Mandolin vs. Violin: (Full Comparison)

In this article we will be comparing the mandolin and violin. Looking at the differences similarities and which one is ultimately easier for a beginner to learn and which is harder.

There are few similarities between violin and mandolin which is the reason some newbies find it hard to decide on which they should start learning first.

The main difference between the mandolin and violin is the way that they are played. The Mandolin is plucked like a guitar while the violin is played using a bow.

Let’s dig deep into the details and see which instrument is for you.

Table of Contents

Differences Between The Mandolin and Violin (Comparison)

Origin and Evolution


Violin’s invention and origin took place in Italy in the early 1500’s as a member of vio family. Andrea Amati is known and credited as the developer of the early violin in around 1525. However more and modern violins were designed in the 17th and 18th centuries. The earlier violins had thick and shorter neck than the modern violins.


Mandolin is a plucked instrument that was originated in Italy too just like violins. However, unlike violins that are bowed instruments, mandolins are plucked and modern types were developed in the 18th century. The mandore type of mandolin was first developed in the 14th century.


Violin has 4 strings that are bowed from high to low which are E, A, D, and G. Violin strings can be made from various materials either nylon, sheep intestine, or steel. Recently, the violin E string is plated from different materials; gold, tin, and platinum. The violin nylon strings are wrapped with silver or nickel.

See also  Banjo Vs. Fiddle: Which Should You Learn First?

Mandolin is a 8 stringed instrument with 8 pegs mandolin strings are paired into 4, hence when you say a mandolin string, it means one pair. However, in some cases, mandolin may have up to 12 strings. The strings can be either made of steel, standard bronze or phosphor bronze.

Playing and Positioning


In modern violins, when holding it, the instrument should lie between the shoulder and the chin for stability purposes. This holding design was developed in the 19th century, while the early violins were held against the chest or the shoulder.

The bow is held in the right hand, then pinched between fingers and slightly squeezed. The bow movement when playing usually determines the volume, tone, and other note characteristics. When playing, you hold the neck gently around the thumb’s thick and the index finger as the other 4 fingers press down.

Unlike mandolin, the fiddle has no frets, hence in case the angle at which the fingers must meet the string is not exactly, fingers will slip.


When holding a mandolin, you should sit upright and let the instrument rest in your lap while its neck rest at 45 degrees from the vertical position. Mandolin neck should be cradled between the index finger and the thumb. Your palm should be proximity to the back and neck.

When playing, you should pluck using a pick. The pick should be grasped between the thumb and the last point of the index finger. The picking motion should be more on the wrist than the arm.

See also  Lyre vs. Lute: Everything You Need To Know

Both violin and mandolin are tuned the same, their string is in both cases GDAE and your finger in like patterns.

Ease of Learning (Which one is easier?)

The mandolin is easier to play compared to playing the violin. Like guitars, all the strings of mandolin strings sound good, yet is not easy for a beginner to make a violin string sound good. There are very many methods you should know for plucking the violin, just like there are over 15 types of bowing techniques. This further makes the violin hard to learn the instrument.

Find out how hard it is to learn the mandolin.

Moreover, the mandolin has frets which make it easier to play intonation, where you will need hours to master one simple scale on the violin.

Since the violin lacks frets, it becomes hard to practice and tune new notes especially if you are a beginner. This makes it reasonable to choose to learn mandolin before you figure beginning violin classes.

Sheet Music

Once again, the violin is not an easy ride here, there are lots of chunk of the sheet you need to draw from baroque, classical, to new orchestral genres. Violin sheets of music keep adding every day and there are many violinists ready to transcribe new own music sheets.

If you are a new learner, it would be recommendable if you choose to learn mandolin first. Mandolin has a few sheets of music which is also easier to find.

Uniqueness and Shortcomings

There are a lot of peculiar things with violin, is it not interesting pulling a bow made of horsehairs across a wooden box twisted inside a stretched sheep’s intestine? The interesting things about violins are the ones that keep you practicing since you can practice for even a year without getting anything.

See also  Mandolin vs. Guitar (Difference & Which Is For You?)

The posture when playing the violin is unique too because unlike another instrument, like a ukulele or mandolin for instance, it is stuck on the collarbone. , unlike other instruments

The limitations of the violin are that it is hard to play and various schools of thought keep confusing a new learner. Moreover, the violin is a monophonic instrument, meaning you play only one note since two or three-note aren’t easy to handle.

The core of mandolin sound is the two sets of strings per course that is a unique thing. Moreover, something unique about mandolin is it has various roots not only bluegrass. One major limitation is sustaining the volume.


After, reading through the above article you will understand that it is easier to play mandolin than a violin. Beginners may take months or more to master one not, yet there are thousands of notes to be a professional player. For mandolin, mastering basics is easier.

So if you learn mandolin first it will prepare you and help you switch smoothly to learning violin.

Leave a Comment