Mandolin Family Of Instruments
Confusion has arisen from naming and classification of these instruments from one country to another and between different makers. This is not helpful to potential purchasers.
However, the classification from the original classical instruments was as follows and is the one largely taken up by the Americans and the worlds best quality instrument makers & are much more accurate descriptions of what is available.
The original instrument was the "Mandola" from which the smaller "Mandolin" (Little Mandola) was derived.
The tuning of the original Mandola equates with the Viola & is tuned (low to high) CGDA.
The Mandolin which equates with the Violin is tuned the same as the Violin (ie Little Viloa), which is one fifth higher than the Mandola (low to high) GDAE
The Octave Mandolin is tuned one octave below a Mandolin ie GDAE.
The original Mandocello, which equates with the Cello is tuned the same as the Cello - one octave below the Mandola CGDA
The Mandobass, which equates with the Double Bass is tuned the same as a Double Bass, ie EADG. The small four string Mandobass is built on a smaller scale and usually tuned either GDAE two octaves the mandolin or CGDA - two octaves below the mandola.
Many thanks to Paul Sutton for the help in compiling this article.
Further confusion exists because of the introduction of the Irish Bouzouki in the mid 20th century (with its different tunings) which originated from the original Greek Bouzouki which in turn was derived from the Turkish Bozuk.
The original Greek Triachorda Bouzouki had three courses of strings tuned DD AA DD with the bottom D string tuned one octave below the other 3 D strings.
The original Tetrachordo (four double course strings) was introduced in the mid 20th century to give a greater range and could be more easily played by guitar players. These were tuned CC FF AA DD.
The instruments had a bowl back "Skafos" (hull) made of wood strips glued together like the original European mandolas and mandolins, but the later Irish Bouzoukis were flat backed and looked very much like large flat backed mandolins, citterns etc and many were built to be played with open tunings
The classification problem for purchasers of instruments has therefore been somewhat muddied by different instrument makers interchanging the names of all these instruments & one calls their Mandocello a Bouzouki while another calls their Octave Mandolin either a Bouzouki or Octave Mandola which is clearly not helpful!
Therefore the original classical description of these instruments with their prescribed scale lengths would be far more helpful to potential customers.
The Belmuse Approach
Four and Eight String Models
All our 4 and 8 string eMandos have a scale length of 13 7/8"(352.5mm).
Theoretically 4 string models are identical to 8's in every respect.
The single course allows string bending & many guitarists find this helps their transition.
Five String Models
Our 5 string eMandos have a scale length of 14.54" (370mm) and it's easiest to think of them as a 4 with an extra low C string. Naturally to accommodate this the neck & nut are slightly wider.
Octave Mandolins & Mandolas
Although our stock 8 string octave eMandos have a scale length of 20" (508mm) the design is very fluid & we have had requests for these instruments that range from a 15.75" (416.5mm) scale up to 21.5" (546mm) with many variations that fall between these two figures. We have built 4, 5, 6 and 8 string variations & so far we have always been able to accommodate the customers requirements.