What to Buy to Start?


Hi all, I am looking to start up on Mandolin as a side to my guitar playing, so now since I know Nothing about them need to get some advice on the purchase of one. I want to get one of high enough quality that I won’t be out looking for another in a year or so, if I manage to learn to play I would like to keep the same one and not need to upgrade. I notice looking around they are all over in size etc. some say wide nut, and that idea seems like a good idea trading off from guitar???
I have about a 1100 dollar budget so any suggestions will be greatly appreciated…Jerry


I’ve heard many great reviews from owners of Eastman mandos. I suspect that is a pretty good way to go in the $1k price range. I am sure you will get some better informed responses.

I am not a mando player, but I almost bought one in the $2k range. It was a Collings MT, and it was a sweet sounding and playing instrument. Ultimately, I figured I should learn to play my little applause (ovation) one before I have to sell a vehicle for a different one, but I was really tempted. I still need to get mine out and start working on learning some more.


Hey Mike, thought I would get some advice here from the mando guys but nada, I went today and checked out a Breedlove FF and took a mandolin guy with me since I know nothing, and he said of all we tried it far surpassed everything. I was super easy to play and really had a nice sound. I also have been looking at a Hennis which is made in a small shop in Ohio, supposed to be real nice but haven’t been able to find much info on them as yet, so just like the guitar need to keep on till I find it…Jerry


It’s kind of weird we haven’t heard from anyone else. Must be a bunch of people out or something.

I haven’t played a Breedlove. They look nice. It’s kind of a new take (for me anyway) on the F style. One other mando a local shop carries that I like are the Webers. They had one model that was under $2k, but not by much. They seemed really nice, but if I got up in that range, that Collings MT I played was pretty special. Who knows, it may have just been that one, but it had it going on in playability and tone. It was eating the lunch of mandos costing 2 and 3 times as much.


Hi Jerry, I was in exactly the same boat. I play guitar & wanted to start up on mandolin. I too thought it would be a good idea to get a wider nut, so I started researching & heard nothing but good (really good) from the Eastman mandolins (even Ben plays one when he’s not playing his Gibson)… I didn’t buy one though, I was at a guitar show in Columbus, OH & saw some Breedloves at a table. I tried all six that were there & really liked one in particular, a Breedlove Oregon model. It’s an A model with a 1 3/16" nut width which is the wider nut . 1 1/8" is standard on most mandos. This one also has a radiused fingerboard. Coming from guitar, I would recommend this combination (the 1 3/16" radiused or even 1 1/4") . It worked well for me as I did purchase it, still have it & am very well pleased with it after almost a year now. Everyone is different though, so try out as many different styles & brands as you can & then walk away from them all for a while if you can… One will usually stand out & bother you more than the rest. Also at your budget, you’ll probably get a higher quality A model than an F model & they really don’t sound any better, just fancier. They’re alot easier to hang a strap on though! Someday I would like to have an F, but for now I’m happy with my Breedlove. Very high quality construction & attention to detail & the finish is superb. I gave 1400.00 for mine but they don’t make this model anymore. The new replacements now have a satin finish in this price range where mine has gloss. There’s alot of good builders, but Eastman & Breedlove would be a great starting point & then compare others to these. Hope this helps, good luck & God Bless … Jeff


Thanks Jeff I really appreciate the info, sound exactly like me and my thoughts, the Breedlove stands out to me, I picked it up and could easily fret where as the really small necks seemed a bit of a challenge. I think learning to play will be challenge enough for me so if it plays easy now should be even better later on. I found a Breedlove FF model in burst with case for 1499.00 the cheapest I have seen so far with free set up, it’s a little more than I was planning on spending but I figure if it doesn’t work out I could most likely sell it down the road and not get hurt to bad.Haven’t seen an Eastman in person so those are a guess for me, I hear they are good and a little more fancy, the Breedlove is so plain it’s kinda cool looking, different. The Breedlove factory is only about 200 miles from me here in Or. so that’s a plus as well… thanks again, Jerry


Hey Jeff, how is the mandolin coming along? have you found it a very hard transition or fairly easy? I went out and bought a book just to read and see what it’s all about. Just wondering what your perspective is after being at it for a year…Jerry


Hey Jerry, That’s great that you’re that you’re not too far from Breedlove. Honestly on playing the mandolin, I think I would do better if I would stick with it more. I find myself going back to the guitar after playing the mandolin for awhile (I’m talking usually within less than an hour or so). The flatpicking technique is pretty much the same for both instruments. You still use your down, ups & hold the pick in the same fashion. I do like to play as close to the fretboard as possible (away from the bridge) on mandolin to achieve a better tone, & on guitar close to the edge of the soundhole on the bridge side. The hardest thing for me on mandolin is rythym. I have a hard time getting my chops to sound right & playing chords cleanly. You really have to stretch your pinky & at the same time not mute the other strings. Timing is also trickier to me especially coming in & out of tremelos. I believe if you can learn guitar, you can learn mandolin or about any other instrument if you have the desire. If you think about it, most of what we do is memorization. Memorizing a guitar lick is no different than memorizing a mandolin lick & once that is achieved, you can add your own touches to it. I’m still learning & have a long way to go on both instruments, but if I could only have one, I would choose guitar which is another good reason (for me anyway) not to spend too much on a mandolin. If you spend around 1500.00, you can easily find a professional quality mandolin that will please you for a long time without getting hurt too badly if it didn’t work out. There’s alot of nice used instruments out there too you might want to look into if you haven’t yet. So good luck & let us know what you decide. God Bless… Jeff


I actully play a an Eastman 615, which go for a little less than the Breedlove (around 1100 or 1200). I am happy with it, would recommend it and it stands up well to other mandos in the higher price ranges. I think most mando players come from either Guitar or Violin, and on this site I bet it is the guitar side, so you are not alone (i could be wrong, but as a Guitar/Mando guy this sight is just a better value) I mostly play Mando now due to the ratio of guitar players at jams.

I find the biggest difference, besides the size (which you get used to), is the picking hand has to be a bit more disaplined since there are less pulloffs/Hammer ons and the string tension is higher. That said there is no “b” string so once you get a coulpe scales/appegios/chords it easily translates all over the neck.


Hey thanks guys, all appreciated comments, I ended up buying a Breedlove FF with black binding a custom from the Mandolin Store in AZ. It is a 2012 that normally lists on BL site for 2699. and I got it for 1349.00 with the hard shell case and all. It is natural color with black binding.
I looked at them all, but I really wanted a USA made instrument and the Webers and Gibsons, Colling are all out of my price range so this one worked out. It’s on it’s way so I should have it in a couple of days. I like the radius and wide nut, and it has the nitro finish. The 2013 s are going to go down in price and not include hard case but gig bag, no nitro, and some other things to lower the price so they told me the factory is closing out all the 12 stock to dealers at reduced prices so it was a good time to look for one. Let you know how I like it when I know more than one note… :mrgreen: Jerry


Congrats Jerry, that sounds great.


Sounds like a good deal Jerry. They’re great people at the mandolin store. Let us know how you like it later on…Jeff.


Congrats! I was in the same boat and now end up practicing more mando than guit fiddle… Still trying to get the band to let me go full time with it! :mrgreen:


Hi everyone, got my mandolin today and it looks and plays great! already have my first three chords down not much just D,C,G but it’s a start, just doodling around getting used to these tiny frets and neck. I like it and I think it’s gonna be fun, I only have about a hour a day for it because of the guitar taking most of my time but hope to get good enough to do some tunes…Jerry