The mandolin is a musical instrument that originated from ancient Arabian civilizations. It was originally an instrument that resembled the violin and was used in orchestras. It is also tuned in a similar fashion to the violin and the latest versions of the instrument include its hybrid forms with the violin and the cello. The following are the different variations of mandolin that are in use today.
The Bowl-Back mandolin, which is also known as the Taterbug or the Neapolitan, is one of the earliest forms of the mandolin. It is the same stereotypical version of mandolin which is generally seen on the television and in movies. The Bowl-Back design is the same as the centuries old original design of the mandolin as a cross between the violin and the lute. These types of mandolins are however no longer in use by any serious mandolin player.
Another type is the A-style mandolin which can be simply defined as the instrument with a teardrop shape which has sound holes of either oval shape or f-holes. It is generally used to describe the mandolins which don’t fall under the category of Bowl-Back or F-Style mandolins. The A-style mandolin generally features a top and back that are carved as they are in violins. It is also called a flat-back to distinguish it from the Bowl-Back type. Its name “A-style” was coined in the 1900s on the lines of the Gibson A-model.
The F-Style mandolin is similar to the A-Style in most respects; it has more intricate carvings near the neck of the mandolin. It also has either f-hole or oval shaped sound holes and is mostly preferred by bluegrass musicians. The Round-Back is another type of mandolin which has become more popular with classical musicians who work in orchestras. It suffers from bad repute due to the general lack of high quality manufacturers, however, the difference in sound quality between the more expensive and cheaper versions of the instrument is immense.
The variations in sound holes of mandolins are broadly categorized into two types, f-holes and oval shaped sound holes. Usually the f-hole type mandolins are much louder than those with oval shaped sound holes. F-holes are thus preferred by musicians who play in groups where louder sound is required. The sound and sustain offered by the oval shape sound holes is better but can be easily drowned out while playing as a part of a group.