Octave Mandolin

ok-tiv man-doh-lin
The octave mandolin is a string instrument from the mandolin family of instruments. It has four paired strings, making eight in total and is tuned an octave below the traditional mandolin tuning. This chordophone has a teardrop shape and sits in a higher register than the mandola, tenor mandola and mandocello in a mandolin ensemble; where they are most commonly found.
History of the Octave Mandolin
The octave mandolin 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 octave mandolin. 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 varying tunings and pitch registers which is perhaps how the octave mandolin came into being. Early patents in the late 19th century include designs by Orville Gibson who sold his patents for them to be mass produced at the start of the 20th century. Scholars also believe that the octave mandolin may have been influenced by the cittern, a renaissance lute that resembles the teardrop body of an octave mandolin. Modern tunings and constructions of both of these instruments make them nearly identical. Mandolin enthusiasts favour the octave mandolin for its tuning that enables musicians to read a treble clef on sheet music rather than the less common alto clef. The instrument is still most common in mandolin ensembles and modern folk music.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£260 - £1,800

Hear the Octave Mandolin

Audio of the Octave Mandolin is Coming Soon

How to Play

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

In Popular Music

The lower register of this instrument is less common in popular music songs. However, the octave mandolin may have been played and uncredited on 'The Boxer' by Simon & Garfunkel and on the album 'Raising Sand (2007) by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

Famous Players

Chris Thile, Mike Marshall, David Grisman

Close Relations

Mandolin, Bouzouki
Video Credit: MandoLessons
Understanding the Octave Mandolin


United States


20th century






Instruments of Music

Copyright © 2023 Instruments of Music. All Rights Reserved.