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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mandolin - PART II

There are two basic variations in the original form of the Mandolin - the acoustic and the electric.

The Mandolin in its original form is an acoustic stringed instrument about 2 ft long with deeply vaulted ribs and a table slanted downward at the lower end. It has a neck-cum-peghead attached to a hollow oval shaped sound box. It has four pairs of loop-ended double rib fastened metal strings secured to hooks on the body on one end, and passed across a low bridge (on the sound box) and a nut (on the finger board) to the pegs inserted into a rectangular peg-box. There are five, even six-string versions of the Mandolin, but they are not as popular as the four-strings (pairs) version. A small flexible plectrum is used to vibrate the strings. A feature of Mandolin playing is the constant reiterations of all long pitches, which counteracts its weak sustaining power.

Solid block versions of the Mandolin are also available in more or less the same form as the original Mandolin. The names of the parts of the electric Mandolin are similar to those of the acoustic Mandolin. The major difference between an acoustic Mandolin and the electric Mandolin lies in the way sound is produced and amplified in each. On the acoustic Mandolin, when a string is plucked, its vibrations resonate in the hollow sound box and audible sound is thereby generated. In the case of an electric Mandolin, there is no sound box; the vibrations of the strings are picked up by a device called "pickup" (which, in basic form, consists of a magnet placed at the centre with very thin copper wire coiled around it a few hundred-thousand turns), which converts the vibrations into very low electrical signals. Through volume, tone and other controls, these signals are fed into an amplifier which then feeds it to the speaker. Thus audible sound is produced.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Mandolin - The younger brother ..

Mandolin emerged from the Mandola possibly as early as the 15th century but remained obscure until the 18th century, when it was used by Handel in England, by Hummel in Germany, by Gretry and Auber in France, and by various Italians including Vivaldi. The fashion subsided in the 19th century - it had become a popular folk instrument in Germany and America. Mandolin is the descendent of the Neapolitan, a small lute.It is often referred to as the younger brother of the guitar.

The Mandolin has been in use in its original form and with its original style of playing in film music and other non-classical forms of music for a few decades now, though the usage has not been such that would have given the instrument a prima donna position. The instrument has been predominantly used to connect two parts of compositions or to render one of the specific parts of a musical composition. Elsewhere in the world, the usage of the instrument is much better. However, one does come across cases where Mandolin has been used as a lead instrument playing various pop or other varieties of compositions. In western classical music, the originality of Mandolin, both the style of playing and the construction of the instrument, has been retained though.

Some of the prominent examples of the usage of Mandolin elsewhere in the world are:

Lead Mandolin in Bluegrass music (in the USA);

The American group called "The Band" which featured Rick Danko on the Mandolin;

In country-western music in the mid-1980s by a competing group of Nashville based musicians such as Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, the Judds, & Randy Travis;

And off course in south indian classical(carnatic) music where the electric mandolin is used.

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