Mandolin Buyer’s Guide

Mandolin Playability

Ease of playability is of upmost importance when buying a mandolin.  To find a mandolin that is easy to play, look for an adjustable neck with a “truss rod.”  All our recommendations* below should have an adjustable neck.

Mandolin Longevity

Second priority is longevity of the instrument.  We suggest a solid wood top to keep pluckin’ your favorite mandolin forever.  Or if you are looking to upgrade your current instrument, look for mandolins with solid backs and sides, too, for ultimate resonance.

Your local music shop will have a variety of awesome instruments for you to choose from.  If you decide to purchase an instrument online or used, please have it looked over by a luthier to make sure it is in tip-top playing condition.  We love Eagle Guitar for instrument shopping and The Better Fret for set-ups and tune-ups.

Playing Style

Lastly, what style of music would you like to play?  If you’re a diehard bluegrass fan, then the “F-style” mandolin will give you the bright sound you’re looking for.  If you prefer a warm, versatile sound then the “A-style” mandolin is for you!  Check out the mandolins below to get an idea of reputable brands and models.

A-Style Mandolins

Washburn M1S

Ibanez M510DVS

Kentucky KM-150

F-Style Mandolins

Ibanez M522SBS 

Loar LM-520-VS


Now that you’ve found your perfect axe, outfit it with all the necessities.

  • Case — go for either a hard shell or at least a padded soft case to protect your beloved instrument.

Hola! Mandolin Gig Bag

  • Tuner — Your phone app will work in a pinch, but a dedicated tuner will be more accurate. The clip-on kind will only pick up the vibrations from you instrument, which makes playing in a group even easier!

    Snark ST-8 All Instrument Tuner

  • Picks — shoot for .60mm so you get a nice bite on individual notes and a smooth strum on chords.

Brain Picks (grippy)

  • Strap — pick up a strap in a fun color so you can play securely sitting, as well as standing up onstage.

Ernie Ball Strap

Build Your Practice Corner

Create a safe and comfortable space to leave your instrument out and get in your practice groove!

  • Instrument Stand — a visible instrument is a played instrument!  Display your mandolin on the wall or on a sturdy floor stand for a standing invitation to practice, and for a beautiful conversation piece.

Top Stage Mandolin Hanger

Mandolin Floor Stand

  • Music Stand — find something nice and robust to hold up heavy books and a metronome/cell phone.  Bonus points if you have a place to store pencils and highlighters, a stand light, fingernail clippers, and some clothes pins to keep your books open!

Manhasset Music Stand

  • Adjustable Foot Rest — you will play more if you are comfortable.  Prioritize ergonomics and practice with a foot rest to bring your instrument the perfect hight.

Neewer Foot Rest

Still have questions about buying a mandolin?  Email us!  Ready to play some music?  Learn more!

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