The mandocello is a string instrument that is the second largest in the mandolin family, after the mandobass. It has a low baritone register and is often tuned to the standard tuning of a cello: CGDA. Like other mandolins, the cello has two of each of these tuned strings to produce a more continuous sustain and a chorus-like sound to the instrument.
History of the Mandocello
The mandocello shares a common history with all the instruments in the mandolin family, which developed from variations of the lute. The lute was a stringed chordophone that can be traced back as far as 2000 BC in art and literature. Variations on the lute evolved in Europe to become the Greek’s bouzouki and Russia’s balalaika. Italian instrument makers in the 15th century used the lute’s design to produce the bowlback mandolin, the earliest ancestor of the mandolin and mandocello. Luthiers such as Pasquale Vinaccia of Naples were thought to have had a large influence on the proportional design of the mandolin. The popularity of the mandolin soared in America in the 19th century as the white middle class began to adopt the instrument. By the late 19th century, mandolin orchestras and ensembles began to appear, much the same as banjo ensembles of the time. These ensembles called for an instrument in the baritone and bass range and early patents for the mandocello were made by designers like Orville Gibson in 1898. There were also designs for the mandocello in the mandolin’s native Italy by luthiers such as Luigi Embergher. The mandocello was mass produced during the peak of its popularity at the start of the 20th century but soon declined to become an obscure instrument by the mid-1900s. Today the mandocello can sometimes be heard in modern folk, celtic and bluegrass recordings.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£500 - £2,000

Hear the Mandocello

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How to Play

A stringed instrument played by plucking the strings with the fingers or a pick to create sound.

In Popular Music

A particularly famous use of the mandocello being played is 'Mandocello' by Alternative band Cheap Trick. The mandocello is also played by Ethan Jones on the album 'After The Storm (1994) by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Famous Players

Caterina Lichtenberg, Mike Marshall, David Grisman

Close Relations

Mandolin, Mandola
Video Credit: Gold Tone
Understanding the Mandocello




18th century






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