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Old 12-01-2020, 12:09 PM
Bjbny Bjbny is offline
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Default Mandolin for a beginner

My daughter (college age) has taught herself to play the ukelele and is enjoying it a great deal. I have tried to interest her in guitar, but she likes the small size the use. Which led me to the idea of getting her a mandolin for Christmas. What would you recommend as a mandolin for a beginner at less than $500?

Thanks.
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Old 12-01-2020, 12:37 PM
MC5C MC5C is offline
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The Kentucky series of lower end mandolins seem to get very high reviews, a good setup is always a great thing for a mandolin. Also extra light strings while you get used to it, those things have scary high tension if you're not used to them.
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Old 12-01-2020, 01:44 PM
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posternutbag posternutbag is offline
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I am a big fan of the Eastman 305 in the sub $500 price range. It has all solid, carved woods and generally sounds pretty good, if slightly bright. The main issue I have with it is that the hardware (tuners and tailpiece) isn’t the best.

That being said, if you can find a used flat top like a Mid Missouri or Big Muddy (same builder, different name, Mid Missouri was his first company), then I would jump on it. They are fantastic mandolins, not just good mandolins “for the money”. In fact, NFI, but there is a Mid Mo M4 on Mandolin Cafe right now. I would jump on it.
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Old 12-01-2020, 02:29 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bjbny View Post
... What would you recommend as a mandolin for a beginner at less than $500?
Quote:
Originally Posted by MC5C View Post
The Kentucky series of lower end mandolins seem to get very high reviews...
This one's just past the top of your range (FWIW it comes with a heavy-duty gig bag that adds a few bucks to the asking price, so take the fact that you won't need to shell out for a case into consideration); FYI I own the predecessor KM-180 version (mine's so old it came with an OEM chipboard case) and IME it's an excellent instrument for either a beginner or a doubler/occasional player - well-constructed, good factory setup (a matter of personal taste), and more volume/tone than anything else in its price bracket (more open-sounding than the competing Eastman A-models, and I'd personally stay away from the F-style mandos at this price point in the interest of tone/QC/value-per-dollar)



https://www.elderly.com/products/ken...m-270-mandolin
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Old 12-01-2020, 02:41 PM
CarolD CarolD is offline
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I have no experience with mandolin, so take this for what it’s worth... I watch a luthier on YouTube, Jerry Rosa, from Rosa String Works. I think his shop is in Missouri. He makes custom mandolins and repairs them as well. I was watching him the other day and he said he likes Eastman mandolins and has never seen a bad one.
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Old 12-01-2020, 03:03 PM
Dave Hicks Dave Hicks is offline
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I'd second/third/fourth the Kentucky recommendation. The Eastmans I've heard or played briefly were fine, too.

D.H.
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Old 12-01-2020, 03:10 PM
Br1ck Br1ck is offline
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Kentucky K 150 is a fine mandolin. Buy it from someone like Elderly or the Mandolin Store and it will be setup already.

Eastman also makes the MD 305, but it's a little more. Either of these are good enough to be kept if she were ever to upgrade.

Both of the above are solid carved wood instruments. Avoid the many pretty mandolin shaped objects on the market. Good for you for having this kind of budget.
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Old 12-01-2020, 03:45 PM
Bjbny Bjbny is offline
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Thank you for all of the helpful suggestions!
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Old 12-01-2020, 04:04 PM
JonWint JonWint is offline
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I have a "The Loar" LM-500-VS. Good quality from China.

If you think a mandolin looks better in F-Style as I do, you can find one for $500.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Brand-New-T...4383.l4275.c10
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Old 12-01-2020, 04:19 PM
leew3 leew3 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonWint View Post
I have a "The Loar" LM-500-VS. Good quality from China.

If you think a mandolin looks better in F-Style as I do, you can find one for $500.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Brand-New-T...4383.l4275.c10
This too is a good recommendation and was my first entry into the mandolin. My only caution would be that the fretboard extension on the Loar LM 500 VS is not scooped so this can result in a fair amount of pick noise for a beginner. That aside, all that has been said above is accurate but for this reason I'd lean toward the Kentucky recommendations further above. Also bear in mind that you can get more mandolin for the buck in an 'A' model as the labor is much less. The sonic differences debated endlessly between 'F' and 'A' models simply don't exist. Too many folks long for an 'F' model as that's what Bill played!
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Old 12-01-2020, 06:40 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
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...Too many folks long for an 'F' model as that's what Bill played!
IMO they're also some of the most beautiful string instruments ever conceived with their Art Nouveau aesthetic, and while the Loar-era F-5 gets all the attention (and commands the highest prices) I've always been partial to the F-4...
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Old 12-01-2020, 10:53 PM
Hoyt Hoyt is offline
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Have not played the Kentucky mandolins, but from experience the Eastman is definitely an instrument new players can grow with and maybe even become a lifetime mandolin for many.
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Old 12-04-2020, 10:22 PM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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My pretty standard response:

The first few things a lot of guitar players find out about mandolin:
1. Its like fretting a cheese grater. The high tension, dual strings of the mandolin will just laugh at your guitar calluses.
2. A decent setup is not optional. You need it.
3. To get the equivalent quality level in a mandolin as you get in a guitar costs twice as much. A mandolin equivalent to the quality level of a $500 (US) guitar will cost $1000.
4. You're going to need a thicker pick. Don't even mess with anything under 1.0 mm on mandolin.
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Old 12-04-2020, 10:33 PM
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Lauren_WarEagle Lauren_WarEagle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
My pretty standard response:



The first few things a lot of guitar players find out about mandolin:

1. Its like fretting a cheese grater. The high tension, dual strings of the mandolin will just laugh at your guitar calluses.

2. A decent setup is not optional. You need it.

3. To get the equivalent quality level in a mandolin as you get in a guitar costs twice as much. A mandolin equivalent to the quality level of a $500 (US) guitar will cost $1000.

4. You're going to need a thicker pick. Don't even mess with anything under 1.0 mm on mandolin.


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Old 12-07-2020, 02:17 PM
Grizzly Adams Grizzly Adams is offline
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I would look at Eastman Mandolins. Never seen a bad one, and some of their lower end (beginner) models sound as good, or better, than the more expensive ones! I started with an Eastman 515.....
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