Best Mandolin for Beginners Review – Top Rated Models in 2020 with Buying Guide
Are you on the lookout for the best mandolin for beginners, but you’re pressed for time? You’ve come to the right place because we have exactly what you need. Our research team examined popular models and identified the most praised one, which is the Kentucky KM-140. The choice of wood for this model guarantees that the sounds you will create while playing it are rich and powerful. The beautiful finish is another reason why you should consider this model. The ebony fingerboards help beginners learn the instrument well. In case you cannot find the Kentucky KM-140, we also recommend the Michael Kelly MKLDFAVS, which is almost just as good.
Our Top Choice
Given that the wood selection is crucial for the type of sound a mandolin will produce, it’s a good thing that this model includes hand-selected maple wood for its back, sides, and neck. The solid spruce top produces the articulate sound any musician is looking for, while the details of the instrument’s overall construction are elegant and delicate, for added style.
This instrument needs some setting up in order to start playing it, so if you are new to this and you’re not really sure which element goes where, you might need to seek assistance to a specialized shop in your area.
Overall, if what you are looking for is a well-constructed mandolin for an affordable price, this model might definitely be what you need in this category.
The MKLDFAVS is an improvement of the F-style model, as the manufacturer is dedicated to producing superior quality mandolins. Exotic woods and unique inlays are Michael Kelly’s signature construction and, together with excellent craftsmanship techniques, are what makes this mandolin stand out.
As with any other musical instrument, for this mandolin, as well, you might need some professional advice when it comes to maintenance. However, given its quality, this is not really a problem.
Tradition meets innovation in this beautiful mandolin, so if you’re ready to experience something new, don’t hesitate to give it a try.
This model is the right one if you want to enjoy a very good sound performance and an instrument that’s more forgiving with beginners, all for an affordable price. The clean craftsmanship, the neck’s maple wood construction, and the bound rosewood fretboard all qualify this mandolin as a durable item designed to be used for a long time.
In some cases, there was damage sustained during delivery, and that’s always a disappointment. However, if this issue arises, you can contact the seller and get everything in order.
All in all, this is a safe choice for a beginner or student who just wants to learn some more before investing a larger amount of money.
7 Best Mandolins for Beginners (Reviews) in 2020
Do you find many mandolins for sale but not one to suit your taste? We want to lend you a helping hand and offer you a list of the models that so far have managed to conquer many people’s hearts. One of them is undoubtedly for you.
- 1. Kentucky KM-140 Standard A-model Mandolin
- 2. Michael Kelly MKLDFAVS Legacy Dragonfly Flame Mandolin
- 3. Savannah SA-100-BK A-Model Mandolin
- 4. Washburn M1 S Mandolin – Sunburst Finish
- 5. Rogue RM-100A A-Style Mandolin Sunburst
- 6. Donner Mandolin Instrument Sunburst Mahogany DML-1
- 7. Hola! Music A Style Mandolin Instrument with Adjustable Truss-Rod HM-3TS
- Yearly Guide & Report
1. Kentucky KM-140 Standard A-model Mandolin
The Kentucky KM-140 is a good mandolin for beginners, due to its many excellent features. The wood selection is crucial for the type of sound your mandolin will produce, and in this case, you will be pleased to find out that the maple wood from which the back, the sides, and the neck are made is hand selected.
The solid spruce used for the top will create the articulate sound you should be after when playing the mandolin. At the same time, this model is not expensive, and more care is invested in selecting the right wood for the construction than in a costly material.
The Kentucky KM-140 is a beautiful mandolin that will capture your heart from the first look. The details of the overall construction are elegant and delicate, something you do not usually see in a model within this price range. The instrument is forgiving and easy to use by beginners, due to the rosewood fingerboard.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($262.77)
2. Michael Kelly MKLDFAVS Legacy Dragonfly Flame Mandolin
The MKLDFAVS from Michael Kelly is an improvement of the F-style model, and it has been for the last 15 years, due to the dedication of the manufacturer to the creation of a mandolin that is superior to many others on the market. If you like playing the banjo and you also like playing the mandolin, as many people do, you will love this model.
There are two primary reasons for which you should consider purchasing this particular model. One is the innovation brought to the materials used. Exotic woods are at the foundation of this specific signature model from Michael Kelly, as are unique inlays.
But not everything depends on the materials used. The manufacturer invests classic craftsmanship techniques in bringing to life the beautiful sound the mandolin is known for, as a musical instrument. Tradition meets innovation in this beautiful mandolin that many people love.
Click to see the price on Amazon!
3. Savannah SA-100-BK A-Model Mandolin
As a beginner, you most probably want a mandolin that has a budget-oriented cost and is also forgiving for someone who is just starting to get the hang of playing this instrument. The Savannah SA-100-BK checks all the boxes, and that is why it is much recommended for novices.
As a general rule, learning to play the mandolin is easier than learning to play the cello, but this doesn’t mean that you should settle for an instrument that is difficult to use. This particular mandolin is an A-model created to deliver a beautiful bright sound.
The clean craftsmanship invested in this model makes it ideal for anyone who is just beginning to learn how to play. The neck is made from hard maple wood, while the fretboard is made from bound rosewood. As you can see, the choice of materials qualifies this mandolin among those that are designed for long time use.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($99.99)
4. Washburn M1 S Mandolin – Sunburst Finish
This A-style mandolin will not let you down. It is made from top-notch materials that will allow you to deliver the sound quality you want, something that is much needed by beginners. The combination of spruce, maple wood, and rosewood guarantees that your mandolin will produce a bright sound that you will absolutely love.
The classic shape of the mandolin will allow you to enjoy playing various music genres. For instance, Celtic music enthusiasts are fans of this type of mandolin, as it works like a charm for the sounds they love to create. For folk music, this is also an excellent choice.
The neck is made of maple, and it will help you adjust the intonation while you play. The overall construction of this model is traditional, with f-holes, and a neck scale of 13 ¾. The fretboard allows fast-fingered fretting, which is ideal for beginners.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($198.96)
5. Rogue RM-100A A-Style Mandolin Sunburst
The main characteristic of a mandolin intended for beginners is how easy it is to play. The Rogue RM-100A is created with the needs of a beginner in mind, and it is also a looker, so you will not feel like your instrument appears of a cheaper value when you go playing in front of an audience or with friends.
This traditional A-style model is built to last, and you will be able to use it for practicing for a long time. The bright tone is ensured by the clean craftsmanship, and its beautiful finish will catch everyone’s eyes right from the start.
Along with travel guitars, mandolins make the easiest instruments to carry around. This model is no exception to the rule. Whether you want to play bluegrass or folk, or other music genres, the Rogue RM-100A will assist you with any fuss. The chrome tuners are gorgeous, as are the nickel frets.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($60)
6. Donner Mandolin Instrument Sunburst Mahogany DML-1
The Donner DML-1 comes in a fantastic Sunburst finish, and it should be your instrument of choice if you are looking for a versatile model that can be used for different music genres. The body is made from mahogany, and it delivers a more vibrant sound than you can usually find in other similar models.
The truss rod inserted in the neck of the mandolin will allow you to adjust tonality, and you will have more freedom of playing various styles, due to this small detail. It serves to look at the number of accessories offered with your purchase.
It is known that just as violin cases are a must for violins, so are mandolin cases essential in protecting the instruments against dust, humidity, and damage. This mandolin is delivered with a gig bag so that you can carry it around without a problem. You will also get a polishing cloth, extra strings, and a digital tuner.
Click to see the price on Amazon!
7. Hola! Music A Style Mandolin Instrument with Adjustable Truss-Rod HM-3TS
If you are shopping for a cheap beginner mandolin, the Hola! Music HM-3TS should be present on your list. This classic A-style model comes in a glossy finish, and it has eight strings, just like any traditional mandolin. There are many things you will like about this model, such as the materials used.
Even if this mandolin demands a more than decent price, its craftsmanship qualifies it as a superior model. The sides, back, neck, and top are made from maple wood, a material recommended for an instrument capable of producing a bright, beautiful sound.
The rosewood bridge is forgiving for beginners and can be adjusted. The smooth action is guaranteed to help you learn the instrument with minimum headaches. The truss rod inserted in the neck is adjustable, and the manufacturer even supplies the wrench you need for performing this operation. The pickguard is made from black ABS, while the bindings around the head, neck, and body are made from white ABS.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($89.95)
Yearly Guide & Report
There are a few things you need to bear in mind if you want to purchase the best beginner mandolin, besides pricing. While you can focus on getting the cheapest model you can find, you should not neglect other aspects that can help you understand and learn the instrument at a fast pace. Here are the most important considerations for buying an ideal mandolin.
The importance of the body style
One thing you may notice right away, even without reading the beginner mandolins reviews available online, is that each mandolin has a certain body style. Three versions exist, and each one is ideal for specific music genres, so it is important to remember them.
The oldest style of mandolin available has its roots in 18th century Italy. It is called the bowl-backed style, and it is easy to recognize by its round back. This type is known for its deep dark tones, and it is ideal for people who like to play with an orchestra or prefer traditional folk pieces or classical music.
However, since you are looking for a beginner’s model, going for this type of mandolin can be a stretch. When you pick a beginner bass guitar, you look at certain aspects, and the same rule applies to mandolins. The most common model for beginners is an A-style mandolin.
This style was developed by Gibson in the 1920s, and, like the F-style, has remained a favorite for many mandolin players ever since. You can tell an A-style mandolin from the rest by its pear or tear shape. Some people call these flat-backed mandolins, to differentiate them from bowl-backed models, but bear in mind that they still have a slightly rounded back.
Other construction elements that identify A-style mandolins are the O shape in the middle of the soundboard, and the two f-holes that resemble the ones you can see on violins. All the reviews of mandolins for beginners say that these are ideal for beginners because they are less expensive than F-style models.
That happens because they are easier to make by manufacturers, so the lower production cost also leads to lower prices for the buyer. It must be mentioned that they are preferred by people who play Celtic music, traditional folk, and classical music.
In case you want to play bluegrass and more modern music, you may want an F-style mandolin. This one comes with f-holes and doesn’t come with the O hole in the soundboard. Manufacturers find them more challenging to make, so the pricing is higher than for A-style mandolins.
The smallest accessory for a musical instrument, like a drum stick, for instance, must be made from good quality materials, to ensure that the instrument will sound like the player desires. In the case of mandolins, it is essential to know that they are made from a combination of materials, as each part of the instrument is exposed to a different type of stress.
The soundboard of a mandolin is ideally made from solid spruce, a type of wood known for its strength and durability while being lightweight. The same material is used, for these reasons, in the making of soundboards for guitars, and even pianos. You might not find it in a piano for kids, but it is quite widespread.
Hardwoods are used for the back and the sides, and most of the time, the choice of manufacturers is maple wood. Mahogany can also be used for cheap models, and there are other variants, but they are less widespread.
The neck is very important because it is essential for playability. Because it can bend and get damaged, it is advisable to have it made from hardwoods, like maple and mahogany.
Other elements that have a role in playability
As you could see so far, the materials used and the body style are crucial for the type of mandolin you intend to purchase. For a beginner, ease of use is essential, and that is why we will talk a little about other elements that will play a role in this respect.
The fretboard must be forgiving, and that is why you should pick one made of rosewood. The smooth playability offered will help you master the instrument without too much hassle. Also, a truss rod inserted in the neck that can be adjusted will help you be more versatile when customizing tonality.
Accessories you should look for
A mandolin is an excellent instrument for gigs on the road, or a gig bag should be an accessory that you should not have to live without. Also, extra strings never hurt to have, for the simple reason that the more you will play your mandolin, the more likely it will be that some strings might break.