Design of the Baroque mandolin
The mandolino, or Baroque mandolin was a part of the lute family. Like other lutes Baroque mandolins were strung with gut and generally plucked with the fingers. The mandolino usually had six courses, or pairs of strings (although some of the earlier models only had four). It was very similar to the soprano lute, except in its tuning, proportions of the body, and shape of the head (which was a scroll shape rather than angled box-shaped unit). Mandolino tuning varied but was most commonly a mixture of 4ths and 3rds (as was the lute), with (from bottom to top): g, b, e', a', d", g". This contrasts with today’s mandolin which is tuned in 5ths like a violin, g, d', a', e". Sometimes it may have been plucked with a quill to make it louder.
| Baroque mandolin traditions
To modern ears, Baroque music played on original instruments sounds quiet and delicate. It was played in small chamber music settings rather than large concert halls. Baroque mandolins played along with lutes, harpsichords and harps as well as bowed strings, although these instruments were considerably quieter than their modern counterparts. Orchestras had far fewer players than today. Unlike the lute, the mandolino played mostly a single-line melodies, and as it was usually the highest instrument in pitch, it was prominent above the other instruments.
During Baroque times – around 1600 to 1750 – the mandolino was a relatively common instrument and many composers wrote for it. It was widely known in Italy, France, Germany. With minor adaptations the instrument survived to the present day under the names "mandolino Milanese" or "mandolino Lombardo."