Instrument of the Week 1: Mandolin!

Instrument of the Week 1: Mandolin!

The Mandolin

The mandolin is a musical instrument belonging to the lute family. Its history can be traced back to ancient times, with its roots in various cultures across the Mediterranean and Middle East. The mandolin's early ancestors can be found in civilizations such as Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Mesopotamia. Instruments like the Egyptian lyre and the Greek pandoura bear similarities to the mandolin's basic structure and string arrangement. 

During the Renaissance and Baroque periods (14th to 18th centuries), the mandolin underwent significant development in Europe. It gained popularity in Italy, particularly in Naples, where it was known as the mandolino. This period saw the emergence of various mandolin-like instruments with different sizes and tunings, such as the mandolone and the mandore.

 The modern mandolin, as we know it today, took shape in Naples, Italy, during the 18th century. The Neapolitan mandolin featured a bowl-shaped body, a flat soundboard, and eight double courses of strings (four pairs). It became an integral part of Neapolitan folk music and was widely played in cafes, salons, and opera orchestras. In the 19th century, the mandolin gained popularity beyond Italy. Italian immigrants brought the instrument to the United States, where it found a receptive audience. Mandolin orchestras and ensembles became widespread, particularly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company, founded in 1902, played a crucial role in the instrument's popularity in America.

In the early 20th century, the mandolin found its way into various musical genres. In the United States, it became a prominent instrument in bluegrass music, thanks to virtuosos like Bill Monroe. The mandolin also found its place in jazz, folk, and even rock music, with musicians such as David Grisman and Chris Thile pushing its boundaries. Today, the mandolin continues to evolve and adapt to different musical styles. It comes in various shapes and sizes, including the bowl-back mandolin, the flat-backed mandolin, and the modern carved-top mandolin. It is played in a variety of genres, ranging from traditional folk to classical, jazz, and world music.

Mostly, we love the mandolin because it is arranged like a violin (each string up is a 5th), the scale length is short so you can reach like 8-10 frets up, the double strings sound SO cool and sparkly, and it’s compact but loud, so it’s a perfect instrument jamming out in the wilderness or while on the run from the law!

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