Results 1 to 17 of 17

Thread: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

  1. #1
    Registered User Yeet's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Norfolk, VA
    Posts
    25

    Default Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    I went to a couple music stores today (just Guitar Center and this one local place) and finally got to play some mandolins other than the one that I've had since day one!

    As far as I know, the selection of mandolins isn't so good where I live, so I didn't have very high expectations...or so many options. Although who knows, when I explore the other stores around the Virginia Beach area, maybe some more mandolins will turn up. 🙂

    I got my hands on one of the lower end Loar models and a Hohner. I liked the higher-quality feel and appearance of the Loar but it surprisingly sounded a lot like my current Rogue (with nickel-plated steel D'Addario strings) and didn't feel as natural to play. The Hohner felt fairly similar to my Rogue but sounded a little better in my opinion...but the craftsmanship felt just as cheap. It was still fun to explore!

    I'm wondering about mandolin specs. I know a lot of people tend to be really particular with choosing a new instrument and for good reason!

    What are the most important things you look for in a new mandolin? 🙂 Is there anything that's "make or break" to you?
    Feel free to donate to my MAS fund.

  2. #2
    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Connecticut, USA
    Posts
    1,378
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    For me the pecking order is as follows:

    1. Playability: straight neck, easy fretting all the way up and down the neck.

    2. Tone: everybody has their own idea of what 'good tone' is, so I won't go into that - but otherwise I like good string-to-string volume balance, with lows that are not too muddy, or highs that aren't too tinny.

    3. Quality of Build: I personally don't need any sort of 'master model', but I would like something decent enough to very possibly last at least 2 or 3 decades, without spending exorbitant amounts of time in the luthier's shop.

    4. Price: Unfortunately, for us Joe-average, blue-collar working folks, the almighty dollar often weighs heavily into the purchase equation.

    5. Aesthetics: Sounds stupid, but if my instrument is so ugly that every time I open up my case it makes me cringe, I'm probably not going to be very inspired to take it out of the case too often. Again, 'ugly' is a relative term to be determined by the buyer.

    Honorable mention goes to other things like:

    - Buying from a highly reputable dealer with a good return policy (if you can't play it in person)
    - Built in electronics.
    - Acoustic volume.

  3. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to MikeZito For This Useful Post:


  4. #3
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Location
    Southeast Tennessee
    Posts
    1,123

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    Modern mandolins with arched tops can be very loosely graded by the way the tops and backs are made.

    The lowest grade have tops and/or backs made out of laminated wood.
    The next grade up have tops and backs made of solid wood that have been pressed into shape over a form.
    The next better grade have tops and backs that are carved to shape by a machine.
    The highest grade have tops and backs that are finish-carved by hand and "tuned." The best of these are often made by skilled individuals or small shops.

    Unfortunately, the instrument manufacturers now describe their construction specifications in code.

    "Arched top and back" means laminated wood.
    "Solid arched top and back" means solid wood pressed over a form.
    "Carved top and back" means machine carved.
    "Hand carved, graduated, and tuned" means [hopefully] exactly what it says.

    It is important for everyone who is purchasing or looking at modern instruments to recognize and understand this code.

    If a description does not say "solid," the wood is laminated.
    If it does not specifically say "hand-carved", it is not hand carved.

    Many manufacturers [including "The Loar"] make instruments of several grades. I will also say that in my opinion, none of the "The Loar" mandolins can be considered to be more than "good student grade" instruments.

    I hope this is helpful.

    As far as what I look for in an instrument, the most important things to me are the tone and projection, and that the neck fits my hand. I've let go of some very good instruments because they did not fit my hand.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jul-15-2019 at 9:15pm.

  5. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to rcc56 For This Useful Post:


  6. #4

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    If you can spend up to $500, get a Kentucky KM 150 or an Eastman MD 305. If you can spend up to $1000, save another $500 or buy a used Kentucky 900 or 950. If you can spend around $1500, the world just got rosy in the used A style market.

    A simple guy's simplistic opinion if you don't have a first rate store near you.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  7. The following members say thank you to Br1ck for this post:

    Yeet 

  8. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    NC
    Posts
    3,604

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    If you’re within striking distance and want the education, check out Charles Johnson’s shop...
    Chuck

  9. #6
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    2,141
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    Yeah ….. good advice and descriptive explanations above. A mandolin that will last you two or three decades will cost in the neighborhood of 1,000.00 dollars if you don't stumble onto a real deal. TONE is always going to be number one in consideration. PLAYABILITY can be , in most cases, adjusted and or fixed. Neck width and shape are part of playability and need to be considered. CONDITION... again a good luthier will be able to repair separations and cracks broken necks are a different thing. MATERIALS plywood no thanks high pressure laminate is another way to say plywood. FIT AND FINISH how the instrument is put together … are the joints clean, it the binding well fitted, is the finish cleanly applied. Speak or sing into the sound / F hole.... does it ring back to you? Be patient instruments are like cats...… look around and one will show up and call your name. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  10. The following members say thank you to UsuallyPickin for this post:

    Yeet 

  11. #7
    Registered User Yeet's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Norfolk, VA
    Posts
    25

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    If you can spend up to $500, get a Kentucky KM 150 or an Eastman MD 305. If you can spend up to $1000, save another $500 or buy a used Kentucky 900 or 950. If you can spend around $1500, the world just got rosy in the used A style market.

    A simple guy's simplistic opinion if you don't have a first rate store near you.
    Definitely sounds like a good idea! I've been ogling Eastmans lately! My next will probably be an Eastman at this rate. ��
    Feel free to donate to my MAS fund.

  12. #8
    Registered User Yeet's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Norfolk, VA
    Posts
    25

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeZito View Post
    2. Tone: everybody has their own idea of what 'good tone' is, so I won't go into that - but otherwise I like good string-to-string volume balance, with lows that are not too muddy, or highs that aren't too tinny.
    Ah, yes, this is sort of hard to pin down as a beginner...I went through a short phase of really liking tinny sounds for some unknown reason. Not sure if I regret it; maybe I would choose a different set of replacement strings if I restrung my mandolin today instead of last month. But I definitely am infatuated a richer tone now. It seems like that's generally what more experienced people seek out, so maybe that's just my ear maturing.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeZito View Post
    5. Aesthetics: Sounds stupid, but if my instrument is so ugly that every time I open up my case it makes me cringe, I'm probably not going to be very inspired to take it out of the case too often. Again, 'ugly' is a relative term to be determined by the buyer.
    I feel like for a lot of us, aesthetics feel like a guilty pleasure. A lot of us are used to thinking of things in terms of just practicality. It makes sense to want something that looks good though! Especially if you invest a few hundred to a few thousand dollars in it. I definitely have some scroll-envy, and in a perfect world I would love a blonde/natural mandolin. Maybe one day!
    Feel free to donate to my MAS fund.

  13. #9
    Registered User Yeet's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Norfolk, VA
    Posts
    25

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    If you’re within striking distance and want the education, check out Charles Johnson’s shop...
    I've been thinking of going on a little trip over there with a couple friends once I get a little more experience under my belt! I have some friends do visit in Richmond too anyway. Do they have something for people with all kinds of budgets though? That's my only concern, haha. I'm probably looking to spend around $350-$2,500 (huge range, I know) depending on when I actually end up checking it out.
    Feel free to donate to my MAS fund.

  14. #10
    Dave Sheets
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Buffalo NY Area
    Posts
    296

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    Once you get up to $2k, there are some wonderful A body instruments available used, lots of good options. Best of luck with your search.
    -Dave
    Flatiron A
    Way too many other instruments

  15. The following members say thank you to Dave Sheets for this post:

    Yeet 

  16. #11
    Registered User Yeet's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Norfolk, VA
    Posts
    25

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    Yeah ….. good advice and descriptive explanations above. A mandolin that will last you two or three decades will cost in the neighborhood of 1,000.00 dollars if you don't stumble onto a real deal. TONE is always going to be number one in consideration. PLAYABILITY can be , in most cases, adjusted and or fixed. Neck width and shape are part of playability and need to be considered. CONDITION... again a good luthier will be able to repair separations and cracks broken necks are a different thing. MATERIALS plywood no thanks high pressure laminate is another way to say plywood. FIT AND FINISH how the instrument is put together … are the joints clean, it the binding well fitted, is the finish cleanly applied. Speak or sing into the sound / F hole.... does it ring back to you? Be patient instruments are like cats...… look around and one will show up and call your name. R/
    Awesome points here!
    Feel free to donate to my MAS fund.

  17. #12
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    991

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    If you are up in the $2000 range you are in the Pava/Weber/Collings/Gibson/Northfield-actually most lower-end of the mid-range market range (especially if you are willing to look at used.)

  18. #13
    Registered User Yeet's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Norfolk, VA
    Posts
    25

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    Quote Originally Posted by LadysSolo View Post
    If you are up in the $2000 range you are in the Pava/Weber/Collings/Gibson/Northfield-actually most lower-end of the mid-range market range (especially if you are willing to look at used.)
    Ah, I see! I always thought they were even more expensive but I see some of the cheaper ones of those brands are actually in my range! Oh man, I feel like my next is gonna be a Weber!
    Feel free to donate to my MAS fund.

  19. #14
    Registered User Mando Mort's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Chesterfield, VA
    Posts
    195

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    Also, Fredericksburg is not that far from you on Rt. 17 and Picker's Supply is a great store with a good selection of entry level and higher end mandos and nice folks to help.
    "All of us contain Music & Truth, but most of us can't get it out." - Mark Twain

    Eastman MD615SB
    Martin D35
    Gibson SG

  20. The following members say thank you to Mando Mort for this post:

    Yeet 

  21. #15
    Registered User Yeet's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Norfolk, VA
    Posts
    25

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    Quote Originally Posted by Mando Mort View Post
    Also, Fredericksburg is not that far from you on Rt. 17 and Picker's Supply is a great store with a good selection of entry level and higher end mandos and nice folks to help.
    Sounds like it's time to go on a trip!
    Feel free to donate to my MAS fund.

  22. #16
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Westchester, NY
    Posts
    26,164

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    We have a couple GC stores within reasonable driving distances. Maybe two cheap mandolins in each. Many more ukes and guitars. Sam Ash is not much better. They’ve had the same Washburn hanging on the wall with plastic under the bridge and untuned for years.
    Jim

    My Stream on Soundcloud
    Facebook
    19th Century Tunes
    Playing lately:
    1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- '83 Flatiron A5-2 -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- 1936 Epiphone Deluxe -- 1928 Gibson L-5 -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo -- ca. 1923 Vega Style M tenor banjo -- ca. 1920 Weymann Style 25 Mandolin-Banjo -- National RM-1

  23. #17
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    991

    Default Re: Shopping! Or...Playing Around

    I live in a mandolin desert - no mandolins available under a 2 1/2 hour road trip, and the places MAY have one or 2 low-end mandolins. Internet shopping all the way for me!

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •