Encyclopedia > Mandolin

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A mandolin is a stringed musical instrument. Mandolins have 8 strings, in 4 pairs. Each pair of strings is tuned in unison, and are a fifth apart from adjacent pairs, giving an identical tuning to a violin (G-D-A-E low-to-high). Unlike a violin, the neck of a mandolin is fretted and it is typically played with a plectrum.

Like the guitar, the mandolin is a poorly sustaining instrument --- a note cannot be maintained for an arbitrary time as with a violin. Its higher pitch makes this problem more severe than with the guitar, and as a result use of tremolo (rapid picking on a single note) is commonplace.

Mandolins come in a few forms. The more traditional roundback has a vaulted back made of a number of strips of wood in a bowl formation, similar to a lute. The flatback mandolin derives from the cittern[?]. The carved top instrument was introduced by the Gibson company. These use the best of violin making techniques and guitar making production.

Larger versions of the mandolin are the mandola (a fifth below the mandolin, as the viola is below the violin) and the octave mandolin (an octave below the mandolin).

Mandolins have a long history and much early music was written for them. However they are now mainly heard in country, bluegrass and folk music.

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