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Thread: Arizona visit

  1. #1
    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Arizona visit

    I'm driving down to the mandolin store in Surprise AZ next week. I'm nervous about this because I only started playing 2-1/2 months ago. My online purchase of the Seagull S8 was a little disappointing.
    Now I have the money and time to look at and play a number of instruments at the store. I'm afraid I'll make another mistake because I don't have enough experience to pick out differences. My main concern is playability, but that might come down to just my poor technique. I don't even know enough songs to Fully test the instrument.
    I don't want to waste money on a so-so import but I don't want to spend a fortune either

    I'm hoping you'll understand my dilemma. Any suggestions?

    Don
    Peter Kaufman violin
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Ok, I do have a few suggestions for you. First, try to relax and have some fun with this! You are putting yourself in good hands with The Mandolin Store. They will take good care of you, believe me. Playability largely comes down to proper set up, and everything they provide for you to play will be properly set up. Besides set up, another factor in playability is in the specs. I think the Seagull has a flat board with large frets, right? You can try instruments with radius boards and more traditional smaller frets. Flat of radius? Wide nut or normal? Large frets or small? Chunky neck or slim? V neck or rounded profile? These are all factors in playability.

    You also will want to focus on tone. You have to love the tone. That's number one to me. Some mandolins are bright, others darker, some midrangy, some bassy, some trebly, some balanced across the strings, others not so much. Other factors even more complex than what I've listed, but you get the idea. If you don't love the way your instrument sounds, you will never be happy with it. Your test songs don't have to be complicated at all. A good plan is to play a 2 octave G major scale, starting on the bottom course and working your way to the top, so you can judge the tone of each course. They will be different, it's almost like having 4 different instruments, but the more similar in tone they are, the more tonally balanced the instrument is. And perhaps a simple song or two that you like and feel comfortable with. Again, using all four strings is an asset. If you can shift your hand to the higher positions, try a few notes up there. Doesn't have to be a song, just a few notes. Try comparing open strings with 12th fret, see how the octave intonation seems to you.

    What should you try? Depends on how much you're willing to spend. Do try some high end stuff though, they won't care, just to see what it's like. In the lower price points they will have Kentucky and Eastman, both China imports, but of good quality. They sound and play quite differently. The Eastmans are smaller shop made, with lots of handwork. They have radius fret boards and tiny frets. Kentuckys generally have radius boards too, but wider frets and chunkier necks. Try an example of both to find out which feels better.

    I wouldn't feel overly pressured to buy something right then and there. There's nothing wrong with kicking some tires and taking the time to digest what you've learned. You can always call later and have them ship one of the instruments you liked. On the other hand, if you find something that speaks to you, go ahead and pull the trigger. In either case, I'm a big believer in "dancing with the one what brung ya". If they help you as much as I suspect they will, it would be appropriate to give them the business.

    Keep in mind that very few of us stick with one mandolin forever. I, like many others here, have bought and sold a good number of mandolins to find one that makes us happy. If you buy a quality instrument, it will be easier to sell down the line.

    Good luck, and be sure to report back on your experience!
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Arizona visit

    How much $ ya got ? Play the most expensive one you can afford & see what you think. I had only been playing less than year when I upgraded from a Loar 600 to a Weber Bitteroot after playing a Weber at a music store I knew immediately I was going to sell the Loar.
    I ended up buying a Weber from the Mandolin Store, great store by the way ! Don't worry about how long you've been playing after I bought the Weber I started playing more & it was money well spent. I had thoughts like why would a beginner need such a fine instrument and my ability doesn't deserve such a nice mando. blah blah blah, I'm glad I went with my heart & not my head. Have fun take your time & listen to your heart.
    Lou

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  6. #4
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Another thing that you might consider is to ask one of the employees to play some instruments for you, after you've played them. That might give you an indication of what each instrument can sound like, in the hands of an experienced player. (And what it might sound like after you've played for a while) I'd play whatever they have in your price range, and some above it. Pick 2 or 3 that sound and feel good to you and then ask for a demo on them. Have fun!

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  8. #5
    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Yes, thanks guys. A fortune for me would be above 3k. That's a good idea to have them play too!
    It's a long drive down just to try them out. I'd like to leave the store with one.
    Peter Kaufman violin
    Old Wave two point

  9. #6
    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    If you're brand new and still a beginner, I love the advice of have a staff member play a few different ones at you ACROSS your price range. Then you play them too. Just strum a few chords and play what you can. Don't feel bad about taking your time and trying whatever you like even a few well out of your budget as this shows you what the range of sounds you can get are across the spectrum. Side note: I had a chance to play a Loar signed mandolin once, I still sounded like me on it. It didn't sound substantially better when I played it than my other mandolins. Some of that tone you just have to know how to find. I'm still a beginner player and I'm OK with that.

    The Mandolin Store does great set ups so playability shouldn't be an issue. In fact, your bonus of playing the instruments yourself is you could have them tweak the one you like best for you to make it very comfortable just for you. Also, if nothing really clicks, don't buy. I kinda doubt that will be the case, however.

    I'll add, you needn't spend ALL your money now. If you find an Eastman mandolin plays and sounds good to your ears, there's no need to spend a couple grand on something. Most likely, even if you spent the couple grand, this won't be your last mandolin.

    Enjoy your visit.
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  11. #7
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Hmm. If you are willing to go up to 3 grand that changes things quite a bit. I assumed if you were moving up from a Seagull, Kentucky or Eastman would be your next step. But that 3000 upper limit puts you in a real sweet spot. Definitely try the Weber Gallatins they have in stock, the Pava Satin and Pava Player, all of the various Collings MT variations (they have a number in stock, including a wide nut), and the Northfield (made in China but in different class altogether from the others). I mentioned the wide nut because you are a guitar player. And guitar players seem to like the wide nut option. Do try it and see. Oh, and you said you were afraid of making a mistake? Of those brands I named, no bad choices. You just can't go wrong. But if eventual resale is a factor, Collings MTs always sell very quickly when they come up used on our Classifieds. Northfields too. Pavas are a slower used sale, because they don't have as much name recognition (until people realize they are made in the Ellis shop). And Webers seem to be getting beat up in the used market right now. A shame, as I am a big Weber fan. Some will tell you not to worry about resale, that shouldn't be a factor. But I say, if you buy quality, resale should take care of itself.

    In our world, rightly or wrongly, the Collings MT is widely viewed as the no-brainer, go-to, default, can't-go-wrong choice in that price range. That's where people tend to go when they want to minimize their risk. Great mandolin, great shop with great cred. But you should definitely judge mandolins on an individual basis. They all sound different, even different examples from the same maker.

    I envy you! You are in for a great day.
    Don

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  12. #8
    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    You may have talked about it elsewhere, but what exactly has disappointed you about your Seagull S8? If playability is an issue, call and ask the Mandolin Store if you can bring it with you and have them do a setup on it while you shop for other instruments.
    Keep that skillet good and greasy all the time!

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  14. #9
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Wow. If you can spend up to 3k, the world is your oyster!
    I would definitely look at the 2 used Flatiron A-5 that they have. Both likely built by Bruce Weber.
    $1750 https://themandolinstore.com/product...mandolin-nice/
    $2000 https://themandolinstore.com/product...5-artist-sold/

    This Pava Player for $2350
    https://themandolinstore.com/product...tortoise-used/

    These 2 Collings MT would be on my list to check out:
    https://themandolinstore.com/product...eck-gloss-top/
    https://themandolinstore.com/product...olin-wide-nut/

    You are going to get better mandolin for your money if you stick with an A style, and go for a used one, but you really have to play and hear them to see what speaks to you.

    You also certainly don't have to spend up to $3000 to get a great sounding and easy playing mandolin.
    I'd check out this Kentucky KM956 for $1100
    https://themandolinstore.com/product...tyle-mandolin/

    I'm also still a big fan of Eastman MD-505 (or MD-515 if you feel you need a scroll F style - which does not improve the sound, but does have a coolness factor!)
    At $700, I think the Eastman MD-505 is the best value mandolin below $1000
    https://themandolinstore.com/product...style-f-holes/

    Definitely check out the Northfield F5S series. That is a lot of mandolin for $3000, but you can also get a great sounding A style for less.
    https://themandolinstore.com/product...tyle-mandolin/

    Certainly check out the Weber mandolins, they just aren't my cup of tea. The necks all seem to deep and fat for me, but worth playing to see if they feel & sound good to you.

    Sounds like you're in for a real treat!

    PS- If you buy in person, you're going to be hit with an 8.5% sales tax, so keep that in mind. Might be worth it to decide on what you want, put a down payment on it, and pay the rest by phone when you get home and have it shipped to you. (And then, of course, pay the tax on your own at tax time)

    PPS- Demo some picks while you're there. You don't need to spend big bucks on a BlueChip or anything, but check out the Dunlop Primetones and others in that price range - Wegen etc.
    Last edited by colorado_al; Jul-27-2017 at 10:59am.

  15. #10
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    If you have the opportunity, try out the most expensive instrument in the shop and then the next most expensive. Then move down a bit. when you obviously hit a level where you can tell the difference between a high-price and a lower-price instrument, then look at that price range. I've found that my ability to judge a good instrument/tone keeps me from buying junk but also keeps my wallet safe from an instrument with attributes I can't fully appreciate.

    Or to put it another way, I took a course in wine appreciation once upon a time and found that anything that cost more than $18 a bottle (in 1983) was wasted on me -- I couldn't distinguish why it was better than another, more expensive bottle -- so I'm perfectly content drinking from an $18 bottle of wine. I was perfectly happy with my sub-$500 mandolins (which include a few that appear to be among the best of their ilk, at least to my hands and ears) until I found one that I felt actually was a massive improvement and worth the money to jump up in quality.

    As has been pointed out, this probably isn't going to be your only mandolin. As your skills increase and you begin/continue playing with others, your taste will change as will your ability to discern different things in your instrument. So buy what you like right now. You can buy another later with different attributes, fates willing.
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  17. #11
    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    Hmm. If you are willing to go up to 3 grand that changes things quite a bit. I assumed if you were moving up from a Seagull, Kentucky or Eastman would be your next step. But that 3000 upper limit puts you in a real sweet spot. Definitely try the Weber Gallatins they have in stock, the Pava Satin and Pava Player, all of the various Collings MT variations (they have a number in stock, including a wide nut), and the Northfield (made in China but in different class altogether from the others). I mentioned the wide nut because you are a guitar player. And guitar players seem to like the wide nut option. Do try it and see. Oh, and you said you were afraid of making a mistake? Of those brands I named, no bad choices. You just can't go wrong. But if eventual resale is a factor, Collings MTs always sell very quickly when they come up used on our Classifieds. Northfields too. Pavas are a slower used sale, because they don't have as much name recognition (until people realize they are made in the Ellis shop). And Webers seem to be getting beat up in the used market right now. A shame, as I am a big Weber fan. Some will tell you not to worry about resale, that shouldn't be a factor. But I say, if you buy quality, resale should take care of itself.

    In our world, rightly or wrongly, the Collings MT is widely viewed as the no-brainer, go-to, default, can't-go-wrong choice in that price range. That's where people tend to go when they want to minimize their risk. Great mandolin, great shop with great cred. But you should definitely judge mandolins on an individual basis. They all sound different, even different examples from the same maker.

    I envy you! You are in for a great day.
    Yes i was looking hard at that MT. I'm hoping it's there when I am.
    Thanks
    Peter Kaufman violin
    Old Wave two point

  18. #12
    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Yes, I was worried about the tax issue.
    If the price of what I like starts to approach 2500, I'll start sweating a little but if it talks to me I'll get it.

  19. #13

    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Every decent stringed instrument store, which applies to The Mandolin Store, is extremely supportive of beginners because they rely on growth to maintain a viable business. It is very good business to treat beginners very well. They will not let you evaluate your purchase without playing instruments for you.

    When I went there I explained I was only there for an education. I had bought an Eastman from them which I had since sold.Thier attitude? I was already a valued customer. I worked my way up the Kentucky and Eastman ladder, then moved on to some Northfield,Weber, and Gibson mandolins.

    I found out what I suspected and that is that my ears become happy at the Northfield and above level.

    Once again, make sure you know someone will be there as they are not a typical retail store. Rest assured, you are buying in the most optimal way.
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  21. #14
    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin View Post
    You may have talked about it elsewhere, but what exactly has disappointed you about your Seagull S8? If playability is an issue, call and ask the Mandolin Store if you can bring it with you and have them do a setup on it while you shop for other instruments.
    For me, I found it difficult to hit the frets just right without Reallllly pressing down hard. Also the G string sucks. The nut is already filed down almost to the fretboard and the bridge is glued down with a vary low height, almost no wiggle room. I called them and ask if I could trade it and they said that the quality was not up to their standards. That's all I know from my limited experience
    Peter Kaufman violin
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  22. #15
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Your observations about the Seagull are spot on. I can't for the life of me figure out what they were thinking when they decided to glue the bridge down. Other things about the design features bother me a lot. The design reminds me somewhat of the Martin Backpacker and the Weber Sweet Pea, both no longer made, which were marketed as travel mandolins. If you no longer want it, why not try selling it on our classifieds? Someone may want it as a travel mando.
    Don

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  23. #16
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    You're in for an awesome day! I recently traded an OM for a Collings MT, and am very impressed with the quality, workmanship, and playability. Tone is awesome, but solidly in the "modern" spectrum. I think I prefer the tone of my Silverangel, but that may change by tomorrow. I wouldn't hesitate to get an MT if I were in your position, but it's great that you have other options to try. Never know which one will fit you best until you feel and hear them. Agree, you don't need to spend a ton to significantly upgrade from the S8...

    Have fun with it!!
    Chuck

  24. #17
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    If you have a couple days, see if they will let you take a couple with you, and spend the evening comparing and contrasting. This also lets you hear them in a different acoustic than the shop.

    Don't forget to look at instruments below your price range! Tone and price don't always go hand-in-hand, and you could end up loving a piece that's a little less than you thought you would need to spend.

    Try to get clear with yourself about biases and prejudices before you step foot in the joint. If you have your heart set on an F-style, cop to that. If looks matter, and you hate a certain color or type of finish, how deep does that run? You want, three years from now, to still be happy every time you unlatch the case. Preferences are one thing---we all have them---just have an idea of how strong it is.

    Speaking of cases, leave room in the budget for a decent one. Carrying a $2K mandolin to the car in a paper bag---no bueno!

    Do play up the neck on all four strings. If they all sound good at the octave (including the notes just above and below), that's a check in the plus column.

    Have huge fun!

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  26. #18

    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Quote Originally Posted by Cochiti Don View Post
    For me, I found it difficult to hit the frets just right without Reallllly pressing down hard. Also the G string sucks. The nut is already filed down almost to the fretboard and the bridge is glued down with a vary low height, almost no wiggle room. I called them and ask if I could trade it and they said that the quality was not up to their standards. That's all I know from my limited experience
    This is quite different from my Seagull experience. Was it used? Because it sounds like someone tried to hotrod it without good results. My off-the-rack Seagull is very playable and the bridge is quite high, saddle is very high in fact in proportion to the bridge height. My speculation about the unusual design options, including the glued-on bridge, is that it is delivered to dealers with a factory setup that is intended to be permanent for most owners. Non-adjustable height, compensated, fixed bridge is fine as long as it was done right the first time. Only the truss rod is adjustable.
    Having said that much in its defence, it wouldn't be my primary instrument, but makes a nice backup for all kinds of situations. That tiny body will never produce much bass sound, but it is definitely a few cuts above what you expect from a "travel mando".
    Have fun chasing your dream instrument.

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  28. #19
    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Cameron View Post
    This is quite different from my Seagull experience. Was it used? Because it sounds like someone tried to hotrod it without good results. My off-the-rack Seagull is very playable and the bridge is quite high, saddle is very high in fact in proportion to the bridge height. My speculation about the unusual design options, including the glued-on bridge, is that it is delivered to dealers with a factory setup that is intended to be permanent for most owners. Non-adjustable height, compensated, fixed bridge is fine as long as it was done right the first time. Only the truss rod is adjustable.
    Having said that much in its defence, it wouldn't be my primary instrument, but makes a nice backup for all kinds of situations. That tiny body will never produce much bass sound, but it is definitely a few cuts above what you expect from a "travel mando".
    Have fun chasing your dream instrument.
    Some more experienced players have no problem with it. It just doesn't suit me right now. Thanks
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  29. #20
    Registered User Al Trujillo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Have fun!! The Mandolin Store has a great reputation here on MC and I'm sure they'll take good care of you. Can hardly wait to hear your report on the visit there.

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  31. #21
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    I visited the MS last August when visiting my brother in law who lives 90 minutes away from the store. Easy to find, wonderful place. Not much to it. Two guys with nothing better to do than let you try out 20 mandolins and they were patient and accommodating. Tuned up whatever instrument you were curious about. Note that their "open to the public" hours are limited. Call ahead.
    Tip. I was shakey from driving an hour and a half on AZ freeways. I couldn't play worth a darn for 15 minutes until my hands calmed down. Ended up buying from them online 6 months later based on my shop experience. Consider this an endorsement from a satisfied customer.
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  33. #22
    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Thanks 5150
    Same situation here. I'm staying with a friend in Cornville. The store knows I'm coming early Friday. If I leave early enough I hope to avoid the traffic madness. Or most of it
    Peter Kaufman violin
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  34. #23

    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Quote Originally Posted by Cochiti Don View Post
    For me, I found it difficult to hit the frets just right without Reallllly pressing down hard. Also the G string sucks. The nut is already filed down almost to the fretboard and the bridge is glued down with a vary low height, almost no wiggle room. I called them and ask if I could trade it and they said that the quality was not up to their standards. That's all I know from my limited experience
    Someone is looking for one,https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/113348#113348

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  36. #24
    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    The mandolin store was a good experience for me. Long drive from Cochiti Lake but I spent two nights with a close friend about 2 hours away. I first went through a couple of higher end Eastmans and other pac rims but after playing the American made ones, I couldn't go back to the imported. I settled on a Collings MTO. (Wide neck) I fell for the oval sound over just a bluegrass sound. It just felt right. Brian was very nice and despite being very busy with phone calls, took the time to explain things to me and play some licks on two mandos I had in mind. He also agreed with me on most issues despite me being a beginner. (Wise man)
    A good trip all around. Thanks Brian!
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  38. #25
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arizona visit

    Well done! I have an MTO and absolutely love it!, welcome to the club!
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