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Thread: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

  1. #1
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    Default Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Guitarist looking to start on mandolin, small hands and fingers. I love this forum and have been doing a ton of research here. I love the look of the MD305 and initially thought that is what I was going to get. Then I got lost in the weeds when reading posts about Eastmans thin necks and not so great tuners on the 305. I drove up to LA yesterday to McCabes and played (what playing I can do) an Eastman 605 and an 905 and honestly the neck/nut width felt tiny but I'm wondering if that is more just not being used to a mandolin than the Eastman 1 3/32 neck. I tried a Kentucky KM-350, KM-550, and KM-380s (All 1 1/8) at another store and they didn't feel that comfortable either. The last mandos (Guitar Center) that I played were a Fender Concert Tone (A shape with F holes) and a Loar LM-110 (both of which have 1 1/8) and they felt more comfortable to me than the Eastman and Kentuckys.

    So, my question, should I throw caution into the wind and trust my initial instinct and get the MD305 and see how I get along with it once I really acclimate to mandolin or assume right off the bat that I am more comfortable with 1 1/8 and look for something with that nut size? I do know that the Kentucky's that didn't feel right to me are 1 1/8 so I can't really explain that. I also know that string spacing and radiused vs. flat go into the equation as well.

    Thanks. Rob

  2. #2
    Registered User archerscreek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    I was there. Long time guitar player later on picking up the mandolin. I'm 6'1", though, with average to large hands I suppose. I went with the Eastman MD 515. It felt wierd at first, but I got the hang of it reasonably quickly.

    It's likey nearly impossible to find the perfect mandolin right off the bat regarding nut, neck, string spacing, fretboard radius, tonewoods, bracing, builder, etc. I think a person is better off starting out with something that's "close enough" rather than procrastinating and losing time looking for the perfect combination of specs.

    I say get it and play it every chance you get. Then in the future you'll be in a better position to judge and determine what will work the best for you.

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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    If you don't like tiny necks, and you already play guitar, I suggest you look at some of the old Gibson oval hole mandolins. The plainer models made in the 1910's have nice, ample necks, and can be purchased for $1000 to $1500. Some of them are durn good mandolins.

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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Itís been said a lot here that the mandolin you start with wonít be the one you end up with. Iím living proof of that myself. The Eastman 305 is a quality instrument and the nut width isnít dramatically different than other makers. I bet youíd be used to it in an afternoon (I owned an Eastman for years).

    The crummy tuners will be like a toothache, so Iíd factor a new set in with the cost and swap them ASAP (I did this on a recent guitar purchaseósold the old ones on CL and recovered half the cost of the new ones).

    The main thing is to get started playing. Good luck in your journey.
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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Well - mando necks ARE tiny! Just think small.

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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Some necks are deeper at the same nut width. Some like the extra depth, others don't. As was said this won't be your last mandolin so if you feel the depth is better for you to start then by all means go for it. I think sound wise the Loar or Fender won't be as good, but they are not totally bad either. I have played both and to start setup is more important. Don't get me wrong, get the best sound you can afford. That being said your ear will change, and most likely the sound you will want to have.
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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Going from guitar to mandolin, they are going to feel really small.
    String tension can feel higher, so itíll feel more comfortable with the action set low.
    Iím not sure of your proficiency with the guitar but to start with most guitarists would maybe find it difficult to feel the difference between mandolin neck sizes. Though in terms of tone you may want to go for the better mandolin.

    Also, Iíve found that the way a mandolin looks can affect how you want to play it! So something to think about.

    Other things to look forward to:
    Mandolins have to be tuned a lot less than guitars, and with those small distances between frets you can play fast like the wind, and sweet!
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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Make sure you watch a few of the very good videos on how to approach the mandolin fingerboard. More like a violin than a guitar, and your fingertips should come down at a steeper angle too.
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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Coming from guitars I was initially more comfortable with heavier necks with a C profile. I found a very nice mandolin that suited me. This spring I bought a MD305 to use as my camping/festival mandolin. I quickly discovered that the mythical four fingered G chord was not mythical after all with the slimmer V profile neck. My luthier (a.k.a. MAS enabler) was not surprised when I told him I wanted a new mandolin. He said I had evolved into a mandolin player. I have since found another nice mandolin and am probably going to sell my first beloved. It will make another guitar player a nice mandolin...for a while at least.
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  16. #10

    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    The 305 is good value. A used 505 is better value. I’m close to 10 years in with a 2009 505 and I finally got around to upgrading the tuners a couple of months ago. (they are the same on the 3 and 5 series). I’d avoid the 305 if you are going to get upgrade fever right away, you can swap out the tuners, bridge, tailpiece if you like and more, you will end up with anupgraded 305 that you have put a lot of $ into and it’s still a 305.

    You will get used to the neck size, a mando is what it is. You can grow into a 500 and up Eastie whereas you may fairly quickly outgrow a 3- or 4- series given the amount of thoughts you are already processing. Just get it have fun with it. Cheers.

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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    The shape of the neck is as important to your hand as the width. They also do not play the same as a little guitar. My suggestion is that you play some more manufacturers / builders instruments. The feel and tone vary greatly from one to another often from the same maker. Lastly …. with short double course strings the instruments setup becomes even more important than on a guitar. Truth..... Enjoy the process ….. it may be a good idea to buy something inexpensive to "get started" on and keep putting your mandolin fund together. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    As Br1ck has stated, the approach to fingerboard is different. If you're trying to play using the ends of your finger like you do on guitar you're going to have to adjust. If it makes sense your callouses will migrate from the end of your fingertips to the corners of your fingertips. Look at it this way, nobody ever buys just one mandolin in their lifetime. Your initial choice isn't a bad one.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    I recently bought a Finnish mandolin made for the Espana company in the USA (by now, you should be thoroughly culturally confused) circa 1965. I was first attracted by the sign saying "Wide-Neck Mandolin." I like the sound and look of it, and I do like the wider than usual neck -- it's not so wide that anyone looking at it notices, but it does have more finger room than usual. I've had it for a month and a half and I'm quite happy with it. After negotiating the price, I bought it with a good brand-new-looking case, for a little over $425 (Canadian), with picks and a tuner thrown in. Espanas aren't common, so I'm not recommending that you get one, but it's worth finding a mandolin that your fingers comfortable with, especially if you don't have great manual dexterity. Still, as others have said, some of the discomfort might just be the switch from guitar to mandolin.
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  21. #14

    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    I have large hands, wear XL or XXL gloves. I started on a 1 3/32" nut mandolin, I was moving from guitar and it pretty much went fine. I had to be very careful with my G chop chord so as not to mute adjacent strings and when I got to jazz chords my fingers were just too big to finger some of them cleanly. That's all much better now that I have a 1 3/16" nut.

    The point I'm getting to is that the 1 3/32" neck is not too small for your hands, you just need playing time.
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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Amazing how quickly one gets used to the particular neck width and profile of a frequently-played instrument. As one who switches among guitar, banjo, mandolin "family," and various types of ukulele, I find a few chords or "lead" runs, and I'm comfy with the one I'm playing. Don't find myself fingering banjo chords on the mandolin, etc., either.

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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Thank you all for your great input. It sounds like, just like when I got back into guitar 15 years ago, that it is almost impossible to hit a home run in your first at bat in terms of finding the perfect sound, fit, feel, etc. I'm guessing that is true of most instruments.

    The Eastmans (specifically the MD305) were my first thought and I think that if I go that route I would probably jump up to the MD-505cc/n. Compared to the 305, it's got the better Pingwell tuners, hard case instead of gigbag, the custom contour beveled binding, and the vintage nitro finish which I think looks really cool.

    The other option, which is kind of fun actually, is to look for best available used in the classifieds for a while. Thank you to those who have pm'ed me some leads, now I've got some nice Kentuckys and Flatirons on my radar. I'll only be playing at home so I'm open on F hole vs. Oval but I don't really desire the scroll body so between the classifieds here and Reverb there seems to be some nice deals and plenty to look at.

    Thanks again folks!

    Rob
    Last edited by robw95; Oct-16-2019 at 4:38pm.

  25. #17
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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    There are generally strad-o-lins around, too. Certainly mine has a neck like a baseball bat -- and you can generally get them for a reasonable price. I own a strad, an Eastman 305 (which i put a pickup bridge on so I use it when I'm out playing plugged in) and like both of them -- i have no problems with the tuners (they work, they hold well) or the tailpiece on the 305, so wanting to change may simply be a preference than a necessity. That said, my primary instrument is an old Gibson with a 1 inch neck. It doesn't take me much time to switch between them because I'm used to them. If the neck profile fits your hand, you can become acclimated to whatever you have.

    And I'll reiterate: a mandolin is not a small guitar, playing technique is entirely different. Good guitar technique is terrible mandolin technique. Even holding the instrument is different. Take a look at Mike Marshall's excellent video on how to hold a mandolin. think of it as a fiddle -- and as an experiment, put your fingers on the fretboard and hold a mandolin up to your chin as if it were a fiddle and see where your fingers fall -- that's a good indication of where your fingers should go when you hold the mandolin to actually play it.
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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    The 305 will be a good starter mandolin ! As you progress you will soon wave good bye to it and upgrade !
    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 !

  27. #19

    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    The 305 will be a good starter mandolin ! As you progress you will soon wave good bye to it and upgrade !
    This is a very good point. If you have the means, you can find a Weber used or a Silverangel. Might save you money in the long run. The process is the same in that it will be a start point of evaluation, not necessarily the end. There is no valid argument that you aren’t good enough, that is faulty thinking on the part of beginners. Buy quality used, and you won’t loose value when you decide you would prefer different.

    That said, the 300 series Eastman’s are a good value. But I feel you’ll be very happy if you indulge yourself, and you will progress faster with a better instrument by the plain fact you’ll play it more.
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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Just remember “It’s not a tiny guitar!”
    If the first was most comfortable, go with it, learn what you like and figure out what you think you want “more” of in your next instrument. Don’t overthink it.
    Timothy F. Lewis
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    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Dennis and Brian at The Mandolin Store expertly chopped down the weeds for me, and an Eastman MD505cc is on it's way to thee!

    Rob
    Last edited by robw95; Oct-31-2019 at 1:08am.

  31. #22

    Default Re: Off in the weeds on my first mando purchase ...

    Not sure the size of the neck matters much in the transition from guitar. Anything is going to seem tiny. I've been playing guitar on and off -- mostly off -- for most of my life. Then a couple years ago I was going on a month-long vacation and I was desperate for a travel instrument. I did some measuring and figured a mandolin would fit in my suitcase. I got a $100 Savannah from - and this is important - a very good shop in PA. Recently I started jamming with a couple groups and I've found the mandolin is appreciated. i.e. it's not a guitar, of which there are plenty. SO the Savannah has served me well - even with its 1.1 inch nut. So I'm going to tinker with it a little - bone nut - and make sure I'm really ready to upgrade, at least a little ($). The Eastman MD 305 is definitely on my radar, mostly because I picked up another Eastman at a local shop and it was wow. The specs are practically the same for the 305. Until then I really, really wanted something with a wider nut because I have big hands and fat fingers, but now I don't think it matters.

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