Name: Mandolin Banjo.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.5/6
Tunings: G D A E
Courses: 4 Courses / 8 Strings.
Region: North America, Global.
Description: The mandolin-banjo is a hybrid instrument, sharing the same concept as the banjo-ukulele or banjo guitar. Sharing the same neck as a mandolin it is tuned in the same manner G D A E. These instruments were invented around the middle of the 1900s to 1930s. Having a shorter neck and paired strings allows the mandolin player to experience another resonance and darker sounding timbre.
It is a musical instrument independently invented by many people in many different countries. Analogous varieties of this instrument include the banjoline or banjolin or bandoline in France and the Cümbüş in Turkey. Sharing the same scale as the mandolin approximately 35.5 cm / 14 inches in length from nut to end of neck.
Origins: Prior to the advent of electro-magnetic pickups and amplifiers. Inventors were experimenting with different materials and manufacturing processes to increase the instruments acoustic resonance. The first patent for a mandolin-banjo was taken out in 1882 by Benjamin Bradbury of Brooklyn. The name banjolin was first patented by John Farris in 1885.
The instrument was popularized prior to the 1920s, when the tenor banjo became more popular. In the heyday of mandolin orchestras and banjo bands [late 19th–early 20th century], all sorts of instruments were produced. The mandolin-banjo is one of the hybrids that resulted. It enabled mandolinists to produce a banjo sound without having to learn that instrument’s fingerings. The instrument adds the banjo’s volume to the mandolin.
Construction: The “heads” being the membranes used to be of animal skin although they are more commonly made of plastic. The membranes are attached and screwed onto the body in creating a very dynamic resonance. Like the banjo it has a moving bride, this allows for adjusting intonation so the sound of the body matches the strings. The size of the body often varied, typically they are 10 inches in diameter. Larger heads were favoured, however, as they were louder, and thus more audible in band settings.
Companies during this time period included Gibson, Vega and also by the English company Windsor. All companies manufactured both four and eight stringed banjos during the early 20th century. Today Mandolin banjos are manufactured by GoldTone, Rogue, Morgan Monroe and Musikalia – Dr. Aflio Leone. GoldTone makes the MB-850+ Mandolin-Banjo, with a removable maple resonator. Converting the instrument to an open-backed instrument.
The selection is not large and the instruments are not common in stores. Morgan Monroe has recently made three models, the MM-MB1 Mandolin Banjo the MM-MB2 Mandolin Banjo, and the Banjolin DLX 8 strings. The Morgan Monroe banjos resemble traditional mandolin-banjos and have wooden resonators. The Cumbus model has a spun aluminum resonator.
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