Oval Hole vs F hole mandolins

August 30, 2016

Oval Hole vs F hole mandolins

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:



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