Some time ago My daughter acquired a banjo mandolin – an eight-string plucked/strummed instrument with the size and tuning of a mandolin – but with a small banjo-like skin for the sounding board. Although the frets were (unusually) in tune, the instrument was in poor shape with the wooden soundbox collapsing at either end resulting in an unplayable high action.

The solution? To dismantle the instrument and relocate the neck and string courses at 90 degrees – where the body sides were still vertical. This entailed drilling some new holes for the neck attachment and relocation of the tail-piece, the addition of a button for a strap and a new set of strings. I also sanded down the frets a bit as they were sitting quite high off the fingerboard.

And here is the result – a playable if rather strange instrument!

mandolin banjo

Also known as a mandolin-banjo this hybrid instrument was invented around the mid 1890s and was popular in the 1920s in the heyday of mandolin orchestras. It has a big sound for a small instrument which made them popular in dance halls at a time when instruments were beginning to be amplified, and they would have been good for busking for that reason too.

The eight strings are tuned in four courses (same-pitch pairs) using standard mandolin or violin tuning G-D-A-E from lowest to highest.