Hi All -
Greetings from southeastern CT.
I'm new to Mandolincafe, having taken a ~15 year hiatus from playing mandolin in order to devote myself to blues guitar and to road-racing vintage motorcycles (on proper race courses, not on public roads).
Just after the New Year, my spouse and I attended a number of concerts and I was inspired to pick up my mando again. I'm pleased to be able to say truthfully that I've been playing daily ever since.
I soon discovered that the v-shaped neck on my old Gibson A1 doesn't really suit me anymore, having spent so much time playing guitars with more rounded neck profiles. So, I took a rasp to the neck of my 1919 Gibson and...
It *DID* make me realize that I should have a mandolin with a more rounded neck.
My price expectations were based on more recent experiences buying guitars.
So, at first I was surprised that the price points separating inexpensive (but good quality), moderately priced, and expensive mandolins start significantly higher and are farther apart than those for guitars (although where one draws the lines is highly individual and subjective). On further consideration of the vast differences in sales volumes and production methods for guitars vs. mandolins, not so surprising.
But owing to my long absence from playing, I decided to set a price ceiling at $1000 give or take.
Looking around online, I read about Eastman, particularly their value and quality for money spent. And after playing a variety of F-style (scroll envy) instruments in my price range, I bought an Eastman 315 from Acoustic Music in Guilford, CT.
While I'm at it, I'd like to thank the guys at Youngblood's Music Workshop/Acoustic Music. I have nothing but praise for George Youngblood and Brian Wolfe. If you're anywhere close, I recommend them highly. (www.acousticmusic.org)
Although the 315 wasn't the most expensive instrument I test drove, it seemed to fit me best both in terms of the neck shape and the way my hands seemed to automatically settle into the correct positions. After George set it up, it was even better.
And then a couple of months later, an Eastman 515 became available locally at a very reasonable price. The instrument had been played a few times but was effectively new. So it came home with me.
There's very little difference between the playability of the 315 and the 515 although the 315 actually sounds richer and projects better.
Brian suggests that it might sound as good as it does due to the thinness of the finish. Or it may just be the craftsmanship put into this particular instrument.
Now we're up to date... So... some thoughts on MAS... some reasonable, others being complete rationalizations...
I now have 3 mandolins with "performance envelopes" that exceed my own skill level. When I was racing regularly, I upgraded my race bikes only when they became the limiting factor.
With less than a year of demonstrated commitment to improving my rusty playing skills, I don't *need* another mandolin.
So why the irrational longing for a prettier, better, more respected, MORE EXPENSIVE mandolin?
Being able to look at something beautiful whenever I so desire?
So that a measure of the skill possessed by my mandolin heroes will be magically transferred to me?
So that I would be filled with the innate "betterness" of the new instrument?
Of these, only the first and fourth are pragmatically reasonable and the third is esthetically reasonable but non-essential. I will grudgingly admit to a touch of the third, but I'm trying to quit... Really! As to playability, my instruments are well set up with low action, no buzz and proper intonation up and down the fretboard.
But here's what's really odd about my particular case of want vs. need. As of this writing, I've saved almost $7000, specifically for a better mandolin. But now that I can upgrade whenever I feel like it, I find that my obsession to do so has been greatly diminished. Go figure!
I've resolved to earn a new mandolin by developing competency, accuracy, an ability to play with others without choking, and eventually, increased speed. If I can't or won't make progress towards those goals, there's no reason to spend big bucks.
Yes, I understand that there are instruments that make one play better just as there are high performance cars that effectively raise a driver to a new level. But I believe that my mandolins are beyond adequate for now and for the immediate future. (That's the rationalization part, in case you hadn't recognized it.)
So let me close with what I consider to be two truths:
(1) A well played instrument is better than a poorly played instrument, regardless of its cost.
(2) The time I spend looking at, thinking/reading about, and window shopping for a more expensive mandolin could be better spend practicing and playing; on the very mandolins that are already here and waiting for me to pay attention to them.
Thanks for listening to my thoughts. And for dealing with my (parenthetical) writing style. And for giving me the opportunity to vent.
I feel *SO* much better.
Plus, it brightens my day to think about the joy that I've given to the professional and amateur psychotherapists among us.