The classical mandolin has a long history as an instrument that is accessible to the amateur musician but worthy enough to have a core of professional composers and virtuoso performers. This history goes back over some 300 years with composers such as Vivaldi and Beethoven writing for the instrument.
The mandolin is the high soprano voice of the mandolin family of instruments. The family includes the mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello, and mandobass.
The mandolin evolved from the lute in Italy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and has a long and rich history. It became a popular instrument among European aristocracy in the eighteenth century. Many celebrated composers, such as Beethoven, Hummel, Mozart, and Vivaldi, wrote original works for the mandolin.
The mandolin is a descendent of ancient plucked instruments found in the Middle East, Europe and Asia such as the Quiterne. The Quiterne had three or more single strings, or four double strings.
While the Italians consider the mandolin to be their national instrument, according to Tyler and Sparks in their book The Early Mandolin, the first music known to have been written specifically for the mandolin is Pierre Brunet's Tablatur de Mandorre, published in Paris in 1578.
The first American company to produce bowl-back mandolins on a large scale was Lyon & Healy, largely under the Washburn name. While they turned out thousands of these bowl-backs in differing models, there was no real innovation in these instruments.
The mandolin is a plucked stringed instrument with four pairs of metal strings. The pairs are tuned, EADG (from highest to lowest pitch) in intervals of fifths like a violin.
The mandolin originally developed from the lute, the instrument that is also the ancestor to the modern guitar. There are two types of mandolins commonly played today: the round-back style of mandolin that originated in Naples, Italy, in the eighteenth century, and the flat-back style more common in contemporary American folk music.
Prior to about 1900, a typical mandolin was the Neapolitan style. The oldest instrument was made by the Vinaccia family of Naples, Italy around the mid-1700′s.
Its origin was probably the 'oud', which can still seen in the near east today, which after it's spread at the time of the Moorish invasions of Europe, evolved into various forms of lute during the middle ages.