Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Eastmans coming soon!

I’m proud to announce that the General Store will soon carry Eastman mandolins (and probably guitars, too!). I’ll start out with the most common models, but if you’re looking for something in particular let me know.


My priority is to get a banjo with the resonator first but I am intrigued with the sound of a mandolin and since I’m a PROUD “Lifer” - it goes without saying that I need to get one to maximize my membership, yes?


With this in mind and the exciting news about Eastman, Please offer a recommendation for a good starter Mandolin that won’t break the bank… For those of us tempted to cross over.

I am happy for you and the good news!

Eastman’s 300 series have great reviews all over the net. I think the A style is the 305 and the F style is the 315. I’ve never played a 300 series, but I have played a 515, and it’s my understanding that it’s basically a 315 with some minor decor perks. It played really nice and sounded great!

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Yes, the 300 series are excellent. They really don’t make a bad one. Whatever price range it is, you’re getting the max mando for the money.

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I’ll vouch for what Ben said. My first mandolin was a 515 quiet a few years ago before the 315’s were introduced. I couldn’t have asked for a better mandolin to learn with. Definitely the best bang for your buck in my opinion. I sold it a while back to fund a higher end mandolin but sometimes wish I still had it.


UPDATE: Eastman sold out of all the popular mandolins at Christmas and also backed up from the big trade show in LA last week. I will be getting in a couple of their guitars soon but mandolins will be another month or so out, so they say. Thanks for your patience!

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You’re gonna get me in a lot of trouble with that line of logic.


I am just waiting for the Eastman’s to be announced!

I have to put all those Mandolin lessons to use!

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I play a 315 for the last 3 years. I can honestly say, I cannot ever see myself outgrowing this instrument. Plays great, sounds great. I replaced the tailpiece with a cast. Love it, Love the finish, color and radiused neck.


That is awesome feedback. I am encouraged to hear it.

I have to look at price and playability versus the Kentucky models… but I do want the more expensive F-Style. Is yours an F-Style or an A-Style?

Aside from the excellent recent posts of Mando Artists, do you have a nice “Go To” Mandolin-Featured CD or 2 to recommend?

The MD315 is an F-Style, should be able to find for $600-800 new.

My 3 favorite go-to mandolin records are:
Modern Mandolin Quartet - Americana
Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza
Adam Steffey - New Primitive

I hope that helps! Enjoy.

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Thank you Sir! Do you have experience with Kentucky brand? How does Eastman compare/contrast? Which one offers best value for the money spent? I want to get a Mando… but $800 is more than I want to pay… cuz I need all accessories (strap, pick, case, capo, etc…)

Thanks for the suggestions. I listened to Adam Steffy - New Primitive… and really liked it. I am listening to Modern Mandolin Quartet - Americana - as I write my reply.

Aside from Ben’s lessons… would you recommend a “go-to Book Resource - like Earl Scruggs’ book for Banjo? What about a good chord reference?

Thanks Sir… for your insightful comments, for sharing and the timely feedback!

I’m looking to buy an MD515 F model Eastman Mandolin. (The brown finish, not the sunburst.)
Will you be getting any in?

I haven’t found one on the shelf to play yet, but I’ve heard good things.

Yep, I’ve got some on the way. They are incredible!

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I have only played a few Kentuckys. I understand they are built well compared to other entry-level instruments. Of the few I played, none of them inspired me to sell my Eastman.

I started on an entry-level Ibanez A-style for about a year. Once I stepped up to the 315, I played more and improved. The first day I brought the Eastman to a jam, I let my friend take it for a spin. He normally plays a $3600 Weber. Two weeks later he showed up with a new MD515. He said he loved mine, but wanted the glossier finish!

I have the “Mandolin for Dummies” book by Don Julin, there’s also a second book of exercises that go with it. For reference at jams, I pack the “Mandolin Picker’s Fakebook” by David Brody. Lastly, not a how-to book, but ‘partly why I play the mandolin’ book is “Can’t You Hear Me Calling: The Life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass” by Richard Smith. As you can see, I’m a grasser!

A good sounding and good playing instrument will inspire you to play more and improve. It’s worth the extra saving, overtime, or garage sale. I picked up extra work around the holidays to buy mine, came with a case with a hygrometer. Never used a capo.

Whatever you choose, I hope it brings you great joy!


Ive been thinking I might spend the extra money to get the 515 instead of the 315. We’ll see what happens when Ben gets his stock in. I can’t wait to hear him showcase them.

Thanks for your input. Got me thinking more about that 515 now. :slight_smile:


To help you decide, I have four 515s coming in a couple weeks. I was notified today that the 315s are still a couple months out. I’ll put you down for a 515 :slight_smile:



I presume they are all F-Style.

Of the 4, do you recall if any are “Sunburst” models?

There is a part of me that wants the “traditional” single color tone… another that likes the “sunburst”.

Might be a dumb question to question color…

I jump to the assumption that playability is equal. However, is there any thoughts to contrast one to the other beyond just personal style.

Sight unseen (well in real life), it is an interesting dilemma.

Any insights is most appreciated - especially from Ben and Jake but I open the question to all.

Plus, the question of value between Eastman and Kentucky brands… long-term.

They should look extremely similar to what you see here:

I believe both models will hold about the same resale value percentage.

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I’m kinda surprised at how little difference there is between the 315 and 515 models. Looks like about the only real differences are the tuners, a hard shell case with the 515, and the inlay material. Looks like Eastman doesn’t make a bad mando.

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