There are many different types of mandolin styles out there, but this article will focus on some of the best mandolins for bluegrass music.
We’ll cover everything you need to know about these instruments including the top six, what they’re used for, and how much they cost.
We will help you make the hard decision and educate on the mandolins that we think will help you find the perfect match!
Let’s jump right in and dive deep into the details.
Top 6 Bluegrass Mandolins
1. Editor’s Pick – The Loar LM-520-VS
One of your top choices should be the Loar LM-520-VS Mandolin. It gives you a solid hand-crafted spruce top.
Apart from this, you can get hand crafted maple sides and back. The neck of the mandolin is in shape of V and made from maple.
This mandolin can offer you so many tunes. You will get adjustable ebony and this will offer you better intonation and frequency as well. This mandolin comes in gloss finishing with vintage and traditional sunburst.
The top-quality materials are being used to make this mandolin. This will ensure you with excellent intonation and tunes.
2. Best Budget Option – The Loar LM-110-BRB
This is another product from the same brand like previous one. The mandolin is looking like the thin V profile. It comfortably fit in the hands of the players.
In this mandolin, you can find the authentic and hand-crafted spruce top. 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.
3. Best Value – Ibanez M522SBS
The Ibanez M522SBS is a great bluegrass mandolin.
The hand-carved, premium grade mahogany neck is strong and flexible. The high gloss Brown Sunburst finish provides a vintage mandolin look giving the instrument character and establishing its identity.
The solid spruce top promotes outstanding projection while providing clarity and balance to the sound of your Ibanez M522SBS F-Style Mandolin, Brown Sunburst High Gloss.
Die-cast tuners with pearloid knobs offer a durable release for tightening or loosening the tension on each string that can be turned smoothly for quick note changes without breaking a sweat.
It comes with many accessories such as extra picks, strings and an electric tuner.
4. Acoustic-Electric – Stagg M50E
This bluegrass mandolin with high quality materials and gives comfort to the players. The rosewood fingerboard can offer you a smooth feeling. The F-shaped sound holes can produce stunning sounds.
This is another great option for mandolin. It comes with a basswood top and nato neck as well.
The beautiful nickel tailpiece can give you a classic and traditional appearance. The bridge is made of black-colored maple and it can be adjustable as well.
You can get the perfect violin burst finish as well. You can control the intonation. The sound of this mandolin is sweet, crisp and deep as well. It can produce fantastic tone that everyone can enjoy.
The vintage design can offer you an authentic look as well.
5. Professional – Ibanez M700AVS
The Ibanez M700AVS Mandolin is perfect for the professional musician. Crafted from solid spruce and maple, the sound is clear with a defined high end.
The deep, balanced bluegrass tone reverberates through its sunburst finish giving this instrument an alluring look.
Professional tooling enhances comfort when rosining your strings and allows tuning far more easily than other instruments of its kind.
If you’re looking for a professional instrument built to provide pure, acoustic sound – you’ve found it!
6. Handmade Luxury – Eastman MD315
If you want to buy a great bluegrass mandolin then you should go for this one.
You can get the classic and beautiful finish with this mandolin. This mandolin is created with traditional materials. It is made with old world craftsmanship method. This mandolin features a solid spruce top and it is very much attractive as well.
You can also get the solid maple side and back. You can also get the rosewood fingerboard. Apart from this, you can also get the adjustable ebony bridge.
The F-style body is looking so good and attractive as well. The marvelous and outstanding sound and tones are producing from the F-holes. It is a perfect example of clean workmanship.
Buying Guide: How To Choose a Mandolin For Bluegrass
Mandolins come in many styles and sizes. Each style and size plays an important role.
The mandolin roles in bluegrass music are limited. Therefore, you should know what a mandolin offers that adds value to your bluegrass band.
The wide variety of mandolins makes it hard to choose your mandolin; however, with the following tips, you will be able to select the best bluegrass mandolin.
1. Choose an F-5-style mandolin. Besides its elegance and flat top and f-shaped soundhole, a mandolin with this shape will produce a high-quality melody relevant to bluegrass music.
2. The best mandolin for bluegrass music should have tight strings. The strings allow the mandolin to produce high notes responsible for setting apart bluegrass music from the best. Ensure your mandolin includes the E and B strings. Not all mandolin have all the strings.
3. When choosing a bluegrass mandolin, go for medium and small sizes. It allows you to use your mandolin for long hours while standing. Again, medium and small sizes can produce high-quality, high notes.
4. If you do not want an F-45-style mandolin, you can opt for any other flat-back mandolin. They are more comfortable compared to a bow-backed mandolin.
As we have seen earlier, there are several types and designs of mandolins.
Only a few types of mandolins can fit in bluegrass music. The best mandolin for bluegrass music will have the following features;
- The mandolin should have a teardrop shape. The shape allows the mandolinist to hold it comfortably as they stand upright. Therefore the mandolin should have a flat or a nearly flat back.
- A wooden Mandolin produces the best tones. Therefore you should invest in a good quality wooden mandolin to play your bluegrass music well.
- The soundboard is the most crucial part of a mandolin. Spruce wood is the best for the soundboard. However, high-quality mandolins are expensive. You may opt for a lower budget, but the sound quality will not be as fine as a high-end mandolin.
- Choose an electric or an acoustic mandolin depending on how you intend to use the mandolin. If you intend to perform in a large hall or stage, an electric mandolin will serve you well.
However, if you are a beginner, you can use an acoustic mandolin.
- The price of a mandolin is a limiting factor. High-quality mandolins are quite expensive.
However, if you are on a tight budget, you can find a decent mandolin ranging from $50 to $100. You can use that mandolin as you save to buy a better mandolin.
Or opt for a more expensive mandolins around the $500 range.
Learn more about tuning mandolins strings for proper bluegrass sound.
Bluegrass Music Style Using a Mandolin
There is no bluegrass music without a mandolin. A mandolin complements the other instruments, such as banjo, guitar, upright bass, and fiddle.
Sometimes the band can incorporate a dobro. All these instruments have a role in bluegrass music. However, the mandolin plays three roles.
The roles are:
1. In rhythm, mandolin creates the highest tones. They use the chunking technique to create upbeats and sometimes offbeats. The strong offbeat is the original sound that Bill Monroe created.
However, banjo and fiddle can create chunking when the mandolinist is occupied.
2. Bluegrass music is straightforward with verses, chorus, and breaks. Showy instrumentals characterize the breaks.
A mandolin provides a unique melody that sets out bluegrass music from the rest.
A mandolinist can add their creativity and cording to add value to the instrumentals. The mandolin is also responsible for kickoffs and endings.
3. A mandolin creates fill and backup in bluegrass music. You will hear the fill or backup when the band includes long-held tones.
Mandolin created melodies, countermelodies, and soft chopping as the band members were singing.
What Makes a Bluegrass Mandolin Different from a Normal Mandolin
Bluegrass mandolin is not so different from a normal mandolin. Due to the unique demands of bluegrass music, it was important to modify the normal mandolin to fit bluegrass music.
As we mentioned earlier, a bluegrass mandolin will not have a bowed back. In other music styles, it is very okay to use normal mandolin. Another thing, a bluegrass mandolin should have tight strings. The strings are responsible for the sharp chunking.
Finding the best mandolin for a specific sound and style of music can be hard but we hope that you guided you through this tough decision.
Some people prefer the sound and feel of an all-wood or laminated wood mandolin because they provide more warmth and bass tones to your music, while others may want the brighter tone that comes with metal strings on their instrument.
There is no right answer when it comes to choosing which type of material your mandolin should be made out of; ultimately you have to play around until you find what feels most comfortable in your hands.