May 24, 2017

Neapolitan baroque mandolin (1750)

Mario Vorraro

In the first half of the XVIII century comes to affirmation a new kind of mandoline, said “neapolitan” because Naples is the place of origin of its innovators: that is to say of liuthers families Vinaccias and Fabbricatores. This mandoline is very different from the XVII century’s one but has some peculiarities similar to the “hitting guitar”, instrument very common in southern Italy: the body is deeper and made up of narrowed staves, the headstock is equipped of posterior pegs, the neck has a keyboard with ivory fingers, the harmonic box has a resonance hole without the classic “rosetta”, has a “battipenna” and a bending down, between the rosetta and the end of body. On the bending there is a bridge that takes 8 metal strings (or often gut strings too) – anchored to small bottoms on the back of the body – the strings are coupled in 4 orders with the same tuning of the violin: G3, D3,A3,E4.

The first half of the XIX century brings new innovations: the body becomes slighlty bigger,the strings are once for all made of metal, the keyboard gets longer (with 17 keys), machines for a more accurate tuning. This evolution lasts until the beginning of 1900s thanks to Luigi Embergher and Raffaele Calace who radically change some of the mandoline’s characters, i.e. shape and keyboard (which was taken up to, and after, 22 keys).

The model that I produce, and elaborated, is absolutely on the same scale of 1753 Giovanni Vinaccia’s mandoline, analysed by K. Coates in his book: “Geometry. Proportion and the Art of Lutherie” (Oxfors, 1985).

Time required for construction= three months
Weight 0.77 lbs
Lenghth 228 inch.
Types of wood employed: firwood for the front of the harmonic box, rosewood and maple wood for the body, ebony for the fingerboard.
Number of staves: 7/9
Polishing: opaque (ancient style)
Diapason 131 inch.
Number of frets: 13
String = 1^E:0.17 (inch.) – 2^A:0.25 (inch.)- 3^D:0.39 (inch.) – 4^G:0.40 (inch.)- (gut o nylon)



Sound Range


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Some phases of construction…

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Mario Vorraro: A short video to show Neapolitan Mandolin, Baroque Guitar, Battente Guitar (A. Corelli, Follia, tema e due variazioni).


Mario Vorraro: A short video to show Neapolitan mandolin