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Thread: Beginner Celtic mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Beginner Celtic mandolin

    My wife is taking violin lessons and she is mainly interested in Irish jig/reel kind of stuff. I play a little bit of guitar, but thought it might be cool to get a mandolin to be able to play with her.

    Looking at the usual beginner kinda stuff, Kentucky, Eastman, Feeling(Chinese ebay,saw a review here), big muddy, etc.

    For my purposes, what should I be looking for? 1K would be my top end, but the cheaper the better. Any suggestions?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    Buy a Flatiron flat top like the 1N. Perfect, affordable, lovely sounding instrument. Iíve seen a few in the $600-800 range lately.

    You may never need better. Old Gibsonís are great too, at twice the price. I do not believe in beginner instruments, as it ties into the whole I am not worthy argument. Of course you are.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    Perhaps a little higher than 1K but a Silverangel makes a fine mandolin for Irish trad

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    You'll get a lot of recommendations here and you can do a lot of research and I did the exact same thing a few months ago when I got into mandolin but maybe I can give you a shortcut especially since you are new to the instrument. I recommend buying something brand new from one of our sponsors that will come perfectly setup and ready to play right out of the box. Don't mess with used instruments from afar of which you are unsure of the condition. Even if you purchase from the classifieds here and have a 48 return policy as other than cosmetic damage how, as a newbie, would you be able to gauge anything structurally wrong with the instrument?

    The stuff coming out of China today is so good you could get a great instrument for half of your top end. You can pm if you want details of what/where I bought as I don't want to be seen as pushing a particular vendor.

    Rob
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    If I were looking for a mandolin for playing traditional irish music, I think I might snap up that Keith Newell flattop that's listed in the MC classified ads. The Newell instruments that I've played and/or heard have all been very nice indeed. NFI.

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  7. #6
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by ptritz View Post
    If I were looking for a mandolin for playing traditional irish music, I think I might snap up that Keith Newell flattop that's listed in the MC classified ads. The Newell instruments that I've played and/or heard have all been very nice indeed. NFI.
    Seconded. My first thought was a used flattop from a small shop or independent builder, and a buddy of mine raved about a Newell he owned.
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  8. #7

    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    Welcome to the Cafe, Spawndn72! I wound up with an Eastman MD505 and like it very well. I'm not sure how it would perform with Irish music, though.

  9. #8
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    As a longtime player of Irish Traditional music my advice would be buy the best mandolin you can afford, regardless of shape, regardless as to whether it is oval hole or has f-holes, regardless as to whether it is a flat top or has an arch top. You can play Irish traditional music on any mandolin - go to Ireland and you'll see all variety of mandolins being used in sessions. How great that you'll be able to join in and play tunes with your wife!
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  11. #9
    flyfishermandolinist Tim F Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    I have a similar story. My fist mandolin that I considered “Celtic” was a Weber Aspen II, similar to the flatiron that has been recommended. If you could find a used Aspen or Y2K that would probably be a great mandolin in your range. Maybe something like a big muddy would be good too. I think of flat top oval hole instruments when I think of Celtic, but then Tim O’Brien plays a lot of Celtic stuff on an arch top f-hole instrument, so it’s really just what suits you. My preference changed over the years and I now personally prefer archtop f-hole tone even for Celtic. My wife plays violin and though we have played mandolin/violin duets and it’s beautiful, for backing her up on Celtic fiddle tunes I more often opt for octave mandolin/bouzouki because the low end supports chord backup to a fiddle tune better in my opinion. It might be something to look into and see if it grabs your interest if your main intent is backing up Celtic fiddle, but it’s probably best to get one of each eventually. I use mandolin when I try to play melody on irish fiddle tunes, and the big mandolin family instrument when I back her up. It’s all super fun, enjoy!
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  12. #10
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    What Jill said. Whatever mandolin you play Celtic music on will be your beginner Celtic mandolin. Get the best mandolin you can reasonably afford and enjoy it.

  13. #11
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    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    I second (third, fourth) the "buy the best you can comfortably afford and enjoy! If you go too cheap, you will end upgrading soon anyway (speaking from personal experience.)

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  15. #12

    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    The guy with the Newell in the classifieds never got back with me.
    I did however buy the Flatiron 3MW that was in the classifieds.
    I will let y'all know how it goes.
    Thanks for all the advice everyone.

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  17. #13
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    I know you will enjoy that Flatiron. Good choice.
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

    My website and blog: honketyhank.com

  18. #14
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    Nice choice. Were you planning to play along with melody or do back-up chord work? Just curious. Most of the mandolins I know in ITM play melody and let guitar/bouzouki do the backup work.
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  19. #15

    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Randi Gormley View Post
    Nice choice. Were you planning to play along with melody or do back-up chord work? Just curious. Most of the mandolins I know in ITM play melody and let guitar/bouzouki do the backup work.
    I would like to play along with the melody.

  20. #16

    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    Congratulations on your find, Spawndn72! Enjoy!

  21. #17

    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    How about an update.
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  22. #18

    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    How about an update.
    I am learning to play a few songs. I didn't have anything to compare the flatiron to until I played a few mandolins in the music stores this weekend. I played a bunch of low end Loar's, epiphone's, Kentucky's, etc and none of them came close to the flatiron.

    I did play several Eastman's that I thought were nice and they were easier to play than the flatiron, but had nowhere near the volume or the tone of the flatiron.

    When I first got the flatiron, the action was really high. I sanded the bridge down to get it better, it could still probably come down some more, but I am a little leary of taking even more off the bridge as I have taken quite a bit off it already. Overall I am pretty happy with the purchase.

  23. #19

    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    I'd have a professional look at the nut slot height, or get Rob Meldrum"s free e Book. Where a beginner plays, the nut is far more important for good action than the saddle height.
    Silverangel A
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  24. #20

    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    Nut slot height is perfect. I don't remember the exact numbers, but the clearance at the first fret was really close. It is definitely a neck angle/bridge issue.
    I think I have it close enough now. The string to fret height at the 12th fret is just slightly more than 5/64. It's not impossible to play; the action on the Eastman's I played were just better. The sound however was not anywhere near as good.

    So far, I can play "Angeline the Baker" and "Swallow Tail Jig" at the fast speeds using mandolessons.com

  25. #21

    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    If the Eastman’s playability is better, have someone do a setup on the Flatiron. There’s no substitute for a really good setup. Why struggle? It’s only going to impede your progress in the long run.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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  27. #22
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Celtic mandolin

    Yes, get a good set-up on the Flatiron and you won't know yourself! When I got my first well set up mandolin (a Weber Aspen#2) I couldn't get over how much more quickly I progressed as regards accuracy, speed and plain old comfort playing!
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