Buying advice!

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Buying advice!

Postby Kenneth_belsham » Sun Mar 30, 2014 6:10 pm

Hi everyone,
I'm new to the boards (and relatively new to the mandolin) and am in need of some advice. I bought a cheap stagg mandolin to learn on a couple of years back, and have really enjoyed playing, though the limits of the stagg are obvious. Anyway, I'm starting to progress and would like to take a step up. I play some Celtic stuff, but also a lot of Bluegrass (and it's in this direction I'd like to head deeper). I initially was looking at the Barnes and Mullins F-style mandos, as they were considerably dearer than my stagg and looked nice (i know, i know...). However, after a bit of research, mandolins are more expensive than I thought, and there doesn't seem to be much in what I would term 'the mid-range' (coming from a guitarist's background, £300-600). I want to make an investment and get a decent instrument. No-one seems to have a good word to say about the B&M mandos (although I played one out of curiosity today, and really enjoyed it), and the reckoning for a someone on a budget seems to be an Eastman 305. At £500, this was quite a bit over what I thought I'd spend, but if it's a good instrument, and there's nothing comparable for less, then I'll go for it.

The other thing, is that after playing two B&M mandos today (an F-style and an A-style), the F-style's neck felt far more comfortable in my hand than the A-style's. It seemed a little deeper than the A-style's. Was I imagining this, or is there a difference? Most people seem to say that the difference is mostly aesthetic, so I decided I'd rather have a good A-style, than a mediocre F-style.

LAST THING - My dad's thinking he'd like one. Can anyone recommend a good starter mandolin?

TL;DR - Recommend me a mandolin (F-holes) at around the £300-£500 price point please, and also a beginner's mandolin.
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Re: Buying advice!

Postby Ray(T) » Mon Mar 31, 2014 8:44 am

Several questions; where to start?

There should be no difference between the neck on an F style and an A style. The only difference should be that the F has a scroll and a higher price. Older i.e. pre 1920ish Gibson A mandolins so have thicker and shorter necks but that's gettinga away from the subject.

In my mind there is no such thing as a "starter mandolin". Generally speaking, the more you spend the better an instrument you'll get, the easierr it is to play and the quicker you'll progress. The two other things you need to remember are that (1) you'll never be happy with a badly set up mandolin so include a set-up in your budget or buy from someone who will set one up and (2) buying a quality instrument from the start can save you money. I've always followed this principle an I can't remember ever selling an instrument for less than I paid for it.

Eastman make great instruments and its unlikely you'll go wrong with one. The cheaper models seem no worse than the expensive ones and all you seem to get as the price goes up is more bling. I think Trevor at TAMCO in Brighton has most models in stock, his prices are fair and it will be set up. The other cheap-end brand to look at is Kentucky. You can buy them from Amazon but they won't be set up so you'll either need to do it yourself or budget for it - assuming you can find someone who knows what to do; mandolins aren't the same as guitars.
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Re: Buying advice!

Postby Kenneth_belsham » Mon Mar 31, 2014 7:46 pm

Hi Ray,

Thanks for the reply! Must have imagined the difference in the necks, and good to know that shouldn't be a factor in my decision. Pre '20s Gibsons are PROBABLY out of my budget, though I haven't checked ;-)

I've seen a few Kentuckys, but for a decent one, they don't seem MUCH better value than an Eastman, so I think I'm fancying an Eastman. I saw the beaten up 614 Oval hole on TAMCO's site, and and toying with the idea. The aesthetics don't bother me too much if it will be a good instrument, but the oval hole puts me off it a bit. I was also thinking of going over to The Music Room in W. Yorkshire to have a play on a couple, as I live in Leeds.
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Re: Buying advice!

Postby Ray(T) » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:15 am

I can't see the ""beaten up oval hole" on the TAMCO site but you're right, the majority of oval holes don't have quite the right sound for bluegrass if that's the route you'd like to take.

If you're heading for Cleckheaton, you might want to make a day of it and also take in Eagle music although, in my experience, neither has the range and quality you'll find at Tamco.
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Re: Buying advice!

Postby Kenneth_belsham » Tue Apr 01, 2014 4:17 pm

It's gone! Haha, it was there yesterday. Ah well, guess it wasn't meant to be. Yeah, I was thinking I'd just go and play a few, and try to get a feel for a decent quality mandolin. Thanks for your help!
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Re: Buying advice!

Postby colirv » Sat Apr 05, 2014 9:12 am

As well as the shops you've mentioned I would most definitely visit Hobgoblin in Leeds. If you're confident enough in your own judgement it's also well worth scanning the local papers for a second-hand instrument. A Washburn could easily be within your range, for example, perhaps even a Weber if you really strike lucky. You have several good luthiers in your vicinity - Oakwood, John Marlow, Thomas Buchanan. Their new instruments will be out of your price range but they might have a trade-in that would suit you.

I wouldn't get too hung up on f hole versus round hole - simply go for something that sounds sharp and loud. An A style rather than an F style (with scroll) will, however, offer better VFM.

I'm up on Wearside if you're ever up this way. I'm always up for a chat and a play!
Colin
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