The Best Mandolin for Beginners: A Complete Guide

If you’re a beginner looking for a new instrument to learn, the mandolin is a great choice. However, it can be hard to figure out the best mandolin for beginners because it isn’t as popular as the guitar or the violin. With limited information and numerous manufacturers claiming that they produce the best mandolin for beginners, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Fortunately, we’re here to help. Our comprehensive guide covers everything, from what you need to look for when choosing a mandolin to our top picks for the best mandolin for beginners. Keep on reading to discover how to choose the best instrument for your needs.

The Best Mandolin for Beginners: Buying Guide

When buying a mandolin for beginners, there are many important factors you need to consider. If not, you can end up wasting money and buying the wrong model.

Wood

Despite looking for the best mandolin for beginners, it’s important to invest in high-quality woodOpt for spruce or maple when picking an instrument so that it’s durable and long-lasting. While you’ll upgrade it in time, your first instrument still needs to stand the test of time and allow you to master it.

Some of the different types of woods you can choose between are rosewood, cedar, sapele, mahogany, maple, and spruce. Each kind has a unique sound and so, your choice will depend on your sound preference. For example, if you prefer a smoother and warmer sound, cedar might be the right choice for you. On the other hand, if you want something brighter, spruce might be the way to go.

Finish

Different manufacturers use different types of finishes on mandolins. The most common ones are a spirit varnish and an oil varnish. If you’re looking for protection, you’ll be better off with a spirit varnish. That being said, spirit varnishes dampen the tone and lower the volume of the instrument. An oil varnish isn’t as protective but is better when it comes to maintaining the instrument’s natural sound.

Type of Mandolin

There are several different types of mandolins to choose from. You should know the basics of each type before making a selection.

A-Style Mandolin

If you’re looking for the most popular mandolin type look no further than the Archtop A-Style mandolin. This is the typical pear-shaped mandolin with only one soundhole

F-Style Mandolin

The Archtop F-Style mandolin is a more sophisticated version of the A-Style mandolin. Because of the two sound holes on the sides of the instrument, it creates a brighter sound. Both A-Style and F-Style mandolins are great options for beginners.

Flatback Mandolin

This is a simple mandolin that’s lower in volume than the other types. However, it’s admired for it’s simple construction and smooth, mellow sound, making it great for beginners.

Bowlback or Neapolitan Mandolin

This is a fairly old mandolin that consists of a bowl shape and multiple curved wood strips attached to the back of the instrument. Thus, it creates a more natural, smooth, and mellow sound as compared to other types.

Color

Since the mandolin is such a beautiful instrument and aesthetics are a big part of its attraction, you might place importance on the color. This depends on the individual and their preference. Choose the type of color and finish you’ll be most comfortable with.

Size

While most mandolins are around the same size, there are models that have different types of necks and bodies. For the most part, you’ll notice a difference when it comes to neck width. Pay attention to comfort level when choosing a size.

Price

It’s also important to consider price when buying your first mandolin. Since you’re looking for the best mandolin for beginners, it’s not essential to spend a lot of money. You can always upgrade later. There are many affordable yet high-quality mandolins on the market. We’ve chosen some of the best ones for you in the next section.

Our Top Recommendations for the Best Mandolin for Beginners

Do you want the best mandolin for beginners without shelling out too much money? These picks are sure to impress you. Despite being affordable, they’re high-quality options that will last you a while.

1. Kentucky KM-140 Mandolin

If you’re a beginner, there’s no way you can go wrong with the Kentucky KM-140 mandolin. In addition to being affordable, it has a great sound. It’s also durable since it’s made of spruce and maple. These are some of the best types of woods you can opt for. As a result, the instrument isn’t just durable, but also has a warm and clear sound.

We also love that the KM-140 has 12 frets. This provides more versatility and allows you to experiment with different genres and types of music. The mandolin’s appearance is a definite bonus as it has a beautiful vintage look with a nice, glossy finish.

Therefore, you get affordability, quality, and aesthetics with this option. At only 3 lbs, it’s also lightweight and portable. Its slim neck also makes it easier to play, and is an advantage for beginners. It’s definitely our choice for the best mandolin for beginners.

2. Ibanez M510DVS Mandolin

This A-Style mandolin is also a great option for beginners. Despite the Ibanez M510DVS being one of the older models on the market, it still remains one of the best. Its classic A-stye appeals to beginners while its mahogany and spruce construction make it an excellent value of money. With such sturdy construction, this model is sure to last you a while. Another advantage of these woods is the warm, rich sound they provide.

This is also a good option for those who place value on aesthetics. The Ibanez M510DVS has attractive pearl dot inlays and stunning chrome hardware. It’s an eye-catching mandolin that’s sure to be admired by those around you.

You’ll also be pleased to know that Ibanez hasn’t sacrificed quality and playability in favor of appearance. With the rosewood fingerboard, beginners will enjoy bright intonation and great sound.

One downside of this mandolin are the strings. While they’re not bad, they’re also not the high-quality strings you’d expect from a brand as reputable as Ibanez. The affordability of this mandolin may explain the strings. We would advise switching out the strings immediately in order to fully enjoy this mandolin. Strings have to be replaced eventually, but doing so when you first get the instrument will make a massive difference in playability.

Final Thoughts

We know that shopping for a new instrument can be stressful, especially if you don’t know what to look for. Hopefully, this guide on the best mandolin for beginners helped clear things up. Now, you’re armed with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about your purchase and are sure to find the right mandolin for your needs. Good luck!