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Thread: poor quality or MAS?

  1. #1
    Crazy Cat Lady collingwest's Avatar
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    Default poor quality or MAS?

    Hi folks, long time lurker but newly registered here.

    I'm a former grade school strings player (violin/viola) who accidentally discovered that mandolins are tuned like violins, and just couldn't get it out of her head. So, I bought a $100 cheapo-plywood model off of Amazon along with the Dummies book, figuring that if I liked it I could get a better quality instrument, but that if I didn't, I wasn't out several hundred or even a thousand dollars.

    Turns out the instrument had a surprisingly good tone and holds its tuning much better than I expected for the cost. And I like playing it! It took me a bit to learn how to think in chords and I'm still figuring out the right hand, but not as much as I thought it would. But there's one problem....

    I remember being sore as my left hand toughened up on violin/viola, but this time there are cuts and bruises that take 2-3 days to heal. That didn't happen before and I suspect the culprit is my mandolin's A and E courses, which appear to be made of nylon and not steel. I looked to see if I'm just pressing down too hard but pressing down lighter doesn't get the string properly stopped -- and I already have the bridge as low as I can get it.

    In other words, I suspect that the problem isn't my fingers or mandolins in general, but rather that this is where the instrument makers cheaped out in order to produce a $100 model -- a ridiculously high action and super thin nylon strings. (Even the G strings, which are metal, are not wrapped.)

    I'm thinking about going ahead and upgrading to a better quality instrument, but then again, this could also be early MAS especially since I'm also eyeing octave mandolins. Any feedback or thoughts?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Upgrade time. What’s your budget?

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  4. #3
    Crazy Cat Lady collingwest's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianWilliam View Post
    Upgrade time. What’s your budget?
    So this doesn't sound like poor technique to you?

    Budget's not much right now, maybe $300-$500. Since I'm strictly a solo pleasure player at the moment, I've been looking at the Seagull S8. I figure the cool factor on the shape will help me overcome the really boring parts of getting seriously started (coming up with $ for lessons and going through the intial drills, etc.)
    Last edited by collingwest; Apr-03-2020 at 7:55am. Reason: punctuation mistake

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    PM Cafe member Rob Meldrum for his free setup guide: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/m...37-Rob-Meldrum
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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Get yourself a proper set of strings. For <$10 it's worth a try.

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    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Most of these mandolins have the nut cut way too high and would explain what the OP is experiencing. A good setup should remedy the problem. A better mandolin is a better remedy.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  13. #8

    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    You might keep your eye open for a Stradolin. You can pick many of them up for around $500 and they have amazingly good tone and playability and will likely play better than a $500 new one. Usually some in the classifieds, some are out of your budget. There is even a stradolin social group page on this site. Usually some of the dealers that advertise on this site will have one or two. Definately either a set up or construction issue you are dealing with but what it will take to correct it may be worth more than the mandolin.

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    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    If you like to tinker, get Rob's book and have at it, but I also suggest an upgrade if you can afford it. The Kentucky Brian William linked to would arrive set up nicely and ready to play, as would this one https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/152982#152982

    Either would be a major upgrade. I'd take a pass on the Seagull, but that's me.
    Last edited by Eric F.; Apr-03-2020 at 11:10am. Reason: Dropped word

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    Crazy Cat Lady collingwest's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    What don't you like about the Seagull?

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    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    The few I've played just haven't done it for me in terms of sound. The lower end Kentuckys are fantastic for the money. I think most people on this board would recommend one to anyone with a budget south of $500. You should give Dennis at The Mandolin Store a call and ask his advice.

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    Registered User Mike Scott's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric F. View Post
    The few I've played just haven't done it for me in terms of sound. The lower end Kentuckys are fantastic for the money. I think most people on this board would recommend one to anyone with a budget south of $500. You should give Dennis at The Mandolin Store a call and ask his advice.
    Yep! what he said. Alternatives would possibly be a Flat top - Big Muddy Primative, Morris, etc. I believe there's a Morris in the Classified's now (NFI). Good luck and welcome to the Mando and the Cafe.
    Thanks

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  22. #13

    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    EVERY inexpensive mandolin needs a setup. The cheaper the mandolin, the more it needs one. A professional would charge at least $50. So Rob Meldrum is the way to go. But I’d buy an Eastman 300 series from one of our sponsors, or a used one from the Cafe classifieds if you like playing. A well set up mandolin is a revelation.
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  24. #14
    Crazy Cat Lady collingwest's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Thanks for all the recommendations! I think I am going to go with a Kentucky KM-276, as I understand that round holes work better with the Americana/folk/contemporary stuff I like to do -- and I like warm-toned instruments. It's right at the top of my range but with a little bit of saving I think I can swing it.

    I'm in Atlanta, so if needs be I can get over to Maple Street Guitars (recommended elsewhere on Mandolin Cafe) to do my setup, once the quarantines get lifted. I know better than to try it on my own as I had a talent for breaking bridges back in my school strings days.

  25. #15
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    That's a good choice. I bought a KM-272, which is the same model but a different color, mostly because it was such a good deal slightly used that I couldn't resist. It's a good mandolin. I've been very impressed. If you get it from TMS or Elderly or another Cafe sponsor, you're pretty much guaranteed a good setup, which I think you will find eye opening.

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  27. #16

    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Depending on where you order it, you may get a good setup with your purchase. There are a few sponsors here who do an excellent setup when you buy a mandolin from them.

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  29. #17
    Scroll Lock Austin Bob's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Quote Originally Posted by collingwest View Post
    Thanks for all the recommendations! I think I am going to go with a Kentucky KM-276, as I understand that round holes work better with the Americana/folk/contemporary stuff I like to do -- and I like warm-toned instruments.
    First of all, welcome here. You're right, there's a subtle difference between round holes vs. F, but you can play any style on any mandolin.

    I agree with the advice so far, especially with giving The Mandolin Store a call. Inventories can change daily, they'll let you know the best model in your price range, without trying to sell you on stuff you don't need.

    Finally, I also recommend you go to the top of the page and browse through the Learn/Listen section. Lots of good resources to help you along on your journey.

    Have fun.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

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  31. #18
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Most of these mandolins have the nut cut way too high and would explain what the OP is experiencing. A good setup should remedy the problem. A better mandolin is a better remedy.
    This !!! ^^^^

    I bought an inexpensive mando, and had the same issue. Being a guitar player, I was pretty sure it was the nut height. I got it professionally set up and that made a huge difference.

    Welcome to the forum and good luck to you.
    Greg Fury

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    Crazy Cat Lady collingwest's Avatar
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    Smile Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Aaaaand it's official! KM-276 and hard case are on the way -- I found them on Reverb as TMS had no stock, meaning there likely is a trip to Maple Street Guitars coming sometime in the future. Hopefully this will fix some of what I do believe is indeed MAS. Wish me luck and thanks so much for all the welcomes.

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  34. #20
    FIDDLES with STRADOLINS your_diamond's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Mead View Post
    You might keep your eye open for a Stradolin. You can pick many of them up for around $500 and they have amazingly good tone and playability and will likely play better than a $500 new one. Usually some in the classifieds, some are out of your budget. There is even a stradolin social group page on this site. Usually some of the dealers that advertise on this site will have one or two. Definately either a set up or construction issue you are dealing with but what it will take to correct it may be worth more than the mandolin.
    Once again, The Finer Vintage American Made Stradolins lose out to the fairly awful Chinese junk. When will they learn?

  35. #21
    Registered User zedmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    poor quality or MAS?
    Is there a reason it can't be both?

    Lots of great info & tips here though.
    Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?

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  37. #22
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Good call! Let us know what you think when it arrives. Hopefully it will be ready to go, as it may be a while yet before the stay at home orders lift.

    I don’t recall ever seeing an oval hole Stradolin. Were they made in significant numbers? Genuinely asking, as I’m completely ignorant of their existence...
    Chuck

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  39. #23
    FIDDLES with STRADOLINS your_diamond's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    Good call! Let us know what you think when it arrives. Hopefully it will be ready to go, as it may be a while yet before the stay at home orders lift.

    I don’t recall ever seeing an oval hole Stradolin. Were they made in significant numbers? Genuinely asking, as I’m completely ignorant of their existence...
    Yes, they did.

  40. #24
    FIDDLES with STRADOLINS your_diamond's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    They show up on ebay, every so often.
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  41. #25
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: poor quality or MAS?

    I don't wanta jump into a digression/dispute, and I do love the Strad-O-Lin I own, but remember, they were mostly budget mandolins originally. Good budget mandolins, but lets not make 'em Stradivarii. There may be more hand-work in the Kentucky KM-276 than in most Strads. I think "fairly awful Chinese junk" is not an accurate description.

    Also, if the mandolin is bought through Reverb and coming through a local dealer, have the dealer at least check the set-up. Ya never know...
    Allen Hopkins
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