A typical mandolin has eight strings. A member of the lute family, the mandolin is a short, stringed instrument that is played by plucking its strings usingÂ a plectrum. Its eight strings are actually doubled, meaning that two strings are tuned in unison;Â pairs of similarly tuned strings areÂ called courses, so an eight-stringed mandolin can also be referred to as having four courses.Â
The mandolin or mandolina is a smaller version of an instrument that is called mandola by the Italians. A painting by 14th century artist Agnelo Gaddi shows an angel painting what appears to be a mandola. The mandola is available in many styles. The three most common styles are the Neapolitan mandolin, the carved top-mandolin and the flat-backed mandolin.