History Of the Mandolin
The most prominent type of the
musical instrument known as the mandolin is the Neapolitan, a
small lute about 60 cm (2 ft) long with deeply vaulted ribs and a
table slanted downward at the lower end. It has four double
rib-fastened metal strings suspended across a low bridge and a
fretted neck to pegs inserted into a rectangular peg-box. A small
flexible plectrum is used to vibrate the strings. A feature of
mandolin playing is the constant reiteration of all long pitches,
which counteracts its weak sustaining power.
The mandolin emerged from the medieval-Renaissance mandola possibly as early as the 15th century but remained obscure until the 18th century, when it was used by Handel in England, by Mozart in Vienna, by Hummel in Germany, by Gretry and Auber in France, and by various Italians, including Vivaldi. The fashion subsided in the 19th century but again appeared in Verdi's Otello and was used by Mahler and others. By the turn of the century it had become a popular folk instrument in Germany and America.
The mandolin has been used for vocal accompaniment as well as for classical composition since the 18th century. Developed in Italy from the mandola, the modern mandolin has four pairs of strings tuned to violin pitch and produces a clear, bright tone. It is especially popular today in string-band and bluegrass music.