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There has also been a twelve-string (three strings per course) type and an instrument with sixteen-strings (four strings per course).

Much of mandolin development revolved around the soundboard (the top).

Each style of instrument has its own sound quality and is associated with particular forms of music.

Neapolitan mandolins feature prominently in European classical music and traditional music.

; literally "small mandola") is a stringed musical instrument in the lute family and is usually plucked with a plectrum or "pick".

It commonly has four courses of doubled metal strings tuned in unison (8 strings), although five (10 strings) and six (12 strings) course versions also exist.

There were singer-lutenists at the court in Palermo following the Norman conquest of the island from the Muslims, and the lute is depicted extensively in the ceiling paintings in the Palermo’s royal Cappella Palatina, dedicated by the Norman King Roger II of Sicily in 1140.

By the 14th century, lutes had disseminated throughout Italy and, probably because of the cultural influence of the Hohenstaufen kings and emperor, based in Palermo, the lute had also made significant inroads into the German-speaking lands.

The modern soundboard is designed to withstand the pressure of metal strings that would break earlier instruments.

The soundboard comes in many shapes—but generally round or teardrop-shaped, sometimes with scrolls or other projections.

By the 11th century, Muslim Iberia had become a center for the manufacture of instruments.

These goods spread gradually to Provence, influencing French troubadours and trouvères and eventually reaching the rest of Europe. 1260) showing musicians with three-string instruments, shaped like a small 4-course gittern or rebec or Byzantine lyra.

Mandolins evolved from the lute family in Italy during the 17th and 18th centuries, and the deep bowled mandolin, produced particularly in Naples, became common in the 19th century. 13,000 BC, a cave painting in the Trois Frères cave in France depicts what some believe is a musical bow, a hunting bow used as a single-stringed musical instrument.

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