Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How to Transpose Guitar to Mandolin

The mandolin is a non-transposing instrument.

Transposing guitar notes to mandolin notes will make it possible to play both instruments simultaneously on the same pitches. The guitar is a transposing instrument but the mandolin is not. This makes it necessary to change the pitches of the guitar music in order for it to sound correct on the mandolin. In the case of the guitar, this is a simple process as long as all of the transposed notes end up in the playing range of the mandolin.

Transpose all of the notes in the guitar down an octave. The guitar sounds an octave lower than written, so to play the same identical pitches on mandolin, you have to transpose the notes down.

Check the transposition to see if there are any notes lower than a G below middle C. If there are, you will need to transpose the entire section up an octave to make it playable on the mandolin. The mandolin’s lowest note is G below middle C. You don’t have to worry about the high range, since the mandolin can play higher than guitar.

Analyze the chords; the mandolin only has four strings, making it possible to play four notes simultaneously, while the classical guitar has six, making it possible to play up to six chord tones. Since you can only play one note per string, you will have to check the chords to see if you need to omit any notes.


The lowest string is a G on the mandolin with a range of an octave. If you have a chord that requires the use of a low G and a low A, you will have to omit either the G or the A since the low G string can only play one pitch. On the guitar, this is not a problem since the E and the A string can cover these two pitches.

If you find a chord that is not playable on the mandolin, you can always roll the chord on the mandolin if you don't want to leave any notes out. This will make it possible to play all of the pitches, but it will require a solid playing technique.