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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Beginner - What banjo/mandolin should I buy? Please Help

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

bboy70 - Posted - 11/18/2019:  21:01:26

Hi all,

I am brand new to the instrument world in general. I played the clarinet for 5 years growing up but besides that I don’t have a musical bone in my body. I love folk music and my two favorite instruments are the banjo and the mandolin. I want to buy one of each so my little brother and I can play together and spend some time with each other. I want to replicate a sound that is similar to that of Mumford and sons older songs. For example their song “home” (YouTube it). Like I said, completely a beginner especially with string instruments. I always had trouble with messing around on guitars at my friends houses but never seriously tried to get into it. I genuinely want to learn how to play both the mandolin and the banjo. What would be a good banjo (and/or mandolin if you can help with that) that replicates a sound similar to older Mumford and sons songs but won’t be extremely difficult for someone who is a beginner to string instruments/instruments in general? I’m completely clueless on this so any help would be awesome. I have a fairly large amazon gift card as well so if anyone can point me to a good choice off of amazon that would be much appreciated as well but not a requirement.

Thank you so much and any help is appreciated!

Lorilee - Posted - 11/18/2019:  21:31:36

In my opinion you cannot go wrong by starting out with a Deering Goodtime banjo. Well made, nice sounding, easy to play, and fairly inexpensive. I can't help you with the mando, though. Best of luck.

Bill Rogers - Posted - 11/18/2019:  21:46:49

Far as I know, Deering does not make a mandolin-banjo. Nor does anyone else these days.  You’d have to look for a used one I guess.  Check out the  Banjo Hangout classifieds.  I think there are a couple for sale.  As to the Mumfords, like Sgt. Schultz, I know nothing—nothing.

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 11/18/2019 21:53:46

pastorharry - Posted - 11/18/2019:  23:27:37

Banjo-Deering Goodtime or Recording King dirty 30's series, or Madison series.

Mandolin -Kentucky or Eastman.

P.S. Lots of great deals in our Marketplace right here.

Edited by - pastorharry on 11/18/2019 23:28:42

Dragonslayer - Posted - 11/18/2019:  23:34:35

I would recommend either a recording king RK 20
Or a Morgan Monroe MNB1

For a mandolin I would recommend a Kentucky KM150
And I would recommend buying them from a store that will do a set up on them. The ones I linked to come with a free set up. I would be wary of buying instruments on Amazon cuz they don't know instruments and so they usually don't come in playable condition

hoodoo - Posted - 11/19/2019:  03:52:29

I think that Elderly Instruments at have some affordable beginner bundles for sale for the banjo and the mandolin. They are very professional as well so your instruments will arrive properly set up

R Buck - Posted - 11/19/2019:  05:39:00

The Goodtime is the Harmony/Kay/Regal of today. Good place to start. As for mandolins an Eastman 305 or Kentucky KM-150 are best bets. Both are solid wood, bone nut, ok hardware. Look for used to save money. Other mandolins are out there used for equivalent money.

Knows Picker - Posted - 11/19/2019:  05:53:52

I started on the KM-150, if its properly set up you can't go wrong for the money.

Brian Murphy - Posted - 11/19/2019:  07:10:09

From where you buy is almost as important as what you buy. Avoid the e-Bay sellers and sellers on Amazon that are not established. When you deal with an Elderly Instruments or Banjo Ben, you have the benefit of knowing that the last person who checked it and set it up was an accomplished American picker, who understands the instrument. Some imports (Saga brands and Music Link brands) have better QA than others. Gold Tone does extensive and good setup work in the U.S., and I have seen very few problems with them.  Deering (made in America) is, in my mind, the gold standard for Quality Assurance. Not just well setup, but superior components, fit, and finish.  Honestly, I'm not sure I've ever seen one with problems. But any instrument after being crated, shipped overseas, trucked, stored, and handled needs to be checked over.

Edited by - Brian Murphy on 11/19/2019 07:11:43

doryman - Posted - 11/19/2019:  08:07:42


Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Far as I know, Deering does not make a mandolin-banjo. Nor does anyone else these days.  You’d have to look for a used one I guess.  Check out the  Banjo Hangout classifieds.  I think there are a couple for sale.  As to the Mumfords, like Sgt. Schultz, I know nothing—nothing.

Bill, I was similarly confused at first, but the OP wants to buy a banjo AND a mandolin, not a mandolin-banjo.  

OP, if you want to buy a banjo off of Amazon, I would suggest the very simple, and very playable Gold Tone AC-1.  I've played these several times at shops and I'm stunned by how good they sound for how little they cost.  It would certainly not be a limiting factor in your playing for a few years.  It's not the loudest banjo in the room, but that's probably a blessing to others in that room while you're learning. 

kmwaterstx - Posted - 11/19/2019:  09:47:33

you cannot go wrong by starting out with a Deering Goodtime banjo.

Bill Rogers - Posted - 11/19/2019:  11:28:03

If you are located relatively close to a good string shop, you can go there, try instruments, talk about deals and get sound advice. Otherwise, you’re getting good info here. My only objection to the Goodtime is that it is overpriced. As Doryman notes, Gold Tone makes a very useable beginners instrument—at a better price. I would go that route rather than Deering.

rcc56 - Posted - 11/19/2019:  11:36:54

As far as banjos are concerned, both Recording King and Gold Tone make good instruments at a modest price, and you get a lot more banjo for your money when compared to Deering Goodtime.

Eastman and Kentucky both make student grade mandolins that are reasonably well built.  If you can afford it, it would be better to buy a level or two up from the bottom of the line models.

I had an Eastman 505 go through my hands that I wish that I had kept.  It was good enough to gig with.  They can be found used for around $500 US.

Edited by - rcc56 on 11/19/2019 11:48:40

banjered - Posted - 11/19/2019:  12:29:19

Well I listened to Mumford's "Home" and it was difficult for my ears to tell what the banjo –if any– was doing although the video had pictures of a bluegrass banjo. Bluegrass banjos have a resonator cover in back of the banjo while open backs are, well, open, no cover. I suggest you go to "media" to the left of this page, then "jukebox" and listen until you decide what kind of banjo snags you most, then get back to us..... banjered

SBPARK - Posted - 11/19/2019:  12:39:58

Any resonator banjo will get you a similar tone, just depends on your budget. Here's a link from Deering. Look like that guy has an artist model made my them.

pastorharry - Posted - 11/19/2019:  13:31:30

My only complaint with the low end Kentucky mandolins is really narrow string spacing. I would recommend Eastman 100 times over.

paco0909 - Posted - 11/19/2019:  14:49:20

Mumford and Sons played a variety of Deering banjos. Note that they used electronics and amps, and perhaps ran the sound through stomp boxes. It’s tough to duplicate some of that. Apparently they ditched the banjo sound for awhile, according to the internet. Never found them particularly interesting but they do used acoustic instruments along with electric guitars, etc.

The Old Timer - Posted - 11/19/2019:  15:43:09

While I agree "you can't go wrong with a Goodtime", if you want to spend the MINIMUM money, look for an Epiphone MB-100 at a Guitar Center. Around $200 new, sometimes cheaper in sale season. PERFECTLY ADEQUATE to learn on.

For learning purposes, also, buy the cheapest mandolin Guitar Center has.

In 2 years, presuming you learn to play/like your instruments, you're going to upgrade anyway.

I'm a believer in GETTING STARTED more than SHOPPING.

Richard Hauser - Posted - 11/20/2019:  08:18:21

I have owned Eastman violins and mandolins. The quality is very good. Most less inexpensive instruments are now being made in China. But also realize that top notch musical instruments are also being made there. Like anything else, you get what you pay for.

IMHO, buying options for todays aspiring musicians is probably as good or better than it ever has been.

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