Small stringed instrument related to the lute. It evolved in the 17th century in Italy, but its present form was strongly influenced by the 19th-century maker Pasquale Vinaccia (1806–82) of Naples. It has a pear-shaped body with a deeply vaulted back, a short fretted fingerboard, and four pairs of steel strings. (The American folk mandolin is a shallow, flat-backed version.) It is played with a plectrum; each pair of strings is strummed rapidly back and forth to produce a characteristic tremolo.