Music Theory and Composition : Music Theory and Composition

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

The Mandolin

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The Mandolin

Mandolin - Article Image

As a descendant and variation of the lute, the mandolin is in the chordophone or stringed and fretted class of musical instruments. The gittern, a small medieval lute-like instrument, slowly evolved into the mandore, (in Italy) by the 16th century. Several iterations later, including significant design changes, the mandore was to later become known as the mandolin with its unique bowed back, short guitar-like fretboard and custom designed headstocks.

Due to the octave range the instrument normally plays in and based upon its standard tuning the mandolin may be considered the soprano member of the stringed instruments as its lowest tone is G3 or 196 Hz. The most common mandolin has four main strings or courses which are doubled and each set is tuned the same. The standard tuning is the same as that used for the violin, G3 (lowest), D4, A4, and the highest is E5.

Known for performance techniques which include higher octave sounds, rapid arpeggios, tremolos and quick strumming techniques the mandolin offers a unique sound over other stringed instruments. The mandolin is frequently played with a plectrum or pick using single note plucking and often the tremolo technique, a rapid and repeated up and down stroke, the sounding string (note) being played is quite different in character than the sustained notes typically heard from other stringed musical instruments, such as those which are bowed, thus producing a unique, lively and active, high pitched sound.

Today, the mandolin is found in a variety of music genres including country, bluegrass and folk music. The mandolin is sometimes found in jazz, rock and occasionally in reggae music as well. The mandolin is used in a variety of countries as well including the United States, England, Ireland, Australia, Japan, Greece and Brazil, among others.

The following video is of the composition titled “Shores of Augustine” composed and performed by Mark Salona. The tremolo technique is clearly shown in this video, although at a slower tempo than is more commonly heard from the mandolin. The use of the plectrum or pick is also easy to see, as is the up and down stroke used to produce the tremolo effect.

We wish to extend a huge thank you to Mark Salona for his composition and performance skills as well as YouTube for making the video available under the embed rules for non-commercial educational use.

Hopefully, this brief introduction of the Mandolin will entice you to seek out more information about this excellent musical instrument.

 

The Mandolin

Photo CreditThe cropped article photo used above was retrieved on 6/23/2011 from this web location http://www.photos-public-domain.com/2010/09/03/mandolin-bridge/. The photo is considered to be in the public domain and free for any use as stated on the download page. “Photo courtesy photos-public-domain.com”

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