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Thread: A mandolin for kids?

  1. #1
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    Default A mandolin for kids?

    I've been reading on the forum for a little while, but I decided I needed to post for the first time because my son asked me for a mandolin for his birthday.

    He will be 7 (along with his twin brother) . I've also got a daughter who has a birthday about two weeks before and will be 10. They all started music lessons at age 4 (2 violinists and a cellist).

    I've got two questions for the forum - is this too young to start experimenting with mandolin?

    And second - if I were to get a mandolin for them all to share, what is a good one for young players? I play ukulele and banjo and understand how a good setup makes all the difference, so if there are recommendations on what to get (and who to buy it from), I'd appreciate it.
    Addicted to 4-string instruments - Ukulele was the gateway drug, followed by bass and now onto the hard stuff - tenor guitars and banjos (plus a little mandolin on the side)

  2. #2
    Registered User LongBlackVeil's Avatar
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    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    No of course it's not too young! In fact at such a young age, he's at the prime time for learning a new skill. If he's keen, definitely try and support him.

    I would buy him a kentucky km150 from themandolinstore or folk musician or any of the other reputable mandolin shops that provide great pre ship setups.
    "When you learn an old time fiddle tune, you make a friend for life"

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    Registered User Denman John's Avatar
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    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    Both my kids started at 7 and have stuck with it. They are 12 1/2 and 9 1/4 now and the older one is quite good and plays with experienced adults regularly. One thing that I think really helped was that their teacher got them playing at a regular (monthly) open mic. It gives them something to practice towards.

    If you want them to stick with it, get them a decent instrument! You could probably start with one instrument, but tell them if they stick with it for X period of time, you'll get one for them personally at that time. It has proved to be a good motivator for our kids. The first mandolin we got was a Breedlove Quartz that I purchased used from the classifieds here. The neck is very comfortable and the nut width was 1 3/16". (it also got me hooked on playing mandolin). My youngest son still plays it while my older son has moved onto an F style. I've been talking with my youngest son about upgrading and he's a bit hesitant because he really likes the Breedlove's tone and playability. My wife started playing about 9 months ago and they have been sharing that mandolin, so I have to do something. My wife likes the Breedlove and has been urging me to get another mandolin ...

    Another thing that also helps is if you play music (which you do). Learn the same songs as them so you can play together. There's nothing like the feeling when you nail a song together. Having set practice times helps them get in a routine, but be flexible. Rather than leaving the instruments in the cases, I keep them on wall hangers so that they are easily accessible.

    Now my older son is teaching me things.
    ... not all those who wander are lost ...

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  5. #4

    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    Kentucky 150 is a great value. But for little fingers something like the Eastman 305 with a smaller neck and a radius fret board might be nice (I though the neck on my Eastman 305 was very comfortable)

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    Registered User Toni Schula's Avatar
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    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    Some weeks ago my kid (9 years) ask to play one of my mandolins. I simply put on just 4 single strings and double ckecked the setup to make the starting phase easier. When it comes to tremolo, we will have to upgrade to double courses, of course.

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    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    Thanks everyone for the useful advice.

    I looked at both the Kentucky 150 and the Eastman 305, and of course I really like the looks of the Eastman probably because its $180-200 more expensive.

    I know the importance of good setup for playability - is there any particular place to buy that is known for their good setup?
    Addicted to 4-string instruments - Ukulele was the gateway drug, followed by bass and now onto the hard stuff - tenor guitars and banjos (plus a little mandolin on the side)

  9. #7
    Registered User Jackgaryk's Avatar
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    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    I bought some cheap mandolins on ebay for my grand kids. I didn't realize the importance of a good setup until I started hanging out at the mandolin café. With a little help and advice from the many forums on setup I have been able to tweak 'em enough to be played. My mandolin came from a local music store setup perfect, and I didn't know it at the time. When time to upgrade the childrens mandolins If I can't find something locally, I will not hesitate to buy from one the café sponsors. Hats off to you for taking time to introduce your children to music.

  10. #8
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    Bought my granddaughter Molly a ukulele-banjo when she was three years old, just to give her the experience of playing an instrument (and because she likes banjo -- who doesn't?). Both her grandfathers and her dad play, though I'm the only mandolinist.

    Whether she actually learns any of these instruments, it gives her a chance to pull out her little banjo when there's music going on in her house. Here's a medley of her greatest hits, The Alphabet Song and Foster's Oh Susannah (you can live through it; only 17 seconds):

    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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  12. #9

    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    mandolin is way easier to handle than a violin...

    definitely go for it.

  13. #10
    Registered User rubydubyr's Avatar
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    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Bought my granddaughter Molly a ukulele-banjo when she was three years old, just to give her the experience of playing an instrument (and because she likes banjo -- who doesn't?). Both her grandfathers and her dad play, though I'm the only mandolinist.

    Whether she actually learns any of these instruments, it gives her a chance to pull out her little banjo when there's music going on in her house. Here's a medley of her greatest hits, The Alphabet Song and Foster's Oh Susannah (you can live through it; only 17 seconds):

    Awwwwww, sooooooooo totally adorable....... Can I have her???????
    If I miss one day’s practice, I notice it. If I miss two days’ practice, the critics notice it. If I miss three days’ practice, the public notices it.
    Franz Liszt, 1894

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    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bauzl View Post
    Some weeks ago my kid (9 years) ask to play one of my mandolins. I simply put on just 4 single strings and double ckecked the setup to make the starting phase easier. When it comes to tremolo, we will have to upgrade to double courses, of course.
    Or I could string a ukulele GDEA. Wouldn't probably have the same tone but the fingering would be right.
    Addicted to 4-string instruments - Ukulele was the gateway drug, followed by bass and now onto the hard stuff - tenor guitars and banjos (plus a little mandolin on the side)

  15. #12
    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    Quote Originally Posted by PTOEguy View Post
    Thanks everyone for the useful advice.

    I looked at both the Kentucky 150 and the Eastman 305, and of course I really like the looks of the Eastman probably because its $180-200 more expensive.

    I know the importance of good setup for playability - is there any particular place to buy that is known for their good setup?
    Don't let the price fool you. The Kentucky KM150, when properly set up, is a great starter instrument. There are two Cafe sponsors who regularly get rave reviews for customer service and excellent set up. The Mandolin Store and Folk Musician. Either one will give you a well-set up mandolin. One thing I would suggest. Mandolin is a very high tension instrument and can be very tough on little fingers. I would suggest having it set up with light guage strings, or even better, flatwound strings. The flat windings are very easy on the fingers and will make the learning process less painful on the fingertips.
    Larry Hunsberger

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    Ibanez PF5
    1993 Oriente HO-20 hybrid double bass
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  16. #13

    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    Or I could string a ukulele GDEA. Wouldn't probably have the same tone but the fingering would be right
    That's what I would do. One Nylgut string is easier to press down than two steel strings. I have a banjolele and a soprano ukulele tuned GDAE and both are fun to play. The Ohana Vita Ukulele even looks a bit like a mando. The only problem is, that the E-string breaks from time to time. But I solved that problem in buying a set of charango strings wich contains three e-strings the lenght of two each.
    Having to press down two steel strings at once could be quite discouraging for the tender fingers of a seven year old.

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    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    Quote Originally Posted by crisscross View Post
    That's what I would do. One Nylgut string is easier to press down than two steel strings. I have a banjolele and a soprano ukulele tuned GDAE and both are fun to play. The Ohana Vita Ukulele even looks a bit like a mando. The only problem is, that the E-string breaks from time to time. But I solved that problem in buying a set of charango strings wich contains three e-strings the lenght of two each.
    Having to press down two steel strings at once could be quite discouraging for the tender fingers of a seven year old.
    I'm a little worried about pushing strings. Although, they all play violin or cello and some ukulele, so they do have some finger toughness.
    Addicted to 4-string instruments - Ukulele was the gateway drug, followed by bass and now onto the hard stuff - tenor guitars and banjos (plus a little mandolin on the side)

  18. #15
    Registered User rubydubyr's Avatar
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    Default Re: A mandolin for kids?

    It only takes about 10 minutes of playing a day for a week to 2 weeks for the fingers to toughen up.
    If I miss one day’s practice, I notice it. If I miss two days’ practice, the critics notice it. If I miss three days’ practice, the public notices it.
    Franz Liszt, 1894

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