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Thread: Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

  1. #1

    Default Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

    Hey guys,

    I've been playing a Martin A Style 1958 for a couple of years. Mostly classical music but I want to get into folk and bluegrass. The tone is wonderful (as far as I can tell), but I've heard that a 315 would be a more appropriate build for those genres (Oval body and holes vs. F body and F-holes)

    Would an Eastman 315 be a noticeable upgrade for these genres?

    Thank you for your advice!
    Rob

  2. #2
    Hands of Pot Metal
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    Default Re: Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

    Nope. If you can play, it’ll sound good no matter what the style or brand.

    But with the economy down, buying an f hole mandolin, more bang with an A vs an F, you’d be doing a public service
    Play it like you mean it

    Not all the clams are at the beach

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  4. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

    A carved-top, f-hole mandolin -- whether an "F-model" or "A-model" -- will sound different from your bent-flat-top, oval-hole Martin A. It will likely have a more aggressive "attack," a sharper sound when initially strummed or picked, and a quicker "decay" -- its notes won't ring as long. Those qualities are generally seen as more suitable for bluegrass, both for the characteristic off-beat "chop," and for lead breaks that cut through the sounds of guitar and banjo. You won't see bluegrass bands, generally, that feature Martin mandolins.

    As to "folk," that really depends on what types of music you intend to play, within that very broad generic category. Quite a bit of folk is bluegrass-influenced, but there are also blues-influenced songs, different ethnic strains, some that sound more like old-timey, Celtic, other British Isles, etc., etc.

    I think you should take your Martin A and play it against a carved-top, f-hole mandolin, and hear the different sounds. Remember, every individual instrument is basically unique, and could differ, slightly or significantly, from other mandolins of the same make and model. See if you like the Eastman's (or whatever's) sound, feel, etc.

    Also, remember you're paying more for an Eastman MD315, than you would for its A-model equivalent, the MD305. That scroll and those points may look cool and bluegrass-y, but they're beside the point (no pun intended) when it comes to the mandolin's sound. And my advice would be to keep the Martin -- a really excellent mandolin -- even if you buy a "bluegrass" instrument. Martin A's are great little mandos (I own a 1919 model), and work well in many musical genres.

    Good luck.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
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  6. #4
    Registered User DoubleE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

    I don’t think it would be an upgrade. It could provide you with a different tone, but not necessarily better. “Folk” is a wide open term and I would say that your Martin is perfect for any style you can cram into that style other than bluegrass. Bluegrass has a more specific sound. You can play bluegrass licks on the Martin and fool your friends, but it’s not really the right instrument if you want to be in a bluegrass band. On the other hand, you might be the first Martin mandolin player to front a bluegrass band! By the way I love my Martin.

  7. #5

    Default Re: Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

    Thank you guys! I'll stick with my Martin until (if) I become a serious bluegrass player.

    For future reference, would the Eastman models (305, 315) be a good addition, that's comparable in quality to my Martin? My budget is ~$2K

  8. #6
    Hands of Pot Metal
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    Default Re: Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

    You can get a very nice used A style for $2k. Take your time.
    Play it like you mean it

    Not all the clams are at the beach

    Arrow G
    Clark 2 point
    Ratliff CountryBoy A
    00-21 (voiced by Eldon Stutzman)

  9. #7
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    Default Re: Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

    The Eastmans are very good mandolins, but with that budget you can step up to Silverangel, Ratliff, Weber Gallatin or older Absarokas, Collins MT, and any number of other independent builders, all of which are likely to be better than the Eastmans. I had a very good 315 for a few years that, honestly, was good enough to be my only mandolin (I play some in church and with friends—well, not now, but usually—but mostly at home). But, my Silverangel Econo sounded notably more complex and “better” to my ears...

    Keep an eye on the classifieds. If you want to buy new the 315 and 305 are good values, but going used A style opens up another level of mandolin, in my experience. Good luck!

  10. #8

    Default Re: Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

    Wow the Silverangels look serious...not sure I'm worthy yet!

  11. #9
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    Default Re: Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

    Quote Originally Posted by woo_rob1 View Post
    Wow the Silverangels look serious...not sure I'm worthy yet!
    If the check will clear, you’re worthy
    Play it like you mean it

    Not all the clams are at the beach

    Arrow G
    Clark 2 point
    Ratliff CountryBoy A
    00-21 (voiced by Eldon Stutzman)

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  13. #10

    Default Re: Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    A carved-top, f-hole mandolin -- whether an "F-model" or "A-model" -- will sound different from your bent-flat-top, oval-hole Martin A. It will likely have a more aggressive "attack," a sharper sound when initially strummed or picked, and a quicker "decay" -- its notes won't ring as long. Those qualities are generally seen as more suitable for bluegrass, both for the characteristic off-beat "chop," and for lead breaks that cut through the sounds of guitar and banjo. You won't see bluegrass bands, generally, that feature Martin mandolins.

    As to "folk," that really depends on what types of music you intend to play, within that very broad generic category. Quite a bit of folk is bluegrass-influenced, but there are also blues-influenced songs, different ethnic strains, some that sound more like old-timey, Celtic, other British Isles, etc., etc.

    I think you should take your Martin A and play it against a carved-top, f-hole mandolin, and hear the different sounds. Remember, every individual instrument is basically unique, and could differ, slightly or significantly, from other mandolins of the same make and model. See if you like the Eastman's (or whatever's) sound, feel, etc.

    Also, remember you're paying more for an Eastman MD315, than you would for its A-model equivalent, the MD305. That scroll and those points may look cool and bluegrass-y, but they're beside the point (no pun intended) when it comes to the mandolin's sound. And my advice would be to keep the Martin -- a really excellent mandolin -- even if you buy a "bluegrass" instrument. Martin A's are great little mandos (I own a 1919 model), and work well in many musical genres.

    Good luck.
    All well said. Great advice: Keep that Martin whether you get another mando or not. Old Martins have stood the test of time for good reason. They're good instruments.

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  15. #11
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

    Quote Originally Posted by woo_rob1 View Post
    ...For future reference, would the Eastman models (305, 315) be a good addition, that's comparable in quality to my Martin? My budget is ~$2K
    IMHO, the Eastman "300" series mandolins are good value for their prices, and well below your stated budget. They're "plain Jane" in terms of finish and ornamentation, and feature less "figured" maple for back, sides and neck, but otherwise (again, IMHO) seem on a par acoustically with Eastman's more expensive mandolins.

    Hard to say what's "comparable to your Martin," which is a much differently constructed instruments. The Eastman's top and back are carved, whereas the Martin has flat wood top and back, with the top heated and bent to form the "cant" below the soundhole. The Martin A was their basic, least expensive instrument, and the Eastman 300's are their basic, least expensive instruments as well. Eastman quality is generally quite good (I've owned four Eastman mandolin-family instruments, down to two right now, and I own an old [1919] Martin A).

    For $2K you can get a much more expensive Eastman, or a basic instrument by a good US maker, such as this Weber Gallatin. And, again, I applaud your decision to keep the Martin; fine mandolin -- sorry Martin quit making 'em.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  16. #12
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin A Style vs. Eastman 315 for Folk & Bluegrass

    I have a Martin C that is in the middle as far as bling goes. A great instument for traditional folk, but as Allen pointed out, not ideal for bluegrass. With a 2k budget, there are literally a huge number of options used, new, f or a style, f or oval hole (my Collins kicks butt playing grass). I suggest that once the pandemic is over, go to a music store like Carter Vintage or Elderly music where you can play a number of instruments in your price range and find that instrument that you really love. Once you have your wants in place you can also check the excellent classified section here at the Cafe, if you have not already made the plunge.

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