How to Convert Guitar Tabs to Mandolin Tabs

convert guitar tabs to mandolin

Can you use guitar tabs to play mandolin? Yes, and in this video from Phillip G, we show you 2 methods for converting the guitar tabs so that you can play them on a standard tuned mandolin.

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Video Text:

0:00:00.4 –>
[Music] hi there i made a video uh discussing how to take common guitar tablature and convert it for use on the mandolin stuff so you can take all the popular songs you’re used to playing just by looking up guitar tab online and just making a few adjustments to the numbers and stuff on there based upon a couple of rules you can take those same riffs and those same passages and phrases and stuff and play them on the mandolin i’m going to show you two methods for doing this the first one is i’m calling it the 257 rule i’ll explain why it’s called that during the video the second method is i’m calling it force the fifths it’s really how to convert a fourth interval into a fifth interval across stringed instruments and i’ll also discuss which method you should use

0:01:00.3 –>
so the first one we have here is the 257 rule so here we’ve got the guitar tuning going from base to treble is e a d g b e and the mandolin is tuned in standard is tuned to gdae we don’t care about the e and the a string so we’re going to ignore those and all we really care about is the d g b and e strings the two five seven rule is the high e string is going to stay the high e string so there’s going to be no changes there so you’ll add zero to the number on the guitar tablature the a string on the mandolin you’re going to add two frets to the d string you’re going to add five frets to and the g string you’re going to add seven too so why does this rule work so what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to take a mandolin we’re trying to take the tuning of a mandolin and we’re trying to make it act like the tuning of a guitar so in order to do that we need to make the base pitch of the mandolin the same

0:02:01.4 –>
as the pitch on a guitar so looking at those four strings that i have highlighted here on the guitar we’ve got the e b g and d strings going from treble to bass on the mandolin we have e a d g if i add zero frets to the e on the mandolin it stays in e that’s what we want i want to take the a string though on the mandolin and turn it into a b string to do that i need to add a whole step to the a note to the a note pitch on the second string of the mandolin to make it that b string you do that by adding two frets we’re trying to take the d string on the mandolin and make it into a g you count it off starting with d so d sharp e f f sharp g that’s five semi tones or five frets on the mandolin likewise we need to go from g to d on the last string of the mandolin to do that you’re going to add seven so the rule is if it’s on the first string on the on the e string you’re gonna add zero to it two five seven that’s where i get the two five seven rule from

0:03:01.1 –>
let’s do an example of this so this is um the guitar tab for life and technicolor by coldplay um just happens to be one of the first songs that i that i learned how to play on the mandolin and did this conversion with so we’ll use that one here so if you were to if you’ve got a standard 6 string guitar you tune it to standard you play this tablet you’ll get that opening riff from life and technicolor this is that same exact riff as you see there translated to the mandolin using the 2 5 7 rule so for the b string i’m sorry for the a string on the mandolin i add 2 to whatever is on the b string of the guitar so that first line of 0 becomes a two the two becomes a four so on and so forth the d string to make the d string equal to the g string i have to add five to it so all of those twos on the g string of the guitar become sevens on the d string on the mandolin so on and so forth so what you see here in

0:04:01.1 –>
blue is the converted um guitar tableter into mandolin tablature i want to bring up something here called the seventh fret i’m gonna call it the seventh fret rule and because the mandolin is tuned in fifths whenever you get to the seventh fret you’re actually playing the next string or the next course up on the mandolin as an open string so anytime you see a seven it’s actually the same as a zero on the next string up so you could play that first tabulator i had that has all the sevens on the d string it’s actually kind of hard to play and it’s it’s it’s tricky to play it sounds a little bit off too because the timing and stuff and the pressure that you have to that you have to put on the strings and stuff if you convert all those sevens to zeros on the next string you’ll end up with this new tab here all the red zeros are the blue sevens from the d string previously this is much easier to play because you’re playing

0:05:01.2 –>
lots of open strings and stuff um a quick video here and i will show you guys a demonstration of me playing this in the second version where i’ve converted everything to play off of open strings [Music] the second method i’ve got for you is converting fourths to fifths or converting fist to force depending upon how you how you want to look at it this method works when you take any two consecutive strings on the mandolin or on the guitar so the tabletop needs to be written for consecutive strengths so no string skipping tricks here you can convert strings to string skipping movements and whatnot from guitar to mandolin it’s just a little bit more involved this is going to focus more specifically on doing it when you have

0:06:00.5 –>
two consecutive strings this rule does not work if you are working with the g and b strings from the guitar because those are not tuned to a perfect fourth like most of the strings are on a guitar those are tuned to a major third so this rule doesn’t work there if you’re following what i’m doing here with the force and fifth and and then with the 257 rule and stuff you can figure out how to make the conversion to uh for the g and b strings i would recommend just maybe i’ll go into when to use it but i would suggest you go back to the 257 rule and i’ll cover that later in the which method to use section but anyways this method does not work for the g and b strings you need to pick one of the strings to stay constant so since you’re picking two consecutive strings one string will be a base string one string will be the more treble string pick one of those either the top string the bottom string or the base string or the trouble string pick one of them [Music] one of them is if you choose the base string so the top string or the thicker

0:07:01. –>
of the two strings to stay constant to not change then you need to subtract two from any fret or from any fret indicators in the guitar tab from on the treble string if you’re going to keep the treble string constant then the bass string you need to add two to any of the fret indicators from the guitar tab so let’s talk about why this works um we’re not going to do this with tuning and stuff in order to understand this we need to understand just how the guitar and the mandolin are tuned in general a guitar is tuned in perfect for us in general except for going to g to the b but we’re going to ignore that in general the guitar is tuned to fourths the mandolin is tuned to fifths so what this means is that the guitar actually gets to the next string faster than the mandolin does the guitar only has to go a fourth to get to the next string whereas mandolin has to go a fifth before it gets to the next string

0:08:02.6 –>
we need to take that interval from open string i’m sorry from yeah from open string on the base string to the next string we need to take that interval and we need to shorten it on the mandolin so we’re taking the length of a fifth and we’re converting it down and making it work on a fourth [Music] this brings us to our rules so if we’re looking at specifically um it works best if you want actual pitches here we’re going to look at the a and d strings on the guitar and the a and e strings on the mandolin an a and a d i’m sorry an a to an e on a mandolin is a perfect fifth so i am going to keep the a string constant so in order to create that fourth that exists on the guitar i have to take away a whole step from from the uh from the treble string from the higher string up so that’s where we keep that’s where we take away two frets from the e string

0:09:03. –>
if i’m going to keep the treble string constant then i need to increa then i need to shrink the interval by shortening or moving up the base string so i will add two frets to the base string so if you keep the bass string constant treble string needs to get shortened if or needs to come back two frets if you’re going to keep the treble string constant then the bass string needs to move forward to close the interval so you’re going to add two frets there let’s look at an example for this this is the guitar tablature for crazy train uh from by ozzy osbourne um this is in the guitar form it’s consecutive strings we really don’t care about the tuning and pitch and stuff you can you can play this wherever you want to as long as you’ve got that fourth’s relationship on the guitar going from the g to the b is different because it’s a major third so it’s it’s it doesn’t work there but you could play the same riff going from the a to the d string or even from the b to the e string and it would still work

0:10:02.2 –>
we’re going to think of this in terms of base string and treble string as as opposed to looking at it as going e to h think of it as base string triple string or bottom string top string however you want to just think of it in terms of consecutive strings the base string is going to be the thicker strings the treble strings will be the finer skinnier strings this is the same guitar tablet in that format the first one we are looking at here we are keeping the base string constant so the base is not changing the base string is not changing so by our rule we have to subtract two from any of the fret markers or fret indicators on the treble string so the four becomes a two the five becomes a three so on and so forth and we’ll end up with this tablature likewise we could have kept the treble string constant in which case we need to add two to everything on the bass string so those twos all become fours five becomes a seven etc etc open strings are easier to play so um in the video i have me playing this that

0:11:01.1 –>
i’ll show in a second here i use the middle one so the first one where i keep the bass string constant that is the way that i play this song you can play it using the bottom one but it’s harder because every single note is it has to be fretted whereas in the other version you’ve got open strings that you can play to and open open strings are just very easy to play to whenever you can use it so when it comes to making the decision do i keep the the bottom string or do i keep the bass string constantly do i keep the treble string constant just decide what you want it to sound like and how you want to play it one of these methods will be easier to play one of these will fit the key it’ll just it depends on context on which one you use for me i don’t generally play with other people so i’m just learning stuff on my own and stuff so if i can play to an open string i’m going to play to an open string [Music]

0:12:02.6 –>
now comes the question of which one should you use so the 257 rule um this is a really great rule to use or this is the method you should use if the guitar riff that you’re playing uses the treble string so if it’s written and it uses the e the b the g and the d strings from the guitar this is the rule you should use it it allows you it allows more of a direct relationship there it also um it maintains the key of the song that you’re playing in because everything just matches up and you’re trying to match pitches and whatnot and you’re keeping that e stat the high e static and whatnot this also gives you a method to deal with that major third interval that exists between the g and the b string on the guitar this is the method to use if you’ve got a guitar riff that you’re playing that goes across the g and the b strings this is the method you should use for example like um i want to say sweet child of mine by

0:13:00.1 –>
guns and roses this is the method that i would use for converting that to for play on the mandolin the force of the fifth this is kind of the general method um this is true for any two consecutive strings so if you if you’re just looking at two consecutive strings in your riff kind of like the uh the ozzy osborne song like crazy train if you’re looking at two strings like that and everything’s played on just those two strings this is the method to use because it doesn’t it doesn’t have to be on the e and the a string on the guitar it can be on the a and the d string it can be on the d and the g string and b on the b and the high e string you you’ve got the ability to apply this to lots of different situations so it isn’t fixed to any specific tone it’s also really really good if you are primarily playing kind of a bass riff so if it’s if the guitar riff that you’re playing is much more on the bass strings this is the method that i would use um it does not maintain key but it does give you some flexibility in being able to move around

0:14:00.7 –>
in keys and stuff so use method two if you need to be able to move your keys and stuff this is not the method to use if you have to move across the third and second string of the guitar if you have to deal with that major third this is not the best way to do it what i would suggest you do in that case is use method one and then if you need to change keys and whatnot you can shift stuff around um by just figuring out your new route or whatnot or using a variation of the force force key and moving it up and down the strings on the mandolin which is uniformly tuned unlike the guitar [Music]

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