The Complete Guide to Buying Your First Mandolin

Playing an instrument is perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences one can have in life. Not only does it allow you to express yourself creatively, but it also has numerous benefits for both your physical and mental well-being. If you’ve been considering picking up an instrument, the mandolin is a fantastic choice.

This small stringed instrument has a rich history and produces a beautiful, unique sound that is sure to captivate anyone who listens. Whether you want to play folk, bluegrass, or classical music, this particular instrument has a versatile range and can be played in various styles.


In a nutshell, well-tuned and melodic mandolins are small but mighty instruments that are designed to produce a unique sound that cannot be obtained with any other instrument. They are convenient, and super easy to carry and move around which isn’t the case with guitars. When it comes to choosing the right one for you, know that there are two main styles from which you can choose.



These musical instruments were first produced in the early 1900s by Gibson and have a bowl-shaped back and almost flat top. They also have a decorative scroll on the upper bass side bout and several points that are designed to stick from their body.

They are one of the most favoured instruments by bluegrass players because of their history and the amusing and ear-pleasing sound. Being made by Gibson, these instruments have become one of the most sought-after among many musicians and this explains their higher price. These instruments have body points located on the lower side of the instrument which positively affect the sound.


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The A-style models of these instruments have a symmetrical teardrop-shaped body. The term comes from the Gibson’s A-type mandolins that were produced in the early 20th century and they feature a carved top and back where in some models that back is arched like a violin. Today’s A-style models look more like guitars and they don’t have the fancy scrolls and points like the F-style models.


Given the fact that you’re new to this instrument, you should also know that aside from the basic type of acoustic, you can also choose from the many electric models as well.


These musical instruments are much louder and can be heard more even when used in a band alongside other instruments. Even though they are designed to be tuned and played like the acoustic models, the electric ones are a bit different in terms of body and they can also differ in the way they are electrified.

That being said, some of them are equipped with pickups that are similar to those of acoustic guitars while others are designed with pickups similar to those of electric guitars. Practice shows that most beginners start with the use of electric models because they are easier to play on, however, they also consider the idea of choosing acoustic-electric mandolins with a built-in electric pickup system. In case you are not sure which type is the right for you, make sure to consult with a professional before making any final decision.


Another crucial thing to have in mind is their material. While in the past they were mainly made from solid wood, nowadays they can also be made from laminated wood. Those made from solid wood have a better sound, tone and overall quality, while laminated wood options are more affordable and they can also sound just as good as the ones made from solid. However, if the price isn’t something that bothers you, then you should certainly invest in one made from solid wood to be sure of its durability and longevity.

Is a Mandolin Harder Than a Guitar?

Well, there isn’t an exact answer to this question because both of these musical instruments have their difficulties. While some people consider playing on a guitar harder because it’s larger, bulkier and has more strings than the other, others find it difficult to play on a smaller instrument.

The strings on mandolin are fewer indeed but they are tuned differently and to a higher pitch, so some people find it harder to press them down. Nevertheless, playing on both of these instruments is unique and it can provide you with an amazing and unique experience that cannot be obtained with the other.

Of course, buying a musical instrument from a trusted store certainly is one of the main things you should do to make the most out of it, however, there are some other things you should take into account before you decide to buy your mandolin.

New or Used


Nowadays, the choice for mandolins is huge, and you can even choose from the many new and used types. And even though quite often used instruments are considered bad, sometimes, buying a used one made from solid wood is always better than buying one made from laminate.

After a while, the ones made from laminate can become susceptible to wrapping and some other damages that can come with it over time. And if you think in the long run, it’s always better to invest in something better and more expensive than in something cheaper that you’ll need to change after some time.
On the other hand, buying a new one is always better than buying a used one no matter the material and the instrument’s condition. New mandolins will certainly last you longer than buying a used one because you cannot know the conditions under which it was kept nor the type and amount of care it was made.