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Thread: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

  1. #1

    Default £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    I'd like to start playing the Mandolin. The only issue is, I'm a poor student and can't go above £60

    I intend to set up myself, with the aid of the ebook mentioned on these forums, as I quite like to tinker, and while my experience with musical instruments is basically zero (played piano in my teens), my bro is an experienced guitar player.

    I know this goes against most of the beginner advice here, which is to aim for the £300-ish range for a beginner mandolin, but what advice would you guys have for a totally low end cheap mandolin that I can get my first calluses on?

    From what I've seen, there are:

    • Portuguese style Hora/Ozark/'vintage' A style, oval holes that turn up every so often on ebay, should I go over £40/£50 for those?
    • Stagg M20 for £70 at my local terrible music shop.
    • "Lorenzo mandolin with a slight crack in the headstock" at Hobgoblin (what is a Lorenzo mandolin? How bad is a 'slight crack in the headstock'?) They also have a Romanian flat top, that looks like the ebay ones, but apparently 'plays fine' (how reliable are Hobgoblin's notes on their secondhand instruments?) And a Samick electro-acoustic for £75 (Am I wrong to want an acoustic? Is an electro acoustic worth it? I only want to mess around with it at home)
    • Rogue RM-100A for £40 on musician's friend (on sale). I've seen mention of this here as a terrible but affordable starter for students.
    • Nothing right now on gumtree or craigslist, though I'll keep my eyes open, and unfortunately I don't have any friends who play, though again, I've been asking around.


    Help?

  2. #2

    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    Cash converters somehow manage to get the A5 style solid wood mandolin for around £55. Virtually certain they are the same mandolin as savannah SA-120 and great mandolin for the money. May a little set up needed but sound like all solid wood mandolin. I've had several over the years and believe me, they are the best buy by a mile at this price range.

  3. #3

    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK


  4. #4
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    I'd try to find a used flattop if you don't have much to spend

  5. #5
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    Rob Meldrum used a Rover in that ebook on setup that you mentioned. I'd say buy that, set it up and start learning to play. You can always upgrade if you feel the need. In the unlikely event that you don't like the mandolin you're only out 40 pounds.
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
    www.busmanwhistles.com
    Handcrafted pennywhistles in exotic hardwoods.

  6. #6
    Registered User Kalasinar's Avatar
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    The 'Chord' mandolin listed in the link above is the same model I bought for my best friend when she wanted to learn to play (and it was through setting this up for her that I got the mandolin bug too). I got Rob Meldrum's setup book to follow which was a godsend because this mandolin does need work. I am at work at the moment but can post pictures later when I am home, but I had to replace the tailpiece completely due to the poor design of the stock one. Overall it's a good mandolin for the price, and especially if you're willing to tinker. She's still playing it and it's held up well. The one I got was £40 on eBay, so you can definitely find cheaper than £49.99.
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    I have seen these Ozarks https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Mandolins...lin/B002BJA7TM recommended as beginner mandolins in this newsletter http://www.mandolinscotland.org/home...Newsletter.pdf

    They do come up relatively cheaply on ebay now and again, so you might get one for £60 if you wait long enough.
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  8. #8
    Registered User Kalasinar's Avatar
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    Following up from my previous post, the Chord mandolin I set up had a throwaway tailpiece with bolts for the strings to loop round. The bolts broke off. First one came off which I repaired, but when the second went I realised there's six more still likely to go once I've given it to my friend for Christmas. I wasn't going to risk that so I purchased a new tailpiece from Eagle Music Shop which added about £7 to the overall price.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I recall the bridge was the wrong way around, and both the base and saddle needed material taken off as it was much too high. This was easy to do following Rob Meldrum's setup instructions. The nut was actually fine so I left it as is.

    Despite the tailpiece I was pleased with the end result. Sure it took some time to tinker with, but it sounds pretty good for a cheap mandolin. It's almost two years old now and still plays well. It got my friend playing the instrument she wanted to learn so that's the main thing. And by chance it also hooked me in to playing the mandolin myself!

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The Lorenzo with the cracked headstock appears to be in Canterbury, and it must be a fairly recent addition there as I visit the store often. Can't see the damage in the photo, so its hard to assess how bad the crack is.
    You might search for Tanglewood mandolins - one of which I managed to get much reduced on eBay when I started playing. Sometimes deals pop up. The Ozarks at the very least are well regarded. I'd avoid electro-acoustics in this price range. If nothing else, then I'd put my money on a Rogue. Many people on the Cafe have had them and they seem like good starters once setup. Whatever you get must be setup properly.
    Last edited by Kalasinar; Sep-24-2017 at 12:08pm.
    Weber Aspen #1
    Eastman 504 A-Style Oval Hole
    D.Hynds Pocket Mandolin
    Carlo Cristini Bowlback Mandolin (restored by D.Hynds)
    Yamaha Stage Custom Drum Kit
    Hedwitschak Coreline Classic BodhrŠn

  9. #9
    A-style Adventurer luminara's Avatar
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    Pawn shops are the holy grail of broke ass musicians everywhere :D

  10. #10

    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    Thank you for all the advice. I'll keep looking at secondhand listings, and see if I can find an Ozark/Tanglewood/Chord or similar. Failing that, I'll go for the Rogue.

    I did find a Savannah SA-120 for about £100, which is over my budget, but I'm seduced by the fact it's all solid wood. Is it worth saving up a bit and going for it?

  11. #11
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    No one here will tell you to spend less money ... but you know yourself best - will waiting on an arguably better quality mandolin put getting into the mandolin on hold? sometimes it's better to strike while the interest is there. Certainly if you're willing to do the setup, the rogue is perfectly acceptable for a beginner. heavens, a lot of us have them and are happy with them for what they are. Especially for people just getting into mandolin, the difference in sound between most inexpensive mandolins is pretty much a moot point. the real difference at that level is physical playability.
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    Front Porch & Sweet Tea NursingDaBlues's Avatar
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    Here in the states, I’ve dealt with Hobgoblin Music a couple of times on bowlback mandolin carrying cases. They were very helpful and really a pleasure to deal with.

    I can only assume that the UK Hobgoblin stores have the same service ethic.

    If a Hobgoblin Music store is close by, you might drop in and try out varying mandolins that they have in stock just to see what you might enjoy. While there you can get their suggestions, recommendations, and thoughts. You could also inquire as to whether they have any used mandolins that might suit your purposes. You might not find anything that you wish to purchase, but you will gain a little more knowledge and experience in what might suit your taste and needs.

    I do understand and appreciate having a limited budget. While I echo what others say in getting the best mandolin that you can purchase, I also encourage newcomers to the instrument to try out different brands (if it’s possible) and get one that you find enjoyable –regardless if it’s solid wood or a laminate, regardless if it's new or used, and regardless if it's a "popular" brand or not.

    And I also underscore Randi Gormley's comment that you not wait a long time for a better mandolin. Get one now while your interest is strong.

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    Registered User maudlin mandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    I recently bought a new Irin on ebay for £62. For that price you get an instrument with spruce top, basswood sides and a truss rod. They also include a padded bag. No set up was needed apart from adjusting the position of the bridge.

  15. #14
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    Quote Originally Posted by luminara View Post
    Pawn shops are the holy grail of broke ass musicians everywhere :D
    Pawn shops seem to be doing their homework these days and finding out what instruments are actually worth. Gone are the days of finding a $150 Gibson
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
    www.busmanwhistles.com
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    Registered User Darren Bailey's Avatar
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    I picked up a km 150 for a little more than that on ebay. Worth waiting a few more months and picking up something worth keeping when your next student loan payment comes through.

  17. #16

    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    It's really difficult to decide between waiting for a deal, or buying something now while my interest is peaked.

    Knowing my habits, I think I'd better strike while the iron's hot.

    Unfortunately my loan will be spent on rent, food and fees! But I might be able to wrangle some early birthday/Christmas presents as contributions to the Savannah

  18. #17
    Registered User Kalasinar's Avatar
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    I stumbled upon this on eBay:

    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/263233195837

    I don't know why the seller is selling so cheap...I'm a little suspicious, but the description seems to point towards it being B-stock (and the seller has sold a few B-stock of these it seems). I don't know. Might be worth some enquiries. I don't know much about this mandolin, I just hear the Ozarks can be good beginner mandolins once setup. I'd get as much info as possible on this before making any decision. I saw it by chance and thought of this thread. So, just passing on the info...

  19. #18
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: £60 budget starter Mandolin in the UK

    Quote Originally Posted by Rad View Post
    I'd like to start playing the Mandolin. The only issue is, I'm a poor student and can't go above £60
    ...
    I know this goes against most of the beginner advice here, which is to aim for the £300-ish range for a beginner mandolin
    ...
    Help?
    I'm on the wrong side of the pond so I can't address your local availability issues. But I would not discourage you from learning mandolin, including learning how to set up a mandolin, on a truly inexpensive instrument. Plywood mandolins may not make the best tone, but they will probably last nearly forever through horrible weather and rough dirty conditions.

    In my experience -- having fairly recently re-started my mandolin adventure starting out with a major name brand solid F-style mandolin that would cost a lot of money to replace -- having an inexpensive beach/camping/travel "backup" mandolin that I don't mind too much if it gets wet or scratched or dirty or even stolen is wonderful and is almost a requirement.

    Your first mandolin, being just such an inexpensive instrument, can continue to serve you in that way as you graduate to better and better "main player" mandolins.

    As others have suggested, being prepared to learn and do a complete setup on your first instrument -- or to pay someone to do it professionally -- is going to be a requirement given the defined price range. Learning to do this yourself will always help you, even once you're into a grade of instrument that you would only entrust to a professional to setup.

    So yes, I'd say "go for it" with whatever money you can afford. Set it up, make it a joy to play. Enjoy it thoroughly and then hang on to it as a backup after you move to better mandolins.
    -- Don

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    [About how I tune my mandolins]

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