Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 31

Thread: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

  1. #1

    Question Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    hi I played violin and ukulele for a while when I was younger so I figured I might as well give mandolin a go. I'm on a tight budget but am looking for an instrument that will last me a while and hold a tune nicely. Hopefully under $300 but I can go above that I would just have to save up. I like the f style mandolins because I think they're prettier but I don't know if they're better or not. I mostly shop on amazon. any advice would be greatly appreciated Thank you!!

  2. The following members say thank you to MyMelody for this post:


  3. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    NC
    Posts
    4,420

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    Look for a Kentucky KM-150 or an Eastman 305, used if possible. They’re very good mandolins for the $ and ones you won’t soon outgrow. Forget about F-style scrolls in your budget…the quality hit you take in tone to get a scroll in your price range isn’t worth it (I agree they’re pretty, but don’t own one presently in favor of an amazing A style and 2 pointer.

    Nothing against Amazon, I buy a lot of stuff from there, too, but I’d recommend buying from one of the Cafe sponsors. They’ll do a good set up, which is critical on mandolin, and any savings you get from buying on Amazon you’ll spend on a set up, anyway…

    Welcome, and good luck in your search!
    Chuck

  4. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to CES For This Useful Post:


  5. #3
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    South of Fort Worth, Texas
    Posts
    4,304

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    As Chuck said, a good setup is paramount for any new mandolin, and I would say *especially* so for the budget mandolins. And I see that you are totally new here, so by way of explanation, the "cafe sponsors" Chuck mentions are to be found here on the classified ads page, just below the header. You'll see ads and a group of links there: The Mandolin Store, Fiddlers Green, Mass Street Music, Elderly Instruments, etc. to name but a few. Check out their websites, and if you see something you're interested in, call them or email & ask if a setup is included on that one. Here is the Classified page where you'll find links to their stores.

    While you are there, scroll through all the mandolin classifieds. While most may be far beyond your budget, there are often one or two very close to your price range, you just have to dig a bit to find them. A used instrument will usually be already set up well, if it were owned by a knowledgeable player.

    Good luck and hope you do indeed join the ranks of mandolin lovers and players.
    WWW.MARKGUNTER.NET
    Coming Soon: New site, The Amateur Mandolinist
    ----------------------------------
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN

    ----------------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Blues Mando
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

  6. The following members say thank you to Mark Gunter for this post:


  7. #4
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Saint Augustine Beach FL
    Posts
    5,921

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    All good advise from above, you will not find a playable F style in your budget and might find an A style if you are lucky. Buying Mandolins on Amazon is not recommended IMO.

    Eastman mandolins are a good starter mandolin and can carry you for a long time. This 304 in the classifieds is a fair deal...

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/189698#189698

    Above your budget but will most likely be what you will be looking at in the future. Good luck with your search!

    NFI
    Last edited by Charles E.; Jul-01-2022 at 7:44pm.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  8. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Gainesville, FL
    Posts
    2,627

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    When I started mandolin I bought just what I could afford knowing I'd probably want to upgrade in the future. I did and don't regret starting with a real cheapo. Good luck and happy pickin'.

  9. #6
    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    PA
    Posts
    293

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    I just stumbled across this Strad this morning. Might work for you. Not a Cafe sponsor, but a trustworthy shop.
    https://vintage-instruments.com/shop...dolin-c-1950s/

  10. #7
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    South of Fort Worth, Texas
    Posts
    4,304

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Gies View Post
    When I started mandolin I bought just what I could afford knowing I'd probably want to upgrade in the future. I did and don't regret starting with a real cheapo. Good luck and happy pickin'.
    I did the same, but I had been a lifelong guitar player, so I knew what action I wanted and I did the setup: Fit bridge to top, lower slots in the nut, etc. Those are things that really need to be done, but you can learn to do them yourself if you want to.
    WWW.MARKGUNTER.NET
    Coming Soon: New site, The Amateur Mandolinist
    ----------------------------------
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN

    ----------------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Blues Mando
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

  11. #8
    Registered User Pappyrich's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2020
    Location
    Williamsburg, VA
    Posts
    150

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    I'll second getting an Eastman 305. I still have the one I started playing mandolin with several years ago, and have no plans to get rid of it. I got it from The Mandolin Store (NFI). They are great folks to deal with and could maybe find you a good used one.
    Richard

    Eastman 305
    Gibson A1 (1919)
    Martin D16 guitar
    Great Divide Guitar (Two-Old-Hippies)
    OME 11" banjo (1973)
    Pisgah 12" banjo

  12. #9
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    Augusta, Maine, USA
    Posts
    1,511

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    Quote Originally Posted by MyMelody View Post
    hi I played violin and ukulele for a while when I was younger so I figured I might as well give mandolin a go. I'm on a tight budget but am looking for an instrument that will last me a while and hold a tune nicely. Hopefully under $300 but I can go above that I would just have to save up. I like the f style mandolins because I think they're prettier but I don't know if they're better or not. I mostly shop on amazon. any advice would be greatly appreciated Thank you!!
    F's sound the same as A's. They cost more because more cutting, carving, and binding are involved.

    You can do much better outside of Amazon, EBay, and Musician's Friend. There are better online retailers, like Sweetwater and Pro Audio Star, and there are trustworthy used marketplaces, like reverb.com and the classifieds here.
    Gibson A-Junior snakehead (Keep on pluckin'!)

  13. #10
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    San Antonio, Texas
    Posts
    395

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    All good advise from above, you will not find a playable F style in your budget and might find an A style if you are lucky. Buying Mandolins on Amazon is not recommended IMO.

    Eastman mandolins are a good starter mandolin and can carry you for a long time. This 304 in the classifieds is a fair deal...

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/189698#189698

    Above your budget but will most likely be what you will be looking at in the future. Good luck with your search!

    NFI
    Au contraire mon ami! Just this March I bought my Ibanez M-522, a demo model, for just under $300 delivered to my door, and it is much more than just “playable”. I got it from one of the popular on line stores, and it came to me in as new condition. There are bargains out there you just need the patience to wait for one to pop up.
    There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those that understand binary and those that don't.

    Ibanez M-522

  14. #11
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    East Concord, NY 14055
    Posts
    151

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    There is a nice looking Stradolin in the classifieds. They usually an amazing value for the money.

  15. #12
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts
    1,672

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    While I personally love Stradolin's and have a great one, not sure it's what I would suggest for a first instrument.

    My suggestion would be a properly set up Kentucky KM-150. While I like Eastman, still think the Kentucky is a better bargain. Arto Jarvela (Finnish) plays one in Tallari. At least when he isn't playing fiddle or nyckelharpa. It's a good beginner instrument that will carry one to a pro level if you want.
    2000 Brentrup Model 23 #6, Peter Coombe #248, Gibson A Jr, '82 Flatiron 1SB, Strad-O-Lin, Eastman MDO-305
    http://ericplatt.weebly.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/LauluAika/
    https://www.lauluaika.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/Longtine-Am...14404553312723

  16. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Eric Platt For This Useful Post:


  17. #13
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Posts
    3,580

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    While I personally love Stradolin's and have a great one, not sure it's what I would suggest for a first instrument.
    I agree that while a Stradolin is (or at least was) good value for a vintage instrument, it wouldn’t be my first thought for a starter. My alternative suggestion would be a flattop, such as a Big Muddy or Flatiron, which are made of solid woods in small shops and by independent builders throughout the United States. They can do everything a beginner needs and have certain charms that can make them lifetime instruments.
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
    2015 Black A2-z
    2010 Black GBOM
    2017 Poe Scout
    2014 Smart F-Style Mandola
    2018 Vessel TM5
    2019 Hogan F5

  18. The following members say thank you to pheffernan for this post:


  19. #14

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    If you're not dead-set on f-holes (not to be confused with F-Style) rather than an oval hole, there's a Kentucky KM-270 in the Amazon Warehouse deals for a VERY good price. You'd likely have enough left in your budget to get a good setup.

    If your main goal is to play bluegrass, then an f-hole model is likely a better bet, though.

  20. #15
    Registered User Cheryl Watson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    St. Augustine, Florida, USA
    Posts
    1,397

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    Whatever you decide to get, setup is a large part of it. An inexpensive A-style mandolin with a pro set up with new strings that are appropriate for that particular mandolin is all you need. I can recommend The Mandolin Store. Several of my students have bought mandolins from them. What I do not recommend is buying an instrument on Ebay or the like. Chances are the set-up will not be good amongst countless other possible problems.

  21. #16
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Pacific NW, slightly outside BC
    Posts
    796

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    I recently played maybe 5 of the new Recording King $200 mandolins at various Guitar center's and 1 played great, 1 was sort of acceptable and 3 were horribly setup but the good one was the only budget mandolin at GC that ever played well.

    (and get Rob Meldrum's setup pdf e-book so you're prepared to take measurements and fit bridge etc if you need to)
    Kentucky km900
    Yamaha piano, clarinet, violin; generic cello
    Stage 1 pedal steel (highly recommended); banjo, dobro don't get played much cause i'm considerate ;}

    Shopping/monitoring prices: marimbas, Roland drumsets, Yamaha brass and single/double reeds

  22. #17
    Registered User dwc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Charleston, SC
    Posts
    384

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    That KM 270 from Amazon Warehouse is used, but unless it’s broken and unplayable it is a stupid good deal. I thought about buying it, but I would rather see a beginner get a good deal on a good instrument.
    Northfield Artist Series F5 (2 bar, Adirondack)

  23. #18

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    Quote Originally Posted by dwc View Post
    That KM 270 from Amazon Warehouse is used, but unless it’s broken and unplayable it is a stupid good deal. I thought about buying it, but I would rather see a beginner get a good deal on a good instrument.
    True, but probably a perfectly fine just a customer return... and easily returnable if there's a major issue. If I didn't have a custom guitar coming at the end of the month that I need to pay for, I'd have already bought it.

  24. #19
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Location
    New Jersey, USA
    Posts
    386

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    Look for a Kentucky KM-150 or an Eastman 305, used if possible. They’re very good mandolins for the $ and ones you won’t soon outgrow. Forget about F-style scrolls in your budget…the quality hit you take in tone to get a scroll in your price range isn’t worth it (I agree they’re pretty, but don’t own one presently in favor of an amazing A style and 2 pointer.

    Nothing against Amazon, I buy a lot of stuff from there, too, but I’d recommend buying from one of the Cafe sponsors. They’ll do a good set up, which is critical on mandolin, and any savings you get from buying on Amazon you’ll spend on a set up, anyway…

    Welcome, and good luck in your search!
    I bought my first mandolin from Amazon, an Ibanez A style for $150. It was an poorly thought out impulse purchase. Set up was horrible, but I learned on it. I fortunately found this site and bought a well set up mandolin from the classifieds. Made a huge difference. To the OP, don't underestimate the value of a good setup

  25. #20
    Registered User mandolin breeze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    "My Home Is On My Back"
    Posts
    310

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    Check out a Morris if you can find one. Highly regarded in the Cafe. I've got a F 2-point and just love it.

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/Ajz6HDzGngEqDZRs5
    Last edited by mandolin breeze; Jul-04-2022 at 7:34pm.

  26. #21
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    24,219
    Blog Entries
    55

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    Can you manage a way to rent or borrow a mandolin to see if you love it or not? Then your upfront costs is minimal, and if love is in the air you feel better about making a bigger budget.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  27. #22
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Posts
    3,580

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    My alternative suggestion would be a flattop, such as a Big Muddy or Flatiron, which are made of solid woods in small shops and by independent builders throughout the United States. They can do everything a beginner needs and have certain charms that can make them lifetime instruments.
    If you can go a bit higher, maybe this one would speak to you: https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/189916#189916
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
    2015 Black A2-z
    2010 Black GBOM
    2017 Poe Scout
    2014 Smart F-Style Mandola
    2018 Vessel TM5
    2019 Hogan F5

  28. #23
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    South of Fort Worth, Texas
    Posts
    4,304

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    Quote Originally Posted by JiminRussia View Post
    Au contraire mon ami! Just this March I bought my Ibanez M-522, a demo model, for just under $300 delivered to my door, and it is much more than just “playable”. I got it from one of the popular on line stores, and it came to me in as new condition. There are bargains out there you just need the patience to wait for one to pop up.
    For sure, to pay more than $300 for an Ibanez M-522 would not be a very good deal. But there are mandolins one may buy for $50 - $100 that are “A styles” that are comparable to the Ibanez M-522 … pressed plywood top, etc.

    I’m very familiar with the mandolin you’re playing, I spent about a year learning on one myself, after doing a good setup on it. But I think a better deal would be to buy a used A style mandolin with solid wood and carved top, generally speaking.
    WWW.MARKGUNTER.NET
    Coming Soon: New site, The Amateur Mandolinist
    ----------------------------------
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN

    ----------------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Blues Mando
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

  29. #24
    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri
    Posts
    361

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    There is a Big Muddy in the Cafe ads at the moment. I think they are great mandolins aand work very well in most kinds of playing. A GREAT mandolin to start with for sure.

  30. The following members say thank you to J.C. Bryant for this post:


  31. #25
    Registered User haggardphunk's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Location
    Littleton, CO
    Posts
    183

    Default Re: Best Beginner Mandolin on a Budget?

    I started on an Eastman 305 and fell in love with playing mandolin due to that specific mando. I still play as Eastman but a nicer one. Welcome to the forum!
    Arsenal:
    Turkey Creek #63 | Eastman MD905 | Martin D-18 GE | Eastman E20D-tc | Gibson Les Paul x2
    Fender Telecaster Amer Std. | Gibson SG Jr. | Ibanez PM2 | Eastman t486 | Fender Amer Deluxe P Bass
    Fender Eric Clapton Strat

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •