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Thread: First mandolin

  1. #1

    Question First mandolin

    Hey everyone!

    I play on electric guitar and i'm wondering about try out mandolin. I don't want to spend mor then around 250$. I saw a few Herley Benton, Ibanez and Ortega models. Also stagg are quite popular. I don't know which would be the best and which to avoid.
    Would you recomenned some beginner mandolin with decent quality?

  2. #2
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: First mandolin

    Just my humble opinion but I would increase your budget by $100 and buy a used entry level Eastman or Kentucky from the Cafe classifieds. Then if you find the mandolin not for you or you progress to wanting something better you will have something to resell that someone will want and get your investment back.
    Stiver A style (A DREAMED FOR KEEPER)
    Kentucky KM-950
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Rogue 100A (current campfire tool)
    Cozart (unplugged emando silence for my usually tolerant wife)

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  4. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: First mandolin

    Where are you located? From the manufacturers you cite, is it the UK? All the mandolins you're considering are Asian-made, and in your price range, are likely to be laminated construction with heat-pressed top and back. You can learn on them -- if they're properly set up, which is the more important consideration.

    The best-constructed entry-level mandolin in your price range is probably the Rover RM-50. It has at least a solid wood top, advertised as "carved" but almost certainly just carved by a computer-controlled machine, not by "human hands." Nevertheless, better materials than the almost certainly plywood Asian products usually available at less than $300.

    Don't forget, by the way, that you may well also want a gig bag, a strap, and an electronic tuner. Plus, quite possibly, a set of strings to replace whatever the Chinese factory stuck on the mandolin.

    The most recommended "first mandolin" on the Cafe is the Kentucky KM-150, but that's quite a bit more than you intend to spend.

    Most important is to get whatever mandolin you buy properly set up: bridge location and height, nut height, neck "relief" if a truss rod adjustment's needed. Mandolins need more set-up than guitars, due to the movable, and height-adjustable, "floating" bridge. Most mail-order on on-line dealers don't do set-ups. You can learn to do one yourself (check this thread for info on Cafe member Rob Meldrum's free how-to e-book).

    Good luck!
    Allen Hopkins
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    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
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  6. #4

    Default Re: First mandolin

    Thank You for reply. I'm from Europe(Poland) so shipping from US can be expensive and take a little bit of time. Unfortunately in stores in my country there is almost no choice.

  7. #5
    Registered User TonyEarth's Avatar
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    Default Re: First mandolin

    For what it's worth, Allen's point of the set up is really important. My first mandolin was a really cheap Rogue (not a recommendation, just an anecdote), with no real set up work at all. It even had a handful issues; by many other's standards a pretty awful instrument. But I absolutely loved it and got a lot of mileage out of it for some years. I can only imagine how much better the experience would have been with a good set up.

    If you're willing to spend up to 250, you should by all means do so - I have no real suggestions to give of my own in that range, but it can't hurt to know your budget and spend accordingly. But at the same time, you really can make the most out of whatever instrument you do end up going with, even with a limited budget and choice range.

    Even most of my instruments now are not particularly high end, but I love them. Whenever people make sweeping statements about lower-end mandolins as being "unplayable," I smirk with skepticism with the memory of my janky Rogue. That said, there's absolutely value in getting the best bang for your buck and there's a lot of wisdom on the cafe that can help with your decision, so - within your budget, heed the good advice you find, and above all have fun.
    Diego

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  9. #6
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: First mandolin

    I have no advice for you, but welcome to mandolin playing and to the Cafe. We have friendly folks here with plenty of knowledge to share.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: First mandolin

    Harley Benton has a generally good reputation for budget electrics, amps etc so i looked it up: $58 + $46 shipping to US for an A style (!?)

    https://www.thomannmusic.com/harley_...ndoline_vs.htm

    I can't really tell you anything about the ones you named except that Asian factory instruments vary hugely as to quality but would suggest getting a copy of this PDF about measurement/setup from Rob Meldrum so you can do string height measurements and see if bridge is properly fitted etc https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...by-Rob-Meldrum
    Kentucky km900
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    Default Re: First mandolin

    Of the ones you list I would take a chance on Ibanez before the others, especially if you’re thinking acoustic/electric. While they’re not great acoustically, some I’ve played sound decent considering the construction/plywood, and plugged in so much is dependent on the EQ, amp, and effects. It never ceases to surprise me how good some inexpensive Ibanez and Fender mandolins can sound in the hands of talented people with good electronics components.

    Agree with Alan to look for a Rover for the solid top. Or just go straight to the bottom and get a Rogue for < 100 USD. The most important thing in this range is to set it up well.

    Of course, some KM-150 and Eastman 305 mandos can be “keepers,” but they’re over budget…
    Chuck

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  13. #9

    Default Re: First mandolin

    Thank You for replies!
    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    Of the ones you list I would take a chance on Ibanez before the others, especially if you’re thinking acoustic/electric. While they’re not great acoustically, some I’ve played sound decent considering the construction/plywood, and plugged in so much is dependent on the EQ, amp, and effects. It never ceases to surprise me how good some inexpensive Ibanez and Fender mandolins can sound in the hands of talented people with good electronics components.
    This is valid point, especially thai I'm playing on electric guitar and I have a few effects and mulltieffecs.

    I also thought about mandola. This is basically a little bit larger mandolin(longer scale e.t.c.) tuned a few steps down. I know There is a slight discrepancy in names between USA and Europe. The instrument which I'm talking about is usualy tuned CDAE.

    Soundwise I prefer mandola. It's got deeper and richer sound (maybe this is because I like to tune my guitar down), but the choice is even smaller. In my budget there are only 2 or 3 of this on Thomann.

  14. #10
    Registered User rodarbal's Avatar
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    Default Re: First mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by TonyEarth View Post
    For what it's worth, Allen's point of the set up is really important. My first mandolin was a really cheap Rogue (not a recommendation, just an anecdote), with no real set up work at all. It even had a handful issues; by many other's standards a pretty awful instrument. But I absolutely loved it and got a lot of mileage out of it for some years. I can only imagine how much better the experience would have been with a good set up.

    If you're willing to spend up to 250, you should by all means do so - I have no real suggestions to give of my own in that range, but it can't hurt to know your budget and spend accordingly. But at the same time, you really can make the most out of whatever instrument you do end up going with, even with a limited budget and choice range.

    Even most of my instruments now are not particularly high end, but I love them. Whenever people make sweeping statements about lower-end mandolins as being "unplayable," I smirk with skepticism with the memory of my janky Rogue. That said, there's absolutely value in getting the best bang for your buck and there's a lot of wisdom on the cafe that can help with your decision, so - within your budget, heed the good advice you find, and above all have fun.
    The Chinese have been making instruments for thousands of years. Most important, a SOLID wood, no laminate construction and pay for a proper set up. You may have to budget a bit more, but if you decide to upgrade you will have something decent to sell. Nothing worse than having something awful to get discouraged on and give up. I have upgraded my Chinese one with a bone nut and better tuners and love it. It has played in over the years and I love the sound it makes.

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    Default Re: First mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk010 View Post
    Hey everyone!

    I play on electric guitar and i'm wondering about try out mandolin. I don't want to spend mor then around 250$. I saw a few Herley Benton, Ibanez and Ortega models. Also stagg are quite popular. I don't know which would be the best and which to avoid.
    Would you recomenned some beginner mandolin with decent quality?
    I have a Ibanez M510BS that you can have for $50 plus shipping. Its the instrument I started out on and used for a couple of months before I upgraded. I have a soft case for it also

  16. #12

    Default Re: First mandolin

    My humble: For a first mando, nothing matters but the setup. Unlike a guitar, you don't start to hear or feel real differences between mandos until you've been at it for a while. But meanwhile, a poorly set-up mando is impossible to play.

    So just get one you can afford, and if you find that some of the notes don't play or you're in pain, take it to a pro for tweaking.

    Mandos are much more finicky than guitars. The tiniest adjustment makes a huge difference. It takes an experience mando tech to fine-tune them.

    If you play it for a year and it looks like you're going to stick with it, that's the time to trade up to a solid-wood instrument that suits your taste.

    Remember that mandos cost more than guitars of comparable quality — mainly because not nearly as many get made. So snag that cheap beginner's mando, then start saving up for a better instrument.

  17. #13

    Default Re: First mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveGinNJ View Post
    I have a Ibanez M510BS that you can have for $50 plus shipping. Its the instrument I started out on and used for a couple of months before I upgraded. I have a soft case for it also
    Sweet deal! And if you get it, remember: a pro setup can be a godsend.

  18. #14
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: First mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveGinNJ View Post
    I have a Ibanez M510BS that you can have for $50 plus shipping...
    Check out the specifics of shipping to Poland, also any taxes, customs procedures, etc. As Kirk010 says, "shipping from US can be expensive and take a little bit of time..."
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  19. #15

    Default Re: First mandolin

    Thank You everyone for help.

    I followed the advice about electro-accustic and ordered one made by Ortega. It should arrive on Friday and when it does I'll take it for professional set up.
    I will share my thoughts when I test it.

    What should I especially pay attention to during transition between mandolin and guitar?

  20. #16
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: First mandolin

    Some basic knowledge about fretting, picking, chording etc. is transferable. Tuning's quite different, fifths instead of fourths-and-a-third, so you need to go up more frets on a string -- assuming you're playing melody -- before moving to the next higher string. Fretboard's smaller, frets closer together, you're fretting two strings in each course instead of one, so there's a radically different "feel" to a mandolin. Mandolin's higher pitched: the "bass" string on a mandolin is at the same pitch as the 3rd string on a guitar, and the 1st, treble string is an octave above the guitar's 1st string. Transposing the music you play on guitar to mandolin takes a good deal of rethinking your approach to it.

    I tend to tell myself that mandolin's based around melodies, guitar around chords. Many many exceptions to that general "rule," but keeping that orientation has helped me to some extent negotiate the two instruments.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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  22. #17

    Default Re: First mandolin

    Here's a video that helped me:



    I've never been able to hold the pick the way he does. Finally gave up and went back to picking the way I play guitar. But the right-hand position he demonstrates works pretty well. At first I couldn't do it, but after a while I found that if I just keep my thumb somewhere on the back of neck instead of letting it hang over, the rest falls into place.

    Another tip: If you're trying to figure out a chord, remember that mandos are tuned like upside down bass guitars. So if you turn a guitar chord upside down, you've got it. This is useless for chording on the fly, but if you're sitting down trying to figure out, say, how to make, say, a G or an A-minor, it's a great shortcut.

  23. #18
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    Default Re: First mandolin

    Marshall's way of holding the picks is pretty similar to Chris Thile's and Sierra Hull's so you can watch more videos and think about it

    Thile https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdhVC0DzfFY

    Sierra https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tCoGGcsi0I

    Course some classical players, Avi Avital, Sariel do it differently https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-EKFFyFITY
    Kentucky km900
    Yamaha piano, clarinet, violin; generic cello
    Stage 1 pedal steel (highly recommended); banjo, dobro don't get played much cause i'm considerate ;}

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