SHLOMO PESTCOE  שלמה פּסטקאָ

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Please note: This is not a commercial site. I do not sell or appraise musical instruments. Please do not contact me to request that I identify and provide background information on a specific instrument in your possession and/or evaluate its worth. That's a job for an accredited professional appraiser, which I'm not. That said, I'll be glad to answer questions and discuss any subject I present here, so long as that one proviso is respected.  

 

 

MANDOLIN


Copyright 2006 Shlomo Pestcoe. All rights reserved.


The roots of Italian mandolin stretch back to the pandoura, the ancient Greco-Roman lute, as well as to the various Arab, Amazigh (Berber), Turkish and Persian bowlback lutes such as the oud, saz, tanbur, bozuk, kuitra and setar. It evolved from the mandore, a small lute with a shallow bowlback body that first appeared in Western Europe around 1570, though the first printed reference to the instrument comes down to us from 1585. The mandore family came in a variety of sizes and included instruments that had four to twelve strings. In Italian, the small mandore was called the mandolino, while the larger instrument was referred to as the mandola. The term mandola, which made its debut in 1634, is thought to be a derivative of the Italian word for almond, mandorla-- if not, amandola, the Late Latin term for the nut-- a reference to the instrument's shape. 

In the 18th century, the Vinaccia family of Naples standardized the mandolin into the form we know today: eight strings arranged in four courses (pairs of strings) and tuned in fifths like a violin. Starting in the 1880s, American mail order catalogs began offering bowl-backed Neapolitan mandolins, made mostly by Italian immigrants working in small shops. Mandolin orchestras sprang up in the 1890s and were popular on through the 1930s.

By the end of the 19th century, the mandolin had taken its place alongside the fiddle, guitar and banjo as a popular "American" string instrument. Old-time musicians in the rural South affectionately dubbed the Neapolitan mandolin, the "Tater Bug," because it's round back made it look like a potato bug.

In the early 1900s, Gibson, an American company, patented and produced the first modern flat-backed mandolins, which would eventually replace the Neapolitan model as the main style of mandolin for players around the world. The modern mandolin family was standardized to correspond to the violin family: the mandolin is tuned like a violin (GDAE), the mandola like a viola (CGDA), the mandocello like a cello (CGDA) and the mandobass like a double bass (EADG).

In late 1970s and early '80s, the popularity of the mandolin in contemporary Irish and Celtic music led to creation of the octave mandolin (a larger instrument tuned an octave below the regular mandolin), the modern cittern (a five-course octave mandolin) and the Irish bouzouki (a flat-backed, long-neck octave mandolin inspired by the bowl-backed Greek bouzouki).

-- Shlomo Pestcoe

Illustration Credits:

Bowlback Mandolin Player. Appalachia, USA, c. 1900. (Collection of Shlomo Pestcoe)

* Home * Bio * Shlomo Sez * Shlomo on MySpace * Sufferin' Succotash * Gillygaloo *    

* Yummie * Musical Styles * Instruments * Features * News * Contact * Links *

* Banjo Roots: Banjo Beginnings *

* Banjo Roots: West Africa *

* The Ekonting: A Link to the Banjo's West African Heritage *

Please send mail to info@shlomomusic.com with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright 2005 Shlomo Pestcoe. All rights reserved.
Last modified: 02/01/09