Octave Mandolin vs Mandola

February 27, 2018

The mandolin family is quite diverse. Many years ago (around a century), mandolin orchestras were common and the amount of mandolin family instruments exploded. Today we are looking at two of the most popular aside from the mandolin itself.

What is an Octave Mandolin?

It is a mandolin that is tuned one octave below a standard mandolin. To make this possible, the octave mandolin is significantly larger and uses heavier strings. It is tuned one GDAE, just like a regular mandolin. 

The scale length is longer and it is more like playing a guitar. The technique is also slightly different due to the low string tension and styles of music they tend to be used in.

What is a Mandola?

A mandola falls somewhere in-between a mandolin and octave mandolin as far as overall size. It is tuned one fifth below a mandolin. The tuning is CGDA, or the same as a viola. A octave mandolin is tuned  one fourth below the mandola.

Which one is best?

Most players picking up an Octave mandolin or mandola will more than likely own a mandolin already. If so, either one will be easy to adapt to. The octave because it is tuned the same, the mandola because it is closer to mandolin in size, and the same basic scale patterns work, you just need to match the key.

Octave is more popular than mandola. It would be common in Irish and Celtic music. If you are on the fence, we would suggest Octave first, then consider Mandola later. 

Choosing an Octave Mandolin


Most Octave mandolins are flat tops. While you can get Archtop instruments, they tend to be very expensive and there are few options. This is partly due to the fact that flat tops are traditional for the types of music that octaves are normally used for. The good news here is that flat top Octave mandolins are easier to make and this means you can get something pretty nice without spending a huge amount of money.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in mandolin

Kentucky KM-276 Oval Hole Mandolin
Kentucky KM-276 Oval Hole Mandolin

August 11, 2018 1 Comment

Say hello to the new Kentucky KM-276 model! As many of you know, this is not an entirely new mandolin, but instead a new color option for players that prefer a more organic look. This is based on the popular KM-270 Oval hole mandolin.

Continue Reading

Best Mandolin Pickup K&K vs Radius vs Fishman

March 27, 2018

We are always being asked what the best mandolin pickup is. Being familiar with these and having installed hundreds over the years, a few have risen to the top. All three of these recommendations are passive pickups. While there are several other good options, these should be at the top of your list.

Continue Reading

Ovation Mandolin Reviews and Buyers Guide
Ovation Mandolin Reviews and Buyers Guide

March 15, 2018

The main reason you are going to buy an Ovation mandolin is obviously the pickup. If not it should be. These are not the best sounding acoustic mandolin made, but on stage they are in their element. Need to add some mandolin to your high-volume rock band?

Continue Reading