What is a Mandola?


Many people browsing specialist folk music stores may have seen a one and wondered ‘What is a mandola?’ A mandola, Sometimes spelled mandora or mandoura, the term ‘mandola’ was an earlier name for what we now call a viola.

Today, what is commonly thought of as a mandola is actually closer in size to what musicians refer to as a tenor viola.  

Depending on who you ask and what region they’re from, what’s known today as a “mandola” can be played by plucking its strings with fingers (similar to how guitars are played) or strumming them with a pick (similar to how banjos are played). The English word “mandolin” comes from this stringed instrument family.

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The average person typically uses the terms “mandolin” and “mandola” interchangeably to mean the same thing. However, what is colloquially thought of as a mandolin is actually what musicians refer to as an octave mandolin, meaning that it’s tuned one octave above what would be considered standard tuning for what could also be called a tenor mandola.

2. Playing the Mandola

what is a mandola 2

To play a mandola you need a good understanding of the instrument itself, in order to be able to use it properly and with ease. A good method for learning this is by having someone explain how to play it or by trying out YouTube videos with step-by-step explanations. In general, there are two types of grip that can be used when playing a stringed instrument:

• Plectrum Grip: This type of grip is similar to the one used when playing the guitar and it’s often employed with instruments whose strings have metal on them. The thumb plays the sixth string while the index, middle and ring fingers hold the remaining five strings. The little finger isn’t usually employed while playing a mandola, although it can be used to play some notes or just for added strength in holding the instrument itself.

• Rest Grip: This type of grip is used on instruments whose strings don’t have metal on them and it consists of resting one or more fingers of the hand holding the neck against all of the courses at once without striking any of them. In this case, only four fingers are used to hold down all of the courses. Either way, developing a good technique with your right hand is crucial in order to get a good quality sound from your instrument.

3. How Can You Buy a Good Mandola?

Instrument stores along with online music shops offer a wide variety of models, from high-end instruments to budget versions. In general, the price range for a good instrument is between US$ 500 and US$ 2,500. Be prepared to attend music stores with this amount in your wallet because you’re going to have your pick from many different options! When buying an instrument like this it’s important to consider:

  • The materials used on the fretboard and neck;
  • Ensure that the mandola has a headstock;
  • Check if it has tuning pegs at its end;
  • Check if it has any loose parts or hooks which could come off easily.

It’s also very useful for you as a new musician to find out what type of mandola is easier for playing, whether it’s the American (Double-Course Mandola) or European (Mandolin).

4. What is the difference between a Mandola and a Mandolin?

Many people get confused when trying to discern what a mandola is from a mandolin, but there are some key differences that you need to know about:

what is a mandola  What is the difference between a Mandola and a Mandolin?

• The first one is that they have different tunings on their strings. While a mandolin has an 8 string tuning consisting of two octaves with the third one divided by two tones, a mandola has more unison courses which consist of four strings tuned in unison with each other as well as higher-pitched ones. This means that by playing the same note on both instruments, not all of them will sound the same way.

• Another key difference is the size of the instruments themselves. Mandolins are a bit smaller and thinner than mandolas, with a longer scale length throughout which makes them easier to play chords on them as well as to perform solos on single strings.

Mandolas have thicker necks and they’re more similar in shape and dimension to that of tenor guitars or plectrum banjos as opposed to mandolins, although they do also share many similarities such as their fretboard. This means that chord playing isn’t always so easy using this type of instrument, but holding it and the speed at which you can move up and down its neck is much faster compared to other stringed instruments like the mandolin due to the way it’s fretted.

5. Is a Mandola Easy to Play?

As with any musical instrument, playing an unfamiliar one for the first time can be difficult and there isn’t always a right or wrong answer when it comes to learning how to play an instrument. It usually depends on your background in stringed instruments like mandolins or guitars, as well as your practice routine if you happen to be learning by yourself without an instructor.

As mentioned before in this article, there are fretboards on which you can play all of its notes through chord shapes while some other models require more movements up and down the neck in order to create different sounds from all five strings at once. In general, a good piece of advice is that if you enjoy playing the mandolin then you will probably also like the mandola especially since they are tuned in more or less the same way.

6. How Can You Decide on Your First Mandola?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question because it depends on many different factors depending on your situation as well as what you plan to use this instrument for! If you’re learning how to play the mandola by yourself, then avoid buying one of those online beginner instruments without first consulting someone who knows about music.

what is a mandola  What is the difference between a Mandola and a Mandolin?

If you know how to play some other stringed instrument already, then that’s a stronger indication that you can handle an upgrade to a better quality mandola with fewer difficulties.

How to tune a mandola instrument?

1. To tune the mandola, you must first know what it is tuned to, either an C, G, D or A scale.

2. Place your ear close to the strings of the instrument while also looking at the tuners on its headstock through the headstock label on some instruments that tell what their scale is. If it says “A” then play all of your strings open starting from low E string and up until high G string while making sure that they’re not buzzing against each other, but instead sound clean with no unnecessary noises between them.

3. Tune your string by tightening or loosening it by tuning it with one of pegs on its tuning head which is what the instrument’s neck end is called.

4. Repeat this process with all of your strings in order to tune it up in the scale that you want – if an A scale, then all of them will be tuned down by a fourth interval (or two frets) while when tuning in D, each string one at a time will be lowered by two half-steps (or one fret). If your mandola has adjustable truss rods on its neck, make sure to read their instructions carefully to avoid any unnecessary damage!

5. Once all of the strings are tuned perfectly, play them once more just to double check what you did previously until they sound right and do not produce any unwanted sounds between themselves. Congratulations, you have successfully tuned your mandola!


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