This is a question that comes up often. What is the difference between an F-hole and vs an Oval Hole mandolin? Obviously the sound hole, but you knew that! There are other major differences though, so read on.
Traditionally, Oval Hole mandolins have a 10 fret neck joint. This doesn’t translate into a significantly shorter scale length, but the neck and bridge are both shifted further back on the body. This moves the bridge position further back and is one of the main differences in construction between the two types of mandolin. This does make the high frets a little less accessible, but for the vast majority of players, it won’t make a difference in playability. Most players are simply not fretting up that high.
Oval Hole mandolin are normally braced differently than an F hole. Oval holes normally have one small cross brace across the top, where most F-hole mandolins will have what we call parallel tone bars. These is the wooden bars running lengthwise on the underside of the top (actually at angles).
Most mandolins will conform to the standards, some may have other types of bracing, different neck joints, etc..
With the cosmetics and construction aside, what it really comes down to is tone. While both styles do sound like mandolins, there are some noticeable differences between the two. Oval hole mandolins tend to have a warmer more woody tone to them. We often refer to them as tubby. They will have more sustain than F-hole mandolins.
F-hole mandolins will be brighter with more punch and perceived volume. An F-hole mandolin will be more percussing sounding.
As a general rule, Oval hole mandolins will be used for celtic music, folk music, and old time styles. F-hole mandolins will be for bluegrass, rock country, etc.. Now this is not a hard rule. Nothing says you can’t play bluegrass on an oval hole or Celtic on an F hole.
If you are not sure which style would work best for you, get in touch with Folkmusician and we will be happy to help with selecting the perfect mandolin for you.
Our Oval Hole Mandolins can be found here:
F-hole mandolins can be found here:
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