Archtop Mandolin

Name: Archtop Mandolin.
Type: Chordophones > Lute > Mandolin.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.6 flat-backed
Historical Era: 1900s-
Tuning: G D A E
Courses: 4 courses / eight paired.
Country: North America, Many.
Region: North America Many.

Description: At the very end of the 19th century, a new style emerged, with a carved top and back construction inspired by violin family instruments began to supplant the European-style bowl-back instruments in the United States. This new style is credited to mandolins designed and built by Orville Gibson, a Kalamazoo, Michigan luthier who founded the “Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co., Limited” in 1902.

Gibson mandolins evolved into two basic styles: the Florentine or F-style, which has a decorative scroll near the neck, two points on the lower body and usually a scroll carved into the headstock; and the A-style, which is pear shaped, has no points and usually has a simpler headstock.

These styles generally have either two f-shaped sound holes like a violin [F-5 and A-5] or an oval sound hole [F-4 and A-4 and lower models]directly under the strings. Much variation exists between makers working from these archetypes, and other variants have become increasingly common.

Generally, in the United States, Gibson F-hole F-5 mandolins and mandolins influenced by that design are strongly associated with bluegrass, while the A-style is associated other types of music, although it too is most often used for and associated with bluegrass. The F-5’s more complicated woodwork also translates into a more expensive instrument.


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