E fingering
2 chord charts
You can find most of these on page 93 of our newest book, Easy 2-Chords Songs for Mandolin.
If you are ever stuck not knowing a chord, you can figure it out for yourself, too! These chords are all made up of three notes: the 1, 3 and 5 of a scale. If you know your scales, you can figure out what notes belong in each chord by choosing the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of each scale (so for a ‘A’ chord, do this for the ‘A’ scale’). You can then figure out where you can find those notes on your mandolin’s fingerboard. There are different combinations of notes you can use, and this is why there is more than one way to make each chord.