Our 3 Favourite Mandolin-Focused Websites

Mandolins are a popular instrument with a long, rich history, which are played in innumerable styles across the globe.  The fans of this instrument are dedicated and passionate, and so it’s no surprise that the mandolin has been growing in popularity as of late, especially on the ‘net.  If you are new to the world of mandolins, you may wonder – where does an admirer turn to find comprehensive information about this versatile and unique instrument online?  

In this article, we want to share with you what we think are the 3 very best mandolin websites on the internet today, providing just about everything you could ask for as a mandolin player and more.  Let’s check ’em out!

Mando Hangout

Website Features At A Glance

  • Community (Member Login)
  • Forum (Very Extensive)
  • Classifieds (Mandolins for sale)
  • Learning (Tabs, Videos, Find a Teacher)
  • User-Submitted Videos
  • Jukebox

Mando Hangout has been around for almost 10 years now, and its purpose has been, since the beginning, to be the most comprehensive mandolin resource on the internet.  Considering how extensive the topic of mandolins is, this is no small feat.  That said, Mando Hangout has evolved over the years to be basically exactly what it set out to be.  Complete with a login system to make you part of the online mandolin community, there are many mandolin resources here at your fingertips, whether you are logged in as a member, or just casually surfing the web.  

If you are new to Mando Hangout, just know that it’s going to take you a good while to explore the website, because there is so much to see and do there.  In terms of content, there is a ton of stuff to explore, from an extensive forum where people come to chat about everything mandolin-related, to a marketplace where you can browse the classifieds section, to a video catalog section where you can learn practically anything about the mandolin from the pros. 

As you look at the home page, there are 5 choices for what you can delve into on the left sidebar (Forum, Marketplace, Learn, Media, and More + the search bar), and each of these options has several sub-categories that are just a bounty of knowledge and media, from a video section where players post a wide variety of video, including live performance, instructional video, covers, originals, and more.  And then there’s a feature we really enjoy, which is the jukebox, allowing you to search different types of mandolin music by genre.  The “More” section has a lot going on as well, including a blog, reviews, a calendar that features nationwide events, and links to even more mandolin-related content!  These guys even sell Mando Hangout merch!

All in all, this is one mandolin online community you’ll want to explore if you are a player, or someone who is new to the instrument.

https://www.mandohangout.com/


Mandolin Café

Website Features At A Glance

  • Classifieds (Mandolins, Guitar, Banjos, Lessons, etc.)
  • Forum (Sorted by topic, lots of threads)
  • News (anything related to mandolins, across the country)
  • Mandolin Builders (who makes the, plus “eye candy” section)
  • Lessons (Tabs, songs, lessons, history, and more…)

Another great all around mandolin resource on the internet is the Mandolin Café, which has been around since, well, the dawn of the internet back in 1997! 

Again, what constitutes a good mandolin resource website is exactly what is offered by the Mandolin Café, including mandolins for sale, an extensive information forum, latest mandolin news, names of mandolin builders and pictures of different mandolins (they call it “eye candy”), historical information, nationwide events shown on their calendar, chords and tabs, classes, and on and on.

Like Mando Hangout, Mandolin Café has a member login, so that you can access even more resources relating to mandolins.  This site also has a handy search bar so you can find what you’re looking for quicker. 

There are a few things that set this site apart, such as the fact that it talks about other instruments such as guitars and banjos, but that’s only really in the classifieds section, where you’ll find instrument sales posted.  Otherwise, it’s mandolins 24/7. 

Also, you can see who is online, and what they’re up to on the site, which is a nice touch.  This shows who uses the site, and also what people tend to do on the website.  Visit the Mandolin Café and you’ll find people browsing the site just like yourself.  

One of our favourite sections of this website is the “social groups” listed under “Learn/Listen”.  Here you can find all sorts of mandolin aficionados from around the country, who are involved in various mandolin-related groups, from those who admire specific types of mandolins, to those who enjoy specific styles of mandolin playing, to jammers, and all sorts of other folks.  It’s a great place to visit to get a sense of the wide world of mandolins and the players who enjoy them.

We really could go on and on about the Mandolin Café, but we figure that if you’re reading this, we shouldn’t spoil it all for you by nitpicking everything.  Make haste and see what’s going on over there now if you haven’t been there before!

https://www.mandolincafe.com/


Mandozine

Website Features At A Glance:

  • Learn Mandolin (tabs, tunes, and techniques)
  • Apps (All kinds for mandolin)
  • Articles (Informative posts)
  • Social Media (Mandozine links to Facebook, Soundcloud, and more)
  • Pictures (some from events, some humorous)
  • Mandolin Radio
  • Links

Another tried and true website for mandolin players is actually also the oldest one on the net that we’ve seen, and that is Mandozine, dating back to 1996. 

It was a great resource for players then, and it remains the same today, featuring a strong educational element where people are invited to practice different mandolin tunes, with write-ups about the songs by in house teachers who work for the site, but provide valuable information for free. 

In addition to the tunes, you get the techniques as well, including picking techniques, reading scales, performing double stops (two-note harmonies), and more.

The media section of the site has several cool features, but one of our favourites has to be the home recordings section, which features users submitting their own personal tracks done on mandolin, showcasing the name of the song, the artist, and the instrument it was performed on.

Mandozine radio is another excellent feature of this website, allowing you to tune in on either desktop or mobile, featuring a number of artists and playlists that you’ll surely love if you’re a fan of mandolin-based music.  You can even submit your own tunes!

Overall, this is a great website with its own flair that you don’t want to miss out on if you’re a beginner or experienced player. 

http://www.mandozine.com/index.html


Conclusion

We hope you enjoy these websites focused on the mandolin, and please let us know what you think of them!

Guide to Classical Mandolin & Early Music

With this article we will go into details of the history of the use of mandolin in both early music and all the way up to the classical period. First we must define these time periods. Early music is classified as and includes medieval, Renaissance and early baroque, spanning nearly a millennium. Medieval music is anything written 500-1400 A.D. The Renaissance period runs 1400-1600 and the Baroque period includes 1600-1760 A.D. For the sake of this article we will look at European early music, which spans 1250-1750. During this 500 years many new instruments were created, one of which being the mandolin.

There is not a lot written on the early mandolin music for a number of reasons. First of all, the mandolin was not really developed until the 16th century. Its lineage can be traced all the way back to cave paintings from 13 000 B.C. that depict a single-stringed instrument played with a bow. As time went on, slowly new instruments were invented with more strings, each string playing a single note, eventually becoming harps and lyres. The bow harp had more strings, leading to the development of chords. Eventually the bow harp was straightened out and became the lute.

These early stringed instruments were easy to carry on the person. Portability was crucial to the lifestyles back then. From the 13th century onward, one sees the lute depicted in both paintings and sculpture, giving one an idea of the modifications made to the instrument over the century, including the number of strings. By the 14th century one sees the introduction of doubled strings.

In the 16th century, there appeared a teardrop-shaped lute, called the mandore. This version of the lute was then redesigned by the Italians, creating the Baroque mandolin. It was smaller and plucked with the fingers. In the later half of the 1700s, the mandolin was used by men courting potential mates, as well as street musicians and in the concert hall.

Some composers did write for the mandolin, but it was not typically featured as it was perceived as a folk instrument. There was not really room for a mandolin in the orchestra. Composers who wrote for the mandolin include Vivaldi, Beethoven and Mozart. The mandolin was developed in the 18h century in Italy, deriving from the mandolino.

In the middle of the 18th century, Neopolitan composers such as Majo and Barbella, a violinist, as well as mandolinists such as Gervasio wrote sonatas, duets and concertos for the mandolin. During this time, Italian mandolinists travelled Europe to perform and train students.

Vivaldi wrote concertos for the mandolin. A concerto is a piece of music written for a solo instrument or one that is accompanied by an orchestra. His orchestral compositions were unique in the instruments featured as the head: for example, the mandolin! Who else was writing for the mandolin at the time? Not many. Vivaldi’s mandolin concertos included:

– four-chord mandolin, string bass in C major

– two 5-chord mandolinos, string bass in G major

– two mandolins, two violino intromba, 2 recorders, salmo, theorbo, cello, string bass in C major

The mandolin was quite big in France, as well, and their mandolin developed from the Baroque mandore. There is some philosophy involved in classical mandolin history: particularly that of Rousseau, who was also a musician and influenced the French revolution. This genre was called opera-comique, which mixed both song and spoken word, so as to tell the stories of the peasant and middle class in a simple but noble way of the aristocracy. In fact this style was loaded politically and in it, you could sense the foretelling of the French Revolution.

After the Revolution in France, the mandolin lost popularity, but was widely played in Italy and Germany.

Beethoven was an avid player of the mandolin and wrote four small pieces for it in 1796. Both Vivaldi and Beethoven wrote their music on a mandolin strung with harpsichord wire.

Around 1800, Viennese composer Giovanni Hoffmann wrote chamber music pieces that employ the mandolin, violin, viola and cello, as well as a concerto for mandolin and chamber orchestra. It features a mandolin and alto duet very indicative of the classical era.

For most of the 1800s after this, the mandolin rather disappeared from popularity and was only really popular in Italy until the Paris World Fair of 1890.

The mandolin’s classical golden era ranged 1890-1920 after the Paris World Fair where there played a mandolin orchestra. For the next thirty years, the mandolin remained a very popular instrument that was taken up as a suitable pastime for gentlepeople. In fact many of the pieces written specifically for mandolin were written to please the aristocratic patrons who played mandolin themselves.

The mandolin of course was not developed until the 18th century, but its predecessor the soprano lute was used in the Middle Ages and through the Baroque era.

A Quick And Easy Guide To Pricing Out Mandolins

There are so many models and makes on the mandolin market. And that was a lot of alliteration! But due to the all the choices, we have put together this article that will hopefully help you understand the different factors when it comes to pricing these instruments, and this will in turn help you decide where your price point is before selecting a mandolin to purchase. For example, you may not want to spend much more than $300 on a mandolin, but you may find that you will have to, depending on the style of music you want to play, or the design you prefer.

There are three things to consider when selecting the right mandolin for yourself: your budget, your dedication to learning and playing the instrument and desire for certain features. Look at playability, overall appearance and sound. Typically, one in particular will speak to you and you’ll have found the right instrument. All the pieces will sort of fit into place. But to get there, you need some background knowledge, and that is why we have put together this helpful article on how to price out mandolins, so you can find the one that works best for you.

Some important tips before you read further:

First, pay as much as you can afford. If you can afford $500, even if you have to wait an extra pay period, then wait and spend the $500.

Second, remember that A style mandolins are the best value. They may not look as fancy as the F styles, but because they are easier to manufacture/to carve and build, they come in at a cheaper price point. They are also truer to the lute shape and style, and are favoured by folk and classical players. F style mandolins add nothing to the sound; they sound just like A style mandolins. You are paying for the extra design work. If you are interested in the F style and can afford it, then by all means, go for it! But do keep an open mind to the A style, because the A style at $500 will bring you a much better instrument than an F style at $500.

Third, before you order one online or buy in person, we highly recommend visiting some music stores to play around on the mandolin. Make sure you like the feeling and sound of the instrument. Many new beginners like the look of the mandolin but when they go to play, they find the narrow fretboard dramatically cramps their hands. Of course there are exercises to combat this, and they likely are not holding the instrument properly. But it is wise to familiarize yourself with the various makes and models so you can get a sense of the type of mandolin you want. In doing this, you can familiarize yourself with various brands and A versus F style mandolins, as well as their price ranges.

Fourth: Once you have familiarized yourself with mandolins in person, try browsing online for the one you liked instore. Since the instruments are sold online, the seller does not have the same business costs as a retail store, so you will be able to find a good deal.


Lower Price Point ($300 and lower)

The lower price point is ideal for beginners or amateurs who may be looking for a crossover instrument. For example, a violinist may be curious about the mandolin since they are tuned the same, and want to try playing it. However, because they will be essentially quelling a curiosity, and they will only be learning the instrument, they will not want to invest a lot of money at first.

$200-300 will get you a pretty good instrument on which you can learn and test the sound to see if you enjoy it.

The lower price point ranges about $300 and below. Of course, a $75 mandolin will play much differently from a $300 mandolin, but in terms of the range of mandolin prices, this is the lowest you can go and still get a pretty good instrument (we’re talking more the $250-300 range). They are mass-produced within this price range.

Anything in the lower price point will inevitably be made of laminate wood as opposed to solid wood. Laminate wood refers to strips of wood that are melded together in an industrial process. Solid woods start around $500 and up. You can find a nice A style made of laminate wood, but well made and high quality, for about $300. In fact, anything under $500 is likely laminated wood, which is a material that looks like spruce, but isn’t. laminated wood will usually be comprised of a thin layer of spruce on the outer surface, layered atop a wood core. The price will give away the materials but you can also tell a laminate wood by looking at the sound hole and inspecting the wood there. It will be visibly layered if laminate.

The resonance and tonal quality of the lower price point mandolins will produce a sound reflective of their dollar value. For example, the action of the strings may not produce as strong a resonance as something in the mid to higher price point.

However, there should never be any buzzing or ringing of the strings. If this occurs, this means your mandolin needs to be intonated. Intonation refers to the state of the instrument in which all strings are perfectly tuned no matter where on the fretboard you play it. For example, a G string will sound exactly like its twelfth fret harmonic. If your mandolin is out of tune as you go further up the fretboard, then it must be properly set up and intonated. This has to do with the placement of the bridge. Mandolin bridges are referred to as “floating bridges” and are held in place by tension of the strings. Because they are only held in place as such, they can shift over time after intense playing. The vibration of the strings has the strength to move the bridge and just a millimeter or two will make a big difference in the tuning of your instrument. Someone at a local music store can help you with this.

In the lower price point, you will find brands like Ibanez and Rogue. For playability, we recommend spending at least $150 on a mandolin.

Mid Price Point ($300-1 000)

While the difference of $700 seems to be quite a generous range, it makes sense when you consider that some mandolins, made of the highest grade woods and featuring fancier design will run $10 000 and more.

For the mid price point, you may find a solid wood A style mandolin in this price range, but the F styles made of solid wood tend to start closer to $700. F style mandolins are more expensive because of the labour that goes into making them. While A styles are simple to carve and sand down, the F styles require much more attention and care. The body has beautiful curving edges and scrolls, requiring a highly skilled carpenter and a special saw to cut this shape from a slab of wood.

More expensive mandolins will have an ebony fretboard, as this wood is very dense and sturdy. Think about it: you will be gripping and pressing hard on the fretboard. It’s got to be tough!

Gretsch is a great name in the middle price range. Their designs are inspired by tradition and the design includes sound, built to capture the sounds of generations past. Gretsch mandolins are made with solid spruce tops and mahogany sides. Gretsch mandolins start around $330 and go up from there. These mandolins offer great playability and response and tone.

If you are on a budget and don’t want to spend much, but are serious about playing mandolin and looking for an instrument that will last for a long time and keep its tune, and offer great playability, then you can expect to spend between $330 and $550. Keep in mind that on top of the instrument, you will likely want to have it set up or intonated at a music store (this will cost around $50-$100) plus you will have to buy a case and some picks. Factor in the music booklets and you will be spending closer to $700 anyway.

High Price Point ($1 000+)

The high price point can be a thousand dollars or it can be $250 000. This is the range for professional players or collectors who like to buy vintage guitars played by, for example, the legendary Bill Monroe. These mandolins are high quality solid wood or, as mentioned, will be collectible vintage items that are either played or autographed by a legendary player.

Mandolins in this price range will be carved from solid pieces of the highest grade woods, and will feature all kinds of special design accessories, such as mother of pearl inlay in the fretboards or pickguard. You will absolutely get a beautiful instrument with wonderful tonal resonance at this price point, but you should be familiar with playing the mandolin before looking at anything over $1 000.

In conclusion, there is a very large price range when it comes to shopping for mandolins. Before you buy, consider what you want the mandolin for. Are you trying out of curiosity and aren’t sure if you will play it for a long time? Or do you plan to dedicate a long time to playing the mandolin? Your instrument will be an investment. If you are buying it as a crossover instrument from guitar or violin, for example, then go ahead and spend only $200. But if you plan to write songs and learn a lot of music on your mandolin, be prepared to spend closer to $400 or $500 (if you’re starting out). And if you’re a seasoned player, of course, you will be prepared to upgrade to a more expensive, solid wood model that may cost $1 000 or more.

How Mandolins are Made

We all love to play the mandolin, but a key to truly understanding anything involves a somewhat thorough understanding of the way that thing is built. Learning the construction of, for example, a car, apartment building or yes, a mandolin, will only serve to help us better grasp the overall picture and understand why events transpire as they do, and we can come to expect certain reactions from actions.

With this article we explain how the mandolin is constructed. The construction of a mandolin is very important to the overall quality of the instrument, because construction contributes directly to the sound given. Mandolins are favoured as a crossover instrument for anyone used to play fretted, stringed instruments. In particular, the mandolin is great for guitarists as both instruments are held in the same position, but they use a different tuning. In fact, they are tuned the same as violins with four pairs of strings tuned to G, D, A and E (the violin, of course, only has four strings), and for this reason they are also a favoured crossover instrument for violinists.

Over the centuries, the mandolin has evolved from the early lute with catgut strings to a bowl-back shape, with very round body that would allow for great tonal resonance. This is the image of a mandolin with which we are typically most familiar: whenever we see classical paintings with mandolin, it will feature this shape. It was only in the beginning of the 1900s that Orville Gibson invented the A and F style mandolins that have the flat backs with which we are familiar today.

There is a range of woods used to make these instruments. Typically spruce is used for the top. Makers will use maple or mahogany for the backs. Mandolins will either be made of solid blocks of wood or laminate wood. Laminate wood is created when separate layers of wood are grafted together in a solid piece. The price of the instrument look of the wood (i.e. colour and grain).

Mandolin bodies, the widest part, are usually made of maple. This hard wood is used for its ability to produce brilliant sound; other woods like mahogany or sycamore may be used for a softer sound.

Upon first look at a mandolin you will notice that it makes use of a very narrow fretboard. They typically measure 1 1/16” – 1 1/8” in width. Today we typically only see the A and F styles. The A style is a tear drop shape, very much like the old timey lute. The F style, so named for Florentine, features a top scroll and sharp cutaway. This style, due to its extra design features, tends to cost a bit more than the A style.


So how are mandolins made?

Mandolins are made by carpenters specializing in the construction of this instrument. In order to build one, the maker needs all the appropriate tools including: saws, drills, wood glue.

First, wood is selected according to feel, look and sound.

Solid Wood

There are two different methods: the first being solid wood. The back and top are carved from solid pieces of wood, and then the sides are carved. These pieces may be raw and will be further shaved to perfection by a special saw. The back and sides are first affixed together with industrial-strength wood glue, while extra bracing is added to the inside. The top is then carved and set atop the rest of the body, and these pieces are held tight by a clamp until the glue is cured.

The neck and headstock will be carved from one solid piece as well, with holes drilled into the headstock to host the tuning pegs. The neck is then laid into the mandolin body and secured. The fretboard itself will be composed of rosewood or dyed to resemble ebony. It is set with the metal for fret delineation and then affixed to the neck. Once these pieces are put together, the mandolin is sanded down and painted with a wood finish.

The grommets and tuning pegs are then set into place and the final pieces, including bridge and strings, are added, and thus we have a solid wood mandolin.

Typically what drives the cost of a finished mandolin is more the labour that went into it. Mandolin tops are almost always solid pieces of wood in order to produce the best sound, however, the back and sides may be laminate.

Laminate Wood

The second method makes use of laminate wood. A curved laminate is steam pressed into shape, and the construction method follows much the same as the solid wood method. Some mandolin afficianados argue in favour of laminate, claiming that this wood would be far stronger than natural wood grain that may, over time, become weakened at certain points. However, there is no arguing that a solid wood mandolin produces the truest, cleanest sound.

What are the Different Types of Mandolin?

There are a few different styles of mandolin available on the market, each of which evolved from the early musical models of the lute in the Middle Ages.

Typically players will use either an A style or F style, but there are other similar instruments invented for the purpose of mandolin orchestras, which is an orchestra that features primarily instruments from the mandolin family.

The two most commonly found mandolin types in current times include the A style and F style mandolin. You can also find the occasional antique bowl-back mandolin.

With this article we will delve into some brief history on how the different shapes emerged, as well as price points and musical styles that work best on each.

There are both bluegrass and folk mandolins. Bluegrass mandolins have differently shaped sound holes that allow the instrument to produce a good chop (chords that leave no open strings).

Folk mandolins have deeper, larger bodies with oval sound holes, as opposed to bluegrass mandolins that make use of f-shaped sound holes.

In folk mandolins, you will most often find flat tops and backs without carving.


A Style

The A style mandolin has a pear- or tear-shaped body, or A-shape, which is where it gets its name, of course. This instrument is very streamlined and simple in design, which puts it at a lower price point than F style mandolins, for example.

Due to its simple design and lower cost, the A style tends to be better for beginner players. This shape has been around since the mandolin was invented, but the instrument used to be made with a bowl back.

This rounded back lent to an interesting sound but created some difficulty for the player holding and using it. In the early 1900s, during a great peak in mandolin popularity after the Paris World Fair of 1892, Gibson redesigned the instrument.

It was also at this time the F style was invented. A style mandolins today share a similar profile with a guitar. The sleek and flat back makes them very easy to hold against the body.

A style mandolins are favoured among beginner players, but also lend nicely to folk styles and Celtic music.


F Style

F style mandolins get their name from Florentine style.

F style mandolins are favoured by bluegrass, roots and professional players. They feature fancier design work including a scroll and point, and are at a higher price point.

They may not be ideal for the beginner player on a budget, but they are beautiful instruments that add a great deal of flare to the playing experience.

The F style mandolin was designed by Gibson in the early 1900s as a top of the line instrument, incorporating traditional mandolin design and sound while giving it a flat back and scrollwork on the body.

These extra design elements to the F style put it at a higher price point that the simpler A styles.

These mandolins have, in addition to their lavish embellishments, two f-holes like a violin or a single oval hole. The extra curlycues in the body increase the body volume, which contributes to the overall sound.

This extra element also makes it easier to place the instrument on one’s thigh, so when the player is seated and playing, the instrument stays in place without much effort.


Bowl-back/Neapolitan

The bowl-back is exactly as it sounds: a fretted string instrument with a very round back that sits against the player like a bowl. It is the style of mandolin often depicted in film or television as a stereotype of the instrument.

It is also known as a taterbug or watermelon. This is a very old-fashioned style of mandolin that resembles early Italian lutes, the instrument from which the modern day mandolin evolved.

The deep bowl makes for deeper tones than the flatback styles, but they are rare to find. Often they are antique lute-violin hybrids and run a high cost.

They are less practical for playing purposes, but have undeniable strong tonal resonance.

Other Instruments in the Mandolin Family

Mandola/Tenor mandola


The mandola is tuned a fifth lower than a mandolin, and is slightly larger. It is tuned CGDA.

Bouzouki/Octave mandolin

This instrument is one octave below a mandolin, using GDAE tuning. The Bouzouki is tuned an octave below the mandolin, like an octave mandolin, but has a longer scale length.

It has pairs of strings, but the lower strings (G and D) are tuned one string an octave above the other.

Mandocello

This instrument was invented by Gibson for mandolin orchestras, tuned an octave below the mandola at CGDA. It is similar to the bouzouki but has thicker/heavier strings to produce the deep sound.

Mandobass

The mandobass only has four strings that are tuned EADG. It was invented in the early 1900s by Gibson for mandolin orchestras.

Tuning and Intonation on the Mandolin

With this article we will teach you all about mandolin intonation and tuning, and how to properly set up/adjust your bridge and strings. This will ensure the proper tuning of the complete instrument, including every single note, fret and string. When you first get a mandolin, you can have it properly set up at a local music store. They will adjust the bridge and check the tuning of each note by using the twelfth fret harmonic. However, this is an important skill to have in your arsenal, because the high vibrations of the strings will inevitably cause a bridge shift over time, and the smallest movement will throw off the entire tuning. Read on and learn all about intonation, how it works and how you can adjust your bridge to get the right intonation for perfect playing.

Intonation refers to the perfect tuning of an instrument, wherein one may play any and all notes or chords, and each one is in tune. Improper intonation can occur when the instrument is properly tuned (i.e. the open strings play in tune, and maybe even some chords, but certain notes or chords play sharp or flat as you move up the fretboard).

The position of the bridge on a mandolin has everything to do with the intonation, because it holds the strings in place. Its position makes the notes sharper or flatter. When you first purchase a mandolin, the helper monkey at the music store will have set it up by adjusting the bridge to proper position. However, the bridge on a mandolin is only held in place by string tension. And after so much playing, the intense vibration of the strings will inevitably cause a shift in the bridge. Just a millimeter will throw off the entire intonation of your mandolin.

When your mandolin’s open strings play in tune, but lose tune as you go up the neck, this is because the instrument is not intonated, and you have to adjust the bridge. Other problems that may be caused by an improperly positioned bridge include buzzing strings. This is where physics and mathematics come into the creation of music.

Lucky for you, mandolins have floating bridges, making the tuning job a whole lot easier. The bridge is not attached to the mandolin body, but is rather held in place from the tension of the strings. Moving the bridge closer to the fretboard shortens the strings and therefore sharpens the notes, while moving the bridge away from the fretboard lengthens the strings, thereby flattening the notes. Even though it’s only $12 or so to have your mandolin set up at a local music store, learning how to properly tune your instrument is one of the basic beginner skills you’ll want in your arsenal, because you never know when you’re going to need to use it. Having this ability will greatly increase your confidence as a player as it strengthens the relationship with and knowledge of your instrument.

Mandolins have four pairs of strings that are tuned the same as a violin: G D A E (pairs make it GG DD AA EE). When the strings are played, the second string adds a beautiful ringing sound that is unique to the mandolin.

HANDY TRICK ALERT: the twelfth fret is one octave higher than the string played open. This is known as a harmonic, which refers to any note that is played at varying intervals (i.e. higher or lower pitch). You will use the harmonic to check the tuning of the strings.

You will also need an electric tuner. These are small and portable, so you can keep one in your mandolin case at all times.

How to Set Intonation

As mentioned, there are four pairs of strings. We will begin with the G strings. Play one string at a time and see what your tuner says. You tune the strings by using the pegs on the headstock. Once they are in tune, play a higher G by pressing the G strings in the twelfth fret. Does your tuner say the string is in tune? If yes, then this string is properly intoned. If it is sharp or flat, you will have to adjust the bridge accordingly. Just loosen the strings and  As mentioned above, moving the bridge closer to the neck will shorten the strings and therefore sharpen the notes. If your G strings are flat then slide the bridge closer to the neck. If the strings are sharp, move the bridge away from the neck to length them, and this will bring the string to tune. Move the bridge in tiny intervals at a time, checking the tuner the whole way.

Now that you have repositioned the bridge, the other strings should be in tune. Check the A, D and E strings, using both the open strings and the 12th fret harmonic, in order to ensure proper intonation.

Musician’s Gear Hardshell A-Style Mandolin Case Review

 

We are reviewing the hard shell case for A style mandolins, made by Musician’s Gear. This sleek case comes in all black exterior with a plush black interior to house and protect your mandolin during storage or travel.

When looking for a case for your mandolin, you have one of two choices: a hard shell or soft shell. We are reviewing a hard shell case today, which is a better choice if you are flying or using any sort of transportation where the mandolin may get jostled. As you may surmise, a hard shell is sturdier than a soft shell, but can be heavier or more cumbersome, which may pose a problem if you take public transit. A soft shell case, also known as gig bag, is good for light travel and usually comes with a front pocket for your music sheets. Soft shells also come with shoulder straps or backpack straps, making them more ideal for long distance travel by foot. They are inexpensive, but they are more for carrying purposes than protection. Additionally, they are typically not waterproof. Hard shell cases provide better protection from both being jostled around and from water.

An all black aesthetic is undeniable, and what a sharp visual experience this case provides! The hard shell case by Musician’s Gear is strong on the outside and soft on the inside. The exterior is a beautiful, sleek black wood and with black textured vinyl, and the interior is a luscious black plush with foam padding that is guaranteed to hold your mandolin in firm place. Setting your mandolin inside, you will see how the padding takes in the instrument and holds it firmly to stop it jostling, thereby preventing damage during transport.

Please note that this case is only designed for A style mandolins. There is a diamond shaped pad inside the lid that helps hold the instrument securely, without putting any stress on the bridge.

One advantage of this case is that it is rather lightweight compared to the usual hard shell cases, weighing in at just 4.3lb.

The interior dimensions are as follows:

  • Overall inside length: 27 1/8”
  • Width at widest point: 10”
  • Length of body area: 14 ½”
  • Accessory compartment length: 5 ¾”
  • Headstock area length: 6 ½”
  • Body area thickness: 3 ¾”

The interior foam can be compressed about 1/2 “, but if your mandolin is ½” larger in any dimension it may be difficult to fit. If you need more room in the neck or headstock area, you can remove the accessory compartment by removing the four screws.

There is room around the headstock to tuck your strap in, should the storage compartment be otherwise full. Initially the fit may be snug, but over time, the case will adjust and loosen according to the size of your mandolin (as long as it fits within the aforementioned dimensions, of course). Even still, it will remain a snug fit especially with the padding around the bridge when closed.

The case locks closed and comes with two keys. The lock will stop people trying to steal the mandolin or tampering with it. Both interior and exterior materials are of excellent quality. We mentioned the benefits of using a hard shell case during transportation, but storage, especially of the long-term kind, will require a hard shell case as well. Most of us live with other people or play music with other musicians. Imagine leaving your mandolin in a gig bag. Anything could come along and fall onto the bag, and anyone could potentially step on it or rest their things against the bag and then cause damage to the mandolin. a gig bag really just gives your mandolin a handle to carry it by, in addition to keeping the dust off. If you want real protection, we highly recommend a hard shell case.

Love your mandolin, play it frequently, and store it in an appropriate case. You will have peace of mind knowing that your mandolin is well protected inside this all black hard shell case.

This case is made of wood and has little feet on the bottom, which make it very easy to set down. The case will stand on its own, so you can simply lift the lid to remove your instrument, and the case will remain there. It is stable, sturdy and strong. And yes, the lock actually works! You can’t go wrong with the classic, sleek, all-black case with silver hardware.

Travel to your shows or friends’ houses with peace of mind, knowing you made the right choice of protection for your instrument. Music heals. Give your mandolin the same love it gives to you.

This hard shell A style mandolin case by Musician’s Gear sells for around $70.

Feature Pick

Musician’s Gear Hardshell A-Style Mandolin Case

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Gator Journeyman Series Deluxe Wood GW-JW Mandolin Case Review

 

We are reviewing the deluxe wood case from the Journeyman series by Gator Cases, a traditional sturdy wood case with antique brass hardware and a royal blue crushed velvet interior in which to lovingly house your instrument.

When looking for a mandolin case, there are several things to consider. There are two styles of cases including hard shell and soft shell. Hard shell cases are good for long term storage and transportation with several other instruments. Soft shell cases, also known as gig bags, are good for those who use public transportation or need to walk a long distance with their instrument, as these cases typically come with shoulder or backpack straps for ease of carrying. They are usually lighter in weight than hard shell cases, but they don’t provide waterproof protection, nor do they serve much purpose if the bag gets dropped.

The Journeyman series by Gator is a line of beautiful cases with vintage stylings and incredible functions to ensure your sense of style doesn’t disappear once your instrument is in the case. There are such beautiful features as rugged handles, velvet interior, antique hardware and burlap exterior. This company takes extra care to craft cases that protect the instrument by which the musician lives. The tool of the trade must be protected!

This case will fit both F and A mandolin styles. There is a large interior storage compartment in the neck area, where you can keep a strap, extra picks and strings and other accessories. Setting these cases apart from others on the market is the sheer beauty of them. They are designed with vintage styling in mind with burlap exterior and espresso trim. Inside, the royal blue crushed velvet interior provides a safe and soft spot in which to nestle your mandolin, where it will fit snug as a bug and won’t jostle around. There could be nothing worse than to show up to a gig to find your instrument was damaged on the way! Protect it right with a Journeyman case.

Every case in the Journeyman series is rugged, dependable and designed to be as unique as the musician who carries it. The vintage appeal of the cream coloured exterior won’t go out of style, and will complement the instrument it houses. The bronzed, antiqued hardware keeps the case tightly closed during transport and gives the perfect final finish to the overall aesthetic.

The exterior is not the only part of the case with a classic look and feel. The interior is beautiful and fitted with a generously sized accessory pocket for slides, picks and strings. Beneath the velvet is rigid foam to secure the instrument in place and protect it during travel. This tough wooden case gives outstanding protection and the interior fits the mandolin perfectly. The pebble-weave burlap exterior boasts an old-school look to turn heads. All of the hardware is heavy duty quality and accents the burlap perfectly in an antique brass finish.

The case also comes with lock and key to prevent tampering and theft of your beloved instrument.

The interior dimensions are as follows:

Body length 15”

Body height 5.25”

Lower bout width 14”

Middle bout width 14”

Upper bout width 14”

Overall length 41”

The look of the burlap fabric gives a very clean appearance. The closures work well and hold the case tightly closed. The foam is thick and high quality, so it won’t wear down or cause your mandolin to become loose over time. There is more than 1” of soft padding around the rims and to match the contour of the arched back.

We always recommend a gentle approach to handling your instrument no matter the case you have for it, but we recognize that that is not always feasible. Sometimes you’re tired after a gig and just want to toss your instrument in the back of the van.

When you receive this case and open it up, you will notice how off-center the handle is. Do not be alarmed, as this is done intentionally by the manufacturer Gator Cases. The off-center handle is in such a spot as to balance the case properly when loaded with a mandolin and being carried. Try it and find out! You will see how the location of the handle enables the neck to be uplifted, thereby creating an easier carrying experience for the user.

Overall, the look of this case sets it apart from others on the market. However, matched in superior quality is the wooden construction and sturdy, heavy duty hardware. This is a case you can rely on to protect your mandolin from damage during transport, and you’ll look exquisite doing so

The Journeyman GW-JW mandolin case, with burlap exterior and blue velvet interior, sells for around $90.

Feature Pick

Gator Cases Journeyman Series Deluxe Wood Case For Mandolin; Fits Both A & F Style (Gw-Jw Mandolin)

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Guardian Cases CG-020-MA Mandolin Hard Shell Case Review

 

We are reviewing a hard shell mandolin case by Guardian Cases, model number CG-020-MA. This case comes in a sleek black exterior with fuzzy plush lining for ultimate padding and comfort for your beloved instrument. It is designed to house A style mandolins and will not fit F style mandolins.

As musician, you have to be talented, but you also gotta look good. And this instrument is one sharp so-and-so! This hard shell mandolin case features 5-ply wood for strength, black tolex covering, black plush interior lining, heavy duty gold hardware and a screwed-in neck brace for trustworthy support. The sleek black design is very nice and neutral, and attractive. This hard shell case combines all necessary elements for a reliable, high quality case for your instrument. Offering excellent protection, it is made with 5 ply wood that can stand up to a lot of pressure. The exterior is well secured with its tolex covering. The plush interior makes a soft nest for the instrument while keeping it protected and firmly in place. Plush lining ensures your mandolin sustains no scratches or damage.

There are two types of cases you can get: a hard shell and a soft shell. The choice you make will ultimately be determined by your needs and preferences. Some things to consider when selecting a mandolin case include:

– what purpose will the case serve? For example, do you want it for the sole purpose of protecting the instrument from dust?

– Do you travel with the case, and what kind of travelling does this entail?

– Will the instrument be in a trailer amongst several other instruments? Will you only be taking it to the homes of friends and family? Do you plan to fly with your instrument?

– Do you need extra storage for music sheets and accessories (strap, picks, strings, etc.)?

Hard shell cases are typically more durable than soft shell cases, and do a great job housing the instrument. They can keep their position and stand upright when you open them, unlike soft shell cases, which collapse on themselves after you have removed the instrument. Hard shell cases are good for long-term travel as their exoskeletal nature enables them to take more of a hit without causing damage to the instrument. They are ideal for travelling with other musicians and for long term storage around the home. They will hold up well when packed with other instruments. One thing we would recommend in this instance is: if your mandolin is not a tight fit in the case, you can fill the extra space with something soft like a scarf. This will ensure the instrument does not get jostled at all.

A soft shell case, also known as a gig bag, is the lightweight alternative. Gig bags usually come with shoulder straps, which prove to come in handy when you are on the way to a show and you have to carry more than just your mandolin.

Its dimensions are 30” by 14” by 7”, with a depth of 3”.

There is an interior storage compartment under the neck of the instrument, in which you can store extra accessories for your mandolin, such as a strap, picks, extra strings, a nail clipper, etc.

When the case is fresh and new, it may seem your mandolin doesn’t fit. This is because the plush lining hasn’t been pushed down yet. Go ahead and set your mandolin in there and don’t be afraid to push the lining down. It will not damage your instrument, it will just help the lining conform to your exact instrument proportions.

This case is great for the little things we don’t think of, like turning corners and accidentally bumping walls, or throwing the case in the trunk. It may get jostled, but you can rest assured your instrument will not sustain any damage.

This case comes at a great price point, comparable to many soft shell cases on the market. You may as well go ahead and grab the hard shell, because it will always do a better job protecting your mandolin.

The latches, made of gold toned hardware, do lock and keys are included. This case is great for travelling and long term storage no matter your needs. The hard exterior can take a lot of hits while absorbing the blow and leaving your mandolin safe and intact. The handle is a generous size and comfortable to carry, and the interior compartment comes in handy when you need to transport extra strings or picks with you.

This hard shell mandolin case sells for around $80, which includes a solid black exterior that is highly durable and made of 5-ply wood, lock and key to prevent tampering or theft, and a very plush interior lining to safely house your mandolin and prevent it getting damaged.

Feature Pick

Guardian Cases Cg-020-Ma Mandolin Case

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Gator Cases Lightweight Polyfoam Mandolin Case Review

 

Today we are reviewing a lightweight gig bag soft shell case for the mandolin, made by Gator Cases in a lightweight polyfoam.

This case fits both A and F style mandolins. Its exterior is a rugged nylon water-resistant outer shell. There is a zippered outer pocket for accessories such as extra picks, straps, sheet music and whatever else you need to travel with. This case is easy to carry with removable back pack straps. This will come in really handy when you have to carry other equipment with you! Plus, mandolins are so lightweight that this case will be entirely ergonomical.

Dimensions are as follows:

Body length 15”; body height 2.5”; lower bout width 10”; middle bout width 10.5”; upper bout width 7”; overall length 27.75”.

There are, of course, advantages to both using hard and soft shell cases. These advantages depend greatly upon your lifestyle/how you plan to store or travel with your instrument. Hard shell cases, of course, are crush resistant. If you leave your case lying on the floor or on the ground while packing up gear, and someone steps on or runs over the case, the instrument inside will be less damaged than if they had been stored in a gig bag. Additionally, while your instrument is in the back of a van during transport with a bunch of amps and other instruments, then a hard shell will do a far better job protecting the instrument.

However, hard shell cases are big and cumbersome, posing difficulty for those who take public transit or travel by foot any distance to get to their gig. The lightweight polyfoam mandolin case by Gator Cases is special, though, because it is a hybrid of hard shell and soft shell cases. The exterior is covered with 600-Denier ballistic material. It is internally constructed of dense EPS foam interior that is covered in soft plush with foam support for the neck.

It comes with two accessory pockets, a parachute nylon web carrying handle and comfortable, removable shoulder strap. The accessory space is 6”x3”x2”.

The kind of case you select will be determined by your need, as mentioned. Soft shell cases are also known as gig bags, which are handy carriers for musicians given their lightweight nature. The soft shell case won’t add much weight at all to your burden, making it a good choice. Gig bags also come with a front pocket in which to store music, set lists and other necessities. Additionally, soft shell cases make great dust covers at prices cheaper than hard shell.

Depending on the size and shape of your mandolin, you may want to add additional cushioning to make for a snug fit. This mandolin case will hold both A and F style mandolins.

If you are looking for a travel case for your mandolin, this makes a nice lightweight alternative to a hard shell case, but we recommend using it as a carry-on, lest you risk checking it and sustaining damage. We’ve seen how the porters handle luggage. The backpack straps make travel much easier as you maneuver through airport crowds to reach your gate. This case is extremely sturdy and will not get crushed, and fits easily in the overhead compartments.

The price point makes this a great buy, especially if you just play for fun. You can have a protective carrying case without the large price tag, enabling you to transport the instrument to the homes of friends and family.

Some accessories to keep in this carrying bag include:

  • electric tuner
  • spare strings
  • string winder
  • picks
  • nail clippers and emery boards (of the emergency repair kind, should you bust a nail or need to give a quick trim before playing)

The top mesh pocket will hold papers, passport, tickets etc.

This case is easy to carry, lightweight and very well made. It will hold up for years and years and years of use. The interior foam does a better job protecting the instrument inside than a regular hard case, which, while durable on the exterior, tend not to have much padding inside. This case is solid, the zippers hold well and it’s a good fit for both A and F style mandolins.

The only feature this mandolin is missing is some rubber feet. Feet enable the player to stand the case upright while removing the instrument, and keep the case in position before you use it again.

Favourable features include durable exterior, plenty interior padding and backpack straps for ease of carrying, keeping your hands free. It only weighs 5 pounds, making for a very portable instrument protector that you can rely on to transport your mandolin and keep the dust off.

The Gator polyfoam mandolin case sells for around $80.

Feature Pick

Gator Cases Lightweight Polyfoam Mandolin Case; Fit’s Both ‘A’ And ‘F’ Body Styles (Gl-Mandolin)

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