The mandolin is the newest member of the Lute family. It has eight steel strings tuned to the notes of G, A, E, and D. It is a descendent of the mandore which is one of the soprano members of the family. It commonly has the shape of a teardrop and has F-holes or one round sound hole.

History

In 15,000 BC to 8,000 BC, cave paintings and murals included single-stringed instruments. The different stringed instrument families evolved from this. In the centuries that passed, mandolins were developed to have frets and strings doubled to courses and a smaller lute called mandora emerged in the 4th century. Then, a petite gut-strung mandola called mandolino which had six strings grew in some areas in Italy. It was also referred to as a mandolin in Naples around 1735.

The literature about Italian musicians who journeyed all over Europe was the source of the very first proof of the steel-string mandolins. An example of a mandolin built in these early times was the mandolin by Giuseppe Vinaccia which is preserved in London, England. Geatano Vinaccia built the very first known mandolin in 1744. It is now preserved in Brussels, Belgium.

Because it originated from Naples, the mandolins built centuries back are called Neapolitan mandolins. These have bodies which are almond-shaped and have bowled backs. Its soundtable which is curved provides greater string tension. It has a bridge which is a movable piece of ivory or hardwood placed in front of pins holding the strings.

A few examples of those who built mandolins are the Ferrari family, Calace in Naples, and Luigi Embergher. The structure of the Neapolitan mandolin was developed by musicians in Rome which gave rise to the Roman type mandolin. The transformation of the bowl-back style of the mandolin to the flat-back is credited to Orville Gibson. In the 20th century, the mandolin was prominently used for bluegrass, classical, and jazz music.

The mandolin family

The few other members of the mandolin family are the mandola, mando-bass, octave mandolin, piccolo, mandocello, and cittern.

The mandola, also called tenor or alto mandola, is pitched a fifth under the mandolin. It has a scale length of approximately 16.5 inches. The mando-bass mandolins are tuned similar to a double bass and have four strings. Unfortunately, this instrument is quite uncommon.

The octave mandolin produces sound which is one octave under that of the mandolin. It is also referred to as mandole and has a scale length of approximately 20 inches. The sopranino or piccolo mandolin is pitched an fourth of an octave higher than the mandolin.

Mandolin styles

There are six mandolin styles – the Neapolitan bowlback, a-style flatback, f-style flatback, Maccaferi style flatback, solid body electric, and electro-acoustic mandolins.

Basics of playing

The very first step of playing the mandolin is to learn how to tune it because you cannot produce the right melody without proper tuning. Use a strap or place it on your lap when playing. For beginners, it is suggested for you to use a pick or plectrum. Lightly hold it between your thumb and pointer with its pointed end facing the strings.

You can adjust the pick angle to perform tremolo or fast triplets. Practice every note on a consecutive down-up cycle. To learn thoroughly, you should read good tutor books and watch videos online or at music shops. The difference with these two methods is that tutor books often assume that you can read music while videos teach in a follow-the-leader method.

Of course, the best way to learn is taking up lessons. It is always good to have someone oversee your development and guide you in honing your skills. Be oriented with the basics of music scales but this is usually taught in local sessions. Start with tunes you know – the simpler the better.

 

The bagpipe is an aerophone, a musical instrument class, and uses enclosed reeds to vibrate by movement of stored air in a bag. It is more commonly referred by pipers as “pipes”. You might be familiar with the Irish uilleann pipes or the Scottish great highland bagpipe but there are also varieties of bagpipes coming from regions all around the Persian Gulf, Northern Africa, and Europe.

Origin

The roots of the bagpipes could be dug up to the ancient times. Because any herdsman had all the materials needed which are a reed pipe and sheep or goat skin, bagpipes might have been from a rustic instrument in various cultures. Many historians think that it started in Sumaria and it was also cited in the Holy Bible. A roman historian even recorded that Emperor Nero played the bagpipe. It was specifically stated as “knew how to play the pipe with his mouth and the bag thrust under his arm”.

The existence of bagpipes in pre-medieval times is doubtful. Yet visual and textual remains could still possible prove bagpipes in ancient forms.

Parts of the bagpipe

Bagpipes regularly consist of four parts – a bag, a drone, an air supply, and a chanter. The supply of air comes from blowing into a blowstick or blowpipe. Blowpipes today usually have a non-return valve so that the player does not need to cover the edge of the blowpipe with his or her tongue when inhaling.

The bag is a reservoir which holds air and regulates airflow while pumping or breathing take place. This helps the player to uphold constant sound for a moment. Skins of goats, cows, sheep or other local animals are used for the bag’s material.

The chanter produces the melody of the bagpipe. It is frequently open-ended which gives the player no easy way to end the pipe’s sound. This gives bagpipes no rests or the legato sound.

Bagpipes mostly consist of one or more drones. It is a cylinder-shaped tube with usually a single reed. It has at least two parts and has a sliding joint or bridle which manipulates the pitch.

Construction

A constant air supply is provided by the bagpipe’s construction. The air flow could be maintained in the chanter and drone pipes through using the left hand to squeeze the bag during breathing periods. In the mouthpiece, there is a circular piece of leather attached to the bag that operates like a one way valve. The flap closes when the player stops blowing air flow and opens when blowing is ongoing. There is a thumb hole and seven finger holes on the chanter.

Types of bagpipes

The most well-known bagpipe, Great Highland Bagpipe, overshadows many other types of bagpipes. There are bagpipes widely spread throughout Middle East and Europe. Even though there was a drastic decline of the other kinds, there was a revival in more recent times. For example, the Irish piping declined in the mid 1900’s but came back and is still alive today. Other types are the Balkan Gaida, Pastoral pipes, Galician gaita, Breton Biniou, the Aragonese Gaita de boto, Scottish smallpipes, and many more.

The main purpose of bagpipes is for dance music. Nowadays, it is suited for monophonic music and solo dances. Modern music played on bagpipes is not ideal as dance music anymore.