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Mandolins are descendants of the Lute family and have 8 strings consisting of 4 unison pairs tuned E-A-D-G. During the last century the Italian Neapoliton bowlback mandolin has pretty much been replaced in contempory music with modern American designs. There were quite a few companies trying out new ideas but eventurely it was Gibson that really made their mark with a new breed of (carved) archtop instrument.
This new breed of mandolin was inspired by ancient violin making dating back to Stradivari in the 17th century. They proved to be just as impressive with their newly acquired volume and tone. They were stronger and could tolerate heavier strings that would create a much more powerful mandolin sound. The little mandolin has gained a lot of ground since then and has certainly had a big renaissance in the last few decades. The mandolin is definately here to stay.