General Question

sliceswiththings's avatar

What do you look for in a man.....dolin?

Asked by sliceswiththings (11651 points ) October 19th, 2011

My dad has hinted at wanting to learn the mandolin, so I want to buy him one for Christmas. I’d like to make a transaction locally on a used one, so I’m looking at Craig’s List. Once I start looking seriously, I’ll have no idea how to assess an instrument.

My dad is a total beginner. He has some basic musical knowledge and would do best with a basic instrument (i.e. doesn’t need amp plug or anything—do they even make those for mandolins?).

What I’m wondering is if there is anything I should avoid when buying one. I also am unfamiliar with the instrument but I’ve played violin and guitar so I know about stringed instruments. I’d be able to assess if it goes out of tune easily, for example.

Are there various kinds and sizes? Does one country make them best?

Thanks!

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12 Answers

tom_g's avatar

Musicians Friend has a beginner one for 49.99. I believe I’ve actually played one of these before. From what I can tell, they might be good enough for someone who is not quite sure how serious they are about learning the mandolin. If it sticks, then he might want to upgrade – and by then he may know what he’s looking for specifically.

sliceswiththings's avatar

But I kind of want an awesome used one that wasn’t made in bulk.

tom_g's avatar

@sliceswiththings: “But I kind of want an awesome used one that wasn’t made in bulk.”

Sure. I get that. The only reason I mentioned that cheap thing is that to every musician – myself included – the purchase of a guitar or instrument is one of the most personal experiences someone can have. I can’t just play a guitar that someone bought for me. You play hundreds of guitars, and all of a sudden one will “feel right”. It will be be your guitar – even if it’s used. Good acoustic stringed instruments can last practically forever, and you should love your instrument.

I guess I am thinking that it is nearly impossible to luck out and purchase an instrument that is “right” for your father to own for 30 years. But maybe you’ll get lucky.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@sliceswiththings You can read the reviews on a $49.99 mandolin on Amazon. I think @tom_g is correct…it’s a good starting point. Maybe if you can swing it, you’d get him a book and/or a dvd to help him along with his lessons.

harple's avatar

I just wish to add a note of caution – I don’t play the mandolin, but my experience of buying instruments and advising pupils on buying instruments is that you get what you pay for (buying new), so if a price is too good to be true, it is probably too good a price to be a good instrument (if that makes sense…).

50 dollars sounds incredibly cheap to me, for any instrument, and it is likely to be either toy-like in quality, or worse, may actually be damaging to the player… OR, it may be a bargain and perfect for your father.

Kayak8's avatar

For @sliceswiththings I thought you meant this and not this . . . although I imagine they both “slice”!

sliceswiththings's avatar

Ha! @tom_g That is a good point. My parents bought me my guitar and it didn’t fit quite right. They also bought my my accordion used and it’s the most perfect instrument in the world. We were clearly meant to be together. Obviously I can’t count on that, but I’m deterred by a lot of the reviews of that one. It seems like everyone had to change the bridge and strings, which indicates poor quality to me.

Thanks for giving my dad 30 more years, I sure hope that’s true!!

tom_g's avatar

@sliceswiththings – My dad picked up his first guitar at 53 years old. Never too late to learn an instrument.

breedmitch's avatar

I have a 1911 Gibson A4 mandolin in pristine condition I’m looking to sell for $2300. Wanna buy?

sliceswiththings's avatar

@breedmitch If you move the decimal over a little to the left, sure!

breedmitch's avatar

Ha! Yeah. It was left to me. And seriously, it’s never been played. It’s scratch free. Absolutely pristine. I’ve had offers in the high teens, but I don’t need the cash and someday when somebody who loves it gives me what it’s worth, they can have it. I loan it out regularly to musicians doing studio work. They all love getting to play it, and the sound it makes, but so far, none will buy.

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