Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

A style or F style

I don’t know why I’m posting this, because I know it’s ultimately my decision, but I’ve been thinking about buying an F-style Mandolin , even though I already own an A-style Mandolin.
I should add that , even though I own an A-style Mandolin, I don’t play it all that often.
Now, let me also add that there is nothing wrong with the Mandolin itself. I , in fact, bought it here at the General Store. It has a beautiful set-up, beautiful tone, and everything that you would want from a Mandolin. It’s beautiful in every way. @BanjoBen and @Jake really took care of me with this one.
But ultimately, an F-style Mandolin is what I’ve always wanted, especially since it’s what’s commonly used in a Bluegrass setting.
99% of my practice time goes to my Guitar playing anyways.
However, I feel that if I get an F-style Mandolin, I might start playing/practice the Mandolin a lot more, know what I mean?
Anyways, I’m just thinking out loud here.

What do you guys prefer?
A-style or F-style ? Or both ?
And if you prefer one more than the other, why so?

Thanks in advance for reading my out-loud thoughts :slight_smile:

Might check this out…


Thanks for the link fiddle_wood. This a question I have wondered about. I play an A-style and like it. I’ve wanted an F-style for a long time and started building one 15 years ago so I could have those bodascious features, the spurs and that convenient curly handle. Til thats done the A will do.

That’s a very useful link , thank you! (:

If you can comfortably afford something that you really want you should get it. That said, if you already have a well setup instrument that plays comfortably and had good tone then I suspect you’re not going to play another more simply because it has a scroll. And you will pay alot more for an F instrument of similar quality.

I prefer an A style myself. I’m not a hard core bluegrass player. But there are plenty of pros who use an A:

Tim O’Brien:
Joe K Walsh: (my current favorite player)
Andrew Marlin from Mandolin Orange:

Life is short man, get what your heart desires. I just don’t think the lack of a scroll is what’s holding you back.

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Great link! Saved me a lot of typing. :slight_smile:

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I like that you said that :slight_smile:

On the other hand , you might be surprised with how picky I am.

I have a cut-away guitar, and I got a dreadnought-shape guitar just because it’s different :sweat_smile: hahah!

I’m not immune to aesthetics Raymond, but the holy grail will be found in the music, not the tool. Find a mandolin tune that grabs you and you’ll want to play it on whatever instrument is in reach.

Okay I’ll stop preaching now. It IS Sunday though. :grinning:

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Thank you @Jim_G1 , I like that idea :smiley:

Hello Raymond,

I’m not so sure about that. I’m in exactly your same position. I devote nearly all of my time to guitar. I had a really nice Breedlove A-model mandolin but had always wanted an F model. So I bought a pretty high end, very Bluegrassy mandolin and yes, at first I played it a lot. As time went by, I played it less and less and now it spends most of it’s life in the case. It’s even for sale on Mandolin Cafe, that’s how little I play it. If I’m real lucky, I may break even, but will most likely lose some money.

I’m not telling you what to do, but just trying to prevent the same thing happening to you. If you do really want an F model, like Jim said, there’s nothing wrong with buying what you want if you have the appropriate funds… and life is short. I can only relate to you what happened to me personally.

Dave’s article is spot on (thanks Dave) and I agree with it all. I would add that if you play a mandolin sitting down without a strap, an F model is much more comfortable to hold because of the way the lower body scroll (or spur as Dani called it) rests on your leg. And the upper body scroll makes it much easier to install a strap, which I believe was mentioned.

So, to answer your last question, I prefer an F-Model even though I play mandolin very little. Why? I think they just look better, are easier to play sitting down without a strap, easier to install a strap.

Hope I didn’t confuse and make your decision even harder. Good Luck!



Hi @jw11 :slight_smile:

Thank you so much for chiming in.

You are very spot-on on everything that you said , much like the referred article. You also spoke the unspoken, because something that I also think about a lot is how comfortable an F-style Mandolin looks when it’s played in a sitting position. That’s a big deal for me becaus, like many of us, I spend most of my practice sessions sitting down.
I can really sense that you understand my dilemma.
But no , you didn’t confuse me. I’m more encouraged to think about this a little longer before making a decision.

Thank you :pray:

Howdy folks,

While I agree that an A-Style and F-Style of equal quality are equally fit for professional use…I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to say that they will sound “the same.” At least not in my experience. While I do agree that they can both be on the same level as far as playability and quality of sound (volume, responsiveness, etc…) I would argue that there is a slight difference in the tonal qualities between the two in general. While both styles are constructed with basically the same air chambers, the added extra wood masses of the points and scroll of an F-Style do change the way the tone is shaped. To me, and A-Style is a little more open and airy sounding, while an F-Style has slightly more focus and “cut.” It’s the same way that extra mass of a guitar neck can change the tone of the guitar. In some ways I’m splitting hairs here, because every single mandolin is going to sound a little different from one example to another regardless of the style it’s constructed in. But there is a definite tonal distinction in general between the two styles. Which is better? No right answer. I actually love the economics of an A-Style mandolin because one of equal quality can be had for quite a bit less money than its F-Style equivalent. You even see more pros these days making the change to A-Style mandolins too. So if you want a better mandolin for less money, you can always go for an A-Style. But, in the same breath, if money were no object, I’d reach for an F-Style every time…because I love tradition, and an F-Style is “the Bluegrass mandolin.” Equal caliber professional playing can be done with either. Thanks for taking the time to humor me and read my ramblings y’all. Haha.


Basically ditto what everyone said above. Like Jim, I love A’s… I can get more instrument for the money. With that said… you want an F… go for it!

I’d support what Jake says about differences in tone. I suspect the difference between two otherwise identical instruments is minor, but every little thing makes a difference. All the little differences can add up to a totally different experience.


@Jake, your rambling is always welcome here. You always have something good to say hahah! But seriously, thanks for weighing in !

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Okay guys!

I did it. I purchased an F-Mando from the General Store.
I just got the email today that it’s on it’s way :pray:

I want to thank each and every one of you for your input in helping me figure this out. I really took everything you guys said into consideration.

As I’m typing this , I’m also listening to the song Midnight on the Stormy Deep by Doc Watson and Bill Monroe, and the Mando part is making me excited to receive the F-Style.

Thanks again guys ! :pray:


I found this great cover of Midnight on The Stormy Deep

Enjoy :slightly_smiling_face:


Well don’t keep us in suspense! Which F style did you get?

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Hahaha! I’m sorry !
I got the Kentucky KM 650. It fit my budget nicely :relieved::ok_hand:t2:


Nice. I’ve never played one, but I’ve heard great things about them. Looking forward to a video.

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Oh yes ! Of course .

I’ll try playing Little Cabin Home on a Hill for you guys :sweat_smile:

I’ll keep you guys updated!