A-style & F-style mandolins… what’s the difference?

The two most common types of bluegrass mandolins are the A-style and F-style mandolin. The terms refer to the shape of the mandolin’s body.

A-style mandolins feature a tear drop or pear-shaped body with the upper sections of the body curving into the neck.

F-style mandolins feature an upper body scroll and scrolled headstock – making them aesthetically distinctive vs. A-style mandolins. Their more elaborate body and headstock design naturally uses more tonewood materials and requires a greater level of craftsmanship – therefore meaning F-style mandolins cost more than their A-style brethren.

A-style mandolins are historically favoured by folk musicians with F-style mandolins more commonly used for bluegrass music – however these aren’t their exclusive domains and both types can be used across a wide variety of musical styles.

In terms of sound and playability, the differences are largely cosmetic with both styles performing similarly. There is little discernible difference in the sound produced other than F-style mandolins arguably being ever so slightly more resonant due to their larger body chamber and tonewood area.

It’s worth considering that given their smaller body design, A-style mandolins can feel more compact and therefore easier to handle and get to grips with for beginners.

Essentially, there is no right or wrong answer as to whether you should buy an A-style or F-style mandolin. You can expect a very similar feel and sound from both, meaning the decision often comes down to which style has more personal visual appeal to you.

We have a range of A-style and F-style mandolins here at Barnes & Mullins, including electro models.