How to Hold a Mandolin

If you’re new to playing the mandolin, one of the first things you’ll need to learn is how to hold it properly. Holding your mandolin correctly not only helps you play more comfortably, but it also improves your playing technique and tone quality. In this blog post, we’ll go over the basics of how to hold a mandolin, including hand positions, posture, and common mistakes to avoid.

How to Hold a Mandolin

Following are the guidelines on how to hold a mandolin.

Choosing the Right Size Mandolin

Before we get into the details of how to hold a mandolin, it’s important to choose the right size instrument for you. Mandolins come in various sizes, including soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. The most common size for beginners is the soprano, which is smaller and easier to handle. Consider your hand size, arm length, and overall comfort when choosing a mandolin.

Hand Positions

One of the most important aspects of holding a mandolin is hand position. There are two main positions you need to master: the left-hand position and the right-hand position.

Left Hand Position

When holding the mandolin with your left hand, you want to make sure that your hand is relaxed and comfortable. Your thumb should be positioned behind the neck of the mandolin, and your fingers should be placed on the fretboard. Make sure your fingers are curved, and your fingertips are pressing down on the strings firmly but not too hard.

Right Hand Position

The right hand position is equally important. Your right hand should be positioned above the strings, with your wrist slightly bent. Use a pick or your fingers to pluck the strings. Keep your fingers close to the strings, but not touching them when you’re not playing. This position allows you to play with speed and accuracy while avoiding unnecessary tension.


Proper posture is also essential for holding a mandolin correctly. Here are some tips to help you maintain good posture while playing:

  1. Sit up straight – avoid slouching or leaning forward.
  2. Keep your shoulders relaxed – avoid tensing up your shoulders.
  3. Use a footstool – if you’re sitting down to play, use a footstool to elevate your left leg slightly. This helps you maintain good posture and reduces the strain on your back.
  4. Keep your mandolin in a comfortable position – adjust the angle of the mandolin to make it comfortable for you to play. It should not be too high or too low, and your arms should be relaxed.

Using a Strap

While it’s not necessary to use a strap when playing the mandolin, some players find it more comfortable to do so. If you choose to use a strap, make sure it’s adjustable and fits comfortably over your shoulder. Adjust the angle of the mandolin so that it’s not too high or too low when you’re wearing the strap.

how to hold a mandolin

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Holding a mandolin properly is crucial for both comfortable playing and producing a good sound. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when holding a mandolin:

  1. Slouching or hunching over the instrument: This can cause discomfort and tension in the neck, shoulders, and back, as well as affect your playing posture and technique. Instead, sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Gripping the neck too tightly: This can result in tension in the hands, wrists, and arms, and make it difficult to play with fluidity and precision. Instead, use a light but secure grip on the neck, allowing your fingers to move freely.
  3. Holding the instrument too far away or too close: The mandolin should be held comfortably close to your body, allowing you to reach all the strings without straining or stretching. Avoid holding the instrument too far away, which can make it difficult to play with accuracy and control, or too close, which can cause discomfort and tension.
  4. Incorrect placement of the right hand: The right hand should be positioned so that the fingers can easily reach the strings and pluck them cleanly. Avoid holding your hand too high or too low, or angling it awkwardly, as this can affect your tone and accuracy.
  5. Neglecting to use a strap: A strap can help you support the weight of the instrument and maintain a comfortable playing position, especially if you are playing for extended periods. Make sure to adjust the strap so that the mandolin is held securely and comfortably.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that you are holding your mandolin in a way that is comfortable, ergonomic, and conducive to good playing technique and sound production.


Should I sit or stand when playing the mandolin?

A: You can do either, but it’s important to maintain good posture in either position. If you’re sitting down, use a footstool to elevate your left leg slightly and keep your back straight. If you’re standing up, adjust the strap so that the mandolin sits comfortably on your body and your arms are relaxed.

How tight should I grip the mandolin?

A: You should grip the mandolin firmly enough to hold it in place, but not so tightly that it creates tension in your hands and arms. Keep your grip relaxed and comfortable.

What kind of pick should I use when playing the mandolin?

A: There are several types of picks you can use, including plastic, metal, and felt picks. Experiment with different types to find the one that feels most comfortable and produces the sound you want.

How do I know if I’m holding the mandolin correctly?

A: The best way to know if you’re holding the mandolin correctly is to pay attention to your posture, hand positions, and overall comfort level. If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort, adjust your position until you feel comfortable.


Holding a mandolin correctly is essential for playing comfortably, improving your playing technique, and achieving the best possible tone quality. Remember to focus on your hand positions and posture, and avoid common mistakes like gripping the mandolin too tightly or slouching. With practice, you’ll develop good habits and be able to play the mandolin with ease and grace.

Also read: How to Play Amazing Grace on Mandolin

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