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Thread: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

  1. #26
    Peace. Love. Mandolin. Gelsenbury's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    I tend to agree with the idea that the most important thing about a first mandolin is to buy it!

    There exists the argument that a cheap instrument makes you less likely to persist in learning to play because it's frustrating. That hasn't been my experience. My cheap mandolins have been a brilliant risk-free way to learn, and I've been playing for 9 years now. My first mandolin was a £66 Stagg, which I now keep at my mum's house for when I visit. I'll always be grateful to it for letting me learn where the notes are, how hammer-ons work, how chords are fingered, what happens when you lower the action...

    Coming from guitar, your taste may be more discerning. But it also means that a cheap mandolin that doesn't play well would make you want to buy a different model rather than pack in altogether. Playing at the shop before you buy is a good principle, but can create unwelcome pressures to buy something just because it's available. And in the good-value second hand market, playing before buying is often not possible. There's always a risk, and buying cheap reduces it. Once you have an instrument and started learning, you still have plenty of time to do the research about upgrades.

    The Kentucky models have a good reputation around here, as do the Eastmans. I've played a Gretsch New Yorker at the shop and liked it. There's never any guarantee about the best mandolin for you, and I suspect that the ones you're considering will give you roughly equally good starting points for your journey.

    I'd like to make clear as a caveat that I'm a mediocre player. The other respondents on this thread are very likely to know more about mandolins than I do. But I do think that it's possible to over-think the first mandolin purchase, and the most important thing to my mind is to start playing.

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  3. #27
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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Cameron View Post
    Hi Zak. Looking at your music choices and disinterest in volume, you are a pure Celtic music dude. (Canadien comme moi?) Thus I would say, not only are you a candidate for an oval soundhole, (F-holes tend to be louder), there is no reason not to consider any flattops that come within your reach. You mentioned the Seagull S8, that is actually well worth a look. As a player of several decades, I really enjoy mine and the thing I like least about it is what you want: lower volume! Another advantage is that it comes set up right out of the box, you will not be tempted to start customizing a relatively low-value instrument as so many do with the Eastman and Kentucky starters. (The reason for that is the hardware is both unique and good qualityóthe bridge in particular is one-of-a-kind and most unusually is glued on.)

    Welcome to the 8-string world!
    Thanks for the warm welcome Bill!

    I'm definitely strongly pulled to the Celtic/Euro Folk sound!

    Oval-soundhole really seems to be where I'm leaning heaviest. The S8 looks great and is definitely within budget, even new with some extras. I've been trying to read as many reviews as I can, and something that pops up for them occasionally is that the factory setup sometimes needs to be adjusted a little bit. With the bridge being glued, I would be a little nervous about trying to make sure that I received a "good" copy, with no chance of my damaging the finish. Everything else about it seems bang on what I'm looking for!

    I'm also looking at Montana's Ranger, the Breedlove Crossover, and still searching around for the elusive Travolin.

    Also keeping in mind the Eastman MD304 and the Kentucky 272.

    All of these seem like quality instruments to learn on, though mileage and resalability might vary. In either case I'm not especially concerned- I'm giving myself two weeks to see if the mando I'm looking for finds its way into my life. If it fails to appear, there are plenty of other options within my price range that I now have to consider, thanks to you kind folks!

    Sorry for the location confusion, while I do travel to Ontario every year for the Ice Wine Festival in St. Catharines and thoroughly enjoy my time there, I'm a native of Pittsburgh, PA! I've updated my profile accordingly

  4. #28
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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Cameron View Post
    Looking at your music choices and disinterest in volume, you are a pure Celtic music dude. (Canadien comme moi?) Thus I would say, not only are you a candidate for an oval soundhole, (F-holes tend to be louder), there is no reason not to consider any flattops that come within your reach.
    I think flattops make great starter instruments. Because of the fewer man hours involved in their construction, it is possible to get a mandolin made entirely of solid woods by an individual builder or small shop here in the U.S. for the same price as an import. And even if you later add an archtop, you wonít need to sell or trade your starter; instead, it can slide comfortably into other roles like backup, travel instrument, or alternate voice. Some options include:

    Flatiron: https://reverb.com/item/25240141-flatiron-1n

    (there is a cheaper one on Reverb that is closer to your price range but describes high action that makes me a little leery about recommending it)

    Mid-Missouri / Big Muddy: https://reverb.com/item/24491299-big...-spruce-walnut

    Red Valley: https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/141307#141307

    Sawchyn: https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/141308#141308

    If it were me, Iíd ask the last seller if heíd be willing to ship the Beavertail. Heck, I have a Poe flattop, and Iím still tempted by that instrument.
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  6. #29

    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Another place to try checking is Facebook Marketplace. I found a good deal on an Eastman MD305 on there.

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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Quote Originally Posted by zakry3323 View Post
    Gretsch G9311 New Yorker Supreme (Doesn't seem to get wonderful reviews, but that seems mostly due to a more quiet output and poor initial setup - hopefully someone can tell me what they think of theirs).

    As well as the Breedlove Crossover, the Seagull S8, and this curious Travolin by Silverleaf (though I'm having difficulty finding one for sale).
    I have a Gretsch New Yorker Supreme all mahogany. I like it for what I play (mostly some ragtime and some old-time solo with occasional guitar accompaniment). You are right, it is quieter than the carved spruce top models (helpful to me since I live in an apartment) with a more "woody" sound, but it is beautiful to look at, easy to play (when set-up correctly) and has good tone that fits its name as a "roots" instrument, reminiscent of the Stellas, Kays and Harmonys of the 30s, 40s and 50s.

    I would describe that tone as more of a sitting-on-the-back-porch picking sound than a loud driving Bluegrass sound. I don't think it really has the punch of a Bluegrass instrument, or the sweetness of a classical style (to my ears anyway). But for what it is, I like it a lot. If I were wanting to play with a group and have more variety, volume and drive, I'd pick one of the Kentucky models in the New Yorker's price range.

    Still, the Gretsch is what it claims to be -- a solid, well made modern incarnation of the old time style inexpensive American made mandolins of an earlier era. Some will like it, others won't. Like most things, it depends on what kind of sound and music you want.

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  10. #31
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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    I think flattops make great starter instruments. Because of the fewer man hours involved in their construction, it is possible to get a mandolin made entirely of solid woods by an individual builder or small shop here in the U.S. for the same price as an import. And even if you later add an archtop, you won’t need to sell or trade your starter; instead, it can slide comfortably into other roles like backup, travel instrument, or alternate voice. Some options include:

    Flatiron: https://reverb.com/item/25240141-flatiron-1n

    (there is a cheaper one on Reverb that is closer to your price range but describes high action that makes me a little leery about recommending it)

    Mid-Missouri / Big Muddy: https://reverb.com/item/24491299-big...-spruce-walnut

    Red Valley: https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/141307#141307

    Sawchyn: https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/141308#141308

    If it were me, I’d ask the last seller if he’d be willing to ship the Beavertail. Heck, I have a Poe flattop, and I’m still tempted by that instrument.
    Thanks so much for confirming that flat tops will very likely fit my style and price range! The search continues to expand!

    Unfortunately I must have clicked too late. Unless I'm doing something wrong computer-wise, it looks like the last two ads for the Red Valley and Sawchyn have been removed or sold. After reading about the two makers, I'm rather disappointed that I didn't get to make an offer. Ah well, that's the way it goes!

  11. #32
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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Quote Originally Posted by Perpetual Student View Post
    Another place to try checking is Facebook Marketplace. I found a good deal on an Eastman MD305 on there.
    Thanks for the heads up! I'm not the most computer-current guy in the world and I never thought to give the Facebook Marketplace a try. I will surely do so!

  12. #33
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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Summers View Post
    I have a Gretsch New Yorker Supreme all mahogany. I like it for what I play (mostly some ragtime and some old-time solo with occasional guitar accompaniment). You are right, it is quieter than the carved spruce top models (helpful to me since I live in an apartment) with a more "woody" sound, but it is beautiful to look at, easy to play (when set-up correctly) and has good tone that fits its name as a "roots" instrument, reminiscent of the Stellas, Kays and Harmonys of the 30s, 40s and 50s.

    I would describe that tone as more of a sitting-on-the-back-porch picking sound than a loud driving Bluegrass sound. I don't think it really has the punch of a Bluegrass instrument, or the sweetness of a classical style (to my ears anyway). But for what it is, I like it a lot. If I were wanting to play with a group and have more variety, volume and drive, I'd pick one of the Kentucky models in the New Yorker's price range.

    Still, the Gretsch is what it claims to be -- a solid, well made modern incarnation of the old time style inexpensive American made mandolins of an earlier era. Some will like it, others won't. Like most things, it depends on what kind of sound and music you want.
    This is great to hear! A New Yorker seems to dial into everything that I want out of a starter mando. I'd prefer an oval soundhole, but even the Park Avenue model seems to be a real bargain!

    Quiet, woody, and back-porch life, that's me to a T! Regardless of country of origin, I've had some good luck with Gretsch guitars in the past. I had a beautiful Electromatic with a Bigsby, and it was an absolute joy to play. I made a little beer money when I traded it locally for a Hagstrom archtop, and though pretty similar, it just wasn't the same.

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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Thanks for all of your help folks! My ears have been smoking as my brain works overtime, but I've finally made a decision and gave the Mandolin Store a call.

    Shipping out tomorrow will be my new Eastman 304 with (what I've been told) a very nice gigbag!

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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Congrats! You are going to love it!

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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Quote Originally Posted by zakry3323 View Post
    Thanks for all of your help folks! My ears have been smoking as my brain works overtime, but I've finally made a decision and gave the Mandolin Store a call.

    Shipping out tomorrow will be my new Eastman 304 with (what I've been told) a very nice gigbag!
    And the Mandolin Store people are (IMHO) a delight to deal with! Congratulations!

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  19. #37

    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Yep. First rate folks. When I happened to be in town, I called TMS and asked if I could come by. Told them I wasn't really looking to buy, just wanted an education, and didn't want them to bother much. Well they treated me like I had five grand in my pocket, and I found out what I needed to, which was my baseline budget. Turned out I learned I'd need three thousand minimum. They said I'd already bought a mandolin (505) so I was a valued customer.
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  21. #38

    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Thatís great! When it was time for me to decide on a first mandolin I found the Eastman md305 and instantly fell in love. Iíve modified it quite a lot since I first got it, some of which is a big no-no for many; sanded down the finish of the neck, sanded down the edges on the saddle, added an arm rest, weathered the metal details a bit, made myself a wooden plate which I can rest my wrist on instead of resting on the strings etc. Itís improved both the playability and my will to play it even more. I also covered the headstock logo. I personally canít stand logos on stuff, but itís only hidden under some tape and string. All those things do decrease resale value, but I plan on playing it until either I or it breaks.

    Hope youíll like the mandolin!

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  23. #39
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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    I think flattops make great starter instruments. Because of the fewer man hours involved in their construction, it is possible to get a mandolin made entirely of solid woods by an individual builder or small shop here in the U.S. for the same price as an import. And even if you later add an archtop, you won’t need to sell or trade your starter; instead, it can slide comfortably into other roles like backup, travel instrument, or alternate voice.
    I know the original poster has chosen and I wish him a ton of fun.

    For everyone else reading this thread, I really think one overlooks flat tops at their peril. Especially when on a limited budget. At the economy-ish end of things, for around the same price a flat top is very likely to be of a better quality, better woods, better construction. And while I agree a flatty makes a great beginner instrument - (primarily because they are available at reasonable prices), I don't think it has done any good to pigeon hole flat tops as beginner instruments. They make excellent forever instruments. Great sound, great intonation, great playability, great fun.

    Perhaps not as "cool" looking as an arch top F style, but much less performance anxiety. If you get to the point where you can tear up the pea patch on a mandolin, taking out a flatty is a whole lot of fun. I have been playing mandolin for longer than I have been gainfully employed, and so have, through brute force mostly, learned my way around the thing. Mandolin players at a bluegrass jam can often be like two sailboats on a small lake. Its game on. And pulling out a flatty nobody expects me to be able to find which end gets hot first, much less play a tune, so anything I can do is surprising. Fun to be under-estimated and then see faces change.

    And at an old time jam, or a cowboy and folk song jam, folks are maybe a little less anxious when I show up with a flatty. "At least he's not going to chop."

    Zakry you are gonna have the time of your life I am sure, and I don't want to detract from your decision. Getting the dern thing is the first step, and the perfect choice is the enemy of a good choice. Ya done well.

    I am just providing some things to think about.
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  25. #40
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    And while I agree a flatty makes a great beginner instrument - (primarily because they are available at reasonable prices), I don't think it has done any good to pigeon hole flat tops as beginner instruments. They make excellent forever instruments. Great sound, great intonation, great playability, great fun.
    Just so you and I are clear, Jeff, as two of their most vocal proponents, flattops *make* great beginner instruments; that doesnít mean they *are* beginner instruments.

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  27. #41

    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    One of the nicest mandolins I've ever played was a Flatiron 1N. It was just a sweet sounding mandolin, and would serve any beginner well. Like anything there will be flat tops that are uninspiring. The OP has started well. Good luck to him.
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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Quote Originally Posted by zakry3323 View Post
    Thanks for all of your help folks! My ears have been smoking as my brain works overtime, but I've finally made a decision and gave the Mandolin Store a call.

    Shipping out tomorrow will be my new Eastman 304 with (what I've been told) a very nice gigbag!
    I can't speak for the mandolin, but I did buy one of the Eastman gig bags from the Mandolin Store when they were on sale a few weeks ago. As gig bags go, I like it a lot!

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  31. #43
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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    I'll keep yinz updated when it arrives! Perhaps there was a miscommunication with my email address over the phone, I was told I'd be sent shipping info when it shipped out, but no dice so far. I'll give em a call back tomorrow if I don't see anything. I'm not concerned or anything, I'd imagine it takes a minute to set em up before sending out, it's just that I was told that it would ship last Friday. I'm patient, just excited

    In the meantime, I picked up a couple string sets (phosphor bronze flat-wound and some Elixers, to see what I'll like best) from Amazon (It's Prime Day) along with some new strings for my guitars. I also grabbed some inexpensive tortoise shell picks - I have no idea what I'll end up liking, so I may as well start trying different types. I'm not a picker on guitar, so using any kind of pick will take some getting used to. I'm sure I'll want a strap and probably an arm rest, but I'll wait for the mando to show up first to see how to best compliment it.

    I did look long and hard at some Flat Irons. The word that comes to mind just from checking out online pics is "Durable". If I end up really getting into this and travelling around with a mando, I'll certainly give them a second consideration! Thanks again folks, for the tips, shared experiences, and advice! (Hopefully) some 304 pics soon to come!
    Last edited by zakry3323; Jul-15-2019 at 4:31pm.

  32. #44

    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    I can back up the Kentucky recommendation. My instrument was higher than your price bracket, but still not super high end (KM-756s) but definitely is a great, well-made instrument, that is easily just as good as mandolins I've played in higher brackets. The great setup and Cumberland Acoustic bridge upgrade helps too of course! But anyway, I think you can't go wrong with a good well set-up Kentucky. Many people are also happy with Eastmans, and the 500 model range can be found in your price range used. I also owned an Eastman A and was happy with it as well.

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  34. #45
    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    I would recommend signing up for the Traveling Pick Sampler. It's a couple of big bags of different picks that are making their way around the Cafe community. You'll get a chance to try out a bunch different designs and see just how much difference a pick will make in your mando's tone.

    Sign up here (just read the first post, then go to the last page and add your name):
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...traveling+pick

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  36. #46
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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Winn View Post
    I would recommend signing up for the Traveling Pick Sampler. It's a couple of big bags of different picks that are making their way around the Cafe community. You'll get a chance to try out a bunch different designs and see just how much difference a pick will make in your mando's tone.

    Sign up here (just read the first post, then go to the last page and add your name):
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...traveling+pick
    What a fantastic idea! I put my name in the hat. Thanks so much for the suggestion!!

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    Default Re: Newbie here, suffering from analysis paralysis

    It arrived yesterday! Definitely must have been an issue with my email address, I didn't get any shipping updates but it showed up right on time, very nicely set up, very excited! I'll post a first-impressions update after work today, and will try to figure out how to include a few pictures!

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