The Acoustic Guitar Forum

Go Back   The Acoustic Guitar Forum > General Acoustic Guitar and Amplification Discussion > Other Stringed Instruments

Reply
 
Thread Tools
  #1  
Old 02-27-2017, 09:56 AM
island texan island texan is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 137
Default So I'm ready to expand to the mandolin

Guitar player here. After years of acquiring acoustic guitars, I'm ready to set out on determining whether the mandolin is worth the effort. Tried the banjo and didn't care for it. I am not a bluegrass player, nor do I expect to use a mandolin for that and certainly not as a primary instrument.

I have looked online, and it looks like you can get an inexpensive one for a hundred bucks or so. I have a mom & pop guitar store in a nearby town that sells a few mandolins, but I'm many, many miles from the big box stores. Keeping in mind this may lead nowhere, I am not ready to fork out a lot of money for an instrument. On the other hand, I know from my guitar world, there are pitfalls to buying super-cheap acoustic guitars.

I'm looking some sage advice on what NOT to buy as a starter instrument. Thanks in advance.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 02-27-2017, 10:11 AM
fatt-dad fatt-dad is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Posts: 2,002
Default

Just a frame of reference. . .

Many of the "cheap" mandolins are laminated with the arch, "pressed" into place. They are not "real" arched top instruments (i.e., no carving was involved). Sure, they have f-holes or an oval hole. Sure, they may be an f-model or an a-model.

Eastman, "The Loar," J.Bovier are examples of Asian-made, "starter" instruments with hand-carved arches and solid wood construction. For me, that would be the minimum standard. I'm sure the secondary market would show these in the sub-$500 range.

The simple fact is that arched top instruments cost more than flat-top instruments. There is a gauge that the cost of a mandolin is 2X the cost of a flat-top guitar. So, you buy a $200 mandolin and it's like the entry level quality of a $100 dollar guitar.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

f-d
__________________
'30 L-1, '73 FG-180, '98 914-C, '06 000-15S, '08 000-28NB, '11 GA3-12, '14 OM28A
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 02-27-2017, 02:45 PM
cu4life7 cu4life7 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Silverdale, Washington
Posts: 1,529
Default

For frame of reference, you can expect to pay double for a comparable quality mandolin as you would a guitar. Carved arch tops are hard to make. That being said, there are deals to be had.

I would personally recommend getting a flattop mandolin (especially if you aren't into bluegrass). Big Muddy makes great examples of what I am talking about and that is what I started on.

http://www.bigmuddymandolin.com/store/

I am looking to sell mine because I upgraded, PM me if you are interested.

Other than that, Kentucky, Eastman and Loar mandolins are the go-to starters. They all make decent instruments made in china. You get more tone for the dollar in the Flattops in my opinion until you get to the $1000+ price bracket. If your direction isn't bluegrass, I would say to google the G, D and C open chords and get out and try some flattops.
__________________
My Therapy:
Martin 000-15
Kevin Enoch Tradesman Open Back Banjo
Collings MT2-O Honey Amber
Deering Goodtime Banjolele
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 02-27-2017, 03:02 PM
Frogstar Frogstar is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Posts: 369
Default

The upside to getting a used Big Muddy is that if you were to decide it's not for you, you'd most likely get your money back out of it, and if you decided to keep playing, it's a solid instrument (I have two, one spruce/maple and one mahogany).
I was in the same boat as you, and so I grabbed one of the cheap Rogue mandolins on sale for $40. After I set it up, it plays fine, it just has that unmistakeable cheap laminate sound.
After that, I upgraded to a Washburn M1SDL, which at least has a solid top, and has an oval hole (I was curious to hear the difference myself). It was a pretty decent instrument as well. That one I got as a scratch-and-dent from Musician's Friend for $160 (and eventually sold for twenty bucks less than that, so not too bad).
I've played a couple Gretsch New Yorkers (one of the few mandos the stores around here stock) and they seem to be pretty decent options as well.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 02-27-2017, 03:05 PM
fatt-dad fatt-dad is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Posts: 2,002
Default

I am also a fan of the flat-top mandolin. Often sub $500 and American made in general. Big Muddy (previously Mid-Missouri), Flatiron (no longer made, but in the secondary market) and Redline Travelers come to mind.

You're going to love the mandolin. Get a thick pick though (1mm min.)

f-d
__________________
'30 L-1, '73 FG-180, '98 914-C, '06 000-15S, '08 000-28NB, '11 GA3-12, '14 OM28A
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 02-27-2017, 04:53 PM
pops pops is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: SW Wisconsin
Posts: 412
Default

Michael Kelly also makes a solid carved top mandolin that sound quite good and can be had if you look around at fair prices. PM me if you are interested. Be sure if getting one that it has been setup by someone that knows mandolins.
__________________
THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 02-27-2017, 05:30 PM
HHP HHP is online now
Registered User
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Posts: 26,406
Default

Might consider a Seagull mandolin. Low price, but like their guitars, a very good value.

https://www.elderly.com/instruments/...8-mandolin.htm
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 02-28-2017, 03:00 PM
Urbantraveler Urbantraveler is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 14
Default

Not an expert by any means but I was researching this online the other day, and this is what I came up with.

The following are supposed to be decent starter mandolins:

Michael Kelly Legacy Dragonfly
Washborn M1 series
Kentucky KM 150 or 160
Loar LM 220

As for purchasing, I would purchase at a place that would set them up properly.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 02-28-2017, 04:15 PM
posternutbag's Avatar
posternutbag posternutbag is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,695
Default

You can get a mandolin off of Ebay for $100.00, but it won't be a good instrument. Someone said you should expect to pay about twice as much for a mandolin as you would a comparably priced guitar. That is a good rule of thumb.

You might want to spend some time over at mandolincafe.com as this question comes up all the time over there.

IMO, there are really three ways to go, depending on you budget and how handy you are.

1) You could by a really inexpensive mandolin like a Rogue RM 100 or a RoverRM 35S and then email Rob Meldrum for a free ebook on setup (you can find his email in a variety of mandolin cafe threads) this one has it: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...by-Rob-Meldrum

If you are handy and have the tools, this typically produces a playable instrument at the most affordable cost. I don't really like this option, Rob's book may be fantastic, but you still have a very cheap mandolin.

2) Go to Folkmusician or The Mandolin Store and order a Kentucky KM 150 or KM 156 for about $350. These are actually pretty good all solid wood mandolins. My backup mandolin is a KM 950; I wouldn't hesitate to play a KM 150 in a jam. It isn't going to sound fantastic, it is still an inexpensive mandolin, but it will be playable with decent tone. I consider this the floor for entry level mandolins.

3) A lot of people have suggested Mid Missouri/Big Muddy flat top mandolins. I have had 2, both were very nice instruments, and this was the standard advice on mandolins 5-10 years ago. But, over the last decade, inexpensive Pac Rim mandolins have risen from unplayable junk to pretty decent instruments.

Both Kentucky (made by Saga) and Eastman are Chinese mandolins that are pretty good, and Northfield is making professional level mandolins that are on par with instruments twice their price.

In addition to the rise in quality of Asian mandolins, Mid Mo/BM flat tops have gotten more expensive. They are still good instruments, but a new Big Muddy starts at $600 or so. That isn't much in the mandolin world, but it certainly ain't cheap, and for $600 you could get a Eastman 505. Either would be very nice mandolins. Now if you can find a used Mid Mo/BM for $400 or so, that would be an extremely attractive option.
__________________
Bourgeois Aged Tone Vintage D

Last edited by posternutbag; 02-28-2017 at 04:22 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 03-01-2017, 01:31 PM
fdwill fdwill is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 44
Default

Been there done that. Started with a used $150 POS and disliked the sound so much that I didn't play it. Then moved to a $250-300 Eastman A model that was very good for the price and that I wanted to play. (There are claims that the quality and sound are highly variable from instrument to instrument). Then tried an Eastman oval-hole A model that didn't do anything for me (see comment above). Finally, tried a Collings A that really floated my boat and spent the extra bucks to buy a used one. I play it almost daily and believe that the money was well spent and has been repaid many times over with the enjoyment of playing an instrument that sounds good and plays well. YMMV, but good luck and enjoy the journey.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 03-02-2017, 10:41 AM
Rumblefish Rumblefish is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Sarasota, Florida
Posts: 117
Default

I'd jump on this guy...https://reverb.com/item/3822803-vint...lin-with-case?

I still own a Flatiron Model 1N, handmade in Bozeman, Montana. Bruce Weber was the head luthier at Flatiron before he started his own company. His mandolins now sell for thousands but the humble Flatiron can be had for peanuts on the used market.

Not what you'd choose for live Bluegrass but it sounds great for anything else. I toured with one for years used it on some recordings for Rounder Records and never felt like it wasn't a pro level instrument. I don't play it anymore but can't bring myself to part with it.

I agree with others though, that the stuff coming out of the Pacific rim these days is much improved and worth a look.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 03-02-2017, 11:08 AM
fatt-dad fatt-dad is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Posts: 2,002
Default

I absolutely love my Flatiron 1N! Just great instruments! Quite a strong voice too, even with the factory-recommended light-gauge strings.

Totally a keeper and I've owned over 40 mandolins. The 1N has stayed with me and travelled all around the country with me.

f-d
__________________
'30 L-1, '73 FG-180, '98 914-C, '06 000-15S, '08 000-28NB, '11 GA3-12, '14 OM28A
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 03-19-2017, 03:15 AM
themissal's Avatar
themissal themissal is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 3,958
Default

I am like you, in that I recently picked up a mandolin to add some interest to some of my recording. I bought an Eastman MD305 and I love it. I don't even think I will ever upgrade it. I bought mine set up perfectly from the Mandolin Store. Inexpensive.

The 305 sounds full, not shrill, perfect intonation and action. To me it's the "martin d15" of mandolins.
__________________
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/sal-from-chatham
Videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/salfromchatham/videos

覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 03-23-2017, 11:30 PM
midwinter midwinter is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Utah
Posts: 872
Default

As many others have pointed out, mandolins are expensive and you often get what you pay for. That's just the way it is.

This has been my experience:

You can get a terrible $100 mandolin that won't intonate past the 5th fret to learn on and that's fine. When you're done with it, throw it in with the camping gear or use it as a boat paddle or a hammer.

The next step up will be in the neighborhood of $700 for something like an Eastman/Kentucky/Loar. Instruments at that level are ok, but can be hit or miss in terms of sound. Maybe you get an Eastman 305 that sounds GREAT. Maybe you get an Eastman 605 that sounds SUPER SHRILL. Mine was the 605 and I wish I'd gotten the 305.

The next tier would be the $1800 range for something like an entry level Weber. That's where I am now.

The next tier will be something like a $3500 Collings. I don't know that I'll ever be good enough to merit one.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 03-24-2017, 05:42 AM
Bob Womack's Avatar
Bob Womack Bob Womack is offline
Guitar Gourmet
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Between Clever and Stupid
Posts: 19,240
Default

As a matter of perspective, rather than expanding to mandolin, it would seem to me that you'd be contracting to mandolin. 'Tis a bit smaller.

Bob
__________________
"It is said, 'Go not to the elves for counsel for they will say both no and yes.' "
Frodo Baggins to Gildor Inglorion, The Fellowship of the Ring

THE MUSICIAN'S ROOM
Reply With Quote
Reply

  The Acoustic Guitar Forum > General Acoustic Guitar and Amplification Discussion > Other Stringed Instruments

Thread Tools



All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:42 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, The Acoustic Guitar Forum
vB Ad Management by =RedTyger=