Evolving from the lute family in during the 17th and 18th centuries, the background of the mandolin spans hundreds of years. Copied from violin styling, the first mandolins were made by Orville Gibson, the founding father of the Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company. He produced two kinds of mandolins, the Gibson F-5, f-hole style and the basic F-style or Florentine design. These models are still in production today and are enjoyed by musicians around the world. The popularity of the mandolin remains constant, with this instrument being the go-to choice for a variety of genres of music including bluegrass, old-time, Celtic, classical orchestral, jazz and rock. The hit single “Losing My Religion” by alternative rock band R.E.M. is based on guitarist Peter Buck’s picking up the mandolin and teaching himself to play. He said that when he looks back on the day he composed the song that, “It was a bunch of learning how to play the mandolin, then there’s what became ‘Losing My Religion’, then then a whole bunch more of me learning to play the mandolin.”
So now that you’re in the market for a mandolin, how do you decide which one is right for your musical tastes? The f-style mandolin is a hollow-bodied instrument that never fails to produce a clear, pronounced sound. This style of mandolin exhibits scrolling F-shaped sound holes on each side of the strings of the instrument, much like its cousins the violin and viola. The f-holes give a clear, crisp tone due to the concentration of energy in vast overtones from the F-hole mandolin’s arched top.
The body of the mandolin is typically made of maple. A hard wood construction adds brilliance to the sound of the music, giving it a deep, resonating tone. Soft woods, such as mahogany or poplar, generally produce a more mellow sound that works well in music genres where a lighter, warmer tone is desired.
Whether you’re just starting out your musical journey or having been playing seriously for years, the beautifully-designed f-style mandolin will never cease to provide you with the perfect pitch time and time again.