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Thread: Mandolin recommendation for new player

  1. #1
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    Default Mandolin recommendation for new player

    Hi everyone,
    I am a new player and already wanting to upgrade from my $65.00 Rogue A style mandoline. Mind you, I play for fun and am looking for a $350-$450.00 price range mandolin.

    I realize my price range really limits my choices, but I was looking at the LOAR LM 310F F-style mandolin. Does anyone have any advice or thoughts on the advantages/disadvantages of the LOAR 310??

    I am currently taking lessons and my playing goals are to primarily play for fun and perhaps eventually play for fun with family and friends. I play Irish music, contemporary (Beatles and others), and am very interested in the blues genre.

    Thanks, everyone!
    Kenn

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    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

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    The Loar LM-310 Mandolin Review - Perfect for Guitarists/Beginners ...
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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    Very common suggestions for new players include the Kentucky KM-150 or Eastman MD-305. The Kentucky is within your budget, the Eastman you'd have to stretch a wee bit more. The most important thing is to make sure that the mandolin is properly set up (adjusted/fine tuned) before you get it so that you don't struggle with playability and the best way to ensure that is to buy it from a forum sponsor.

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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    I've found The Loar's to be inconsistent, but a couple of them have been pretty nice. A buddy of mine has a used Eastman 305 that he go at the low end of your price range and it sounds, plays and looks great. You could also look for a used Mid-Missouri/Big Muddy - I found a couple of those to be a nice surprise. Both of those were round hole not F hole.

    Take Rob's comment about the setup to heart - a properly set up instrument will be a joy to play and a poor setup can be a real killjoy.

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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    Of the three I'd lean towards Eastman or Kentucky. Keeping your eyes peeled for second hand ones via the classifieds here could move the Eastman more into your range. Like Alfons I've found the Loars I've played to be inconsistent as compared to the other two brands.
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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    Quote Originally Posted by MandoKenn View Post
    I am currently taking lessons and my playing goals are to primarily play for fun and perhaps eventually play for fun with family and friends. I play Irish music, contemporary (Beatles and others), and am very interested in the blues genre.
    If you have no intention of playing bluegrass in a jam any time soon, you might consider a flattop mandolin. Alfons suggested a Mid-Missouri/Big Muddy (my first mandolin), and I have also owned a Gypsy Vagabond, Flatiron 1N, and Redline Traveler all bought used (and later sold) within your price range. Flattops take less time to build, and are therefore cheaper to produce, with the savings passed along to the consumer. As a result, you can buy an instrument made of all solid woods built by an independent luthier or small shop right here in the United States. And should you later decide to add an archtop to your stable, there will be no need to trade or sell the flattop. It can happily fill other roles as an alternative voice, backup, travel instrument, beater, or loaner.
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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    Quote Originally Posted by MandoKenn View Post
    I play... contemporary (Beatles and others)...
    OK, the Beatles broke up 52 years ago, am I right?

    I know this is a beside-the-point hijack, but I have often wondered over the past few years about the persistence of Beatles (and others, Stones, Led Zeppelin, Doors, Dead et. al.) pop music repertoire, so that many folks not even born in 1970 consider their music "contemporary."

    When I was first getting into music in the mid-1950's (yes, that long ago), if someone had said, "I play a lot of contemporary music -- you know, Paul Whiteman, Rudy Vallee, Bix Beiderbecke, George M. Cohan," I woulda thought he was crazy. Yet those performers were closer in time to, say, 1958, than I Want To Hold Your Hand or Hey Jude are to us today.

    One of our local "classic rock" stations has a multi-hour Beatles show every weekend -- not treated as "oldies," but as part of the contemporary music scene. I can't remember in my long-ago youth, a station devoting a weekly show to, I don't know, Benny Goodman or Bing Crosby, other than perhaps treating it as a nostalgia trip for golden-agers. Giving their music the Lawrence Welk treatment, sorta.

    So: a manifestation of the genius of Lennon and McCartney, or a difference in how we look at pop music, recognizing continuity, quality, and influence on our current music scene? Or the heavy hands of baby boomers still molding our entertainment tastes? Check out the ages of our current presidential candidates -- and what they play at their campaign rallies, even.

    Sorry to jump in on this theme, but hey, Paul and Ringo are my contemporaries, and they're, well, old.
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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    I'll second (or third) the Eastman 305 rec. If you can't afford a new one, look for used. But the tonal difference between that and a sub 500 instrument is going to be major. 305 will carry you as far as you wanna go, until you can't help but get into the 2k+ range.

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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    I second the recommendation for the Eastman or Kentucky. They're the best things for the price in an arch top mandolin.
    Or get a flattop as someone else suggested
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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    Beatles as contemporary... Following up on Allen Hopkins' note...

    The Big Band era was reasonably close in time to the Beatles era, but the instrumentation was wildly different. Two guitars, a bass and a drum are still the foundations for many/most rock and roll bands (with obvious exceptions). If the Fab Four were all still with us I don't think they'd have much trouble playing most of today's current music. Let's face it, a lot of today's music is over-produced and is often one verse and a chorus that is repeated over, and over, and over...

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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    Another vote for an Eastman.
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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    I just picked up an Eastman MD504 recently, and I'm very happy with it. I'd say if you're willing to stretch your budget a bit, go for the MD305.
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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    hey kenn -- welcome to our obsession!

    I know that if you live in the US, the ability to pick and choose from Loar, Kentucky and Eastman is merely one of interest and convenience, but if you don't live where you can easily get those brands, there are alternatives. If you don't mind used, there are Kays, Strad-o-lins and old Martins around that shouldn't break the bank, provided you have access to a luthier to make sure you're able to get a good playable instrument. and if you find one, in a bargain store or an old fashioned music store or a tag/garage sale or second-hand store, you can take photos and post them here and those who have good eyes and knowledge can tell you if it's worth purchasing. that's an option that isn't usually mentioned since most people want new. So i'm tossing those into the mix.
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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    Randi makes an excellent point. I'm a pretty new mandolin player, and I have a 98 Kentucky 200S and a ca. 41 Strad-o-lin, both purchased used for similar prices. The Kentucky isn't bad, but the Strad-o-lin is far superior and I will always keep it.

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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    I starter with (and bought used, and still have) a the Loar LM220 that I let people who want to try mandolin start on, then return. I got a good one for $200, if you find one, try it and you may get a break on what you need to spend.

  23. #16

    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    Hi. New user to the forum here. I wanted to chime in on the topic here...
    I highly support the choice of the Loar LM310F. As someone who has been playing stringed instruments for over 50 years, I've had a number of high end instruments. But late last year I was in a music store where the Loar's were on display. I played a few and I was shocked at the build quality, playability, tone and sustain for a $300 mandolin. Now granted, it no where near compares to the Flatiron F-5 Artist I had a while back. But at 10% of the cost of that Flatiron, the Loar does remarkably well. In fact so much so that I bought one. Now, I don't play as hard or as fast as I used to, but I can still keep up with the Loar LM310F in most settings. In my mind it's a great value and one not to be overlooked.

  24. #17
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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    I'm also a new (okay, returning) mandolin player, and I was fortunate enough to find a new Eastman MD 305 that one of the Mandolin Cafe sponsors was selling as used because it had a flaw in the finish. If you study the mandolin for some time under bright light, you may be able to discern that "flaw." The distinction, though, brought the price down to well within your range. I don't expect to need to move up for a long, long time. Irresistible desire to move up might be another matter.
    Last edited by Round2; Oct-26-2020 at 10:03pm. Reason: Edited to add brand name.
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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    If you are interested in a Loar this might interest you, it was/is their top of the line A -

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/162073#162073

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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    As a new player, I started out with a random rogue-ish A style mandolin, and about three months ago upgraded to a Loar lm 310f. I haven't had the chance to play more expensive mandolins, but as a new player, the Loar is amazing. The sound I get out of it is beautiful, and I just love playing it.
    A lot of people argue about F vs A style mandolins. Here's my two cents. While it's true that the A style gives you more bang for your buck, it's important to remember that instruments are art that makes art. An instrument looks beautiful on its own, and you can use it to create (hopefully) beautiful music. Almost as important as the sound of the instrument is the way you feel about it - like how creative people often gravitate towards apple products because the beauty 'inspires' them, the way you view your instrument influences your playing. The detailed appearance of my the Loar envigorates me to play it. Don't buy an F-style because it sounds better-buy it because that's the mandolin you imagine yourself having, and it will encourage you to practice more. Because a better player will get far better sound out of any instrument. In our low price range, the Loar is the best F style and competes with the A styles for quality.
    As a last note on my mandolin in particular, I bought it from Elderly Instruments to ensure a good setup, and the extra cost was definitely worth it. My previous mandolin had ridiculously high action that made it painful to play, while this one is far better. Also, get good strings-My G string was buzzy and just bad sounding until I replaced it with some D'Addarios. Finally, from what I understand the scroll on an F style is generally solid, yet on my the Loar lm 310f it is hollow-I don't have the means to show a picture, but found it interesting nonetheless. Because of that, the scroll on these mandolins might actually have a bigger impact on sound quality. Has anyone else with this mandolin noticed that, or is mine just 'unique'?
    Happy Picking!

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    Default Re: Mandolin recommendation for new player

    Quote Originally Posted by MandoKenn View Post
    Hi everyone,
    I am a new player and already wanting to upgrade from my $65.00 Rogue A style mandoline. Mind you, I play for fun and am looking for a $350-$450.00 price range mandolin.
    Some thoughts worth considering.

    It might be the case that you could get your mandolin "super" set up, such that you would be much more satisfied with the sound and playability, for less money.

    Secondly, my own personal experience is that with time, my life kind of formed itself around the mandolin. I gave up watching television, I organized my life to practice or jam as often as humanly possible, used my vacation time for music festivals, and with my enthusiasm I got family members into music, thus increasing their understanding and sharing my passions and priorities.

    The result of all of this, as you can guess, is that the allowable budget for a mandolin got bigger.

    Third point - I would encourage regular perusal of the classifieds on this site. Something in your budget is not an unlikely event.
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