Mandolin in Sydney

ABOUT THE MANDOLIN: For those violinists reading this, you may not know that Mandolin is a near relative of the violin. If the violin was the mother and the guitar was the father, then the Mandolin would be their son or daughter!!!

How is it possible you ask? Take a violin neck, tuning and strings, add frets and put it on a miniature guitar body and voila! – out pops a Mandolin. Now that makes the mandolin incredibly easy for a violinist to learn if you can “pluck” up the courage to put down your bow and “pick” up a plectrum (otherwise known as a pick).

HOW I LEARNT THE MANDOLIN: Other than playing classical music I have been known to belt out a few fiddle tunes in my day. I first became interested in the mandolin while I was fiddling Irish and Australian jigs and reels in my student days. The guitarist in the folk band had a mandolin he used for the folk melodies. He and I were both surprised that the first time I picked up a mandolin, I could play any music he put in front of me! What a pleasant surprise! Even better, he gave me his mandolin on my next birthday -thanks Dave!

If you can play both violin and guitar then guess what? You can play the mandolin! No serious practice needed


– this might be stating the obvious, but they are not the same and here is why: a Mandolin has 8 metal strings tuned like a violin: GGDDAAEE (from low to high strings)


WHEREAS, a Soprano UKULELE has 4 nylon strings tuned like a guitar but five notes lower: GCEA (from low to high strings). The 4 strings are tuned exactly five notes lower than the 4 highest strings of the guitar. So instead of E as the highest string, the Ukulele has A which is 5 notes lower etc.

HISTORY OF THE MANDOLIN: The Mandolin is actually a very historic instrument dating back to the 14th Century when it was called the Mandore!

The following is extracted from Wikipedia:

Mandolins evolved from the lute family in Italy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the deep bowled mandolin, produced particularly in Naples, became common in the nineteenth century. The original instrument was themandore, which evolved in the fourteenth century from the lute. This mandore was the soprano lute.

mandolin (Italian: mandolino) is a musical instrument in the lute family (plucked, or strummed). It descends from the mandore, a soprano member of the lute family. The mandolin soundboard (the top) comes in many shapes—but generally round or teardrop-shaped, sometimes with scrolls or other projections. A mandolin may have f-holes, or a single round or oval sound hole.

Modern mandolins with a round back, originated in Naples, Italy in the late 18th century. They have four pairs of metal strings, which are plucked with a plectrum.

At the very end of the 1800’s, a new style, with a carved top and back construction inspired by violin family instruments began to supplant the European-style bowl-back instruments, especially in the United States. This new style is credited to mandolins designed and built by Orville Gibson, a Kalamazoo, Michigan luthier who founded the “Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co., Limited” in 1902. Gibson mandolins evolved into two basic styles: the Florentine or F-style, which has a decorative scroll near the neck, two points on the lower body, and usually a scroll carved into the headstock; and the A-style, which is pear shaped, has no points, and usually has a simpler headstock.

These styles generally have either two f-shaped soundholes like a violin (F-5 and A-5), or an oval sound hole (F-4 and A-4 and lower models) directly under the strings. Generally, Gibson F-hole F-5 mandolins and mandolins influenced by that design are strongly associated with American bluegrass music, while the A-style is more associated with Irish, folk, or classical music.

A photo of the F-hole F-5 mandolin  is pictured at the top of this page.

Below is a picture of the A-style mandolin: