The mandola is to the mandolin what the viola is to the violin. Its tuned CGDA, the same as the viola, and is the predecessor to the mandolin. In fact, the word mandolin means “little mandola.”
Having four courses of metal strings (tuned in unison), the mandola is typically played with a pick. The double strings accommodate a note sustaining technique called tremolando.
The mandola is used in folk, Italian, and Irish music. It can be restrung and tuned to suit individual players. Some alternative tunings are FCGC, GDAD, and DAEA. Like the guitar, the mandola can be acoustic or electric. Attila the Stockbroker of Barnstormer uses an electric mandola as his main instrument. Alex Lifeson, guitarist of Rush, has also played the mandola.
Mandolas are prominently featured in mandolin orchestras, which are large ensembles using instruments from the mandolin family (mandolin, mandola, mandocello and mandobass).
While not as well known as the mandolin, the mandola still enjoys popularity in a variety of musical settings.