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Thread: Advice for newbie in SC

  1. #1

    Default Advice for newbie in SC

    Hello!

    I started playing mandolin ~6 months ago, and I found a used Epiphone MM-30E (the one with the electric pickup) at the local Guitar Center. It's a decent sounding instrument imo, but... I'm thinking it might be time to move on from the starter.

    Any advice on how to start looking? For background, I live in Charleston, SC. The Guitar Center doesn't seem to regularly stock mandolins, and there don't seem to be any shops near me that carry a variety of instruments to try. In fact, there seems to be a lack of mandolins around here in general, but maybe I'm not looking hard enough. I'd really rather try out an instrument before I decide (or better yet, several), but I'll go online if necessary. Online, there's just too many choices, and I don't know what to watch out for quality wise or what questions to ask the seller to make sure I'm getting something good.

    For specifics, I like to play mostly classical literature (Munier, etc.), but I also do the occasional bluegrass jam. I'm thinking perhaps a bowlback would be good for the classical stuff, and I can keep the Epiphone for everything else? I'm definitely open to advice on this.

  2. #2
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    I'd recommend used, nothing wrong with used as most are broken in and to me and others they do sound better! The classifieds here on the cafť are great and one can find many in all different configurations! Also everyone gives an approval period so you can try them out but usually just do your homework so you have an idea of whatever your wanting/looking for!
    I live in a mandolin deprived area and have bought way too many to count but always studied a bit on what I bought or traded for so I think I never sent anything back and after awhile if I didn't like it or wanted something else I sold or traded them, that's where when you buy quality instruments you can at least get your cash back or swap for something quality in the same price range? That's how I roll anyway.

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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    William has it right. Find a decent mid level used mando that you can afford. Save you money and if you improve and get dissatisfied with your mid level one, go for broke and get one that will last you a lifetime.
    I started out with a cheap Auria and it serviced me enough to know that I wanted to continue on my mandolin journey. So I upgraded to an old Gibson A 2, then to a Kentucky 1500 and finally, in 1993, I called Randy Wood and asked him to make me one of his
    F 5's. It cost me then but I have never regretted that decision. It's one that will last me forever. Good luck.

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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    I started inexpensive also, with a used the Loar LM 220, and when I decided to upgrade (I also live in a mandolin desert,) I called The Mandolin Store (NFI) (after doing my research) and asked the gentlemen which I would prefer based on what I wanted the mandolin to do for me, a Pava Player or a Weber Bitterroot? They told me I would be happy with either, so I bought both, and I am very happy with both. So that could be an option, do your research and then off your short list, buy a used model (most people who advertise in the classifieds will allow a trial period) to see if you are making the right choice. All you would be out would be return shipping if you decide it's not the model for you.

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    Registered User DoubleE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    I would decide on a budget first. You might be able to upgrade the epi and get a bowlback. It all depends on what you want to spend. My personal opinion would be upgrade the epi and then try to find a bowlback. I think itís going to take a lot more research and hunting to find a decent bowlback.
    Just out of curiosity, have you ever played a bowlback? I have an old Washburn that I like to play occasionally, but it could never be my daily player. I find them uncomfortable to hold, but thatís just my opinion. Then again, I donít play classical, the bowlback might have the tone youíre looking for.

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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    Hey! I play mandolin in Charleston, SC and might have just the mandolin for you. I sent you a PM. - Keith
    Keith McCullough

    - '15 Hansen f5

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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    The 5th String in Greenville has lots of new Eastmans and some real fine good used mandolins from time to time.

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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    Advice for newbie ? Yes, I can give you some great advice ! QUIT ! Don't begin before you become a mandolin fanatic ! You will spend all your free time practicing, you will develop MAS (mandolin acquisition syndrome) , you will begin acquiring all type of picks including those expensive Bluechip picks, you will spend a lot of money trying out a wide variety of strings and always looking for that magical string that will make you sound better, you will never be satisfied with the mandolin you have and want to upgrade, you will think that with enough practice you can be a Ricky Skaggs or Chris Thile and you will never be satisfied with the level you are playing at ! But, you won't listen to me as you will go ahead anyway ! Yes, it's a great ride and I am guilty of all the above ! I love the mandolin and so will you ! Enjoy ! And always remember, " If the only bird that sings in the forest is the one that sings the best, than the forest would be a very lonely place "
    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 !

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  14. #9

    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    It does somewhat come down to budget. If I were giving out free advise, I'd say play what you have until you can buy a used quality A style which you can get for less than $1500. Because you play mostly non bluegrass, a very good suggestion for you would be a Silverangel Econo A. It is about as far to the warm and resonant side of the tonal spectrum as you can get with an F hole A style instrument. One with a redwood top, which many have, will cover a broad spectrum of styles. I would have more reservations with SA if you said you go to loud bluegrass jams every week. They can be had for $1200 fairly regularly in the classifieds.

    I'm also a fan of old Flatiron flat top oval hole instruments if you discount the need for loud bluegrass instruments. Saw one recently for $700 or so. They are very sweet sounding mandolins.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
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    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    I kinda did the same thing when I was starting out....and I ended up with 4 mandolins, it's an addiction I tell ya. But...I soon learned that the better I became, the better the mandolins I was playing began to sound.

    I'm not saying don't upgrade, I'm saying just make sure before you get a stockpile that you hone your skill....sometimes it's more US than the mandolin that is causing the lack of response from the mandolin we want.

    Other than that, I have had luck with Guitar Center and even Ebay. I realize both are a gamble but so far it's been a good gamble.
    "It doesn't matter how much you invest in your instrument until you invest in you and your ability..."

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    Registered User DoubleE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post

    I'm also a fan of old Flatiron flat top oval hole instruments if you discount the need for loud bluegrass instruments. Saw one recently for $700 or so. They are very sweet sounding mandolins.
    This is great advice! If youíre looking to spend under 1k just know there other options besides an Eastman or Kentucky. Not that I have anything against E and K, just want you to know that there are other options. Big Muddy, Sawchyn, Red Valley and others make quality flat tops. They might not hang in a big, loud bluegrass jam, but I think any one would be fine picking with a few buddies.

  18. #12

    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    Advice for newbie ? Yes, I can give you some great advice ! QUIT ! Don't begin before you become a mandolin fanatic ! You will spend all your free time practicing, you will develop MAS (mandolin acquisition syndrome) , you will begin acquiring all type of picks including those expensive Bluechip picks, you will spend a lot of money trying out a wide variety of strings and always looking for that magical string that will make you sound better, you will never be satisfied with the mandolin you have and want to upgrade, you will think that with enough practice you can be a Ricky Skaggs or Chris Thile and you will never be satisfied with the level you are playing at ! But, you won't listen to me as you will go ahead anyway ! Yes, it's a great ride and I am guilty of all the above ! I love the mandolin and so will you ! Enjoy ! And always remember, " If the only bird that sings in the forest is the one that sings the best, than the forest would be a very lonely place "
    Yeah... about that...

    I'm afraid it's too late. Though I'd say it was already too late when I watched Chris Thile's video of him playing the Bach Preludio eight years ago. I appreciate the warning, though =P

    Thank you all for your responses! I should also have specified that I didn't pick up mando with no musical background. Violin (and recently, fiddle) is my primary instrument, so while a lot did translate over, the sheer variety of mandolin is still a bit daunting to me.

    I may keep a Flatiron in mind as well. From what I've seen, I really like its simplicity and timbre. (But then again, I'm also wondering why not just get the tools and build one? I have the time.)

  19. #13

    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    But then again, I'm also wondering why not just get the tools and build one? I have the time.
    Flee!! Run like the wind!! Immediately. Head for the hills. Danger Will Robinson. Get out NOW!

    That is ten times worse than buying and playing them. Once you get started with that there is no hope.

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  21. #14

    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    Flee!! Run like the wind!! Immediately. Head for the hills. Danger Will Robinson. Get out NOW!

    That is ten times worse than buying and playing them. Once you get started with that there is no hope.
    There is some truth to this. But by the time you buy the tools and material, you could use the money on a pretty good mandolin. Here's the rundown of my experience:

    With limited power tools, I decided to build from the best kit I could find. Arches F style $800.

    Cumberland Acoustics bridge New/used from the classifieds $50 if I remember correctly.

    Allen tailpiece $80 or so.

    Used TKL oblong case $100

    Tuners $60

    Fretting tools, files, hammer, sanding beam, probably another $150 at least.

    Material and dial indicator for a thickness gauge, $50

    Material for thirty or so spool clamps $25

    Finishing supplies, I splurged here, $100

    So here is a very nice used A style ready to enjoy. Weber, Summit, Ratliff, Silverangel. Not far from a Collings MT.

    Now I had a Dremel, carving tools, fret files, straightedge, etc.

    The considerable upside is I now have an F style that compares in sound and playability to $3-5K instruments. Chalk it up to dumb luck. It was very entertaining and at times anguishing. Bottom line? I'm working on #2.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  22. #15
    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    Pack a sandwich for lunch and aim your car south along I95, calculus whiz! That'll take you to Rte. 81, about 100+/- miles South. Go west on 81 to Bloomingdale, GA and Randy Wood's Music Store. You'll find plenty of mandolins of all costs, and one of the most knowledgeable luthiers on the planet! (Be sure to ask for Randy!)

    No financial interest on my part...just love to turn people on to the experience!
    Rush Burkhardt
    Towson, MD


    Free opinions are worth exactly what you pay for them!

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  24. #16

    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    im a mandolin builder,i live right on james island,i usually have two or three of my own builds for sale,and i bave a balf dozen other mandolins your welcome to stop by and try thdm out...im trying to build a namd for mysdlf so my prices are crazy inexpensive..text or call me at 8434305026...good luck

  25. #17
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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    I live and play in Charleston. I think I could list every mandolin for sale in town from memory (NFI in any of these). Ye Olde Music has 2-3 entry level Eastman mandolins, I think they are 315ís. He also has a couple of Tanglewoods. GC has a Gretsch; stay away. There is a Weber Hyalite on Craigslist for $800. Finally, someone at Hungry Monk (a local music school) has an Eastman 505 for sale for $450. I think I got them all.

  26. #18
    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    I've met a few great pickers and awesome people from Charleston by going to the Alan Bibey camp at Myrtle Beach. You should definitely look into that for next August!
    Drew
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    Default Re: Advice for newbie in SC

    How’s the search coming? I live up the road in Myrtle Beach and have a couple of mandos for sale. I sent you a message. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

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