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Thread: Help for choice mandolin....

  1. #1

    Default Help for choice mandolin....

    Hello,
    First of all I want to apologize for my poor English, I am French!
    I want to learn the mandolin to make bluegrass and Irish music, I usually play the banjo!
    I would like your opinion on the choice of a mandolin not too bad to start. I looked a little and I stopped on three mandolins: the Fender fm53S, Gretsch G9300 or G9310 and Epiphone MM30S.
    Could you tell me which mandolin I have to choose please and thank you for your opinions!
    See you soon

  2. #2

    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    Fender, Gretsch and Epiphone mandolins come out of big factories in China. Maybe even the same factory.

    There is nothing wrong with Chinese mandolins, but there are some brands which are better than others. Look for Eastman or The Loar or Kentucky brands.

    This The Loar might be in the same price range as the ones you mention. Thomann do not 'set up' instruments, so if you buy from them, you may need to get a luthier or a friend to do some setting up to make it comfortable to play.

  3. #3
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    Quote Originally Posted by sverd View Post
    I would like your opinion on the choice of a mandolin not too bad to start. I looked a little and I stopped on three mandolins: the Fender fm53S, Gretsch G9300 or G9310 and Epiphone MM30S. Could you tell me which mandolin I have to choose please and thank you for your opinions! See you soon
    Of the options listed, the Gretsch G9310 usually elicits the most praise as a starter instrument due to its solid wood construction. Now, the mahogany used in that construction generally adds warmth rather than cutting power, meaning it might not be the best instrument to bring to a boisterous bluegrass jam or Irish seisun. Nonetheless, it can help you develop your chops until you're ready for those gatherings and an inevitable upgrade. If you prefer a starter closer to the real thing, then look for an A-style with f-holes and a solid spruce top over solid maple back and sides, preferably hand carved. Sometimes you can find one used over in Europe on the classifieds here. Another alternative is a European shop to save on taxes and shipping, preferably one like Kieran Moloney's that offers setups. For instance, check out The Loar LM290:

    http://www.moloneymusic.com/Products...ndolinsbyprice
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Of the options listed, the Gretsch G9310 usually elicits the most praise as a starter instrument due to its solid wood construction. Now, the mahogany used in that construction generally adds warmth rather than cutting power, meaning it might not be the best instrument to bring to a boisterous bluegrass jam or Irish seisun. Nonetheless, it can help you develop your chops until you're ready for those gatherings and an inevitable upgrade. If you prefer a starter closer to the real thing, then look for an A-style with f-holes and a solid spruce top over solid maple back and sides, preferably hand carved. Sometimes you can find one used over in Europe on the classifieds here. Another alternative is a European shop to save on taxes and shipping, preferably one like Kieran Moloney's that offers setups. For instance, check out The Loar LM290:

    http://www.moloneymusic.com/Products...ndolinsbyprice
    Thanks pheffernan,
    What do you think about Kentucky KM150 or KM256 ?

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    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    I agree with some of the advice already given. Unfortunately, none of the mandolins you mentioned is especially good, in my opinion. Look into mandolins by Kentucky, Eastman, J Bovier, and The Loar for better "starter" instruments. There are European websites that offer some mandolins, like Thomann in Germany (www.thomann.de).

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    Quote Originally Posted by sverd View Post
    What do you think about Kentucky KM150 or KM256 ?
    The Kentucky KM150 is probably the most frequently recommended beginner archtop mandolin on this site. If you can find one set up in Europe, have access to a mandolin luthier to perform such a setup, or have the skills to do such handiwork yourself, it's the best option you've mentioned yet!
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    I have a Fender FM53S that I just brought up from the basement (yeah I liked it enough to store it in the basement). It was on clearance at Guitar Center.

    Stay away from that one....it sounds more screechy/tinny than I remember it being.
    I'm hoping a string change will help.
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    A Kentucky or an Eastman is probably more than you want to spend, but well worth it IMHO. You can play any style on any instrument, but the hardcore bluegrasser will want a very different mandolin from a Celtic player. The Kentuckys I've played have leaned toward bluegrass.
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    Registered User Lowlands Blue's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    My first mandolin was a Gretsch NY 9320 (same one as the 9300 but with a piezo pickup built in). For the money it cost me (around CAD $300,-) and in comparison to the others I found in the same price range, it was the best one in the shop. Granted, the shop did not specialize in mandos and the other options were a Fender, a Rover and I believe a Washburn that ranged between $200,- and $250,-. But even pre setup, the Gretsch sounded much better, and the overall build of the instrument was nicer than the others.
    I played it in my lessons and with other people for more than 2 years, and I've come to love my hatchet despite its obvious shortcomings when it comes to sound. If you are looking to jump into serious playing with larger groups, and play smoking hot solos over top of the others in your group, this instrument won't cut it, it's not designed for that.

    Being from Europe myself, I know that a selection of especially these type of instruments are not always easy to come by in shop, so if ordering online (this website is also great for that) is not something you want to do, I'd recommend the Gretsch as a starter. It served me really well until I upgraded to a Kentucky recently.

  11. #10

    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    Hello,
    I have just found a used mandolin, it is a Kentucky KM180S for €155 with a case, I receive it next week! I can not find much information on this mandolin, according to what I read, it is entirely solid wood, but could you give me your opinion on this mandolin. The only thing that gets me wrong is that there is no trussrod, is that important?
    Do you think this is a good choice?
    Thanks

  12. #11
    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    That is an excellent choice for a starter mandolin. Most of the Kentucky instruments from that period we're made in a good factory in Japan, though it might be one that was made in South Korea. Regardless, a good one to start with. Get some new strings on it and have fun!
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    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    Make sure it is set up well, there is a free setup book here from member Rob Meldrum. If you PM him he will send it to you.
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  14. #13
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    Kentucky used to use "S" suffix to indicate an all-solid-wood mandolin. This could be one of the older "snakehead" (tapered headstock) Kentucky instruments made in Japan, before production was shifted first to Korea, then to China.

    Here's a 2013 thread on the subject of the KM-180's lack of a truss rod. There are uncounted thousands of mandolins out there that are built without truss rods, and probably most of them never suffered from not having them. On the other hand, a truss rod can be very helpful if the neck changes, warping from too much string tension, humidity changes, or whatever.

    Your paying the equivalent of $165 US for the mandolin -- with a case -- which is a very good price for an all-solid-wood mandolin from a generally-respected brand. I'd say that chances are the lack of a truss rod won't affect its playability, but that's not an ironclad guarantee.

    Overall, seems a good choice. Let us know your experience with the KM-180S.
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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Kentucky used to use "S" suffix to indicate an all-solid-wood mandolin.
    I was under the impression that Kentucky used the "S" designation to suggest a solid top, with the implication being that the back and sides were laminate.
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  17. #15

    Default Re: Help for choice mandolin....

    Hello,
    Could you tell me what kind of strings I have to put on my Kentucky KM180S, what tension of strings for a beginner and also for this model without trussrod?
    I'll have it Saturday, I would keep you posted and send you some pictures!
    Thanks in advance

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