If you’re a beginner then you know how hard it is to find a good mandolin.
There are so many models on the market, all of which have different features and price ranges. How do you pick one?
Well, I’ve done my research for you and compiled this list of fifteen mandolins that I think will be perfect for any starting musician!
In a Hurry? Our Top Picks:
- Best Overall – Donner
- Best Value – Janerock
- Best Budget Option – Hola! Music
- Best Kit & Accessories – ADM
- Premium – Kentucky KM-150
- Best A-Style Mandolin – Ibanez M510BS
- Best F-Style Mandolin – Ibanez M522SBS
- Best Durability – Ibanez M510DVS
- Easiest To Use – Vangoa A Style Mandolin
- Best Bluegrass Mandolin – The Loar LM-520-VS
- Best Classic Mandolin – Kentucky KM-252
- Best Acoustic-Electric Mandolin – Stagg M50E
- Best Electric Mandolin – Oscar Schmidt OM10EWH-O-U
- Best Design – Rogue RM-100A
- Best Left Handed Mandolin – Lucky Penny
Top 15 Best Beginner Mandolins
1. Best Overall – Donner
If you are on a budget or just want to test out the waters then this is the mandolin for you. The Donner A-Style DML-1 comes with everything you need to start playing such as a electronic clip-on tuner, picks, bag, etc.
It is made of mahogany with chrome plated gear tuners. The Donner comes with everything you need and with the price alone you can’t go wrong.
2. Best Value – Janerock
Janerock’s mandolin has all the specs and punch, but their price doesn’t break the bank. This is the best value for your money for beginners.
You’ll love this Mandolin as it will be a joy to play, or even simply display, which is always nice when it comes to instruments oozing with pure musical vibes and craftsmanship.
3. Best Budget Option – Hola! Music Mandolin
This mandolin is by far the cheapest mandolin you will find on the market that actaully sounds good. It’s the perfect instrument for beginners; its strings and short neck make it easy to learn, and its compact size makes practices wherever you are often place.
The Hola Mandolin lets aspiring musicians enjoy a music-making session with something that they can actually carry!
4. Best Kit & Accessories – ADM A-Style Mandolin
This instrument comes loaded with everything you need to start playing! Mandolin Starter Kit includes a carrying case, tuner/metronome, picks, lesson DVD and instructional booklet.
The budget option mandolin is the perfect idea for someone who wants to take up mandolin but isn’t sure if they want to commit.
The starter kit has everything you need with quality beginner tools that will make it easy to take this great new musical journey.
5. Premium – Kentucky KM-150
This mandolin was close to being our winner but fell just short, but is still a great option for you. The Kentucky A-Style KM-150 is made mostly out of spruce and maple. Spruce for the top and maple for the neck, back and sides also finished with a sunburst gloss. Kentucky is probably the best in the business when it comes to mandolins.
6. Best A-Style Mandolin – Ibanez M510BS
This mandolin by Ibanez offers tonality and craftsmanship of the highest standards as offered by other mandolins form this brand. This mandolin is made affordable for every musician, beginner, and professional.
The quality features of this mandolin include 8 strings along with other standard features at a very reasonable price.
This mandolin from Ibanez with A-style teardrop platform includes a neat and smart top to balance the tone of sound perfectly. Its body made of mahogany is perfectly maintainable and offers rich lows.
Its fretboard made of rosewood offers clarity of tone and clear sustainability for which the Ibanez brand is known. High gloss finish and chrome hardware are its other features.
The main features of this mandolin from Ibanez include A-style body, 8 strings, well-groomed top and back, sides, and neck made of mahogany. It has 350mm scale, rosewood flat fretboard, mahogany neck, the width of nuts 30mm, 20 frets, chrome tuners, and Rosewood Bridge are its other features. This mandolin with Chrome hardware and High gloss finish.
If you want the best value for the money you’re going to spend then this mandolin is for you.
7. Best F-Style Mandolin – Ibanez M522SBS
Ibanez has designed this mandolin with versatile features as it includes tone and volume controls along with a single-coil magnetic pickup. Its spruce top and sides and back made of mahogany produce great tones.
A rosewood bridge and fingerboard, a tortoise style pickguard, and chrome hardware in a glossy brown sunburst finish are its other important features. You will have to buy its case separately.
This F-Style Mandolin from Ibanez projects a crisp and unique sound well when it is played through its magnetic pickup. It is made comfortable for musicians by making it easy to play with its rosewood fretboard and maple neck. It looks beautiful with its laminated spruce top, sunburst finish, and F-style body.
Ibanez offers Gold Coverage warranty to the professional musicians. This warranty covers wear and tears from unintentional and unexpected drops, cracks, and spills along with normal wear and tears.
Damage caused by surges in power supply as well as humidity, dust, and internal heat. In this way, the manufacturer of this mandolin protects you from the damages caused by accidental failures and mishandling from up to 5 years from the date of its purchase at a very low cost. In this way they allow you to play it in a worry-free environment.
8. Best Durability – Ibanez M510DVS
Ibanez mandolins are known for having outstanding durability. The Ibanez M510DVS mandolin is made from an Spruce and Mahogany top, Ebony fingerboard, Maple back and sides, die-cast tuning machines with pearloid buttons on the headstock. This is perfect for the master player who needs to take their music anywhere they go.
9. Easiest To Use – Vangoa A-Style Mandolin
It is a mandolin totally made of maple- one of the well-known woods. You can get the glossy sunburst finishing with this mandolin.
You will also get the covering of mahogany back, side and top coat. This mandolin features the adjustable rosewood bridge and simple pickguard of black ABS.
You will get the chrome plated open gear and it can produce variety of sounds. The fingerboard is made of walnut. The appearance of this mandolin is outstanding.
The truss rod is adjustable. The steel bar is also there that runs along the neck of the mandolin. It is a traditional looking mandolin.
10. Best Bluegrass Mandolin – The Loar LM-520-VS
In this mandolin, you can find the authentic and hand-crafted spruce top. You can also get the real sound of 1920s. It is a perfect combination of authentic and traditional F-style body.
This product not only sounds great but also easy to play for the beginners. It is the best choice for next generation players as well.
With its woody characteristics, it is very warm and full. It can produce some classy tones. It is very easy to play and joy to listen as well.
When your mandolin must be nothing less than exquisite, then you will certainly appreciate the intrinsic beauty of the Loar LM-520-VS F-Style Mandolin that is immediately evident the first time you view this instrument.
It has a front that is crafted of beautiful spruce that adds to the beauty and durability of this highly dependable instrument that will put forth a solid musical performance every time.
It also has a back and sides that are crafted of solid maple that add to the high quality of this delightful instrument.
Then the tuners that are open-geared top off the power of this instrument to perform well and in tune every time you want to play some soothing mandolin music.
You will be pleased that this mandolin plays smoothly and does not create unpleasant shrill sounds that can happen with other mandolins that are not of a high quality.
The strings are super strong, so that you do not have to worry about them breaking when you are playing for your own enjoyment or when you are playing to please an audience that loves to listen to thrilling mandolin music.
11. Best Classic Mandolin – Kentucky KM-252
This mandolin is best for classical music. The Kentucky mandolin is one of the traditional devices made of solid maple sides and back beside its maple neck, which is designed for comfortable and easy playing.
This type is desirable due to the combination of maple, spruce, and rosewood. It comes with an F shaped sound hole and tone wood fingerboard, which gives the instrument a smooth texture.
It is entirely handmade, making it more unique. This mandolin is for beginners all the way to professionals.
12. Best Acoustic-Electric Mandolin – Stagg M50E
The Stagg M50E Mandolin is the pinnacle of mandolin tone. Spruce and mahogany gives your sound that characteristic bluegrass twang.
Thin, arched back create an acoustic vibe even when plugged in. The final detail? A luxurious hand-rubbed finish guaranteed to turn heads tomorrow’s jamming session or next gig.
13. Best Electric Mandolin – Oscar Schmidt OM10EWH-O-U
The Oscar Schmidt is the best electric mandolin in the industry. Its sleek, black exterior and high-quality design will catch everyone’s eye at your next gig. This smaller instrument delivers an incredible sound that will make you feel like a Rockstar even if you’re just learning how to play!
14. Best Design – Rogue RM-100A
A true beauty, the RM100A Mandolin is made of mahogany with a spruce top that produces a great tone without being extremely expensive. This is one of the longest-scale mandolins, so if you want an instrument as tall as yourself then this may be the one for you!
With its easy-to-use neck and strings, you’ll sound like a pro without all of that tedious practice!
15. Best Left Handed Mandolin – Lucky Penny
The Lucky Penny is the best left handed mandolin on the market today! This product is for those who have been longing to play an instrument but not had the opportunity until now because for years all they’ve seen were guitars when looking in music stores and on-line.
Now, with Lucky Penny’s Left Handed Mandolins being manufactured a need has been fulfilled!
They come equipped with everything new instruments have nowadays as well such as strings, tuners, neck straps, you name it. Now go out there and make some music already!
Buying Guide: Things To Consider When Choosing A Mandolin
Buying the right mandolin is a step in the right direction for a beginner. Below is everything you should know before buying your first mandolin.
Type Of Mandolin
Nowadays, mandolins usually come in three different types, and your choice for the three depends on your style of music, your financial position as well as the appearance that suits you.
The three configurations are as follows.
Bowl: backed is the oldest of all with its origin in Italy. It has a round back and a dark tone that makes it appealing for classical and folk music. They are quite cheap, and most are of low quality. Not so much recommended for beginners.
A-style: mandolins are also known as flat-backed mandolins and usually have a pear-shaped body. They have holes that resemble the holes in a violin on both sides. They are cheaper than F-style mandolins of the same quality, and they are also easier to build as compared to F-style
F-style: have a curved body that distinguishes them from A-style. Most of them have points protruding out on the lower part which makes the instrument comfortable playing when sitting by resting it on the laps. F-style mandolin are used a lot for bluegrass music.
Electric vs. Acoustic vs. Acoustic-Electric
Acoustic mandolins are cheaper than electric mandolins; however, price alone should not determine which type you choose, but your selection depends on where you intend to use the instrument.
Price: Have A Budget
Do not wake up and rush to buy a mandolin just because you got some cash that you had not expected. Planning, depending on your financial status, is a good starting point.
Buying the most expensive mandolin as a beginner does not mean that you will become an expert faster.
On the other hand, do not go for a mandolin just because it is the cheapest. It could be affordable and faulty, which will break before you start learning.
For beginners, I would recommend that you start with an intermediate mandolin. You can consider buying a second-hand mandolin from a friend if you can manage to get one in good condition.
Try Before You Buy
When buying a mandolin, you need to consider visiting the dealer with a friend who is experienced with other instruments or who knows how to play the mandolin. Let your friend guide you on checking the qualities of the device. You should ask the dealer to give a tuner and check whether the mandolin intonates well preferably up to the seventh fret.
Make sure that the mandolin is adequately set up to save them from the embarrassment that comes with poorly set mandolins. Try to learn the essential mandolin setups from friends who own the instrument before you buy yours. Compare various mandolins before deciding the one to buy.
For a beginner, I discourage the idea of buying a mandolin online. It is good that you buy a mandolin to a dealer where you can test before buying. Only buy online if the dealer promises to take the mandolin back if you buy online and find it is defective.
Check For Technical Defects
If you happen to purchase an old mandolin, make sure that the instruments’ bindings and seams are intact. Check for any cracks and make sure the mandolin has a straight neck. Ensure that your instrument’s soundboard is in good condition. A new machine should have all it’s tuning keys when turned on. For a beginner, the action on the mandolin should not be too hight to avoid hurting your fingers when you start training.
Type Of Wood & Materials Of Construction
Various parts of a mandolin are made of different kinds of wood to put them under stress. These wood types have a great deal in determining the tone the mandolin produces, and knowing where different types of wood function best will help you choose the right instrument.
The soundboard of most mandolins is made of a lightweight and hardy wood known as spruce. Use of other wood like cedar and mahogany to make the soundboard makes the mandolin produce a deep sound which may not be okay.
Some other makers use laminate wood to make the top which may, in a way, help the beginners who have a slim budget. It is also wise to check the type of finish on a mandolin, and a massive finish might affect the quality of sound produced by the instrument.
Try and get a mandolin with eight strings since that is the most common. Every mandolin we listed above has the basic eight string configuration.
Of course you are going to want top quality in your mandolin. Every mandolin we listed above are the best in their class in quality. Things you should look for are the materials used in the construction and manufacturing.
Another easy way of knowing if the quality is great or not is just knowing the brand and if the brand is well known and deeply trusted in the industry.
Check For The Accessories
When you decide to purchase a mandolin, carry with you the following accessories lest your mandolin becomes useless.
- Gig Bag/Case – buy a case to protect your mandolin from being scratched. The amount you spend on buying a case should be directly proportional to the price of your instrument.
- Tuner – have a tuner and know how to use. Electronic tuners are handier for that matter.
- Strap-helps the instrument from being damaged when not in the case in case it accidentally falls. It also helps when carrying the device to avoid straining your body.
- Strings -Buy some spare strings since replacements of strings after sometimes is necessary.
- Buy A Capo-It helps to achieve different sounds which would not be comfortable without a capo.
Best Mandolin Brands For Beginners
Some of the best mandolin brands that can suit the need of various mandolin beginners are discussed below.
That’s all folks! Now you have already got an idea about the mandolin and got a full list of it. These are our top picks.
We have mentioned these products as per the quality, structure, sound and price as well. You can take your pick from these.
We hope this article and review will help you to pick the best choice.