The Bass mandolin
by Vincenzo Schisano
(Translated by Marianna Mastro)
The bass-mandolin also called the “arcimandola”, is a pinch instrument which belongs to the “cordofoni” family (instruments with chords).
It can be played by pinching the chords with the fingers or by using the “plectrum” (originally it was of ivory or turtle, in the modern times it is of plastic more or less hard).
The bass mandolin is long about a meter with a pot-bellied sound box pear shaped, to which is applied a stiff long neck, ending with a peg spatula generally inclined.
The chords, which are parallel to the sounding board, can be 7 or 8 (bass clef: Fa below the staff, Sol on the first staff and it is cancelled if the chords are 7, La in the first space, Re on the third staff, Sol in the fourth space, Si above the staff, Mi above the staff with a cut in the head and in the neck, La above the staff with three cuts in the neck).
Considered the bass mandolin in the plectra orchestra (and generally defined with the name of 'lute') it didn’t have much success, being substituted already in the 19th century by the “Mandoloncello”, more handy and modern with a greater extension in the upper register.
Expert manufacturers of the bass mandolin were the neapolitans Vinaccia
and Fabbricatore and the roman G. Ferrari.
© Copyright 2003 Vincenzo Schisano. All rights reserved.