What type of mandolin should I buy?

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.

Want to learn more about the Mandolin? Discover here...

Mandolin FAQs

Mandolin Tunings