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Thread: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Hi, guys - I'm wanting to learn to plan the mandolin, and outside of a couple of weeks of searching on the Internet, watching YouTube videos, and scanning threads on this forum, I have no idea what I'm doing!

    On the list are (1) buy a mandolin and (2) find a teacher.

    I checked a local shop and they had a $300 Loar LM-110. I searched around on here and learned that getting a $420 Kentucky KM-150 would be a better option. My wife showed me an ad, though, for a professionally restored Harmony Monterey A style mandolin for $300 (pictures below) for sale in our area. I obviously can't test play any of these instruments because I don't know how to play! Is an older "vintage" instrument a better option? Would the quality be better? Would appreciate any advice you can give me.

    Any tips on finding a mandolin teacher would be great, too. I live in Raleigh, NC.

    Thanks for your help!

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  2. #2

    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    You might try here: http://www.nctradmusic.com/mandolin-lessons

    or here: https://pinecone.org/teachers

    The first one looks to be a music school and the second just a matching service the organization runs. I have no knowledge of these programs, so I am not personally endorsing them, just giving you resources to check out.

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  4. #3
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Do NOT buy the harmony! Worth $100.oo at best.

    I would suggest you look for an Eastman 305 to get you started.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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  6. #4
    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    +1 on Charley's comments above.

    Buy a 305 from a shop that is a Cafe' sponsor (so you'll get a good setup, which is critical for mandolins), or search the Classified ads here. Scott and his team do a great job keeping those two sources clear of hacks and cons.

    While you are looking for a teacher, spend a bunch of time on MandoLessons.com, which has a ton of great beginner lessons (and is free, but do donate!).
    "Keep your hat on, we may end up miles from here..." - Kurt Vonnegut

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  8. #5
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Yeah, dig a little deeper into your budget. You'll be happy you did.
    I saw this: https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/176881#176881

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  10. #6
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    I had a couple re-fret jobs done, they came back after skilled Professional attention a huge amount easier to play ..

    In Short Who you get it from is really important. Do they carefully set it up before shipping?
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
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  12. #7
    Registered User Isaac Revard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    David McLaughlin states some of those Harmony mandolins sound pretty darn good--one of the best mandolin players out there. I have one and can attest to that also...far better sounding than a cheap kentucky. Set-up would be key, I'm assuming it has one if its been "restored"

    See if you can get it a little cheaper. It has better looks, too, better mojo. This will improve your picking at least 20%.
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around and play mandolin.

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  14. #8
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    The safe bet is a Kentucky 150 or Eastman 305.A used Eastman is currently for sale for $399 at The Mandolin Store, which is known for its excellent setups. If you don't know how to play you aren't going to be able to evaluate a vintage instrument. I would pass on that Harmony. It's unlikely to be worth it.

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  16. #9
    Registered User Bren's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    You could also:
    (1) find a teacher
    (2) buy a mandolin

    having discussed local affordable options with the teacher.
    Bren

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  18. #10
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Bren View Post
    You could also:
    (1) find a teacher
    (2) buy a mandolin

    having discussed local affordable options with the teacher.
    That's probably the best idea yet. The teacher might even be able to go with you to play instrument(s).

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  20. #11

    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Even a friendly (acoustic) guitar player, amateur or pro, could help a great deal in evaluating the condition of an instrument with respect to setup. What’s not been said enough is that even brand new, store-bought mandolins can be difficult to play at first, even enough to discourage any interest. Setup is vital, sound quality, I think is a good goal, but not vital.

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  22. #12
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    I think for your $300.00 you can get a great and possibly better quality mandolin if you look at flat tops. Arch tops cost more, and consequently you can usually get more quality for your money with a flatty.

    You don't mention what kind of music you are chasing after, but the only genre issue with flat tops is hard core bluegrass, which is a tradition thing.

    And lets me truthful, your first mandolin will not be your last, and as you fall in love with it, you will magically find more funding for the mandolinning side of life. Years from now we all want to see your collection.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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  24. #13
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    And lets me truthful, your first mandolin will not be your last, and as you fall in love with it, you will magically find more funding for the mandolinning side of life. Years from now we all want to see your collection.
    Yes, Jeff is right. A little more than a year and a half ago when I started, I adamantly did not want to spend more than $250 (and I didn't, my first mandolin, a Korean Kentucky, was $235 shipped, and once I fixed the action by sanding down the bridge, it was entirely serviceable). Nonetheless, it was not long before I was looking at others, and now I have 7 various mandolin family instruments, and should blush over not only the number of them, but what I paid for the last one (though it's a drop in the bucket compared to some people's mandolin budgets).

    I'm still a newbie, too.

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  26. #14

    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Thanks for the tips, everyone! A slight change in plans: I'm not on the market for a mandolin (for now!) because my wife found a free one on a buy nothing group. It's a really inexpensive Hohner, but looks like it's unused. I've also started working through the MandoLessons site—thanks for that suggestion. Obviously the Hohner isn't a quality instrument, but it will at least let me get a little learning under my belt. I have previous musical training so I understand the concepts. In 3 to 6 months I'll upgrade to a better instrument. I'll also work through some of these lessons before looking for a teacher (the Pinecone connected teachers look great). I will look for one eventually.

  27. #15
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Free is good. Now you need to get your Rob Meldrum setup E-book and make sure the action is good.

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  29. #16
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Be careful. Sometimes free is totally worth it.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
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  31. #17

    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Free is good. Now you need to get your Rob Meldrum setup E-book and make sure the action is good.
    Thanks for the suggestion!

  32. #18
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Be careful. Sometimes free is totally worth it.
    But if free doesn't work out, you're not out too much. The key is keeping expectations in line with the price, I think.

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  34. #19
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Welcome, CMB!

    Good advice above. Also check out the Newbies social group where we give each other unauthoritative advice and heartfelt support on such things as sore fingers and other rites of passage in the mandification journey.
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

    My website and blog: honketyhank.com

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  36. #20
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    My "take" is that you can learn basics on nearly any mandolin by a recognized manufacturer (that includes Hohner, though they're not given many creds here on the Cafe), if it's properly set up. It won't sound good, but you won't either, not 'til you've developed some skill. Meanwhile, that $300 is accumulating interest, and you're saving up more, so when you decide you like mandolin and want a better one, you'll be able to take a real jump up the mandolin hierarchy.

    Free is almost always good; I wouldn't own a ukulele-banjo if someone hadn't given me a free Stewart Collegian. Of course, that assumes that owning a uk-banjo is a good thing...
    Allen Hopkins
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  38. #21
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Total noob wanting to get a mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Yeah, dig a little deeper into your budget. You'll be happy you did.
    I saw this: https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/176881#176881
    I bought my Collings from Brian at Sun Valley Guitars, where the mandolin Sue posted is offered for sale. He'll take good care of you and is a sponsor here. He and Dennis were partners before The Mandolin Store moved to Tennessee. Brian chose to stay in Arizona (lucky me!)
    Phoebe, my 2021 Collings MT mandolin
    Dolly, my 2021 Ibanez M522 mandolin
    Louise, my 193x SS Maxwell mandolin
    Fiona, My 2021 GSM guitar-bodied octave resonator mandolin
    Charlotte, my 2016 Eastman MDO 305 octave mandolin
    And Giuliana, my 2002 Hans Schuster 505 violin, Katy, my 2021 Janerock bass guitar,
    Nehenehe, my 2021 Aklot concert ukulele, Sundae, my 2022 Takamine GN30-NAT guitar,
    Yoko, my ca. 1963 Yamaha Dynamic No.15 guitar, and Rich, my 1959 husband.

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