The Mandolin Orchestra of Niagara
The Mandolin Family of Instruments
The mandolin is a great little instrument - tuned like a violin with frets like a guitar. It can play classical, blue grass, rock, folk, or any music your heart desires. Many people think that the mandolin was invented in Italy, but others attribute it to the Chinese. Regardless of origin, it has been adopted by many ethnic folk musicians, and is often featured in bluegrass and Celtic music.
The mandolin can be chorded and strummed like a guitar, or picked, but what makes the instrument unique is the tremolo, a series of rapid picking movements that imitate a violin vibrato. The mandolin has 4 sets of double strings, tuned to G, D, A, and E. The 2 main styles of mandolins are F-holes and A-holes, named after the shape of the sound holes, scrolled or round. The instrument in the photo is a Gibson F-hole. The assymetrical shape is simply a design choice, and does not affect the tone.
The mandola is a little larger than the mandolin and is the cousin of the viola. There are two types, the octave mandola which, as you might suspect, is tuned an octave lower than the mandolin; and the tenor mandola, tuned C, G, D, and A. The instrument in the photo is an A-hole design.
Related to the violincello, the mandocello is tuned to C, G, D, and A, an octave lower than the mandola. The instrument pictured on the left is an F-hole made by Doug Woodley of Guelph, Ontario.