Electric mandolins are nothing new. In fact, they predate the vast majority of electrified instruments. How could this be? It turns out, mandolins had their heyday right around a century ago. At this point in time, if you wanted to be cool, you played mandolin. And if you wanted to perform to large crowds, you needed to plug in. Hence, the electric mandolin was born.
Of course these early instruments did not always do well in the market. Some of this was just due to the available technology at the time. And who owned an amp anyway? Electric versions came and went over the years and only recently became widespread.
Some of us may recall when rock bands were cool (and they still are). Electrified groups had a long run, but then something happened. A new generation came of age and didn't want to play their "parents music" and this lead to Americana and a Folk Revival. Folk hadn't seen mass popularity since the 60's, making it seem new to the younger generation. This works out great, the younger generation gets to make their own genre, and the old-timers get to see the music from their youth revised.
The problem is, once you get out of the bedroom and start playing out, you need the option to amplify. Playing into a mic is great for tone, but not always practical. Your local church tends to be very prone to feedback, the same with clubs. You also have very limited time to setup and get the mix right. The answer? The electric mandolin!
There are a few different choices with electric mandolins. The most common is the acoustic/electric which is usually a normal acoustic mandolin with a pickup added. There is almost no downside to going this route. You get a mandolin with great acoustic tone, that can be plugged in when needed. Unlike guitars, mandolins do not typically have advanced preamps on-board. In fact, many have no preamp at all and just use a passive Piezo pickup. This is not a bad option. A mandolin has very little space for a complex preamp, and then you need a battery, etc.
Next up is a solid body electric mandolin. More often than not, these are 4 string instruments and similar to an electric guitar. They use magnetic pickups, and usually have a tone and volume control on the top. These work great if you want to run it into an amp and use distortion or effects. Single strings make string bends an option. If you want to shred, this is the route to go! These type of mandolins will use nickel strings and because they are single versus courses, you lose the chorus effect that an 8 string mandolin has. There are 8 string solid body electric mandolins available.
Somewhere in-between, we have acoustic/electric mandolins that are designed specifically for amplified use. These are semi-hollow body and try to keep as much of an acoustic tone as possible while reducing feedback. If you want to have an acoustic tone, but play loud, these can be a top choice.
These are the main types of electric mandolins that you will find. Of course there are variations and just about anything you can imagine has probably been made.
You can view our offerings here: Electric Mandolins
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