Mandolin – Opinions, Analysis and Buying Guide in 2021
Playing the mandolin is an art, and for that reason choosing the right one is what will make you an artist. Although each mandolin produces a beautiful sound, not all of them are suitable for you and it is these diversities that make mandolins unique instruments suitable for various musical genres. A model like the Classic Cantabile 00023027 mandolin brings an asymmetrical look and a professional quality ideal for those who enjoy bluegrass, meanwhile, Italian music fans can enjoy models like Gewa 505250 , a Neapolitan mandolin with classic design and pleasant sound.
The key when buying any musical instrument, especially the mandolin, is not to get carried away by the first one that catches your eye, no matter how beautiful its design is or how convenient its size is. Just like an electric guitar is better for rock, and a classical is better for flamenco, mandolins also have different types that are adapted to specific musical styles.
The first question you should ask yourself when making your guide to buying the best mandolin is what kind of music you want to play and, from that point, it will be easier to recognize the right instrument for you.
If you are a fan of classical music with mandolin solos or Italian music, then your best alternative may be a Neapolitan mandolin. This instrument is the traditional one that was used hundreds of years ago and continues to be marketed among those who enjoy the soft sounds and the presence of the mandolin in the foreground.
For those who enjoy folk music and want to get started in Celtic culture, for example, from countries like Ireland and Scotland, the folk mandolin will be the best option. This is very similar to the Neapolitan, however, it has a more rounded mouth to be able to produce its distinctive sounds.
When it comes to more modern music, like that of the country genre, for example, then the bluegrass mandolin is the one you need to play. This type of instrument comes in two types and, although the sound does not vary much, its structure is totally different. The type A is teardrop-shaped, symmetrical and slightly smaller than the type F. The latter is preferred by professional mandolinists and amateurs of bluegrass.
Finally, some special mandolins manage to adapt to different musical genres and if what you want is to be able to participate in the creation of different rhythms or you still do not discover your preferred genre, then using a mandolin of this type may be the best.
Design and structure
The moment you do a mandolin comparison, you will realize that, depending on the type of instrument you buy, the structures change noticeably. The first thing that differs between mandolins of different types is the resonance box, since each of them varies in order to produce the specific sound you are looking for.
Some mandolins have thin frames, while others have domed soundboards. Structures not only influence sound, but also how you manipulate and play them. Certain designs are not comfortable to play standing up, as is done in folk music, while others are not well suited to playing sitting down.
However, regardless of the shape of the instrument, something that is necessary to take into account for each mandolin is that its materials are not plastic. Mandolins that have a plastic bridge are a good and inexpensive option for beginners, however how much the instrument costs should not be a determining factor for professionals .
The mandolin bridge, responsible for defining the sound and resonance, should not be made of plastic, but of good quality wood or bronze. The materials cannot wear out with use, otherwise this will directly affect the sound the mandolin will produce.
An inexpensive instrument usually comes alone, without any type of accessories, however, in order to save more money in the long term, it is preferable to buy a mandolin that has different accessories in the purchase to live a more complete experience.
It is advisable to get a mandolin that comes with a cover included, as this will prevent the instrument from being damaged due to knocks or drops. In addition to that it will also facilitate its transport to any place and will give you space to carry your essentials, without having to buy a backpack.
But, if you want to aspire to more, you can find models that come with other accessories included to improve the use of the mandolin, such as digital tuners, replacement strings and other items that will serve both beginners and professionals.
Frequently asked questions
Q1: How to use a mandolin?
Using a mandolin follows the same steps as most string instruments, so if you have experience with the guitar or ukulele, for example, playing the mandolin will be easier for you.
The first thing you should do is learn the chords of your mandolin and have a pick on hand that will allow you to play it. Let the instrument rest on your torso, without pressing it, while your dominant hand handles the strumming. Tune the mandolin, and then you only have to press the fingerboard with your fingers to mark the notes, while with the other hand you vibrate the strings.
Q2: How to tune the mandolin?
The mandolin uses the tuning of the violin in terms of the notes, however, the difference and difficulty lies in the fact that the mandolins have 8 strings that work in 4 pairs.
Use a digital tuner and follow the violin notes to achieve the correct pitch.
Q3: Where is the mandolin from?
The origin of the mandolin dates back to Italy and many classical musicians used it in their symphonies. However, today the instrument is known and used in various parts of the world. In the UK and Ireland it is used in folk music, in the United States in country music, while Latin America has a space for the mandolin in various folk tunes from different countries.
Q4: How to play the mandolin with numbers?
The method of teaching by numbers is used by various people. With this type of teaching, the spaces between the frets occupy a progressive number starting from 1, while the strings have numbers that, starting with the number 10, increase by 10 as you go up. That is, the first pair of strings below would take number 10, while the last pair of strings above would take number 40.
If the note indicates that 24 must be played, it is necessary to position yourself on the second strings and in the fourth space. If they are numbers that end in 0, such as 10, 20, 30 and 40, it means that these strings will have to be played in the air.
Q5: How to change the strings to a mandolin?
The first thing to keep in mind is that it is recommended that as soon as you remove a rope, place its spare to avoid confusion.
Untie the string from the tailpiece, and place the new string from the tailpiece itself. With its end securely attached, to prevent it from becoming untied or breaking because it is not in place.
Stretch the string all the way to the pegbox, letting it pass between your index and middle finger to keep it straight. Place it on the pegbox and begin to tighten, making the string stretch more as you twist.
Q6: Is the mandolin played the same as the guitar?
No matter how much one instrument is like another, it is impossible for the process of playing it to be the same. Each instrument is different from one another, and for that reason, there is no way that the mandolin can be played like the guitar, even if they both have strings.
The mandolin, for example, has eight strings that come in pairs for four specific musical notes. Unlike the six strings on the guitar. Focus on the mandolin being a unique instrument and playing it will become easy as you practice.
Q7: How to tune the mandolin with the guitar?
Although it is advisable to do the tuning with a violin, if you have knowledge about the tuning of a guitar, then you can lean on it. The guitar is tuned, on the four bass strings, with E, A, Re and Sol; and the mandolin for its part is tuned, most of the time, with Sol, Re, La Mi.
Therefore, the key is that, listening to a guitar, you tune the mandolin in the opposite way. From the lowest to the highest note.
Q8: How to clean the mandolin?
The first thing to keep in mind is that as they are wooden instruments, you must take care of them from water, as this can damage their structure. A damp cloth will suffice to remove dirt.
Mandolin strings should be cleaned with special oil to keep them firm, just after wiping them with a tissue each time you use them. It is not recommended to use waxes or silicones when cleaning the instrument.
Every now and then try polishing the wood with a woodwork polishing solution and a dry tissue. This will preserve the shiny, new look of your mandolin.
The mandolin: an instrument known to few
The mandolin is one of those instruments that not many people identify at first glance, since its popularity has not been very marked. However, it has been around for centuries, playing a leading role in classical, popular and folk music, as well as inspiring new genres such as bluegrass.
More than an instrument of constant evolution, the mandolin is characterized by having a rather uncertain origin. Its small shape and its case similar to the shape of a pear, allows it to be associated with a large number of instruments dating from the 10th century. However, scholars have pointed out that the mandolin is a family of the “Laudes”, which They are instruments equipped with a tuning fork and tuning fork, whose origin is from Africa and Asia. Some of them are “la Mandore”, “La Gittern” and “Chitarino”, which, after their evolution, gave way to the birth of the mandolin.
Origin of the term Mandolin
The first record of the term associated with the word mandolin was found in Rome in 1634. The word appears written in some accounts payable belonging to Cardinal Francesco Barbarini. On paper, reference is made to the repair of a “mandolini box”. In this way, historians reaffirm that the terminology “Mandola” was completely different from “Mandolin”.
During the period from 1620 to 1670, in which the reign of Ferdinando II de Medicci occurred, some mandolin music could be found in Florence to be played in ensemble or solo. Similarly, some of the first mandolins were built between the 17th and 18th centuries, thanks to the violin maker Antonio Stradivari. Currently, the “Stradivariano de Cremona” museum exhibits the patterns used by Stradivari with annotations in his own handwriting for the manufacture of mandolins.
From mandolin to mandolin
The term “Mandola” became known at the end of the 16th century. It is an instrument related to the mandolin, which in ancient times was the cause of great controversy due to its similarity. However, the mandolin is played with a plectrum, its body is much larger and its pitch is one fifth below that used for the mandolin.
At present, the similarity of the mandolin to the mandolin can be seen more closely, thanks to the specimens preserved in some museums. For example, in the Museum of Art History in Vienna, there is a mandolin made in Padua during the year 1599, which has four orders of strings. The first one is simple and the second double.
Similarly, the “1600 Mandola” appears, which incorporates 29.9-centimeter strings and, of its four orders, the first stands out for being simple, while the remaining three are double. According to historians and scholars of the decorative arts, both specimens have marked similarities with respect to the mandolins built during the 19th century.
For its part, in the city of London there are also a pair of mandibles that are part of the instrumental collection of the “Victoria & Albert Museum”. These mandrels belong to the 18th century, have a marked Gothic style and were built in both Paris and Venice, during the years 1752 and 1757, respectively. The design of both give an idea of what the mandolin would later be.
Types of mandolin
The mandolin is grouped into three types: Italian, folk, and bluegrass. Each of them has distinctive characteristics, which could make us question which is the best mandolin. However, this would be quite unfair, as its resonances are adapted to different musical genres.
Let’s start by talking about the Italian mandolin, which is widely used in classical and Italian music, due to its strong resonance. The instrument has an oval mouth and a pear-shaped case. Furthermore, its lid forms an obtuse angle given by the division of the lid.
For its part, the design of the folk mandolin may have some variations, which will depend on the country of manufacture. For example, the mouth of the instrument is originally round. However, in countries like Ireland or Brazil, it is customary to modify it and adapt the characteristic shape of the violins. In this way, it is possible to significantly increase the loudness. Also, it is important to comment that the lid is made in one piece, but once again there is the possibility of finding it with a flat or domed design.
Finally, we have the bluegrass mandolin, which in turn is classified as “A” and “F”. The first of them has great similarities with respect to the folk mandolin and its body draws the silhouette of a drop. For its part, the “F” is much more voluminous, because it incorporates a scroll or ornament, quite similar to that used on violins. This particularity is inspired by the mandolins developed by the Gibson house and which became very popular throughout America. In addition, you will be interested to know that the bluegrass mandolin is interpreted in a musical style that bears the same name, born in the 40s, by the great country musician Bill Monroe.
The mandolin is a unique chord instrument, which has been present in the musical works of immortal composers. In this way, it consolidates its existence in the musical world since remote times.
If we look back and specifically locate ourselves in the 17th century, we can begin to notice the incredible positioning of the mandolin or, as it was also called, “il mandolino”. Thus, we come to the first composer who decided to incorporate this instrument into his works, creating mandolin and orchestra pieces. It is about the Venetian Antonio Vivaldi, a Catholic priest, violinist and teacher.
Decades later, who would be one of the most influential pianists and composers of classicism, uses the mandolin in one of his works. The “Opera Don Giovanni” is the name of the piece composed in 1786 by Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, also known as Mozart.
Another virtuoso of music who did not resist the tunes of the mandolin was the composer, pianist and conductor Ludwig van Beethoven, whose musical legacy dates from the period of Classicism to the beginning of Romanticism. Among the pieces created for mandolin are a pair of sonatinas, an adage and a theme with variations.