In Minnesota, Bruce Bernhart has been a mandolin player/enthusiast since the 1980's
The Bernhart Mandolin Webpages explore the history of the mandolin, buying and building mandolins, basic chord structures, the different styles of playing, practice exercises, the various makes and models of mandolins available on the market, and the "best of the web" on mandolin topics.
A Brief Mandolin History (from the Mandolin and Banjo Pages)
Mandolins evolved as part of the Lute family in Italy during the 17th -18th centuries, and the deep bowled mandolin produced particularly in Naples became a common type in the 19th century. The original instrument was the mandola ( mandorla is almond in Italian and describes the instrument body shape) and evolved in the 15th century from the Lute.
A later, smaller mandola was developed and became known as a mandolina. The 20th century saw the rise in popularity of the mandolin for celtic, bluegrass, jazz and classical styles. Much of the development of the mandolin from neapolitan bowl back to the flat back style is thanks to Orville Gibson (1856 - 1918) and Lloyd Loar, the chief designer for the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co Ltd.
Further back, between 15,000 - 8,000 BC, single stringed instruments have been seen in cave paintings. They were bowed, struck and plucked. From these, the families of instruments developed that we know today. Single strings were long and gave a single melody line. To shorten the scale length, other strings were added with a different tension so one string took over where another left off. The earliest instrument to do this was the Lyre which was both bowed and plucked. The multiple strings gave them the capability of playing chords.
The bowed family became the rabob, rebec and then the fiddle becoming the violin and modern family by 1520 (incidentally also in Naples). The plucked family led from the Lyre to lute-like instruments, and developed into the Oud or Ud (Al Oud - the wood) appearing in Spain in 711 when the Moors arrived in Europe.
Over the next centuries, frets were added and the strings doubled to courses leading to the first true Lute appearing in the 13th Century. The history of the Lute and the Mandolin are intertwined from this point. The Lute gained a 5th course by the 15th century, a 6th a century later and up to 13 courses in its heyday.
Early mandolins were large and had six to eight strings or pairs of strings, but most modern mandolins only have four pairs of strings. Each pair of strings is tuned to the same note and plucked as one to enhance the mandolin's sound. The balalaika, which is popular in Russian folk music, is a triangular shaped lute with three strings that is tuned in intervals of fourths or fifths. Some say it has a melancholy sound. A lute known as the shamisen, which has a nasal tone quality, is used in Japan. The sitar, which is a large instrument with a bright, jangly tone, is an instrument from India which has been popularized around the world by Ravi Shankar, a sitar virtuoso.
An instrument called the lute also belongs to the lute family. Similar to a mandolin in appearance, the lute similarly has a pear shaped body and with a flat top and a fretted neck. The lute was popular in Europe in the 1500s and 1600s, but today it is mainly used only by musicians interested in early music. The lute's most distinguising feature is it's head, which is bent at a right angle away from the fingerboard. Most instruments in the lute family do not share this feature.
It is a common misunderstanding that music is a freeform, random art. I agree with Music Behind The Method which says that almost without exception, the great musical works of our history are bound by special rules that make their beauty more organized and understandable without dimming their brilliance. These rules and techniques are called music theory. Music theory is the product of over a millennium of work and innovation. It is possibly the greatest unsung achievement we have created as a species.
I've been asked about the use of Roman Numerals. Roman Numerals are sometimes used to to notate chords:
Major chords: I, II, III, etc.
Minor chord: i, ii, iii, etc.
Augmented chord: I+, II+, III+, etc.
Diminished chord: vi°, vii°, etc.
Half-diminished chord: viiØ7, etc.
Extended chords: ii7, V9, V13, etc.
Altered tones or chords: #iv, ii#7
Read on to learn more about the modern mandolin, plus a couple of tunes in tabs.
Bruce Bernhart mandolin rock tabs
Also, check out the Bruce Bernhart RV Websites and Blogs:
Solar power for your RV
The sport of "geocaching" and RV refrigeration basics
RV Insurance- Road protection and bodily injury coverage
Deep cycle battery basics