May 24, 2017

Tenor (or basso) mandola

Mario Vorraro

In the 19th century music, all plectrum instruments, except for the mandolin, didn’t have a precise tuning : the mandola, in particular, had its scores written in treble clef, and was tuned E – A – D – G (just like the mandolin but with the real notes one octave lower) although its diapason (430mm, 172 inch.) required a higher tuning such as A – D – G – C (contralto). In other words, the diapason wasn’t long enough to allow such a low pitched tuning :

real notes :


conventional writing, identical to the one used for the mandolin :


As a consequence, there was a lack of harmonics and “clean” notes, the volume was weak etc. This confusion has continued until our days. It has penalized the enchanting timbre of the mandola, distorted its tuning and, therefore, limited its use because of its weak acoustic output. Driven by the need to clarify what for years has been wrongly done and to give the contralto mandola its merit, I would like to introduce you to the tenor (or basso) mandola, an instrument thought and designed by me (with no reference models) to finally fit a tuning E – A – D – G. Hopefully this will be a valid contribution to the renewed respect and musical taste able to honour one of the most beautiful “voices” of the plectra family, the contralto, which was about to disappear thanks to non demanding musicians and superficial artisans of plectrum instruments.

Time required for construction: 4 months
Weight : about 1.100 grams; (2,64 lbs).
Length: 860 millimeters (344 Inch.)
Number of frets : 15
Types of wood employed : maple wood and rosewood for the body, firwood for the front of the harmonic box. Ebony and rosewood for the fingerboard.
Polishing : the instrument can be either opaque or hand polished (blotted polishing with shellac)
Strings : steel I^E 0.14 (Inch.), 2^A 0.20 (Inch.), 3^D 0.40 (Inch.), 4^G 0.60 (Inch.)
Tuning : see above

Number of stoves: 11.

Sound range :


MOD. 1

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

MOD. 2

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Video: bourée di Filippo Sauli (alla mandola il M° Claudio Romano)



Quale migliore occasione per ascoltare il suono di alcuni dei miei strumenti: mandolino, mandola tenore, liuto cantabile, chitarra…ecco uno spaccato del concerto al Duomo di Cremona (nell’ambito dell’ Acoustic Guitar Village Cremona) con i solisti della Napoli Mandolin Orchestra (Mauro Squillante, Gaio Ariani, Valerio Fusillo e Leonardo Lospalluti). Partecipazione straordinaria del M° Carlo Aonzo.