Mandolins are stringed instruments that trace their ancestry to a mandola, an Italian musical instrument. They have four pairs of strings and are often compared to the violin on account of their early design and...
However, this is where the similarity between the two instruments ends. The mandolin, unlike the violin, has a fretted fingerboard, and is unable to sustain a musical note for long which is the high point of a violin.
Mandolists are therefore forced to make use of tremolo to sustain long musical notes.
Traditionally, the mandolin was round or bowl-back, a style that is popularly known as Neapolitan. However, the modern version is flat-top, and the credit for developing this kind goes to Orville Gibson. He developed two clear styles in the early 20th century - both influenced by the violin.
They are the A-style mandolin, a tear shape and the F-style with a scroll near the neck and two points. Each style is available with two different kinds of sound holes: oval shaped or F-shaped. Both these musical instruments have arched tops and backs.
The Gibson mandolin came to be known as the Bluegrass mandolin, thanks to Charlie Monroe, the great mandolinist of 1930s whose band was known as the Bluegrass Boys. Charlie, who used an F-style and played it fast and furious.
Besides Bluegrass, mandolins have another popular form, the folk mandolin with a large and deep body and round sound holes. The tops and backs of these are mostly flat, and rarely arched.
Mandolins have also been used in jazz and classical styles of music, fascinating some great musicians. Among the famous names who composed music for mandolins are Ludwig van Beethoven, W. A. Mozart, Antonio Vivaldi, and Igor Stravinsky.
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