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Thread: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    I hesitate to post this on here but i figure ill give it a shot anyway. Forgive me if this topic has been covered 9 million times prior on this forum. I have done some research on here and at this point just want to ask some questions to some knowledgeable folks.

    I have played acoustic guitar on and off for a long time, probably about 18ish years. I got a wild hair about two months ago and borrowed a friends New York Pro mandolin which he paid 25 bucks for at a yard sale and decided to give mandolin a try. In playing guitar I understood the difference in scales, modes etc so I wanted to understand the same on the Mandolin and found myself at jazzmando, and discovered the FFcp and have been messing around with that very much enjoying the experience.

    Now I am hooked, I have been looking into a mandolin. As I mentioned i have experience with stringed instruments, and have a desire to own a nice mandolin, somewhere in the neighborhood of 500-700 bucks. I guess what I am saying is I would like student instrument as opposed to a beginner tier instrument. I went through beginner tier instruments as a guitar player and found the fit and finish something to be desired, not something I want to waste money on again. I am leaning toward either an Eastman or a Kentucky as I have dealers close by for both. In an effort to mitigate Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome, I am leaning toward going yard and getting and F style mandolin because if I am being transparent enjoy the look of them much more. How do the F style mandolins for both brands compare at the $700 price point?

    Again thanks for your time. I realize this information is out there somewhere already but just appreciate the journey of asking questions.

  2. #2
    Registered User FredK's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    Hello jmmiller413,

    I, too, took up mandolin (lifelong dream) after 40+ years playing acoustic guitar last year. There are others in the Café that can give you more elaborate ideas but, after a lot of research and reading, I opted to get a Loar 520 from one of the Café sponsors. I wanted an F over an A but that was not the reason for selection. It was set up perfectly, it has a great tone and sound for the price, and I haven't looked back. You can find it for around your price point from the major sponsors here.
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    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
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    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    Both Kentucky and Eastman make a good student grade instruments in your price range. Look in the classifieds here on the café. You may find a great deal. The tone of the Eastman and Kentucky is different and players usually prefer one over the other. In a gross generalization a Kentucky sounds more Gibsonesque while an Eastman sounds more Collings like. Either is fine ... since you have dealers in your area for both go forth and play as many as you can. Enjoy the process and get a good hard case.... R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Registered User George R. Lane's Avatar
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    I'm also primarily a guitar(and banjo) player. I'd honestly recommend the Eastman MD505 or MD605 or a comparable Kentucky.

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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    NFI...

    https://themandolinstore.com/product...tyle-mandolin/

    The guys at The Mandolin Store are excellent!

    This is a great deal. All solid woods. Set up included. Add a case for $50.

    Zach

  7. #7

    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    Be aware that you need to spend twice as much for a mandolin than the same quality guitar, more so for an F style. The good news is that like cheaper guitars, mandolins have gotten much better the last few years. Increase your budget ten fold and you will be getting into the low end of the really good stuff. It's just like that. But there are many mandolins you can certainly enjoy for $700 and bought from one of our sponsors, it will be well set up. Buy from the classifieds and you will save enough to get it setup and probably still save. Enjoy the journey.
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    Be aware that you need to spend twice as much for a mandolin than the same quality guitar, more so for an F style.
    I didn't believe this when I switched but, it's true. Mandolins can be more fickle than a guitar so just go into it with that in mind.

    I own both a Kentucky and an Eastman, I like both but the Eastman sound with the mahogany back is amazing.

    I too was bit by the f style but but found my a styles play great and I didn't need the flash of the scroll....for now anyway.

    Eastman on the left and Kentucky I the right. Also understand there is a significant sound difference in oval versus f hole styles...that's another can of worms.


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    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    I own an Eastman 315 with which I’ve been very pleased. I can’t speak to Kentucky’s newer models in that price range, but vastly prefer the 315 to my old Kentucky 675-S and all the KM 630s I’ve tried. Both brands are making some excellent mandolins (my 675 was made the first year they moved to China, bought on eBay, and had issues that weren’t Saga’s fault...recent offerings are much better) presently. Go try both a pick the one that feels and sounds the best to you, because there are some differences in their neck profiles and tone.

    I own better (and more expensive) mandolins than the 315 (I actually bought it to use as a beater, on clearance for $429), but if it was my only mandolin, I’d still be very happy with it...
    Chuck

  10. #10

    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    An Eastman or Kentucky with a good setup will give you the playability you need to learn the instrument. I am also a guitar player of 50 years, who got bit by the mandolin bug 10 years ago. If you have a good ear for acoustic tone, based on your guitar experience, you will ultimately discover that you can't really get "great" tone from a PAC-RIM mando costing under $1K. I worked my way up to an Eastman 815, which was a good mando. But it never gave me the dry, woody tone that I heard on recordings by pro players. I eventually sold the Eastman, and bought a used Weber Bitteroot-A. I still own the Weber, and will probably never let it go. The tone "upgrade" from the Eastman was huge. This was going from a $1K Eastman to a $1.4K Weber (used prices). Spending the additional $400 and giving up the scroll helped me make the jump to a vastly better sounding mandolin. I have now added a Summit F-style, just because MAS is real. But I plan to keep the Weber A-style, just because it's that good. I've seen it said many times on this forum, and it's right. You get more mandolin per dollar without the scroll. And American-made mandolins really do sound better that PAC-RIM mandos, generally. Mandolins with pro-level tone start around $1500 used and go up. If you play a $800 guitar, you need a $1500 mandolin to be at a similar quality level. If you are completely satisfied with $500 guitars, you may be happy with an Eastman or Kentucky forever. Just don't try to fool yourself. It can get expensive. Also note that good used American-made mandolins don't depreciate much at all. New Eastmans and Kentuckys will normally depreciate significantly.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    I can attest to the quality of Kentucky's quality of mandolins purchased new today. I got my Kentucky KM-505 just a month ago, and the fit and finish as well as the tone (even brand new) is excellent. From what I have seen on this and other boards, this mandolin is made in the same facility as the Master models KM-1000 and KM-900. I am thoroughly enjoying this mandolin which is, like you, a new instrument to me. I believe the quality level of the new Kentuckys are indeed something to admire.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    I like Kentucky mandolins a lot. I have heard some really good Eastman's as well.

  13. #13
    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    I've played a couple Eastmans. The 505 was my fave which to me sounded better then the 604 sitting next it. In fact, the 305 I played was better than the 604 too. All were set up right.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    I am as guilty as any one wanting to escalate price points, and there are good reasons, but oddly my MK gets a majority of my playing time. Why you ask? Because I have made it a very playable mandolin and have a certain satisfaction knowing that when I play it. Ok, it's an f style, probably the worst reason. It's not too valuable, so it sits on my desk within arm's reach, an I have become the lazyist person on the planet.

    Now when I play my Silverangel, the difference is so drastic I wonder why I ever play my MK. But the truth is, you can have a lot of fun once you get to an all solid mandolin that has a good setup, so buy one, like the 315 that just got listed in the classifieds, and don't look back.

    Unless you have a spare $2500 to spend. Then you can troll the classifieds for a used F.

    The only argument that would sway me from the statement above is, and this really applied to me when I started out, is your guitar quality satisfaction index so high that anything cheaper than a D18, or a Taylor 300 series just won't do? My Eastman lasted six months.
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    Registered User spud3's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    Similar path, here, too. I started with an Eastman MD315, and it was great for a starter instrument. Just recently upgraded to a Weber Bitterroot, and the tone difference is significant. But I wouldn't have noticed that when I started a couple years ago. Play both the Kentucky and Eastman. You'll like one more than the other.

    Then play it a lot.

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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    I am as guilty as any one wanting to escalate price points, and there are good reasons, but oddly my MK gets a majority of my playing time....

    Now when I play my Silverangel, the difference is so drastic I wonder why I ever play my MK. But the truth is, you can have a lot of fun once you get to an all solid mandolin that has a good setup, so buy one, like the 315 that just got listed in the classifieds, and don't look back.
    I couldn't agree with this more... However, My two are a The Loar and a Weber.

    The Weber is greater in every way, but with two young girls running around, it's mostly in its case! The Loar gets a lot of action cause its readily available, usually sitting on the wall next to couch.

    Get what you can afford and play the sh!t out of it.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    Everyone is quick to recommend arch top mandolins, when we don't know if the OP wants one. A flat top may be just the thing, and very often more band for the buck.
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  18. #18

    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    First, thanks for all of the response you all have brought up many great points. At this point considering what has been said about the need to spend more money on a mandolin than on a comparable quality guitar, I am now considering buying an A style rather than paying for the looks of the f style. When it comes down to it I want to get the best tone for the money. It sounds like the A style is the way to go on this front.

    Another issue that really has me thinking is someone brought up the fit and finish of a Kentucky KM 505. I took a look at that model online and would like to take a further look into it. I assume its comparable to the Eastman MD 505. I guess my main concern is bang for my buck i want to get an instrument that I will be happy with for a significant period. I went to a guitar center recently and picked up a low end loar about $300 and compared to the 25 dollar yard sale mandolin i'm playing now it was amazing. So I imagine the instruments I'm considering now to be significantly better in fit and finish as well as tone. At the end of the day I need to go and pick a few up and see what there is to see.

    The cost difference to get into superior tone is not one that I believe I am interested in spending at this point in my mandolin development, but it does give me something to look forward to.

    Also, ive not looked into a flat top mandolin, but based on the research and experience ive had I am probably leaning toward arch top mandolins.

    Again thank you all for all of the information when I finally make the purchase I will be sure to follow up on the post. It might be a bit waiting on my tax money to come in.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    I am also curious with everyones experience with buying used instruments. I went into a local music store and they had a used eastman and the neck was questionable on it. Buying used off the classifieds on this site appears to be a much better situation. Any thoughts? It seems like you can definitely get a much better deal buying used, but i am afraid I won't be able to determine if im getting a lemon or not.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    jmmiller413..

    Were you finger picking guitar or flatpicking.

    If nut width is important, be aware that the Eastmans are narrow.. I mean ridiculously narrow.. and for me ( as a guitar fingerpicker) stoopidly narrow and unplayable.

    I have owned around 50 mandolins.. I like EASTMAN, cannot own or play one.

    This is my learned opinion and intended only as a caution .. buy what you like.

  21. #21

    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Hildreth View Post
    jmmiller413..

    Were you finger picking guitar or flatpicking.

    If nut width is important, be aware that the Eastmans are narrow.. I mean ridiculously narrow.. and for me ( as a guitar fingerpicker) stoopidly narrow and unplayable.

    I have owned around 50 mandolins.. I like EASTMAN, cannot own or play one.

    This is my learned opinion and intended only as a caution .. buy what you like.
    I am a flatpicking guitar player. I have only had hands on one eastman at this point and come to think of it it did feel narrow. Might be interesting to compare it at this point.

  22. #22
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    I'd look mostly at Eastman's in your price point. There's a couple decent Washburn's around and a few other brands. One of the big issues with lower priced mandolin's is bad setup. A good mandolin can sound and play horrible if it's not setup right. So, learn how to setup the mandolin (i.e. check intonation, adjust the action, etc)

    The F style is more pricey but I'm with you - it looks cooler. While that sounds stupid to some, I think it's important to like the look of the instrument because 1) you'll probably keep it out in the open more and 2) you'll probably play it more. I also really like having the scroll for the strap - it looks cleaner and is more functional IMO.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Switching from Guitar to Mandolin, buying a first Mandolin

    Those suggesting a flat top should be listened to. If you are going to be playing anything but bluegrass, you might really like a mandolin like the Flatiron 1N. Incredible tone for around $500.
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