What type of mandolin should I buy?
The mandolin instrument family features many similar instruments that can easily be confused for a mandolin. The mandola looks very similar but is tuned a fifth lower (C,G,D,A) and is slightly larger than a mandolin, whereas the bouzouki is tuned an octave lower and features a longer scale length.
When it comes to the standard mandolin, there are two main types – 'classical’ (also referred to as ‘Neapolitan’ and ‘bowl-back’) and ‘bluegrass’ (also referred to as ‘archtop’ and 'flat-back') mandolins. These are further categorised into more variations based on sound hole design and body shape (A-style & F-style… more on this below).
Classical mandolins feature large round voluminous backs - resembling traditional lutes - and are less commonly played as they are generally the choice of musicians who play historical baroque and renaissance styles of music.
Their modern ‘bluegrass’ archtop and flat-back mandolin counterparts were developed in America in the late 19th century. They feature f-shaped or oval sound holes and shallower, slightly curved or flat-backs. They are used more widely throughout American, Irish, British and Brazilian folk music, as well as throughout an ever-growing list of modern musical genres into the 21st century.
This is the style of mandolin you’ll most likely be familiar with.