Max Wolpert is a multi-genre violinist, violist, orchestrator, and composer. While classically trained, Max is equally at home playing old-time, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, klezmer, bluegrass, jazz, Swedish, and other various fiddle styles. He has performed with artists including A.R. Rahman, Dream Theater, Alison Brown, Stephen Wade, Darol Anger, Eugene Friesen, Bill Whelan, Karthik, Zoe Conway, John Patitucci, André Watts, Patti Austen, Danilo Perez, and Joe Lovano. Max’s playing has been featured at Boston’s Symphony Hall, the American String Te... Read More
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Mandolin is a super fun instrument. It’s a stringed instrument in the lute family. Unlike violin and cello it is plucked. It usually has four courses of double metal strings tuned in unison, that’s eight strings in total. Just like the violin it is the soprano member of it’s family. Archtop mandolins are common in American folk music and bluegrass music. There is no best age to start learning the mandolin, as soon as the student is big enough to pick one up, they can start learning the basics.
The mandolin is originally an Italian instrument. Here we are going to discuss the history of the mandolin in the United States. The mandolin was brought to America right around the turn of the last century 1900 by Italians. The first mandolins in America were of the neapolitan style, they had a deep bowl back. They also had a flat top, basically they were standard Italian style. This style of mandolin was eventually produced in America, they were available through mail order catalogs. Produced and purchased by the thousands, mandolins used to be in vogue when there was an interest in Mandolin Orchestras. There were so many immigrants arriving in the late 1800’s and there was a real strong sense of community as they created mandolin orchestras in their new home towns.
When the mountain people of Appalachia discovered the mandolin they called it the Potato Bug. Then Gibson modernized the mandolin, they did this right after the turn of the last century. Mr. Orville Gibson invented the idea of carving the top and the back of the mandolin from thick wood, so that it was more like a violin. The Gibson Company took Orville’s idea and they tweaked it. So they put a higher bridge on the mandolin so there was more pressure on the top. Gibson also discovered how to carve the top in ways that would produce the best sounds. The company was based on the idea that they alone had spindle carving machines that did all the carving automatically. No other guitar manufacturers at the time had this technology. So Gibson had an edge on the market, if you wanted a really loud mandolin, you had to buy a Gibson. This was during the time the mandolin orchestra was in vogue. These orchestras would play classical music with many mandolins. Then the mandolin fell out of prominence, at the same time the guitar came into prominence. This was around 1925.
About twenty years later, the Gibson style of mandolin was used by Bill Monroe when he created bluegrass music. He is the father of bluegrass music. So it was a very strange turn of events that right when Gibson invented the modern style of mandolin, mandolins fell out of popularity. Well thank goodness for Bill Monroe.
Bill Monroe: Uncle Pen
Chris Thiele: Tiny Desk Concert
Sierra Hull: Duelling Mandolin Bluegrass Jam
Ricky Skaggs: Rawhide