Top 4 Best Mandolins


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Everyone in their lifetime, should find time to learn or experiment with instruments at some point or another, they are truly a fundamental part of life and the human experience, and we’ve got thousands of years of history in creating and developing instruments into what they are today.

And there are no right or wrong ways to enjoy playing instruments today, whether it be for pleasure or for work.

Music is meant to enhance our enjoyment of life itself, and without musical instruments, life as we know it would cease to exist like it does today.

So, why not try out the great mandolin? We’re going to get stuck into the reasons why you should try playing or learning this unique instrument and how they work!

Mandolins are predominantly string instruments in the lute family, and they are plucked in the same way a guitar or ukulele would be. Using a plectrum, or fingers.

Much like the violin, it is the soprano member of a large family of similarly stringed instruments, such as the Mandola, Mandocello, octave mandolin, and Mandobass. There are three main types of mandolin, so you have plenty of styles to choose from such an exotic instrument.

The three main types are the round-backed mandolin, also known as the Neapolitan, the arch-top mandolin, and the flat-backed mandolin. The round-backed mandolin has a deep bottom consisting of a glued together bowl constructed of strips of wood.

The arched top has a shallower arched back made out of wood, and the flat-backed uses these sheets of carved wood for the body of the instrument and is braced on the inside, very similar to a guitar.

The mandolin is actually very similar in construction to modern-day acoustic guitars, which is why they share the same family of strings.

Hola! Music, A Style Mandolin Instrument

Hola! Music, A Style Mandolin Instrument

The overall shape of the mandolin is very reminiscent of a cross between the acoustic guitar, and the hollow body electric guitar.

The unique shape of the hollow body guitar helps create a brighter sound which is commonly known for mandolins, as they are the soprano of the family!

The woodwork to mandolins is also very well-thought-out and crafted to pure perfection, no stones have been left unturned when creating musical instruments like this one, the music industry is known for its impeccable attention to detail around instruments because of the rich history they have.

You can’t play perfectly if your instrument doesn’t look the part as well as sound it.

The neck of the instrument is actually the same length as traditional acoustic and electric guitars, maintaining the 20 fretboards, and the body of the mandolin may be slightly shorter and slightly more obscure in shape, however, it has been impeccably developed in its lifetime to play well today. A soprano never lets the orchestra down!

Something extra unique about mandolins is that their string set is slightly different to guitars and other stringed instruments, there are 8 strings in total, however, these are aligned in sets of 2 across the fretboard.

This aids in the unique soprano sound that it holds, making for a richer and brighter sound to your mandolin. Therefore, the tuner of the guitar has 4 nozzles on either side of it, to tune each string separately of course.

We adored the sound that this mandolin makes, as it’s brighter than any other stringed instrument we’ve tried out before.

Because of the size similarities to an acoustic, it was also so easy to familiarize ourselves with when playing, it didn’t feel like we were playing a rogue instrument nothing like our guitars!

Pros

  • Unique sound – bright and loud!
  • Wider sound range – Due to the 8 strings in total in pairs.
  • Sunburn finish – Beautifully crafted.

Cons

  • It may take longer to get used to – familiarizing yourself with the shape in time will ease you into playing the instrument.

Also, available at hola-music.com

Hola! Music A Style Mandolin Instrument with Adjustable Truss-Rod Model HM-3TS, Glossy Sunburst Finish
  • 8-string traditional A style Mandolin in glossy Sunburst finish
  • Maple top, back, sides and neck. Adjustable compensated Rosewood bridge
  • Adjustable Truss Rod inside the neck - wrench included
  • 20 silver nickel frets. Chrome plated open gear tuners and tailpiece
  • Black ABS pickguard. White ABS binding around body, neck and head

Mandolin, A-Style Acoustic-Electric Mandolins

Mandolin, A-Style Acoustic-Electric Mandolins

Mandolins come in a variety of colors and wood furnishes, it all depends on preference for your final decision. So, may we recommend this wonderful mandolin with a red laminate finish to the wood layers!

The official name for this color is red burst, similar to the reasoning behind the sunburst color of many guitar models and other mandolins out there.

It’s like a burst of color to the eyes, and that black faded shadowing around the edges really enhances the richness of the red. It’s also available in sunburst, black acoustic, and left-handed sunburst for the left-handed players out there.

Those 8 strings really make a difference when playing a stringed instrument like this, the sound echos through the drum of the instrument, enhancing that high soprano-like sound.

Also, we’re not sure about you, but the style of mandolins, in general, gives us a traditional Mexican vibe! Much like the celebrations for the day of the dead every year, which began through the same culture!

Perhaps that’s why we love mandolins so much, they have this unquantifiable thing about them that screams celebrations and enjoyment through the use of music.

The unique carvings in the wood of this model are also so beautifully constructed, they aren’t just there for viewing pleasure though, they enhance the sound much like the main divots in a guitar do by the strings. 

This hole helps create that splendid soprano sound we love from mandolins.

The strings are also made of stainless steel, helping to throw that sound further across the room with an added richness to the playing overall. The playing control that you get with an instrument like this is phenomenal!

Pros

  • Right-handed & Left Handed available – inclusive to every musician.
  • Comes with a great warranty – a full one-year warranty that protects against damage.
  • Comes with everything you’ll need – full equipment, including picks, tuner, bag, strap, extra strings, and the manual.

Cons

  • May find issues connecting to amplifiers – rare, however, can be solved easily.
Mandolin A Style Acoustic Electric Mandolins Instrument Vintage Red Sunburst Mahogany Wood for Beginner Adults, by Vangoa
  • ✔ 8 strings traditional a style mandolin in glossy red sunburst finish can be suitable for all styles of music.
  • ✔ Right handed mandolin with mahogany Body and solid wood bridge brings a warmer and brighter sound to you.
  • ✔ Chrome plated closed gear tuners and tailpiece is to keep the mandolin always in tune and adjusting the strings easier.
  • ✔ The mandolin comes with guitar picks, Vangoa sticker, digital clip-on tuner, extra strings, strap and padded gig bag, which is perfect for beginner.
  • ✔ Warranty: Our acoustic electric mandolin also automatically comes with a full one-year warranty that protects against any damage or defects. Buy it with confidence.

Ibanez M510E Acoustic-Electric Mandolin

Ibanez M510E Acoustic-Electric Mandolin

We just love how rustic the feel to this mandolin is, the wood has been carved from scratch and aided to with the most delicate touches to make this mandolin model, it’s made from mahogany, ash wood, rosewood, and spruce to give you an instrument that is worthy of being played until you drop!

The rosewood fingerboard and bridge have been selected to enhance the sound and playability of this mandolin while maintaining the appearance and finish of a beautifully constructed instrument.

There is a section of wood on this mandolin that is just so wonderfully presented, towards the very neck of the body side of it, usually, guitars will have this small cut-out area for one material of wood for styling purposes.

You can also personalize your mandolins quite easily through the manufacturers if you have any specific changes you’d like to add or take away with the appearance.

The mandolin is also equipped with a single-coil magnetic pick-up and tuner and volume control knobs to enhance the sound according to your specifications.

Some attention to detail on this mandolin is truly remarkable, the more you look at it, the more you notice the way it’s been constructed and made specifically for musicians to find enjoyment and pleasure out of.

What do you notice about this model that you wouldn’t until closer inspection?

The plate at the bottom of the string alignment is just stunning and has been placed in the most ideal spot to be appreciated.

We got our hands on one of these models in this furnishing style, and the appearance, while beautiful, does not do the sound justice!

This mandolin is also an acoustic-electric type, which is rather rare when searching for the perfect mandolin.

Acoustic styles are more commonly made, so this electric amplified version is fantastic for the experienced players out there looking for something with a bit more jazz and excitement to it.

Pros

  • Acoustic-Electric – multi-diverse in sound variation.
  • Beautifully constructed – with detailing and incredible wood choices.
  • The sound is impeccable – sounds just like an enhanced guitar, and the strings are to thank.

Cons

  • No bad included – easily fixed by searching for an alternative bag for the instrument.

Also, available at MANDOLINS | PRODUCTS | Ibanez Guitars

Ibanez M510E Acoustic-Electric Mandolin (Open Pore Vintage Sunburst)
  • Mahogany back and sides and a select Spruce top.
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge.
  • Equipped with a single-coil magnetic pickup along with volume and tone controls.
  • Chrome hardware. Tortoise-style pickguard.
  • Case not included.

Donner, A-Style Mandolin Instrument

Donner, A-Style Mandolin Instrument

There is just something so sleek about the color black, especially in instruments. Pianos are usually constructed through the same motives of using that shiny black surface because this is what we associate them with. And there is nothing grander than a piano!

We think the same logic applies to this brand of mandolin, the black color enhances the purpose and appreciation for the instrument.

The entire surface of the mandolin has been constructed of mahogany paint with a beautiful black finish. The sides of the mandolin have been smoothed to a shine finish to contrast against the main body’s black matte finish.

There really are no stones left unturned with this instrument.

Donner has been known for making quality instruments for a very long time, and this model is no exception to the rule!

The mandolin has a rich and warm sound, unlike any other stringed instrument, mostly due to those 8 strings that enhance the playing quality.

It has sturdy and lightweight characteristics that cannot be found with any other stringed instrument, and we adore the bright sound. We’re not sure how it obtains that high-frequency sound, but we’re not complaining!

This model also has solid craftsmanship that should truly be rewarded, the chrome-plated tuners are so easy to tune as well to enable anyone to learn to play this instrument, from beginners to experts!

The carved patterned tailpiece makes the mandolin more exquisite in style and as we said before, that black finish is beautifully sleek.

This mandolin is worth the investment to give yourself an instrument that will last a lifetime if taken care of properly.

Pros

  • Makes a wonderful gift – for Christmas and birthdays all around. Has every accessory a beginner could need.
  • Excellent bundle – comes with everything you’ll need to get started, including tuners, strings, picks, and a polishing cloth!
  • Sleek in design – beautifully constructed.

Cons

  • May need to swap strings out for sound – playing around with what works for you and the sound will fix this.

Also, available at Donner Mandolin

Donner A Style Mandolin Instrument Black Beginner Adult Acoustic Mandolin Musical Instrument Mahogany 8 String, Bundle With Tuner String Bag Guitar Picks, DML-100B
  • 🎅🎄 Mahogany Body: Donner 8-string a style mandolin has mahogany body in glossy black finish. Mahogany wood makes Donner mandolin have a more stable performance, longer lasting than other wood
  • 🎅🎄Rich Warm Sound: Mahogany body bring you richer and brighter sound. Suited for all styles of music. Sturdy and lightweight characteristics of AAA African Mahogany give mandolin a warm sound and translucent high frequency
  • 🎅🎄Solid Exquisite Craftsmanship: Chrome plated open gear tuners are easy to tune and keep mandolin playing in tune. Carved patterned tailpiece make mandolin more exquisite. Adjustable compensating bridge has metal knob and solid wood. Easy to adjust
  • 🎅🎄Excellent Mandolin Bundle: Donner mandolin instrument package includes a style mandolin,gig bag, strings, digital clip-on tuner , polishing cloth and guitar picks. Great tone and playability for beginner. A great set for beginners to get started and learn
  • 🎅🎄Wonderful Instrument Gift: If you are looking for a musical instrument gift for Christmas, Thanksgiving day, birthday,etc, Donner mandolin instrument has affordable price with good value. Great craftsmanship, warm sound, extra accessories beginners need.

Buyers Guide

A-Style VS F-Style

Most mandolins have curved or flat backs and arched tops, which come in one or two main body types.

F-style mandolins are actually modeled after Gibson fabled models of the 1920s, they were favored because of their choppy sound by bluegrass players because of the history behind how the nature of this sound came about.

A-style mandolins have a milder tone to them compared to the choppy F-style. This milder tone can be at home in any genre, to be honest, and is often found to have oval shapes rather than the violin style associated with the F-style.

A-style’s are usually more affordable in price and maintenance compared to the F-style, however, both are fantastic at doing their job. It’s a matter of price and aesthetics at the end of the day!

Price Range

With today’s standard of making, you can easily find a good mandolin for a couple of hundred dollars, because most models will have a similar level of playing experience and parts.

However, it may be worth saving up and spending on something a little more high-end in the long run if you think you’re going to be playing the instrument for a long time.

If you do buy a more affordable mandolin to begin, you can always sell it later on n the coming years when you’ve had more playing experience yourself.

New VS Used

The mandolin, in particular, can be a delicate instrument, lower-end models are quite susceptible to warping and other conditions or problems.

There are, however, plenty of used versions of mandolins available that have been up kept to a professional standard to last a long time.

The key is to reach out to sellers and examine listings on a regular basis to catch the best deals! Be on the lookout for any mention of neck warping or high action for older mandolins.

Solid Wood VS Laminate

When constructions of guitars and mandolins take place, there’s a line between whether laminate is used to make them, or solid wood.

Typically, for obvious reasons, mandolins that have a solid wood construction will have a better sound overall. However, with today’s construction methods, there are ample mandolins that can sound amazing with laminate wood layering too!

Sometimes it can be all about preference, and others it can be about what is more cost-effective in the long term. Solid wood will always be a quality choice to decide on.

Acoustic Or Electric?

Usually, mandolins have been thought of as acoustic instruments, which they are! However, there are plenty of electric mandolins out there to choose from, unless you know that you are certain you want to learn to play an electric mandolin, most beginners go with the acoustic option first.

There is also a range of acoustic mandolins that have a built-in electric pickup system, which are known as acoustic-electric mandolins, which often have an “e” marked on the model name to indicate this.

Most beginners will find that the traditional acoustic is what they need, unless you have a specific reason such as a gig that needs extra amplification of sorts.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Hold A Mandolin?

Typically, the mandolin is placed in the lap for a right-handed player specifically, so the fretboard and tuner point out towards the left of you. If you are left-handed, simply reverse these instructions for your left-handed mandolin.

You can also use a mandolin with the strap around your neck as opposed to in your lap if this is more comfortable.

The mandolin should not be gripped, however, the strumming hand should be free to strum or use a plectrum on the strings without the hand or arm touching the soundboard.

You should have the neck of the mandolin resting between your forefinger and thumb, and you should be able to curl your fingers around the fretboard, much like with a guitar.

How Do I Count Frets?

The frets are typically counted from the end of the neck where the tuners are, to the beginning of the body of the instrument, or a few inches further.

The frets are the horizontal pieces of metal set across the fingerboard, to which the strings are sort of attached or ‘stopped’. This raises the pitch while shortening the string.

Many instruments tend to have an ivory nut at the very end of the tuner side of the fingerboard. So, the first fret is obviously fret 1, some actually have a fret right next to the nut, this would be known as fret 0 and then the next would be fret 1.

Because if you cannot get your fingers between the fret, then it is fret 0. Frets 5, 7, and 12 usually have a dot design to indicate them when playing.

Final Thoughts

Overall, mandolins are a fantastic investment into any musician’s life, whether you’re a beginner, or an expert looking for something exciting to play. Mandolins are it for some people!

We love the sound of the mandolin because of the 8 strings that make up the soprano reputation. No musician should end their career without playing the mandolin for a while! No musician should end their career every full stop!

The craftsmanship behind these mandolins is impeccable, and they are truly wonderful to play and experiment with for pleasure, bands, and gigs.