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Thread: DO I need a better mandolin?

  1. #1

    Default DO I need a better mandolin?

    I am an amateur player. I have one mandolin: a Michael Kelly Dragonfly. I like it, and it works. I've had it for about 5 years now.
    I live remotely, and my access to mandos is non-existent. I have never handled another one, nor have I heard any up close and personal.
    What I can't evaluate is how much better a "good" mando sounds, in comparison to the one I have. (assuming mine is not "good")
    Playability aside, and I know it is subjective, but how much better does a good mando sound, and will I be able to tell the difference? I do have a fairly good ear....

  2. #2
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    There are all kinds of good sounding mandolins, with varying types of sounds. The only Dragonfly I have played sounded quite good. Yes, you could spend a few thousand $$ and get something better, only you can decide if it is necessary. If you like what you are playing and aren't around any other mandolins, I would play it and enjoy it. Should you some day go somewhere and play a mandolin that speaks to you and you can afford it then that is a new ball game.
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    That is a very sensible response. Thank you.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    I would say that if you enjoy playing it and feel like you want a new mandolin, then the answer is absolutely yes.

    Fortunately, most reputable sellers have a 48-72 hour trial period. Therefore, if your chosen mandolin is ultimately deemed as not worth the upgrade, you'll be able to send it back (possibly minus a restocking fee). Certainly it would be best to be able to go to a physical store and try out several, but from what you've said that doesn't seem like an option for you.

    All that aside, another thing to consider is the price of an upgrade. Mandolins are expensive instruments when compared to the omnipresent acoustic guitar. You could expect to spend somewhere in the realm of $2000-$3000 for a worthwhile upgrade to your current mandolin. Weber and Northfield are great brands in that price range, and you can probably find some A-Styles from small American Luthiers in that range as well.

    In conclusion, if you're mentally invested in the mandolin, trying out an upgrade would probably be doing yourself a big favor. If its a casual or passing interest, and your current mando fills your needs, you'll get by just fine with the Dragonfly.

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    Khaaaan!! Captain Kirk's Avatar
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    There are several of us in the same boat you are. Wondering the same thing.
    Last edited by Captain Kirk; Aug-20-2022 at 5:47pm.
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    No, you do not need another mandolin.
    Yes, you might appreciate a better mandolin.
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    as someone who started on a no name Pac Rim A model, and now play a Collings F5, I would say yes there is a difference between playing an entry level instrument versus a professional grade instrument. No sin in upgrading we do it all the time with other "hobbies". No sin in keeping something you like and are comfortable with either. Does having a better mandolin make me a better player - absolutely not, but it does inspire me to work harder at improving my playing skills.
    So upgrading will not guarantee better playing, but neither will staying with what you are comfortable with.
    Also no everyone who plays an instrument needs to aspire to a virtuosos level of playing. If you are happy doing what you do, no reason to abandon that.
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    If you have some decent headphones you can listen to a number of fine mandolins played by some outstanding musicians (and not so talented musicians) on youtube. It may take a bit of research to identify videos that have decent audio. For example a video of an outdoor festival stage is not going to be as good as a professional studio set up. Only a few have great acoustic situations in their kitchen or living room, or pub. However most of the top players, who have great instruments by the way, do have youtube videos. Furthermore some instrument shops have 'comparison demonstrations' and the quality of the playing as well as the audio recording is IMHO is often disappointing. It is a better choice to listen to great musicians on their personal instruments recorded at a professional studio.
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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    We’re in a golden age of instrument manufacture. It means that the more expensive instruments are incredible. But it also means that mid price and cheaper instruments are much better then they used to be. Your current mandolin is likely a very good instrument particularly if set up well. But sometimes it’s nice to spoil ourselves. Don’t feel bad buying a second. But don’t feel inadequate if you don’t.
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    Of *course* you need a better mandolin!

    And I only read the thread title...
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by bustedknuckle View Post
    I am an amateur player. I have one mandolin: a Michael Kelly Dragonfly. I like it, and it works. I've had it for about 5 years now.
    I live remotely, and my access to mandos is non-existent. I have never handled another one, nor have I heard any up close and personal.
    What I can't evaluate is how much better a "good" mando sounds, in comparison to the one I have. (assuming mine is not "good")
    Playability aside, and I know it is subjective, but how much better does a good mando sound, and will I be able to tell the difference? I do have a fairly good ear....
    I think most folks on this board have upgraded. The downside is that once you open that door it can't easily be closed. If you are happy, nothing wrong with what you have now

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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    You can always upgrade later. Enjoy what you have right now until you don’t.
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  18. #13

    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    Allreally good responses to the question. I'm likely to keep my eyes open for better, and keep what I have. I would have considerable difficulty explaining to my (very understanding) wife why I needed to spend a couple of grand on better......

  19. #14
    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    Maybe you don't need better, just different. Possibly an oval hole or flat top. I don't see anything wrong with dropping 2K on a mandolin, but if the MK is the only mandolin you've ever played you might want to check out some other lower priced options first to compare. If you buy used and are not looking to flip or make money you can pretty much break even if you resell. You seem happy with the MK. It doesn't seem like you have a reason to let it go. I believe a good sounding mandolin is more about the player than the instrument.

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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    My son's music teacher suggested what I still think is the right metric -- you are ready for an upgrade instrument when you can play & hear the differences between the two.
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    Though I don't have personal experience with Michael Kelly instruments, from what I know of instruments in the same price bracket, you can definitely get a better mandolin for more money. Quantifying something as personal & subjective as how an instrument feels in your hands & sounds to your ears isn't really possible but I tend to look at it in $500 ranges until you get above $2K-$3K. The diff between a $500 mandolin & a $1K mandolin will be pretty noticeable but the returns start to diminish rather quickly the closer you get to $2K. After $3K, and frequently before that for many people, it's not a question of better but different & knowing what you want or don't want can be a long journey.

    If you're remote, I'm curious what your skills are at setups. A poor setup can hinder the best tone and a good setup can make a world of difference. To that end, if you're buying online, go with a good shop, like some of our sponsers for example You can learn how do to it yourself & it'll save you time & money but, either way, definitely make sure it's setup right
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    Dave Berry
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    IMHO, if you arestill inspired to play and learn every day then you don't need an upgrade yet. That said, there's nothing like an upgrade to inspire you to play more and get better. Of course, YMMV. keep at it.

    cheers
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    It all depends on whether you “want” a better mandolin or whether you “need” a better mandolin. Ask yourself this question, “Can I play better than this mandolin is capable of being played?” If the answer is yes, then you “need” a better mandolin. If the answer is no, then you just “want” a j better mandolin. A new (to,you) mandolin will inspire you to play more, for a while anyway, and it won’t matter if it is better, worse or just as good as the old mandolin. A better mandolin will NOT make you a better player. Investing your time, money and efforts in lessons, practice and study of the music will make you a better player.
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  25. #19

    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    Well, I'm sure there is a certain amount of mando lust in the equation. "OHH sparklie!" But I can't know if I would play better on a better axe without playing one. Catch 22.
    As far as setup goes, well I wonder too. I have done the best I can, and there is certainly no one around that I know of who can do better....

  26. #20
    Registered User Bob Buckingham's Avatar
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    I had a student with a fine sounding Micheal Kelly mandolin that was surprisingly good. I played a funeral yesterday with a fellow who played a fine sounding Washburn Jethro Burns model. Have I heard better sounding mandolins? Yes. Do these mandolins serve these players. Yes. It's like my late older neighbor said when I was thinking of getting a new pickup truck, "You don't need a new one, you just want a new one." If your mandolin feels and sounds good to you then you may have the "I wanna's". We all suffer from that from time to time. BTW, after a couple of winter driving experiences and a blown head gasket, I got another pickup truck.

  27. #21
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    I started on a lower budget Chinese built mandolin. I was able to learn on it, it played in tune, was set up decent. I gigged with it and enjoyed it. But I started to play better mandos at the jams I attended and could feel and hear the difference.

    I've since upgraded to some fine mid-level US one-man shop built mandos. Even though I've played several Webers, Gilchrist's, Ellis', etc., and appreciated their tone and quality I'm not tempted to level up. But my Morris and TJ (Cricketfiddle) instruments have inspired me (and still do) like my original starter never did.

    A couple years ago I bought a gently used Martin HD-28 guitar. When I play it I still wonder "why did I wait over 40 years to get one of these?"

    So my advice is enjoy your MK, but try out some better quality stuff. Start a mando fund. Keep an eye on the classifieds here and when you're ready get a used Morris, Silverangle, Ratliff, or similar. Don't wait too many years though.

  28. #22

    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    Good advice. At my age I don't HAVE too many years.....

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    Khaaaan!! Captain Kirk's Avatar
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?


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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by bustedknuckle View Post
    Good advice. At my age I don't HAVE too many years.....
    In that case, you deserve a better mandolin!

    As Mandobart advised, check your budget and the Café Classifieds. If you’re concerned about what you will be leaving as inheritance hopefully many years from now, a used mandolin can usually be sold for what it was bought for —- and sometimes more. If you’re not concerned about that, then check stores online, as well!
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    Default Re: DO I need a better mandolin?

    The real question is "Do I want another mandolin".

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