Types Of Mandolins – All You Need To Know, Great 2023 Guide!

Types Of Mandolins – Beginners Guide!

In this article, we compare and explain the different types of mandolins. Having a clear understanding of their differences will make them easier for you to understand.

Purchasing a mandolin isn’t as easy as you might think. If you aren’t careful or don’t seek out expert advice, you may end up with the wrong instrument.

Mandolins come in many different types, how many are there?

Generally speaking, there are two main types of mandolins, Classical and Bluegrass, which are further classified into various models according to their body shapes, styles, and soundhole types. It is further broken down into A-styles and F-styles for mandolins made for bluegrass music.

1. Bluegrass Mandolin

Mandolins of this type were developed in America from classical types. Traditionally, they are created with two unique body styles and are classified as either A-style or F-style because of their varied uses.

In contrast to classical bowl-back mandolins, bluegrass mandolins feature flat backs, which makes them cheaper to produce.

Two Gibson bluegrass models emerged in the late 19th century. These include the mandocello or the A-style and the mandobass, commonly known as the F-style. The F-style is considered by many mandolinists to be a better choice because it provides balance while playing.

Solid woods such as spruce and maple are commonly used for these mandolins’ backs and tops. Bluegrass mandolins are available in two styles, as shown below. Phoenix neoclassical and Phoenix Standard are both suitable choices.

A-style Mandolins

Mandolins with oval bodies or teardrop shapes that are not F-styles or bowl-backs are described by this style.

In the 20th century, Gibson’s productions influenced this style. In many cases, they have curved tops and backs, but others have arched backs resembling violins.

type of mandolin - types of mandolins

A-style models are like guitar profiles, although we call those with arched backs flatbacks in order to distinguish them from bowl backs. A-style mandolins have no scrolls, making them easier to build and therefore more affordable.

It is common among Celtic musicians, folk singers, Irish musicians, and classical musicians to use them. The Rogue RM100, the Ibanez M510, and the Loar Grassroots Series are the most well-known examples of A-style mandolins.

The sound hole of this type of mandolin is round, and it has a more profound and broader body. Mahogany, rosewood, and walnut are preferred for the sides, while spruce and cedar are commonly used for the top. Most of the backs and tops are flat, rather than curved.

A-styles get their names from their shapes. Its simple design allows it to be cheaper than other similar devices.

F-Style Mandolins

Gibson produced this style of mandolin as their top model in the early 19th century. It had an elegant and smooth, attractive look. Under Gibson’s supervision, an acoustic engineer named Lloyd Loar designed their most renowned F-style model, the F-5, in 1925.

beautiful mandolins

Mandolins with Loar’s signature are still the most expensive and popular models today. There are a number of modern F-style mandolins with either two F-holes or one oval soundhole that are close replicas of the F-5.

Often referred to as Florentine mandolins, the F-style mandolin is the most popular of all bluegrass mandolin types and is popular with country, bluegrass, and roots musicians.

Ibanez M522, Eastman MD315, and others are examples of F-style types.

2. Classical/Bowl-Back Mandolin

There are similarities between these round-back mandolins and the original Italian mandolins and also traditional lutes.

bowl-shaped mandolins

Compared to modern mandolins, bowl-back mandolins have bigger voluminous bowl backs, which produce a deeper rounder tone. Musicians who play historical types, such as Renaissance, Classical, and Baroque, are familiar with them.

The round bowl of this mandolin makes it easy to handle. Watermelon is a term that some people commonly use to refer to it. Their deep bowls produce deeper tones. The prices of these traditional mandolins are quite high, despite their traditional design.

Sound Holes: Types and Characteristics

There are typically two sound holes on mandolins that determine the sound produced. Those with oval shapes and those with F shapes.

Oval Shaped

There are usually ten frets on the neck joint of these mandolins. Their tone is usually warm, and they are frequently described as tubby by most people. A mandolin with an oval shape is usually associated with folk and Celtic music.


On the other hand, F-shaped is brighter as the volume increases. Mandolin players mostly use them for folk and country music.

Mandolin Construction Methods and Wood

The tops or soundboards of most mandolins are constructed from spruce wood. As with violins and guitars, it has dense grains and offers a beautiful and articulate response.

Instead of spruce, most manufacturers use mahogany or cedar, which produces a deeper tone. Spruce is the perfect wood for soundboards on mandolins of the highest quality. The arched tops of most bluegrass mandolins are mostly preferred by bluegrass players.

The tops of more affordable mandolins typically have laminated wood layers pressed together. The tops of laminates are made of thin veneers. Mandolinists usually prefer spruce tops over laminate, which can help regulate the instrument’s price while maintaining its pleasant sound quality.

parts of the mandolin

There are two kinds of hardwood commonly used for mandolin fretboards: ebony and rosewood. Both are easy to play with your fingers.

The necks of mandolins are usually made from mahogany or maple to ensure maximum rigidity. A neck may consist of more than one wood glued together. Mandolins may have metal embedded in their necks for intonation and playability adjustments.

Mandolins have bridges made from ebony or rosewood that are attached to strings and a pickup string for amplification. For tuning the machines, mandolins have tuners and tailpieces.

The Three Mandolin Variations (Mandocello, Electric, Octave)

Electric mandolins, Octave mandolins, and Mandocellos are three common variations of mandolins.

The electric mandolin. Acoustic and semi-hollow mandolins are both types of electric mandolins.

An acoustic mandolin uses a piezoelectric pickup on its bridge to convert vibrations into electrical impulses. Electrical signals are amplified and sent to an external sound system.

An electric mandolin with a semi-hollow body. Their features are similar to those of their guitar counterparts. At the center, there is wood blocking that runs through the interior of the body.

Types Of Mandolins: A brief history!

Generally speaking, mandolins are descendants of lutes, and there are many varieties that have evolved from the classical mandolin, sometimes called the Neapolitan mandolin.

In the 18th century, the classical mandolin was developed in Naples, Italy, and is still played in folk and other traditional music today.

With the popularity of mandolins growing in the late 19th century, modern mandolins with different body shapes and designs were developed.

Luthiers in the US first designed mandolins with arched tops and flatbacks. Modern mandolins are associated with jug bands, country, bluegrass, and blues music thanks to Orville Gibson and Lloyd Loar, his acoustic engineer. These two artists created the F-style and the A-style mandolin.

Mandolins: The Beginning

In the seventeenth century, the Vinnacia family became the first to design the metal string mandolin. They used three brass strings, a single gut string, friction-tuning pegs on the fingerboard, and friction-tuning pegs on the neck.

Mandolins became popular mostly on the streets, where young men used them as a form of courtship. Some musicians have used them as part of street concerts for more than half a century but as a result of the Napoleonic wars of 1815, the instrument disappeared.

Pasquale Vinnacia, who was responsible for the invention of the Neapolitan mandolin, was not able to perfect the device until 1835 when he modified the invention.

Mandolins: The Golden Age (Second Wave)

Paris, the capital of France, was the destination of a group of sixty-four students from various colleges in Madrid at the end of the 18th century.

A group of musicians had come to Paris for Carnival and played flutes, violins, and guitars during the festivities. Paris greeted the first group of students with much applause, which sparked a lot of excitement among the second group of students.

As well as the other instruments, the mandolin was present as well, which caused confusion in the latter group. Then, following these groups’ success in creating awareness about the mandolin, a band of Italian mandolin players toured Europe and the US to popularize the instrument as a whole.

Later, due to the effects of the first world war, the instrument was no longer in use. However, thousands of people were able to learn how to play it, resulting in its resurgence in recent years.

There have always been disagreements among different members of the mandolin family despite the fact that they have different names, causing a lot of confusion in this family.

Probably the easiest way to stay out of the argument is to check the scale length of your mandolin. This is the distance between the nut and the bridge, or in other words, the length of the string that can be vibrated when played.

In order to tune a mandolin from bass to treble, you must follow the GDAE tuning rule.

Last Words

When you go to the store for a quality mandolin, you will want to make sure you check out these basic details and things you will want to know.

The process of shopping for a mandolin does not have a specific order in which to follow; you need to know your budget and heed people’s opinions. You can also Google information in order to gain the most information.

It is recommended that you read reviews from reputable online sites so you can get a reliable pinpoint. This will lead you to the right instrument for your needs. Here are some of the most popular beginner mandolins you can find on the market today.

There are many different types of mandolins available on the market today and we hope that you have found our article helpful in understanding them all.

Happy Strumming!

Felix Sanchez

Felix Sanchez

Felix Sanchez specializes in string instruments and their use in contemporary music. Felix is passionate about music and has studied and played a variety of string instruments including guitars, ukuleles, and cellos.

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Strings Kings