Discuss the Mandolin lesson: O Little Town of Bethlehem


I think there’s a point of diminishing returns. I have an Eastman MD515 and I doubt I’ll ever buy anything better (but then, I don’t consider myself a mandolin player.) I’d put my 515 up against other mandos 2 or 3 times the cost.

As far as wanting to play a better instrument more, that DOES happen when it sounds better, but that wears off over time for me. If your 315 is set up and playable, that should get you way down the road.


Though its Weber’s least expensive mandolin, I put my money into a Gallatin as my first instrument. The Gallatin will always have more in it than my ability to play it will bring out…but it inspires me to keep trying to play it better. Those Northfield’s sound very nice and I wouldn’t hesitate to try to find the money to buy one. Thanks Ben for a great website and Merry Christmas to you and to all!!


Just weighing in on this one…

I have a MD315 that I got a few months ago and I really, REALLY like it! I cannot fathom “outgrowing” it. Plus, having heard the interesting dynamic of the ways that Mandolins “open” and break in over time… intrigues me. I am completely new to wood instruments. So… as this trait is true as shared by those who know… I look forward to many years of hearing my Mandolin “bloom” - not only as my musicianship on it grows - but also as the instrument continues to break-in, mature and “open”… as others have said.

I think I enjoy playing my Mandolin every bit as much as my ole banjer… but for entirely different reasons. I digress…

For me, the 315 is just so vintage and classic looking also. I like the Matte Nitrocellulose finish as it just looks so “woodsy” and traditional. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the looks of a shiny ones with the Lacquer Finish… but I feel kinda like mine is just so traditional in its appearance and draws people’s eyes to its “natural” look. It is a much more capable instrument than I am - as its’ player… and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I know that if it was in the hands of @Jake, @BanjoBen, let alone one of my Mando-idols… Marty Stuart… the thing would sing like a song bird.

It is also comforting in knowing that it is good enough for me - so I don’t always question that aspect. Truly, it is a relief to just focus on the playing and let the instrument just be mine without question or compromise. Plus, I feel an undeniable “closeness” to the instrument just by how it is played. You surround it when you play. @banjoben does a great way of conveying this idea on some of his Mandolin demonstration videos.

In the end, of course @Jake and @BanjoBen are the real experts in comparing… but having heard them both say many times… the MD315 is an instrument worthy of stage performances by any artist… is quite an endorsement. They have also said so many times… that they only sell instruments that are good, solid instruments that they themselves would play. Sure there are higher models with more expensive features which also have meaning and purpose for highly skilled players… but I feel that only when my playing would (if ever) reach a point of absolute consistency, then I could (Flawlessly - which may never happen) play the same songs on several models to really compare/contrast and hear the sound I prefer for myself… but until then…

I am proud, happy and thrilled each time I reach for my MD315 - proudly purchased at the BanjoBen General Store and expertly set up by Mr. @Jake. Even if I would - one day - think of another, I cannot fathom parting ways with mine… for the reasons I gave initially on its’ having been broken in through the years. Additionally, it was a very special BIRTHDAY present - which means its’ value to me is beyond measure.

I even enjoy the prospect of discovering our growth as we (me and my Mandolin) spend our years together on this musical adventure.

I know this long explanation may sound corny to some but I meant every word. I don’t see the MD315s on the site at the moment… but I did also write a 5-star review soon after receiving mine.

I hope this helps anyone who’s eyes may land on this response and who may take the time to read my thoughts into consideration.


it’s actually a nickname for Mr. Monroe himself…


Got it!


Tripped over this today, I think there is time to learn it for xmas with the family, nice simple arrangement so many of us can play it, and beautifully done.

Also WRT to mandolin upgrades and playability. As I have progressed I have become a lot pickier in what I like, and currently have a few Eastmans that I have worked on to make them as playable as possible:

  • taller frets (Eastman frets at .031 height are torture for me, I prefer .040 and above, and generally refret to .050 x .080). The playability improvement that makes to an Eastman is pretty dramatic. Most higher-end mandos come with .040, so they aren’t as difficult to play as an Eastman (although I love mine, especially now they have taller frets).
  • lighter strings and a low setup helps my tired old hands immensely, I can practice more per day as a result without joint pain. I bought some nut files and a string height gauge from stew mac, I can dial in any mandolin to ‘my feel’ now.
  • I am about to try a C neck with a wider nut, Eastman’s have pretty narrow nuts, but I don’t know what a wider nut will do for me yet. But I think I have a better feel for what I will do with a C neck. My way to try this out on the cheap is to order a custom-made flat-top (probably Red Valley), they are about 1/2 the price of a custom made arch-top.

WRT C vs V neck, my current working theory is that if you like to pinch the neck between thumb and index finger (as Ben and most bluegrassers do), then a V-neck is for you. But if you are a classical player and position the thumb more like a guitar player (As Catarina Lichtenberg does), then a C neck is for you. I actually play both styles, and am able to hold a neck either way so far, and the v-neck is not comfortable in the classical position.

For chopping, I can’t fret the pesky G chord comfortably without pinching the neck, so V-neck f-hole mando is preferred. Pinching also seems to be less fatiguing when fretting 3 and 4 note chords for long periods of time. But when playing classical, wi th the thumb in the guitar-like position, it’s an oval hole with a C neck.