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Thread: Your First Upgrade

  1. #26
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    I played a little Ibanez that belongs to a friend for a few weeks before I bought a Rover RM-25 off Craigslist for $50. ... I spent some time and a little money doing the Meldrum ebook self-set up, and played that for several months before I could see and hear it's shortcomings. I put enough money aside to buy an Eastman 305. I LOVED that instrument and played it for probably 2-3 years before I started pining for something more. ... the ever desired UPGRADE... I had been building a MAS Fund and had enough to custom order a Silverangel Econo model... cost-wise, it went like: Free, $50, $500, $1500

    It's been a fun ride, and I see myself in the market for a 'Dola here in the next year!
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  2. #27
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    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    My first upgrade happened just today...

    My starter mando was a The Loar LM520-VS, which I bought new from The Mandolin Store. The "Pro Setup" that it shipped with was still a little high for my taste, so I took it to Rob Sherman in Napa (who works on Mike Marshall's instruments) and he greatly improved it by not only some setup tweaks but also a fret-leveling job. That cost almost half of the mando's original price, but the result was an excellent instrument that has served me very well for my first 14 months of learning.

    The upgrade: A very lightly used Northfield NF5S, purchased here from the Classifieds. (I had also been considering and on the hunt for a used Weber Gallatin, but the Northfield came along at the right moment) I've had only a day to play it, but after I finished being dazzled by its fine appearance and craftsmanship (a single-piece back, too), I immediately noticed the following major differences from my starter mando:
    * A distinctive woodier sound on the lower strings,
    * Lots more sustain,
    * Super low and easy action,
    * Radiused fretboard, making it easier for my right hand to pick single strings without hitting neighboring ones,
    * Nice comfortable fret width,
    * A neck that feels absolutely natural and comfortable -- probably because its profile is similar to The Loar.
    *Waaay smoother, more precise tuning from the Gotoh tuners.

    And overall, it just feels "alive" and breathing and wanting to sing -- that would be the best way I could put it.

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  4. #28

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    Very good description of exactly what you can expect with a significant upgrade from the point of view of someone experiencing it. It only happens once. Yes you can get better, but the cash outlay will yield smaller and smaller benefits.

    I've been an admirer of the F5S for a while now. Enjoy.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  5. #29
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    A classmate gave me a Kay in 1968. That was my mandolin for about 15 years. Didn’t play it much. Mostly in college and working many of those years (field geology).

    Went to grad school (Virginia Tech) and stumbled into jams. Regained some interest and found a broken A3. Bought it and gave a buddy my Kay for the needed repairs. During that time got my Aria Pro-2 (Km780). Jammed through grad school on those.

    30 years later? Still have have the A3, sold the Aria.

    I do love my A3!

    f-d
    ¡papá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  6. #30

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    New Eastman 305, upgraded to a Kentucky 1050. HUGE difference. The 305 was a very good starter instrument, played great after a setup and sounded nice. The 1050 had the woody cutting sound, more bass big chop, more sustain and more going on in general. The 1050 was a really terrific mandolin and I should have been satisfied with it and kept it.

  7. #31
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    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    My first mandolin was a the Loar LM 220 in 2015, it is a nice starter mandolin, I still have it. But I had started college as a music major "back in the day" (been playing instruments since age 10,) and I quickly was not happy with the sound of the LM 220, so I called the Mandolin Store and was interested in a Pava or a Weber Bitterroot. They told me I'd be happy with either, and I couldn't decide, so I bought both (the Pava has f-holes and the Weber is an oval hole, so they are quite different.) The Mandolin Store was right, I still enjoy both. I have since added a Collings and several bowl-backs for still more variety, but nothing new for a couple of years now - my MAS is in remission!

  8. #32

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    I like your style. Never settle for either/or.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  9. #33

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    I started on a Kentucky KM-630. Not a bad instrument at all, but I recently upgraded to a vintage Gibson, a 1923 snakehead A-Jr. It wasn't really a question of being "ready" to upgrade; I just liked it better. I find it easier to play than the Kentucky (not sure why, but I find it easier to get notes to sound properly) and it has a much fuller, less boxy tone.
    Last edited by Craig the Mad; Jul-13-2019 at 11:53pm.

  10. #34
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    What was your starter mandolin?
    Ibanez M522S

    What brand and model was your first upgrade
    ?
    Sonny Morris hybrid F4

    How did you decide you were ready for an upgrade?
    I'd been playing steady for two years, met Sonny and played several mandolins he had built. His prices were good.

    How was your upgrade better than your starter?
    Much better build quality. Better wood and materials. Richer, deeper tone, particularly on the G and D strings. Way more sustain. Better quality hardware (nut, bridge, tuners, tailpiece). Total custom made - I selected the woods used. He also added a support block for a pickup to the treble side lower bout for an output jack which I used when I added an internal pickup later.

  11. #35
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    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    Harmony, stopped playing .. it was very poorly made ( in the very early 60's ),

    In early-mid 70's, I found a Gibson A40 ..
    writing about music
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  12. #36

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    Started on a "mandolin shaped object." Musician's Friend was blowing out Johnson F-style (bad plywood build - Savanah's are rebranded Johnsons) with a dura-foam case for $87. The case was worth that so I took a chance. I used it to learn the fretboard and experiment with pickups and such. Over a few years of checking out Weber, Collings and etc.'s offerings at various NAMM shows I had a idea of what to look for it was time to move up.

    I decided on a blond Paris Swing oval-hole - an off-brand [so not selling for a premium even though designed by a name luthier], I liked the look and it had all the right specs like solid wood, etc. but I missed the last one on a eBay auction. I contacted the seller - we chatted over the phone and he said he'd check his shop and get back to me. He called back with bad news - no more blonds. However he did have the very last John Jorgenson signature Paris Swing model that he would let go cheap because it had some surface scuffing. I took a chance and am glad I did.

    Differences are night and day. The PS has a much nicer neck profile - Johnson has a pronounced V shape whereas the PS is a comfy C. I love the sound of the PS oval over the Johnson's F's. Tonally, play-ability and build-wise they are are in 2 completely different leagues.

    I sold the Johnson for what I paid for the Paris Swing (my avatar) and kept the case, so I think I did okay.

    I nabbed one of those $199 Michael Kelly's as a travel mando. While a nice example of a modern F-style and a wonderful mandolin in its own, the Paris Swing smokes it in every way.
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  13. #37
    Registered User Kalasinar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    I think the best advice has already been given - get the best instrument that you can afford and you will be well served.

    I started out on a cheap Tanglewood oval hole A-style for £80. I think about seven or eight months later I was constantly looking for something better (solid woods etc) and settled on an Eastman MD-504. Loved that mandolin and still have it though I think I'm going to have to part with it (reason why coming up).
    I discovered a Weber Aspen in a music shop here in the UK by chance early 2018 and really liked it so I bought it. Flat back and flat top it was a good contrast to the Eastman.

    When I started lessons in March 2018 I was very happy with the Weber. It was the best I could afford at the time until I got my current job. A few paychecks into my new job in Summer I realised I could afford what I always wanted - a Paul Shippey Tone Mandolin. And given that I was taking lessons I could justify the purchase too. Took just under a year but I recently collected the Shippey in person. It's stunning, and its volume and projection are like nothing I've heard or had before.

    I think this is definitely the one and I'm torn over which mandolin to sell on, the Weber or the Eastman. In addition, quite by chance I found a second hand Octave Mandola at a great price. Pretty much the exact model I'd been eying and planning to get from Paul Hathway next year. So I'm very happy with my Paul Shippey Tone Mandolin and Paul Hathway Octave Mandola.
    Last edited by Kalasinar; Jul-29-2019 at 7:04pm.
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  14. #38

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    I am not financially capable of something like the Eastman 505 at this time. I have my Rogue 100A and I can play better than it, but I'm not so good that it really matters, except it would be nicer to have something nicer.

    I was looking in the <$300 range. That would be roughly 5 times the dollar value of what I currently play.

    If I am literally many years away from being able to afford something even in the $600 area, would it be spending for the sake of self-indulgence to look at the $200-$300 type instruments, or are they better than my <$100?

    I want to, but don't know if that's just being vain.

  15. #39
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    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    I've only been trying to learn on the mandolin for a few months at best. Started out with the Eastman A305 fhole and it sounded really good and woody but there were a few things I just really felt I needed, (1) better tuners, (2) clean sounding and easier playable notes above 7th fret...so not so much that I needed but wanted something that met these needs so I went with the Pava Model A Wide Nut Torrefied, it was more than I intended on spending but I just turned 68 and figured what the hell I won't know the difference 100 years from now, but I do know the difference now

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  17. #40

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Heady View Post
    I am not financially capable of something like the Eastman 505 at this time. I have my Rogue 100A and I can play better than it, but I'm not so good that it really matters, except it would be nicer to have something nicer.

    I was looking in the <$300 range. That would be roughly 5 times the dollar value of what I currently play.

    If I am literally many years away from being able to afford something even in the $600 area, would it be spending for the sake of self-indulgence to look at the $200-$300 type instruments, or are they better than my <$100?

    I want to, but don't know if that's just being vain.
    I think as noted above, if you know what you want and keep your eyes open deals do come up. The Michael Kelly solid wood f-stye for $199 is a great example. I know it's a bit more difficult on your side of the pond but not impossible.
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  19. #41

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Heady View Post
    I am not financially capable of something like the Eastman 505 at this time. I have my Rogue 100A and I can play better than it, but I'm not so good that it really matters, except it would be nicer to have something nicer.

    I was looking in the <$300 range. That would be roughly 5 times the dollar value of what I currently play.

    If I am literally many years away from being able to afford something even in the $600 area, would it be spending for the sake of self-indulgence to look at the $200-$300 type instruments, or are they better than my <$100?

    I want to, but don't know if that's just being vain.
    I'd buy this Kentucky KM-156
    https://www.musiciansfriend.com/folk...style-mandolin
    $344 with coupon LABOR19
    It will need a setup, but if you're reasonably handy you can do it yourself.
    Best low price solid carved wood mandolin available

    Actually, I'd personally go for this Kentucky KM-270 for the same price. It has some upgrades that the KM-150 level don't have. It is an oval hole mandolin too which will give you a range of sounds different than your current one.
    https://www.musiciansfriend.com/folk...model-mandolin
    Best, Stevo

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  21. #42

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    My first mandolin was a Johnson a-style. Basically a Rogue with a solid top. It was a pretty miserable instrument, but I played it for a couple years before buying a rosewood Tacoma. The Tacoma's main virtue was that it was nicely set up and played like a dream. That was the last mandolin I purchased, once I started building I didn't have money left over for luxuries like mandolins... :-)

  22. #43

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    Thanks, all - looking at used vendors now... this will be a nice build up to a letter to Santa.

  23. #44

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Heady View Post
    I am not financially capable of something like the Eastman 505 at this time.........If I am literally many years away from being able to afford something even in the $600 area.....
    I, too, am conservative when it comes to spending money, but I am not sure I understand why it would take years........?

    In the 70's I had a job after school and minimum wage was only $1.90 an hour and I wanted a fancy component stereo system that cost $1600.........well, it took me six months of saving and I got it -- still have it, too!

    So......................?

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  25. #45

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    I, too, am conservative when it comes to spending money, but I am not sure I understand why it would take years........?

    In the 70's I had a job after school and minimum wage was only $1.90 an hour and I wanted a fancy component stereo system that cost $1600.........well, it took me six months of saving and I got it -- still have it, too!

    So......................?
    Because I have 4 kids (only 1 halfway through college, 3 to go), 3 of them play hockey, 1 plays the cello, I have a mortgage, I'm in a PhD program (not music) and already have a 3 hr/day commute for my job (also not music). If I took a side job to pay for a new instrument, I wouldn't need the instrument because I wouldn't have time to play it.

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  27. #46
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    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    I’ve been where you are, in life (actually am still in the tuition part, but down to my last) and with instruments. I churned a few instruments in the 300-600 range, but didn’t get my first true upgrade until I spent 900 on a Silverangel Econo used (a couple years after the market recession in 2008).

    That said, yes, a KM 150, Eastman 305, or KM 270 will absolutely sound better and likely play easier than your Rogue. My current “beater” is an Eastman 315 I bought on clearance for $429. If I didn’t have the Silverangel it could honestly be my “only” mandolin, and, if I’d bought it before the SA I may not have even looked to upgrade. But, now that I’ve tasted the next level, well...

    Best of wishes to you in grad school, paying tuition, commuting, and, most importantly, finding family time in the mayhem!!
    Chuck

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  29. #47
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    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Yeet View Post
    Hi! I've been a long-time lurker on here but just decided to join because I have curious questions for those with more experience than myself!

    ----------
    Context if you want to read it (otherwise feel free to skip this section): I've had my mandolin for about 4 or 5 years; I decided to try it out when I was in high school. I only played it on and off, and when I played it, it was usually just strumming some chords and occasionally mixing in an extra finger or movement for some razzle dazzle. I'd probably play it a lot for a few days to a week and a half and then not touch it for more than a couple minutes for several months. I got a ukulele a couple of years ago and it was very quiet and much easier, so I started using it more for a while and neglecting my poor mando. Basically, pretty much all I did on the mandolin until last month was play like a dozen chords...not much.

    Anyway, this past month I started trying to play my mandolin as more than just an accompaniment for singing. When I'm bored I window shop and look at all of the cool mandolins out there. From the start, I told myself that I wouldn't buy an upgrade until I go from being a beginner to being intermediate. But the mandolust is so real!

    ----------

    My current mando is a ~$50 Rogue 100A. I don't have much to base my standards for mandolins on; this is my first and only ever mandolin and I've only ever heard mandolins in a similar price range in person (and for short periods of time).

    I'm not going to get a new mandolin until I get decent and it becomes worth it to have a much more expensive one (not sure how much more expensive at this point; depends on whether I'm impatient and decide to get one as soon as I feel like I'm intermediate or much later when I can give it a lot more thought, learn more, and save up more).

    So! I'd like to know:

    What was your starter mandolin, what brand and model was your first upgrade, and how did you decide you were ready for an upgrade? How was your upgrade better than your starter?

    Feel free to include anything else you want to share about your experience finding your mandolin soulmate.
    Starter was an Eastman A5 305. Decided I wanted an oval hole so I bought an Old Wave and sold the Eastman. Upgrade was better than my starter but my playing wasn't ! Had many upgrades since then ! Still upgrading !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

  30. #48
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    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    My first was also a Rogue A style.

    I blame it for being the reason why I never really learned how to play it, and like the OP, went to ukulele. I ended up owning 3 of the 4 "Ks" by the time I was done.

    Then I got on a Bluegrass kick. Talking to my wife's fiddle luthier (who is actually a mando player) he mentioned "ditch the Rogue, and get yourself a higher end mando and I bet you'll start playing. Look at Weber (which he owned) and Collings..."

    He was right... bought a Collings F5 (I know, quite the jump from the Rogue!) and it was a world of difference! It makes me WANT to play it, vs the Rogue that I hated playing.

  31. #49
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    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    First Mando -- Old no name bowl back my grandfather got in the 30's.
    Then borrowed mandolins from various people for years. Everything from Michael Kelly to Gibsons.
    got hired to play Mando with an electric band. Bought a Hohner for about $100 because it had a pretty good sounding pickup. Acoustically not so much.

    Within a year bought and Eastman 515 for maybe $800. Pretty good. Played it for about 5 years (or three years to long) but couldn't find anything I liked better without spending multiple thousands of dollars.

    Then I started the instrument account. $100 a month. Plus any gig money (lol) or proceeds of musical sales.
    In about two years I had enough for the Pava A. Big jump up in just about every respect. Could be a lifetime keeper. But I continue to save. Spent some of it on lessons which probably helped more than a better instrument ever could.

    The next step would be a Pava F or an Ellis A. Not sure which. Probably another three years. Problem is I don't like breaking in new instruments much.

    So, by age 92 I should be ready to buy a Gilchrist.

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  33. #50

    Default Re: Your First Upgrade

    When I was a teenager, I had a pawn-shop Harmony ($10), and then a minor upgrade to a new Harmony ($125), which fell apart in the leaky basement of a Philadelphia home during the high-humidity summer.

    Fifteen or so years later, I acquired a beat-up '57 mandocaster* ($425), and then a really good condition '56 ($1600), but somehow I managed to make do with no acoustic mandolin for more than thirty years!

    When I finally got around to getting a real mandolin again, it was a used Rigel A+ Deluxe ($1350, more or less). The rest of the tale is MAS history...

    *I was in the parking lot of Joyous Lake (Woodstock), and saw Vassar Clement's band emerge from the van during one of their breaks (ya, what were they doing in there? ) – one of the musicians had a mandocaster, I was "What the heck is that?!", and started hunting through the local Tradin' Times for the next couple of years.
    Last edited by Jim Bevan; Aug-30-2019 at 3:58pm. Reason: I remembered the price of the Rigel (more or less)

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