The mandolin (or mandolin-type instrument) has existed for millennia. Fast forward to the early 1900s and the instrument was revolutionized by Orville Gibson, eventually evolving into two basic styles: Florentine (or F-style) and A-style.
The two mandolin styles have obvious differences in the way they look. The F-style has an ornamental scroll in the headstock and close to the neck and two points on the lower body of the instrument, while the A-style usually has a plain, pear-shaped body and no points.
But what about sound? There are folks who adamantly believe there are sonic differences between the two styles and others who say the only difference is physical appearance. So who’s right?
Differences in Sound
There are passionate players and fans on both sides of the argument regarding sound differences. Some believe F-style and A-style mandolins absolutely sound identical. Others are adamant that the tone of each style can be different, depending on a few factors: the wood used in construction of the instrument, the F-style’s scroll and points and the benefits of a professional setup.
Depending on the wood chosen in the creation of the mandolin, the tone of the instrument can be different. Some woods, like mahogany, produce a strong, rich bass response. While others, like maple, contribute a brighter, more trebly sound. There are many types of woods to choose from and it’s something to consider when choosing a mandolin. Read more about tonewoods here.
Scroll and Points
While some believe the scroll and points make no difference at all in the sound of the instrument, others say the tone of the F-style mandolin can be affected by the instrument’s scroll and points, allowing for a more concentrated sound than the A-style. This may be the reason why those who play bluegrass and country music commonly play the more focused toned F-style mandolin.
Whether a player is a beginner or a professional musician, having their mandolin professionally setup in the beginning and throughout the life of the instrument can make all the difference. Having a setup upon purchase of the instrument will demonstrate how it should ideally sound and play. Over time, as the mandolin isn’t as comfortable to play, it is advisable to have a professional setup performed to bring it back to its stellar playing condition.
Which Mandolin Type is Right for You?
The Denver Folklore Center is here to make it easy to choose the mandolin that suits your playing style and needs. Check out our selection of mandolins online. And contact us or come into the store and let us help you choose one.