1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mandoline

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MANDOLINE (Fr. mandoline; Ger. Mandoline; It. mandolina), the treble member of the lute family, and therefore a stringed instrument of great antiquity. The mandoline is classified amongst the stringed instruments having a vaulted back, which is more accentuated than even that of the lute. The mandoline is strung with steel and brass wire strings. There are two varieties of mandolines, both Italian: (1) the Neapolitan, 2 ft. long, which is the best known, and has four courses of pairs of unisons tuned like the violin in fifths; (2) the Milanese, which is slightly larger and has five or six courses of pairs of unisons. The neck is covered by a finger-board, on which are distributed the twelve or more frets which form nuts at the correct points under the strings on which the fingers must press to obtain the chromatic semitones of the scale. The strings are twanged by means of a plectrum or pick, held between the thumb and first finger of the right hand. In order to strike a string the pick is given a gliding motion over the string combined with a down or an up movement, respectively indicated by signs over the notes. In order to sustain notes on the mandoline the effect known as tremolo is employed; it is produced by means of a double movement of the pick up and down over a pair of strings.

The mandoline is a derivative of the mandola or mandore, which was smaller than the lute but larger than either of the mandolines described above. It had from four to eight courses of strings, the chanterelle or melody string being single and the others in pairs of unisons. The mandore is mentioned in Robert de Calenson (12th cent.), and elsewhere; it may be identified with the pandura.

The Neapolitan mandoline was scored for by Mozart as an accompaniment to the celebrated serenade in Don Juan. Beethoven wrote for it a Sonatina per il mandolino, dedicated to his friend Krumpholz. Grétry and Paisiello also introduced it into their operas as an accompaniment to serenades.

The earliest method for the mandoline was published by Fouchette in Paris in 1770. The earliest mention of the instrument in England, in 1707, is quoted in Ashton’s Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne: “Signior Conti will play . . . . on the mandoline, an instrument not known yet.”  (K. S.)