Recommendations for a beginner buying first Mandolin

Hello :wave,

I’m going to buy my first mandolin (for the Bushy Sam Band’s reunion tour) and looking for recommendations: brand/models, A-frame vs. F-frame (if that even matters), setting up, etc.

I do have a budget (less than $300) and not sure if buying used vs. new is beneficial to me unless I can take the used version into a shop and have it set up for me for a few bucks.

Thanks for your assistance. :medal


Just get in your car and head over to Woodsongs on Pearl in Boulder.
Tell them what you need and they will do a great job at finding it.
GO BILLY GO!!! :horsey
Try em on fer size and then you will know what you want, lil cowboy :flower

Thanks, Miki! It’s funny you said that because I just went on Yelp before you replied and they were the most recommended shop in Boulder.

Lot’s a options out there (and opinions for that matter). At your budget, be careful of getting a mando that’s hard to play. If the fret board isn’t able to be setup propertly, you’ll be less inclined to practice.

-If possible, get one with solid wood.
-Buy used. Any new mandolin for $300 won’t be worth much (imo).
-Don’t buy an F style - get an A style - more bang for your buck
-Have a player you trust sign off on the purchase (or a store like was recommended above). You will likely get your best deal buy buying used from craigslist. However, that willl require some knowledge on your part.

Also, how good do you expect the instrument to sound? If this is your first instrument, you very well may be fine with a well setup starter. If you are a guitarist that plays a nice Gibson, your ear is going to “expect” a better sounding instrument and you’ll likely need to upgrade pretty quickly.

Feel free to PM me - or additional posts if you need anything else. Good luck!

Good advice from Pen. I might add a few others which could help you in your search.

First if you haven’t already check out the website It’s a great website with a ton of information on everything mandolin related. There is a lot of discussions from people such as yourself looking to start and a lot of solid recommendations on what to look for when purchasing. The also have a classifieds section where you just might find what your looking for.

Secondly I could offer the name of a couple stores to look at. I have no financial interest at all, I have purchased mandolins in the past from both of these stores and been extremely satisfied with everything about them. Additionally they are very helpful, if you have any questions regarding a particular mandolin just call them up and I am sure they would be more than happy to spend sometime on the phone with you and help you out. In no particular order I would look at or call them up and talk to Robert or and talk to Dennis. Great places both of them and I don’t think you could go wrong with either one. I think on of the most important things with a mandolin purchase is the setup and both of these places will do a top notch setup (included in the price) and make sure your instrument gets to you in shape to get playing.

In the ballpark of your price range, echoing Pens advice your most certainly want a solid wood A style. You will get a lot more bang for your buck with an A over and F, that scroll adds a lot on to the price and adds nothing to the sound. You should probably look to either a Kentucky or “The Loar” brands. Both make really good instruments for the price. I had a Kentucky KM505 (an A style) and while it is a little more than you want to pay it was a very good mandolin for the money. Maybe if you could stretch the budget a little take a look at one of those there are great. A little closer to your price range would be The Loar LM-220 or the Kentucky KM160 models. I haven’t played either of these but hear they are great starter instruments. Just make sure what ever you decide to get and where ever you decide to get it that you can get a good setup with it, it will make your learning experience much more enjoyable with an instrument which sounds good and is easy to play.

Hope this helps. Any other questions let me know. Good luck on your journey

Hey Billy, for just a few bucks more you could build one at the PBG ranch this summer (if a spot opens up) . I did and the sound is really great! :flower

Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions and recommendations!

I picked up yesterday a Kentucky KM 174.

Now the fun really begins. :cheers

Billy! You got a Mando? How many mandos does that bring Run a Muk to now? Oh this summer will be fun!

Yeah, Sugar. You got me motivated after we played in the music shop.

Sweet! The sweet sounds of multiple out of tune mandolins will fill the air this summer. I can’t wait!

The mandos will be in tune but we won’t be

Enough Frog, and we’ll at least think we’re in tune. Our neighbors may disagree, but enough Frog, and they won’t care either!

:wave Good the more Frog you drink the better I sound :flower

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