A First Mandolin

I've been asked via a DM on Twitter for advice about purchasing a first mandolin for a beginner.  A proper response will need more than 140 characters, so here I am!

Firstly, I should congratulate you on having the good sense to consider learning to play the mandolin!  It is a fabulously versatile instrument, and is relatively easy to learn.

There's a popular saying among mandolin players: "life's too short to play a cheap mandolin."  As a beginner, you won't want to spend too much, of course, but it's definitely worth spending enough to get a real instrument rather than a toy.  My first mandolin was a Tanglewood which cost about £160.  It made a pleasing sound and had decent intonation.  Before  that, I did initially buy an Ozark mandolin for about £70, but it was pretty much unplayable and sounded like a toy - I returned it to the shop.

I can't overstate how important it is to buy a mandolin that will produce a decent tone - it is really motivating!  What constitutes a decent tone is, of course, subjective, so I would recommend that you go into music shops and pluck a few.  If you feel self conscious about doing that, ask someone in the shop to play them for you.

After 18 months learning the mandolin, I invested in an Eastman 515 mandolin.  At the time I felt very uncertain about spending so much on an instrument, but it was SO worth it.  The pleasure I get from it is hard to put into words. You develop a real relationship with a quality instrument as you play it over time.

If you just want a cheap instrument, go for a ukelele instead ;-)

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