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Octave Mandolin Vs Guitar: How These Instruments Differ & Which to Pursue

If you’re curious about the difference between the octave mandolin vs the guitar, this is the post for you.

I don’t own an octave mandolin, but I was a mandolin player for years and I am very familiar with its closely related cousin, the octave mandolin.

And I’ve been a guitar since 2003.

So I know a bit about these instruments, and I thought I’d share some information about them here on the blog.

Also, if you’re curious about a similar comparison check out my mandolin vs guitar article!

In this article, I’ll explain the difference between these two instruments and I will help you more easily find out which one is ideal for you.

Although the guitar is arguably one of the most popular music instruments out there, not every musician is a fan of its sound.

There are several instruments that are close to the guitar and yet produce a different sound, way of playing, or simply a better sound in certain genres.

One of them is the octave mandolin.

Let’s dive in.

Octave Mandolin Vs Guitar: Similarities

Since both instruments fall into the category of wooden stringed, fretted instruments, both instruments produce sound in the same way.

You make the string vibrate by picking or plucking it with a finger or a pick.

Then, the vibration moves to the body of the instrument through the saddle.

Finally, the sound-hole amplifies the sound.

This is how it works for both the guitar and octave mandolin.

They both have a wooden hollow body with a sound-hole, a wooden neck with a fretboard, headstock, and a saddle/bridge.

Now let’s look at some of the differences.

Octave Mandolin Vs Guitar: Differences

Although these two instruments have many similarities, there are still many “little things” that make for the difference between them.

I will start with the most obvious – the size.

Size

The standard full-size guitar is a significantly larger instrument than the octave mandolin.

The length of the whole instrument is around 38 inches long (96 cm).

The length of a standard octave mandolin is around 21 inches long (53 cm).

However, the length of the neck in both instruments is almost the same with between 17 and 22 frets on each.

Form

Many octave mandolins have a flat back, which is very different from the regular mandolin, but it is similar to the guitar.

In some cases, there is a big difference between the body type.

The octave mandolin usually has an onion-body shape compared to the familiar shape of the guitar.

However, there are octave mandolins that have similar or the same body as the guitar.

Strings

The guitar is a 6 string instrument.

There are two types of guitar strings. You choose which ones you need depending on the type of guitar and the genre that you want to play.

The most common strings are metal strings. Usually steel or nickel.

They are represented in almost every genre – blues, rock, pop, metal, country, etc.

The second type worth mentioning is the nylon strings.

Their purpose is limited and they are mainly used for classical music, flamenco, jazz, and bossa nova.

The nylon strings are intended exclusively for classical guitars. There are some models of electric guitars that use nylon strings, but they are rare.

The octave mandolin has 4 doubled strings, 8 strings total.

This means that each of the 4 strings has its own identical twin.

This is how the sound of the octave mandolin sounds full and rich, especially when you play open strings chords.

When it comes to the mandolin, the strings are always made of metal, mostly steel, and nickel.

The gauges for both instruments depend on the preference of the musician.

Tuning

The standard octave mandolin tuning is in 5ths – GG DD AA EE.

The layout of the notes is the same as for the mandolin but one octave lower.

The octave mandolin is tuned to a similar tonal range as the guitar.

On the other hand, the standard tuning for the guitar is in 4ths, with the exception of the transition from G to B – E A D G B E.

Octave Mandolin Vs Guitar: Sound comparison 

Check out this video to a great sense of the octave mandolin sound!

The most distinct difference in sound between the octave mandolin and the standard guitar is the octave mandolin’s doubled strings.

They provide such a unique sound, more similar to a 12-string guitar’s doubled strings than a 6-string’s single strings.

Doubled-strings typically notes are also more difficult to bend.

Thus, you hear less note-bending on doubled-string instruments.

The best way to hear the difference between these instruments is to listen to them back to back.

So here’s another video of someone playing a six-string acoustic guitar so you can hear the difference for yourself!

Price

A medium-quality octave mandolin is going to be more expensive than a guitar of the same quality.

This is because the guitar market is much larger and the demand is bigger making the product cheaper.

Check here for the latest pricing on a good quality octave mandolin.

Octave Mandolin Vs Guitar: Conclusion

If you are a fan of rock, blues, pop, or metal, the guitar is probably a better choice for you.

It’s one of the most popular instruments because of its versatility and relatively easy learning.

However, the octave mandolin could be perfect for you if you:

  • already play the mandolin and are looking to play an instrument with the same voicings in a lower tonal range,
  • or want a unique instrument that’s great for bluegrass and folk music.

Let me know if you have further questions in the comments!

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