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Thread: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

  1. #1
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    Default Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    So, Iím here in Sacramento, California and Iíve been shopping for a medium/high-end mando as an upgrade. Nothing local right now. Online, Iíve seen the big inventory at Carterís and a couple at The North American Guitar. Iím a pro level player and want something pretty great. Anyone been to Nashville and either of the above shops in the last few weeks and played anything as a standout instrument? (canít afford the Dude @ Carters) If so, comments/ideas?

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    I was able to go to Carter's on December 31st, and can highly recommend it. Call or email before you go to set up an appointment. Due to COVID they aren't allowing walk-ins. I'm mostly interested in bluegrass, and was able to sample about a dozen mandolins, including the 2017 Iwamoto F5, a sweet 1923 Gibson A-4, a new Duff F5, a 1993 Hutto F-5 and a 2018 Ellis F5. All were great, truly, but the one that stood out to me was the Ellis and - somewhat unexpectedly since it was half the price- a Northfield Big Mon. The website currently only has an A-style Northfield, so they may have sold the Big Mon. The rare Iwamoto was gorgeous and sounded great, but felt chunkier in my hand than I like. Could be right for you though! Hadn't ever played a Duff, so that was cool. The A-style Dude was across the store in a smaller room with some of $12K+ mandolins and that was quite fun to play. Since I was limited on time and know I'm not able to buy anything in that price range right now I didn't linger. The staff was very easy going about letting my pick up and noodle on whatever caught my eye, and didn't stand over my shoulder, which I appreciated. One of the staffers I spoke with was very helpful & friendly, similar to my pals at Elderly in Michigan. Carter's really is special - I don't think I've shopped anywhere that has such a vast inventory and they have a number of small booths where you can sit alone and get comfortable while you figure out what's what. I only had an hour but could have easily spent five hours there. Left there feeling buzzed and am already trying to figure out when I can make another trip from Cleveland back to Nashville. One last comment - the reconnaissance alone made the trip very valuable. I love reading things here on the Cafe and have learned a lot over the years.. online research is awesome but nothing compares to sampling as much as you can before you drop $5-$10K on another instrument. Count me among others here who have said if you have the ability to make a trip to a store like Carter's you will really learn what sounds best to your ears and what feels right in your hands. If you make the trip, please let us know how it goes!

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Cantergiani View Post
    I was able to go to Carter's on December 31st, and can highly recommend it. Call or email before you go to set up an appointment. Due to COVID they aren't allowing walk-ins. I'm mostly interested in bluegrass, and was able to sample about a dozen mandolins, including the 2017 Iwamoto F5, a sweet 1923 Gibson A-4, a new Duff F5, a 1993 Hutto F-5 and a 2018 Ellis F5. All were great, truly, but the one that stood out to me was the Ellis and - somewhat unexpectedly since it was half the price- a Northfield Big Mon. The website currently only has an A-style Northfield, so they may have sold the Big Mon. The rare Iwamoto was gorgeous and sounded great, but felt chunkier in my hand than I like. Could be right for you though! Hadn't ever played a Duff, so that was cool. The A-style Dude was across the store in a smaller room with some of $12K+ mandolins and that was quite fun to play. Since I was limited on time and know I'm not able to buy anything in that price range right now I didn't linger. The staff was very easy going about letting my pick up and noodle on whatever caught my eye, and didn't stand over my shoulder, which I appreciated. One of the staffers I spoke with was very helpful & friendly, similar to my pals at Elderly in Michigan. Carter's really is special - I don't think I've shopped anywhere that has such a vast inventory and they have a number of small booths where you can sit alone and get comfortable while you figure out what's what. I only had an hour but could have easily spent five hours there. Left there feeling buzzed and am already trying to figure out when I can make another trip from Cleveland back to Nashville. One last comment - the reconnaissance alone made the trip very valuable. I love reading things here on the Cafe and have learned a lot over the years.. online research is awesome but nothing compares to sampling as much as you can before you drop $5-$10K on another instrument. Count me among others here who have said if you have the ability to make a trip to a store like Carter's you will really learn what sounds best to your ears and what feels right in your hands. If you make the trip, please let us know how it goes!
    Thank you, That is helpful. I noticed the Ellis as well with the tortoise binding and the Hummingbird inlay in the peghead. With the coronavirus situation as it is right now, I donít think I will be flying or driving to Nashville from Calif. I have seen quite a few Northfield mandolins on the classifieds and they seem to be plentiful. Another thing...it seems like some of the prices for a number of the used pieces are not far off what they are new. Is this a Nashville thing? Carterís has had the same instruments on their roster for months and months. Must be a result of Covid I suppose.

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    Stop by Gruhn Guitars also. Although they have less than usual at the moment, new stuff walks in the door every day. And, at the moment, they do have an older Gilchrist model 5. I haven't played it, but neither have I ever played nor heard of a bad Gilchrist.

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    My visit to Carters was more enjoyable than I expected. It's a lot to take in and if I went again I'd take some notes to help me remember it all.

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    I live here in Nashville and there are 3 great shops for mandolins; Carter Vintage, Gruhn Guitars, and The Mandolin Store which just recently moved here from Arizona. Carter and Gruhn are on the same street just a short 10 minute drive. The Mandolin Store is about 20 minutes north, depending on traffic. I try to avoid the rush hour and like to go mid morning or mid afternoon. Now you must make appointments but it's quite easy to visit all 3 stores in a day. It's about a $300 roundtrip from Sacramento to Nashville, so if you can figure that into your budget, you could conceivably arrive in the morning, check out all the stores and play on about 50-75 mandolins, and fly home in the evening. You could play on an instrument by just about every mandolin maker of note. Whenever I do this I usually find one or two mandolins that really talk to me and often in my price range. Haha! I try not to play on more than 20. I've learned more about mandolins by doing this than I ever could by reading other people's opinions. But that's just my opinion.

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    Playing first is always a great recommendation ! That being said I would not hesitate in buying an unseen Ellis or Girouard !

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    It doesn't sound like the OP wants to make the trip to Nashville, but here is my experience. I went to Carter's a few months ago and ended up buying a guitar. Due to covid, an appointment was necessary, but easy to make with a phone call the day before. I had the entire store to myself for one hour, along with the Carter's and 5 or 6 staff members. The one thing that was made clear was that there would be no browsing, that is, I had to tell them which guitar I was interested in and they would put it in a soundproof room and I could test it there. Since I was only interested in the one guitar, I was fine with that, but with 5,000 instruments to choose from, it is tempting to want to browse and try out various instruments. At least that was their formal policy during covid. Keep in mind, the staff was super friendly and helpful, so possibly there is some wiggle room on this policy. I mention this because nobody has mentioned it, yet. That being said, I'm not sure if it would be possible to try 20-30 instruments in one sitting, under these restrictions, FWIW.

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    Also, FWIW... I recently purchased from Carter's remotely and it was still a very enjoyable process. The sales person was great to work with and went above and beyond to answer all of my questions, even sending me additional pics and a video of the mandolin. They shipped the instrument via UPS 3 Day Select, but apparently UPS flagged the instrument as "high value" and overnighted it just to reduce their liability and get it out of their possession faster. Carter's also have a 48-hour approval period so in the event it's not a match, you really don't risk too much. The worst part was waiting 24 hours for the package to acclimatize before I could open it. NFI, just couldn't be happier with my experience with them. EDITED TO ADD: I also had a great experience purchasing remotely from Fiddler's Green a few years ago!
    2001 Collings MT2 - #74
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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by raisedhead View Post
    So, Iím here in Sacramento, California and Iíve been shopping for a medium/high-end mando as an upgrade. Nothing local right now...Iím a pro level player and want something pretty great. Anyone been to Nashville and either of the above shops in the last few weeks and played anything as a standout instrument? (canít afford the Dude @ Carters) If so, comments/ideas?
    The mandolin inventory at Schoenberg Guitars over in Tiburon is a bit thin right now --- they have a Gilchrist, but it's the same price as the Dude at Carter's --- but if you haven't already talked with Eric, you might ask him to give you a call if anything in your price range comes in.

    That said, there is good news and bad news about the standout instruments in the Nashville stores. The good news is that Gruhn's and Carter's will always have a bunch. The bad news is that people will generally disagree about which one is the best of those standouts because that will be in the ear of the beholder.

    If you ask Carter's to ship you one at a specified price over $5K, you probably will be really happy with it. Above that price point, pretty much everything will be incredibly well built and have a really nice tone. However, if you would have played that mandolin side-by-side with other mandos in that room at the same price point, you very possibly could have found a few that you liked better.

    I've only been to Nashville once, in 2017. I got to play mandolins made by many of the esteemed builders who are constantly discussed in threads here. At any price point, the ones I liked best may not have been the ones that you would have liked best. If you look at any comparative price-point thread on the Cafe (Weber or Collings?, Clark or Duff?, Dude or Gilchrist?), you'll find players advocating strongly for each builder. That's why all those builders can stay in business!

    If you decide to buy one remotely, you might come up with a list of specific physical and tonal qualities that you're looking for, call Carter's --- on my one visit to Nashville, their staff was way more helpful than Gruhn's was --- and ask to speak with someone who really knows mandolins to ask for a recommendation of what to buy in your specified price range. Or, wait a year until you can fly out there and play everything!


    Quote Originally Posted by raisedhead View Post
    Another thing...it seems like some of the prices for a number of the used pieces are not far off what they are new. Is this a Nashville thing? Carterís has had the same instruments on their roster for months and months. Must be a result of Covid I suppose.
    I think it's more common with the higher-end builders for their used instruments to drop less of a percentage of their value. As for longevity in the store, that's nothing new. Some of the instruments that I played at Carter's were still there a year or two later at the same price.
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    Thanks to all for your thoughtful replies. Iím curious about the Altman Loar Series mandolin and also the Ellis, both at Carters. I was hoping someone had played the Altman and could offer an opinion but I suppose I could make an offer based on what I would like to pay for either one and then see what happens. No harm done with that approach. Regarding prices: I think it would be a fair assessment to state that if a consignment piece is by a good maker and it has been in the shop for 2 years, it is either overpriced or just not up to normal standards for that maker.

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    I don't know if all the stores are willing, but TMS did (for me) play two mandolins that I was interested in on the phone so I could hear them back-to back (I ended up buying both because I couldn't decide - and still have both.) If you are looking for a particular sound, that might be a possibility. But there is no substitute for playing, and I am hoping for my son to get a job in Nashville so I have an excuse to visit him and all of the stores and play many mandolins!

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by LadysSolo View Post
    I don't know if all the stores are willing, but TMS did (for me) play two mandolins that I was interested in on the phone so I could hear them back-to back (I ended up buying both because I couldn't decide - and still have both.) If you are looking for a particular sound, that might be a possibility. But there is no substitute for playing, and I am hoping for my son to get a job in Nashville so I have an excuse to visit him and all of the stores and play many mandolins!
    I agree with your statement “No substitute for playing.” It’s tough enough even when faced with several to choose from in a shop, let alone having several sent for trial while trying to find the right instrument. So, going by the reputation of the maker is going to have to suffice if I stay on this path of shopping by mail. I did have a salesperson at Carter’s record a couple mandos that I was interested in. Unfortunately, the salesperson who just happened to be receiving phone inquiries that day was only marginally interested in my request to record something. When I heard what he recorded I could hear that he was definitely NOT a mandolin player but probably an electric guitar person. He made an $10k Ellis sound like a really bad Kentucky A model. I did ask for someone else to help me but since he was the one who answered my phone call first being on “up time” that day I was relegated to listening to him butcher the sound of even a $12K Altman. It was all about him making a sale so he could get a commission. I have no problem with that per se but I do wish he had asked someone who can play mandolin do the recording and do justice to the Mandolin.

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    Call back and ask for just that. Based on my pre-COVID-19 experience with them, they’ll oblige. Carter’s is truly a premier music instrument store. I’m sure there have been some adjustments with the pandemic, but, if you’re looking at that caliber of instrument, they’re going to want to give you the service you deserve (as they do for anyone walking in the proverbial door). Work through it with them to your satisfaction, understanding that there may need to be some flexibility on your part regarding demonstrations due to staffing changes.

    NFI, but my experience there was exceptional, and I ended up not buying from them at the time. But, damn, what a collection of amazing instruments, and seemingly good people...
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    Call back and ask for just that. Based on my pre-COVID-19 experience with them, theyíll oblige. Carterís is truly a premier music instrument store.

    NFI, but my experience there was exceptional, and I ended up not buying from them at the time. But, damn, what a collection of amazing instruments, and seemingly good people...
    I second those emotions. Even with reduced staffing, they should still have someone on staff who can do justice to a high-end mandolin.

    Outside the box: maybe you could book Tristan Scroggins for a Skype ďlessonĒ at the store and have him play for you the mandos youíre interested in. Carterís uses him a lot in their instrument demo videos.
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus CA View Post
    I second those emotions. Even with reduced staffing, they should still have someone on staff who can do justice to a high-end mandolin.

    Outside the box: maybe you could book Tristan Scroggins for a Skype “lesson” at the store and have him play for you the mandos you’re interested in. Carter’s uses him a lot in their instrument demo videos.
    That’s and excellent idea!
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Anyone been to Nashville trying mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    Thatís and excellent idea!
    Yes, it is. I have even thought of asking Mike Compton and I just saw that he does online lessons as well. Thanks for the idea.

    -Robert

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