FRETS.COM Illustrated Glossary

"Melon back"
Bowl Back
© Frank Ford, 10/8/98 Photos by FF

Bowl back instruments have backs that are shaped like bowls.

That was a bit too easy.

Here's the front of a classic. It's a Neapolitan style mandolin:

And here's the back:

It's made in the rounded "bowl" form of lutes and other ancient instruments. The back is formed with multiple "staves" or "ribs" shaped much like barrel staves.

Lying on its face like this, the bowl back instrument reminds us (well, SOME of us) of a big fat insect body, hence the slang name, "tater bug mandolin."

As a general rule, bowl back instruments have a "sweet" sound with a bit of echo. They lack the power of a flat or carved back because the bowl does not vibrate to reinforce the sound.

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