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Best Beginner Mandolins In 2021: A Detailed Guide

As a beginner performer, there are various amazing reasons to select the mandolin as your learning instrument.

First, they are usually small in size and display a simple body-built, which will make it easy for you to launch into the fascinating world of music.

But, before you jump right into it, you should get the best instrument according to your needs. If you don’t, you might end up giving up even before you begin, and that’s the last thing you want.

In this article, we take you through the best beginner mandolins, complete with a buying guide to ensure you step into the marketplace like a pro.

Ready to learn? Let’s get started!

Best Beginner Mandolins In 2021 Reviewed

1. Vangoa A-Style Acoustic Electric Mandolin

Vangoa Company hasn’t been around for a decade.

The company was only founded sometime around 2017, but it sure didn’t come to play.

Although many beginner performers might not have heard of it yet, their Mandolin A is a true definition of a low-cost cut instrument, with a touch of quality.

The first thing you will notice about this musical tool is its striking red-stained wood effect on its front side.

In fact, most individuals confess that the Mandolin’s glossy finish gives it a premium appearance (even if it’s not), which provides them with the confidence to play among their peers.

You will also appreciate the chrome knobs, which you can’t easily find in most beginner instruments within its range.

The mandolin comes with eight strings that proudly display a traditional appearance and can comfortably help you play all music styles.

This mandolin is right-handed, so if you’re left-handed, you might find it challenging to play. Therefore, find some other instrument if possible.

The mahogany and solid wooden body of this instrument not only guarantee durability but also helps in the release of warmer and brighter sounds, decent enough for a beginner.

With the package comes guitar picks, some extra strings, a Vangoa sticker, a digital clip-on tuner, and a strap.

You will also get a padded gig bag, which will help you carry your instrument with ease, be it for lessons or small gigs.

Pros
  • Comes with a 1-year full warranty against damages and defects
  • Light-weighted for easy portability
  • Affordable
  • Beautiful premium appearance
  • Includes extra accessories
  • Plays exceptionally well and is adjustable
Cons
  • Few reports of the action being too high.

Check today's price on Amazon

2. Kentucky KM-150 Standard A-model Mandolin

The Kentucky KN-150 is a fantastic mandolin, especially for beginners.

It is straight-A styled and promises to offer its users durability and reliability in both sound and body construction.

Those who have used this musical instrument praise it for its beautiful sound and the fact that it’s pretty affordable makes it an even better choice.

The instrument will offer you the best practicing ground, and you can upgrade once you sharpen your skills.

And if you are well-informed about various mandolins, you will be glad to know that this instrument is made up of spruce and maple.

These are an excellent solid combination of all times.

The sound produced by the Kentucky KN-150 is often praised for being crispy clear, and also warm and decently loud.

Also, this mandolin is quite versatile, making it an excellent purchase for beginners who love experimenting with different tunes.

You will also notice its quality finish, which perfectly complements the fantastic build. So, you can carry it with pride because it doesn’t scream “cheap.”

With the package, you will receive a relatively solid carrying case, which will allow you to transport your instrument with ease.

Pros
  • Made of solid Alpine maple and spruce for durability
  • Has an adjustable truss rod
  • Beautiful premium finish
  • Value for money
  • Rich, authentic sounds
  • Resistant to strings tension
Cons
  • Not easy to set the floating bridge correctly
  • You will have to complete the set-up.

Check today's price on Amazon

3. Rogue RM-100A A-Style Mandolin

Honestly, the first time I came across the Rogue RM-100A on Amazon, I couldn’t believe how affordable it was!

I mean, how could something so beautiful, be this affordable?

But as an experienced product reviewer, that automatically implied that this instrument is meant for beginners. And yes, I was right.

This entry-level mandolin, might not be built to compete with the over $1000 mandolins, but it sure has some amazing features.

It comes with an electric tuner, which makes it easy, especially for beginners trying to transition from guitars to mandolins.

But, even if you have no previous experience in any musical instrument, you will love how easy it will be to tune this instrument, thanks to the electric tuner.

Concerning the body construction, I honestly find it decently okay. It doesn’t strike me as amazing at first glance, but considering its price, this shouldn’t even be a problem.

Its neck is made up of maple and the keyboard out of rosewood. They are both quite durable and reliable, given that this is a learning instrument.

You will also appreciate the decent appearance of the chrome tuning machines, and the 12th-fret neck joint.

You will, however, have to purchase a carrying case separately, plus there is no warranty information.

Pros
  • Great pricing
  • Decently durable and reliable
  • Comes with an electric tuner
  • Produces a decent beautiful sound
  • Ready to play
Cons
  • No carrying case
  • Not high-end quality, which is expected at its pricing

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4. Ibanez M510DVS Mandolin

If an excellent combination of a beautiful and affordable mandolin is what you’re searching for, the Ibanez M510DVS Mandolin makes an ideal pick.

This instrument is amazingly beautiful from the word go, and you will love its satiny appearance when you get to see it in real life.

It proudly displays a glossy finish, which will make you stand-out among your peers.

The A-style mandolin comes with decently durable mahogany sides and back, complete with a select spruce top.

They both give this instrument a premium appearance, which is all you need to spice up your confidence until you can afford to upgrade.

And that’s not all. The Ibanez M510DVS Mandolin proudly features chrome hardware, and the neck is beautifully done with a pearl dot inlay.

The manufacturer of this instrument ensured to trim the strings’ corners, making them pretty good for starters.

However, you should consider getting high-quality strings once the first set is worn out or broken.

Having decently quality strings on a cheap mandolin, will in a significant way, advance sound production.

Therefore, if you’re on a budget, this mandolin is for you.

Pros
  • Beautiful finish
  • Decent quality construction
  • Affordable
  • Comes in two colors
Cons
  • You might have to take it to the store for setting up
  • No hard carrying case

Check today's price on Amazon

5. Ibanez M510EBS A-Style Mandolin

The Ibanez M510EBS A-Style Mandolin isn’t any different from the M510DVS.

It’s just as beautiful, and one can easily mistake it for a premium piece at first glance.

Its body shape is also a Style- A, and it comes with a mahogany neck, back, and sides.

This makes it decently durable and reliable.

Therefore, you can rest easy and enjoy your practicing sessions without worrying about abrupt wear and tear.

Its top is made of spruce, and because of the solid form of this mandolin, it produces a rich natural sound, decent enough to keep a beginner going.

At 2.5 pounds, this instrument is amazingly light, making it easy to carry around, whenever attending practice sessions or some fun-filled gig with your peers.

You will, however, have to set up the bridge and neck adjustments, so if you aren’t accustomed to this, it’s better to let an expert at your local music store help you out.

Pros
  • Fantastic deal for your money
  • Decent body construction
  • Rich and bright sound
  • Adjustable pickup height
Cons
  • Few reports on the pickup level not being loud enough. But for a practice instrument, this shouldn’t weigh you down
  • Input jack might not be properly grounded, in some devices.

Check today's price on Amazon

How to Choose the Best Mandolin for A Beginner

Yes, you are sure you want to invest in a mandolin. But, before you decide which one to pick from the above mentioned best mandolins for beginners, there are a few things you should consider.

Remember, the choice of instrument you choose will largely impact your practicing sessions. So, why not take all the necessary precautions to ensure you select the best mandolin?

Don’t know how to go about it? That’s where we come in. Read on to find out more.

1). Know the Two Mandolin Families

If you didn’t know, mandolins are actually divided into two main families, and that’s the Flatback and the Bowlback mandolins.

We will discuss these two briefly so that you understand what they comprise and how they can impact your musical journey.

The Bowlback Mandolins: if you’re looking forward to playing classical music, you might want to consider getting a Bowlback mandolin.  These instruments are also famously used in Italian and Greek performances.

Some of the mandolins in this family include the mandolone, the tenor/octave mandola, the bass mandolin, and the soprano mandolin.

You will, therefore, have to choose which one works best for you. And if you can’t seem to tell the difference, the music store attendants are always helpful. So, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

The Flatback Mandolins: These mandolins are commonly used in America, though you can still find them in other places.

For example, in the US, performers use the Flatback mandolins in their bluegrass, jazz, etc. performances.

If this is the kind of music you would want to play, you can go for this instrument.

They also come in various styles, which include:

F-style Mandolin: This produces a less bright sound and is jazzier.

A-Style Mandolin: this one comes with an arch-top, and most of the mandolins reviewed in this article fall under this category.

Flatback mandolin: as the name suggests, this type of mandolin comes with a flat back. And because of its simple construction, it’s usually cheap and easy to use.

Now that you already know the two families of Mandolins, you can select a subcategory that suits your needs and, of course, the kind of sounds you want to produce.

2). Which Body Style Is the Most Comfortable?

As already mentioned above, the current market is filled with various types of mandolin body types. The most common ones are the bowl-shaped, A-style, and of course, the F-style.

Although the best style primarily depends on the type of music you want to play, you should also consider your preferred appearance and estimated budget.

The bowl-back mandolin, for instance, comes with a round back and produces dark tones. They are usually low-quality, and that makes them very cheap.

But I wouldn’t recommend them for beginners as they are a bit complex to play.  Also, finding a bowl-back mandolin with a decent sound is nearly impossible.

On the other hand, the A-style mandolin comes in a pear or tear shape, which is pretty attractive to most beginners.

In an attempt to distinguish them from the bowl-backed instruments, most experts refer to them as the flat-backed mandolins. But that has nothing to do with the shape of their back as it’s pretty rounded.

Also, the A-style mandolins are affordable than their F-style counterpart. Their body construction is more straightforward, making them more preferable by classical musicians than the F-style mandolins.

Consequently, the F-style mandolins are curvy than any other mandolin. Also, their lower half features pointing sticks, making it more comfortable to play, as you can place the remaining body part on your lap.

3). The Materials Used to Make the Mandolin Are Crucial

As much as the shape of the instrument slightly affects the sounds produces, it’s the material used in the construction that carries much weight.

If you have already gone through the best beginner mandolin review above, you must have noticed that various mandolin parts are made up of various materials. The most common being wood.

Though there are also different types of wood, so, be aware.

For example, the top side of the instrument primarily dictates the sounds produces. That’s why it’s commonly made up of solid spruce, which is not only sturdy but also lightweight.

And because of this, you will realize that instruments made out of spruce are quite expensive because they’re always in demand. Remember, this material is also used to construct pianos, guitars, and other similar devices.

Therefore, if you’re an intermediate or advanced mandolin player, you might want to settle for instruments made up of cedar or mahogany for a richer sound.

The same case applies to individuals wishing to play in a full band.

But, if you’re on a budget, you might want to go the inexpensive way, which includes purchasing Mandolins made up of the lamination of multiple wooden layers. And by the way, they are also decently strong.

However, you should be ready to compromise on the sound quality, which shouldn’t be much of a problem for beginners.

Let’s now look at the fretboard.  If you’re searching for a top-quality instrument, settle for one with hardwood, complete with a smooth finishing.

You can also come across the quality ebony fretboard and even rosewood, as witnessed from some of the above-reviewed instruments.

As for your instrument’s neck, the best quality material is usually wood.  This is because, if the mandolin’s neck is easy to bend, achieving the perfect tune or comfortable playing is difficult.

For a decent quality neck, you can also opt for laminate, which is actually better here than on the body. This should explain why most mandolin necks consist of more than two wooden laminates.

Finally, consider the wooden material of your instrument’s bridge.

Remember, mandolins have movable bridges, which are commonly made out of rosewood. But it isn’t impossible to come across an ebony bridge.

Once you settle on the materials, don’t forget to examine the finishing. It helps to protect your instrument’s wood from unnecessary damage.

Therefore, if possible, always go for a mandolin with finishing than without.  But moderation is crucial as a heavy finishing can significantly affect the sound quality.

4). Is It Acoustic or Electric?

Yes, electric mandolins are highly-priced than acoustic, but that shouldn’t be your primary focus, especially if money isn’t a problem.

First, learn to identify how you plan to use your instrument before deciding between the two or even an excellent combination.

For example, if you need the instrument solely for self-practice, there is no need to go expensive. You can amplifier it using a microphone, where necessary, and you’ll be good to go.

But if you will be performing in a big band, then it’s better to get an electric one. You don’t have to worry about sound echoes getting back into the microphone.

Also, picking an electric instrument is easier and versatile than the acoustic. But you can still replace your instrument’s bridge for an electric pickup if you decide to purchase the acoustic first.

So, typically, it all depends on your needs and how much comfort and ease of play you’re seeking.

5). Price

This is one element you can’t ignore, no matter how much you want. You simply have to pay. It could be as you had planned, much more or even less.

Currently, the least you can pay for the least expensive mandolin is around $50-$100. So, even if you’re on a tight budget, you can still acquire one.

Remember, pricing is usually attached to the features and the materials used in the construction of the instrument. Therefore, a top-quality mandolin will cost you more. And you can even pay as much as $10,000 for one.

But, for a beginner, it’s advisable to start with decent quality and then upgrade with time. But if you’re determined to start with the best, take time to compare prices before settling for one.

This is important if you plan on using the same instrument over the various levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced).

FAQs About The Best Beginner Mandolins

How Much Does A Good Mandolin Cost?

If you’re sourcing out for a good mandolin, be ready to spend around $300 and above. But you can still spend less or a bit more.

Therefore, spending $300 doesn’t necessarily translate into good quality. It’s important to concentrate more on quality than the price tag.

What Things to Avoid When Buying A Beginner Mandolin?

  • First, avoid purchasing a high-end instrument, especially if you aren’t sure about your musical path. Get a cheap one for practice and then upgrade once you’re sure.
  • Avoid getting a heavy and bulk instrument. The more comfortable handling your mandolin is, the better for you.
  • Don’t buy a second-hand mandolin from someone you don’t know. Referrals are good. And if necessary, involve an expert.
  • Don’t buy an instrument that isn’t partially or fully set up for use. You might have to pay an expert to help you out if you do.
  • Avoid a mandolin, which isn’t an A style for your first instrument.
  • If you can, don’t go for a device which isn’t made up of solid wood
  • Don’t just buy the first instrument you come across. Research, compare prices and test if it fits your hands.

Conclusion

When buying the mandolin, your primary focus should be to get the best instrument to match your current needs.

Although this means examining its style and shape, you should also focus on the price and the material construction.

We, therefore, hope you find helpful insights from this article to aid in your search.  Remember, being expensive doesn’t necessarily mean good quality.

Choose wisely.

Lee Cardwell
Owner and Chief Editor of Music Tech Hub. I play banjo, mandolin and I am currently learning how to play the harmonica.

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