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mandolin(măn'dəlĭn`, măn`dəlĭn'), musical instrument of the lute family, with a half-pear-shaped body, a fretted neck, and a variable number of strings, plucked with the fingers or with a plectrum. The earlier mandolin, with five double strings, was developed from the mandola, a 17th-century lute. The Neapolitan mandolin, a smaller type having four pairs of strings, became popular in the 18th cent. and is the usual present-day mandolin. In popular music it is generally played with a tremolo motion. Notable uses of the mandolin in serious music are in Mozart's Don Giovanni and in pieces by Beethoven and Mahler.
a plucked string instrument. It originated in Italy, obtaining its present forms by the 17th century. Since the 18th century the mandolin has been one of the most popular folk instruments. Several types have been in existence. The most popular, the Neapolitan mandolin, has a bowl-shaped body, four pairs of strings (each pair tuned to the same note), a short neck, a fingerboard with fixed metal frets, and a flat pegbox with mechanical tuning pegs. The instrument, which is 610-635 mm long, is tuned in fifths (like the violin) and is played with a plectrum.