Sunday, February 21, 2016

Music: New Mandolin

I don’t play stringed instruments well, but my dad has been playing guitar since the 70s, and likes a whole lot of different styles.  About five years ago he got interested in banjo, and now the new thing is mandolin.  I’m not saying it’s a phase, because once a new instrument is acquired, it’s picked up again and again for years.  The mandolin is only slightly random because it was my mom who noticed several hanging up with the acoustics at a guitar store near where we live.  Several weeks and stores later, we went back to the same place and picked up a Loar A-style mandolin, used, at the lower end of the price range.  (It was about $250 used, where new versions ranged from $500 to $550.)

Now I don’t have much background in mandolins, but there are two types I’ve learned about and most often seen in music stores, the simpler A-style, which is what we picked out (shown above), and the ornate F-style, shown here (

One of the other mandolins we fiddled with was woodier-sounding, and others were tinnier and brighter (for lack of better adjectives).  I like both, and would have to do more research into what is preferred by particular artists.

The reason we were drawn to the mandolin was my mom’s and my interest in Celtic and Renaissance music, which often uses mandolin, along with fiddle, guitar, and flute.  I already play flute, and have for over ten years, love the history of this sort of Asian-European folk music.  I love history anyway, and music is an incredible way to connect and better understand the people who wrote and played these ancient songs.

(A medieval mandolin from Barcelona.  By Amador Alvarez, CC BY-SA 3.0,

I will have to report back when we all have had a chance to play with the instrument, and as I know the least about how to play it, I have the most to learn!  If anyone has more knowledge and information on this fascinating instrument, links to artists and songs, or its history, let me know!

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