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There are many styles of mandolin, but three are common, the Neapolitan or round-backed mandolin, the carved-top mandolin and the flat-backed mandolin.The round-back has a deep bottom, constructed of strips of wood, glued together into a bowl.There is usually one or more sound holes in the soundboard, either round, oval, or shaped like a calligraphic In 1787 Luigi Bassi played the role of Don Giovanni in Mozart's opera, serenading a woman with a mandolin.

The carved-top or arch-top mandolin has a much shallower, arched back, and an arched top—both carved out of wood.

The flat-backed mandolin uses thin sheets of wood for the body, braced on the inside for strength in a similar manner to a guitar.

Some modern Brazilian instruments feature an extra fifth course tuned a fifth lower than the standard fourth course.

Other mandolin varieties differ primarily in the number of strings and include four-string models (tuned in fifths) such as the Brescian and Cremonese, six-string types (tuned in fourths) such as the Milanese, Lombard and the Sicilian and 6 course instruments of 12 strings (two strings per course) such as the Genoese.

Mandolins evolved from the lute family in Italy during the 17th and 18th centuries, and the deep bowled mandolin, produced particularly in Naples, became common in the 19th century. 13,000 BC, a cave painting in the Trois Frères cave in France depicts what some believe is a musical bow, a hunting bow used as a single-stringed musical instrument.

In turn, this led to being able to play dyads and chords.A distinct European tradition of lute development is noticeable in pictures and sculpture from the 13th century onward.As early as the beginning of the 14th century, strings were doubled into courses on the miniature lute or gittern, used throughout Europe.When the Moors conquered Andalusia in 711 AD, they brought their ud along, into a country that had already known a lute tradition under the Romans, the pandura.During the 8th and 9th centuries, many musicians and artists from across the Islamic world flocked to Iberia.There were singer-lutenists at the court in Palermo following the Norman conquest of the island from the Muslims, and the lute is depicted extensively in the ceiling paintings in the Palermo’s royal Cappella Palatina, dedicated by the Norman King Roger II of Sicily in 1140.

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