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Thread: First Mando Buying Advice

  1. #1

    Default First Mando Buying Advice

    I've tinkered with mandolins for awhile, and played the violin since I was 8 in many different groups (mostly classical or small ensemble). I'm moving over to bluegrass in my fiddle playing and want to learn the mandolin. I know the fingerings, chords and such - and want a good mandolin to start with. I've been looking at an Eastman 315. My price range is $600 - 700.

    Any advice? Especially where to buy one because I live in an area where typically, IF I find a shop that has a mandolin, they have ONE.. and it is no good.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Mando Buying Advice

    Woohoo, I love these type threads.... from your post I'll assume you want to play bluegrass. Yes, the Eastman 315 should be a great mandolin for the price, and coming from fiddle, you'll probably be fine with the neck (usually thinner than most folks like) I will mention that you can usually get a better instrument for the money if you get an A style mandolin (no scroll or body points) but I don't know of any mandolin in that price range that's definitely better, but you might consider a 305 model if you want to save a few hundred bucks. You can buy them online from any of the mandolincafe sponsors, usually the mandolin store is pretty popular, or banjobenclark.com/generalstore also sells them, I've bought a few things from his store and it's always been a good experience. Lastly, setup. Whatever instrument you get, make sure it's well set up, any of the cafe sponsors will do this free with the purchase, as does banjo Ben's store.
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  3. #3
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Mando Buying Advice

    Since you've been a musician for a while, you probably already know the results of getting a cheapo "mandolin shaped object." I wasn't aware of this when I bought my first inexpensive mando (also before I found the cafe). Get the best instrument you can afford, and that's going to be a used A style. As always, there are great buys available in the classifieds right now.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: First Mando Buying Advice

    The Eastman 315 is a great choice - I play it and I've loved it from day one. It is right in your price range and you get a lot of great mandolin for your money. Everytime I play in some workshop there will be at least one offer for my Eastman. Of course, it's not for sale :-)

  5. #5

    Default Re: First Mando Buying Advice

    I am a new bluegrass mandolin player and I bought a 315 last month. I love it.

    I am not new to bluegrass, just the mandolin. I have play guitar and banjo.

  6. #6

    Default Re: First Mando Buying Advice

    I have personal experience with The Mandolin Store, but you can't go wrong with any of the cafe sponsors.

    The only alternative is buying more mandolin for your buck on the classifieds, but that does entail more anxiety.

    The 315 is my favorite Eastman. Many times I like them better than the 615s hanging next to them.

    Going from fiddle to mandolin must be easier than the other way for sure. Be aware, a 315 is a gateway drug.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  7. #7
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    Default Re: First Mando Buying Advice

    Ahhh welcome to the world of mandolin, what I suggest (like many other players have said) is go with an A style body, the less different shapes and do-dads on the body, the better, as all these will drive the price up. For example the $535 Gold Tone GM-35F compared to the $545 Gold Tone GM-50A are two COMPLETELY different levels of quality, they're roughly the same price, but they're completely different build qualities, as in an F style, most of the price goes to the body shape, while in an A style, it goes more to the build quality and parts. As well I recommend checking out videos on different mandolins, and seeing if you like the tones of it, and see what these experienced people have to say.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: First Mando Buying Advice

    Mandolin store and Eastman 315 would be a great place and instrument to start with !
    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 !

  9. #9

    Default Re: First Mando Buying Advice

    All the valid arguments for A styles aside, if you want a scroll, you want a scroll. I've found no amount of logic to change this. Certainly if you don't care, an A is the dollar for dollar champ.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  10. #10

    Default Re: First Mando Buying Advice

    I learned the hard way that, for some reason, the most finicky part of a mando is the nut. So if you get one and find that your hand or arm hurt or are going numb, have a good luthier take a look at the nut.

    And here's a nice little video for newcomers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmagoBQunZI

  11. #11
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    Default Re: First Mando Buying Advice

    Thanks for all the good advice from all the people on the forum. It is appreciated by all of us new mandolin players. I purchased an inexpensive solid top mandolin(flat fret board) made by Ibanez just to get my fingers in the water to speak. Since I do luthier work I was able to give it a good set up for easy playablity and enjoyed it but found chording and playing were a little difficult but since I am not an expert with the instrument I figured it was just due to a different small string instrument experience. Wrong. I then went into town and tried out some more expensive professional models by Eastman ,Loar and Gibson. When I tried to play them it was the difference from night to day. The radius fret board and the thinner more accurate wood construction made these instruments sound great and play very nicely. I sold my Ibanez and vowed to never buy another mandolin with a flat fret board. I am also looking into buying an Eastman MD305. It seems to have a good reputation for quality and sound plus a radius'd fret board and I am sure will satisfy all my needs.

  12. #12

    Default Re: First Mando Buying Advice

    Quality of the lower end of the Eastman line is quite good. Big strides in the market have been made in the last decade.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

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