May 24, 2017

Mandoloncello (Liuto cantabile)

Mario Vorraro


Once again (see the tenor mandola), we are dealing with an instrument of unclear origins. As a matter of fact, a careful analysis of a rare ancient model reveals that the instrument lacked the right dimensions which could allow for a tuning identical to that of a violoncello :


this tuning, in my opinion, is necessary if we want to connect the mandolin (or plectrum) family to the violin (or bow) family. The fact that in the past a model with the right diapason has never been built (670 millimeters, 268 inch.) may be due to many reasons, but I think that in general it was a practical need : the bigger the instrument the harder to play, especially if the musicians weren’t expert professionals (see text on the ultracute mandolin). A fifth string, an acute or high E, can be added to the mandoloncello to satisfy a particular type of Neapolitan musical literature, dating the XX century, which uses the instrument for high notes. This particular extension capacity the mandoloncello is also called “singable lute”. Moreover, one of the two mandoloncelloes (the one with 8 strings presented at expo “Music in Messe 2000” in Frankfurt) was built ten years ago and has undergone restoration. You can notice how time can greatly affect the instrument’s acoustic quality.
The mandoloncello designed and built by me can have either 4 or 5 double strings.

Time required for construction : 4/5 months
Weight : about 2.000 grams; (4,60 lbs)
Length 1150 millimetres (460 Inch.)
Types of wood employed : rosewood and maple wood for the body, ebony and rosewood for the fingerboard, firwood for the front of the harmonic box.
Polishing : opaque (ancient style) or hand polished (blotted polishing with shellac).
Number of frets : 24
Strings : in steel I^E 0.13 (Inch.), 2^A 0.20 (Inch.), 3^D 0.40 (Inch.), 4^G 0.60 (Inch.), 5^C 0.80 (Inch.)

Numbero of staves: 11/13.

Tuning :


Sound range four strings model


Sound range five strings model (liuto cantabile):



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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.