To Mando, or Not to Mando; That is the Question


Hello. Long-time Ben follower, frequent forum lurker, and first-time poster. I am a guitar player with a question for the community… Should I pick up the mandolin? Given the audience, I’m suspecting the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. But to those who play both instruments, is the transition from guitar to mandolin a challenging or a relatively straightforward one? Perhaps more importantly, for any who made the transition, was the journey worthwhile? Did the mandolin fulfill you in ways that the guitar couldn’t? Some days I think it would be awesome to play mandolin. Other days I think I should just work on being a better guitar player.

I’ve been pondering this mandolin question for a while. During that time I’ve done some looking and developed an interest in the Eastman MD315. I’ve read good reviews and I find the matte finish pleasingly worn and old-timey. The only negatives I’ve read were about the tailpiece and the lesser-quality tuners. Does anyone in the community have opinions on the MD315?

For @BanjoBen - I see that the MD305 and the MD515 are both in the store; but not the MD315. Do you have experience with the MD315, would you recommend it, and is it something I could get through the store? I’d rather spend my money with you than with a faceless corporation.

Thanks to all for any help or guidance. And thanks to Ben for all that you do. It is crazy to think that there was a time when the G-run wasn’t part of my daily life. Those were dark days.


Welcome to the forum, Chris! I think the transition from guitar to mandolin is the most natural I’ve experienced, yes. There are times when I want to play mando and guitar just can’t scratch that itch–just something about it. I’m laid up right now for 6 weeks and can’t walk from ankle surgery. My mandolin is closest. I know it’s the lightest, but it’s just what I naturally want to go to…relaxing to play.

The 315’s are excellent for the price and I recommend them. I would of course love to sell you one, not only because I want your money but also because I want to make sure you get a good one. They’re all pretty good, don’t get me wrong, but I like to make sure for my students. I have 4 of them on order right now but no ETA yet. Eastman has long delays sometimes. I completely understand if you want to go ahead and get one from somewhere else and I appreciate you asking and wanting to support the General Store!


I played guitar in highschool and then not at all for decades. I picked up the mandolin in my mid-50s and found it it to be a fun, portable, lightweight and expressive instrument, and fairly easy to learn - in fact much simpler than the guitar. I say, GO FOR IT.


Thanks for the quick response @BanjoBen. Also thanks for the encouragement @Mandolin_Mo. I think I agree with you. I should go for it. Being a so-so, average player of two instruments will be twice the fun.

@BanjoBen - I’ve waited 43 years to take up the mando, I can wait longer. If there is a list, put my name on it for one of the incoming 315’s. If there isn’t a list, I’ll just keep a watch on the General Store. Thanks again.


Absolutely, @Woodshed!

@Jake, let’s get Chris Carlson on the MD315 list, please.


Welcome to the forum @Woodshed! Hopefully you don’t have to wait to long for the mando… I think you’ll find learning a second instrument is much easier than the first one. Also, while the techniques for each instrument are different, the hand/eye coordination skills developed learning the mandolin will increase your versatility on the guitar. Again, welcome and good luck!


Oh, Woodshed, you are about to partake in the pure joy of playing both guitar and mandolin. Just get you situated on the porch with both instruments and play one reveling in the acoustic pleasure til you 're worn out, then switch to the other and do the same all over again.


I got ya down on the list @Woodshed and will contact you as soon as they come in. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer.


Thanks @Jake!


I love my md315! It’s a great instrument, not loud enough when played next to my wife’s bazillion dollar viola, but sounds great with other acoustic instruments (guitar, banjo) and is easy to play. For the most part I only have minor problems with tuning, unless switching from a humid to an arid environment, but I suspect that is the case with most instruments. The tuners could be better, but they rarely slip. Would have purchased mine from bens store too if I knew about him at all when I purchased it. I found and joined the site after buying mine a few years ago.


I guess I’ll be the bad guy here, but just remember… you asked, therefore I will answer honestly.

1: Yes, you should take up the mandolin if there’s an interest and you have the funds. You won’t know until you try it out.
2: The transition from guitar to mandolin?.. Not all that much different as far as picking technique other than the tremolo. You’re basically just learning new chords and shapes. It should come rather easily. Trying to acheive good tone is important, I normally try to play as far away from the bridge as I can (more towards the fretboard) on mandolin. That’s where the best tone usually is. On guitar I play to the back of the soundhole on the bridge side.
3: Was the journey worthwhile? Yes, because I found out that it’s not for me which leads to question #4.
4: Did the mandolin fulfill in ways the guitar couldn’t? Not for me, not even close! This is where I become the negative bad guy. I would would always go back to the guitar after a while of playing mando and it always feels like … Ah, I’m home now… this is right! The mandolin and I just never clicked for some reason, even on things that I can play well.

Summary: Even though it didn’t work for me, I still think you should try it. If you don’t, you’ll always wonder what could have been. And if it doesn’t work, if you buy an Eastman, it should sell easily and you won’t be out much. I think you’ll like it though and will be happy you at least tried.

I’m sorry for being the negative one here, but it’s the honest truth.

I’ve recently taken up Dobro and so far having a blast with it, much more so than with mandolin. Even though, I’m glad I tried mandolin, I had some good times with it, but flatpicking guitar is where my heart will always be.

Hope you’re ok with my answers, they’re as honest as I could be.

Thanks for the questions,



No need for apologies @jw11. Thanks for the honest feedback. It’s what I hoped for when I asked the question. While I suspect that guitar will always be my safe place, I’ve also been hankering for a new flavor of stringed instrument. And I don’t think my family is ready for me and a banjo.

Good luck with the dobro. I’ve always been mesmerized watching Jerry Douglas. I’m glad its resonating for you.