Folk & Acoustic Musical Instrument Specialists

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Mandolin Information and FAQs



DEFINITION


Small Italian lute usually with 8 strings, sometimes 12. Now popular throughout the western world and often made with a flat back like a cittern.

INTRODUCTION


The mandolin is part of a family of instruments just like the violin family. The mandolin is the most common and is tuned like the fiddle, GDAE, its big brother, the mandola, is tuned like the viola, CGDA, and the octave mandola which has no violin equivalent is tuned GDAE. There are also the rarer mandocello (CGDA) and mandobass (EADG).

SOME TYPES OF MANDOLIN


Arch Top A-Style Mandolins | Arch Top F-Style Mandolins | Electric Mandolins | Flat Top Mandolins

Arch Top A-Style Mandolins

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Introduction: Gibson pioneered making mandolins with front and back carved into an arch from sold wood similar to a violin. These days arch tops are also created by pressing the wood to shape. Generally with f-shaped soundholes, this style is preferred for bluegrass music.

Arch Top F-Style Mandolins

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Introduction: Carved top mandolins made by Gibson in their F style, with a scroll and point on the body, have remained popular and there are many similar models on the market now. We offer Blue Moon, Ashburyand Kentucky. These all have an arch-top and f holes.

Electric Mandolins

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Introduction: Electric mandolins are very popular these days, we offer a wide range of models from Ashbury. One has a solid body and others a traditional hollow body with f holes. All feature electric guitar type magnetic pickups with tone and volume controls

Flat Top Mandolins

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Introduction: Flat-top instruments are the traditional mandolin design, originally with a bowl back, now mostly with a flat back in the style begun by Martin at the beginiing of the 20th century. They normally have a round or oval sound-hole and are popular for everything except bluegrass music.

FURTHER INFORMATION

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Mandolins are tuned like a fiddle, with two strings to each note, which helps to give it a really big sound. It's very easy to learn to accompany tunes on the mandolin by learning a few simple chords, but you can also learn to pick out tunes or play more complicated accompaniments.

HISTORY

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Mandolin Background

The Mandolin evolved from earlier lute family types of fretted instrument, in Italy during the last century, and reached a peak in popularity around 1895. Most of these examples were made in Naples, and the Neapolitan style mandolin has a deep bowl back constructed from thin ribs of wood.

In the late 19th century, American instrument makers developed the flat backed style of mandolin. Gibson's carved models, and Martin's flat tops are the best known of these. These designs give a more open sound, which projects well, and they also have the advantage of being much more comfortable to hold. Most modern styles of mandolin playing use these flat back instruments.

Occassionally seen are twelve string mandolins, sometimes favoured because the tremelo is easier, sometimes tuned with a set of strings sounding one octave below the rest.


MUSICAL STYLES

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The mandolin is becoming increasingly popular in many styles of music. It is very often used in Irish and English folk music, while pop musicians such as Rod Stewart and Paul McCartney along with many others have been bringing the mandolin into the limelight through their music over the last few decades.

The mandolin is also strongly associated with bluegrass and country music, and has been making a comeback in this area, as well as getting used occasionally in classical music. All this goes to show that the mandolin is an extremely versatile instrument which appeals to a huge range of people.

Try the instruments for yourself! We keep a huge and varied stock of new and secondhand instruments.

BANJO

   
Definition: American development of African origins (related to the Kora etc., but with a guitar type neck). Found with 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 or more strings, popular types are the 5 string, Tenor (4 string), Plectrum (long neck 4 string), Banjolele (Ukulele Banjo), Banjolin (Mandolin Banjo).
Read the full Banjo FAQ Page.