In an era before i Tunes, CDs, 8-track tapes, vinyl records, or even radios, being able to play an instrument was a highly desirable social skill—those who could play at home would be able to entertain friends and family without having to go to an expensive show or concert.
People who grew up without a music education in working- or middle-class families knew that instruments like the piano and the violin required an early start, so they largely resigned themselves to musical illiteracy. Mandolin manufacturers like Gibson sent representatives called teacher agents out into towns to stir up interest.
The courses are normally tuned in a succession of perfect fifths.
It is the soprano member of a family that includes the mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello and mandobass.
There are many styles of mandolin, but three are common, the Neapolitan or round-backed mandolin, the carved-top mandolin and the flat-backed mandolin.
The teacher agents would find a few people who already played the violin and would teach them to play the mandolin, since the two instruments have the same tuning.
Teacher agents would then organize a performance to be given by those they had taught.