In this article, I’ll help you find the best beginner mandolins with detailed information and my personal experience with some of these instruments.

The mandolin is a unique and beautiful instrument, but sometimes it might be difficult to learn to play or find useful information on these instruments, as it’s not so popular as guitar, for example.

Quick Look: Best Beginner Mandolins

#1 Best Beginner Mandolin Overall: Rogue RM-100 


My name is Anthony, and I’ve been producing and playing folk, blues, and rock music for several years. I’ve used the double string beauty frequently in my productions with great success.

What Is a Beginner Mandolin?

The mandolin is the descendant of a long family of instruments that are directly related to the medieval lute. Maintaining the old esthetics and sensibilities, this instrument evolved into a cornerstone for modern folk, blues, and bluegrass music.

A beginner mandolin

The best beginner mandolin is an affordable and easy-to-learn instrument made of decent wood. I personally recommend looking for high-quality wood and a solid structure made of maple or spruce for your first mandolin.

Types of Beginner Mandolins

When you’re choosing your first mandolin, there are several types to consider. There are three main types of mandolins, but I’ll include F-style and A-style inside the archtop section.


Bowlback, or Neapolitan, is a unique and old type of mandolin. The bowlback type is made of several curved wood strips glued on the back, creating a bowl shape. This type has a mellow tone and normally a smooth and natural sound.

Archtop A-style

Archtop A-style is one of the most popular mandolin types, right alongside the F-style. This type is normally pear-shaped and has one single oval soundhole. I’d say this type is a “classic” looking mandolin.

Archtop F-style

Archtop F-style is the more sophisticated and elegant type of the two archtop designs. Here we can see a carved decorative scroll near the neck and on the headstock as a characteristic feature.

The name F-style, or Florentine style,  comes from two F-styled soundholes on the sides of the mandolin, similar to violin soundholes. The sound is brighter and more defined on the high note range.


Flatback is a less known type of the main three. It has a simpler construction and a mellow and smooth sound, with less volume overall.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Beginner Mandolin

There are several things to keep in mind when you’re choosing the best beginner mandolin. Size, finish, color, and wood are the main ones.


The variation in the size of the different types of mandolin is mainly unnoticeable, although you can find particular models with bigger or smaller bodies or necks. I’d say the biggest size variation can be found on the neck width.


There are several kinds of wood to choose from when fabricating the mandolin. The main ones are:

  • Spruce
  • Maple
  • Sapele
  • Mahogany
  • Rosewood
  • Cedar
  • Redwood

The most used ones are spruce for the top and maple for the back and sides, but you can surely find other types too, depending on the model.

There’s no best type of wood, as all of them have different properties. For example, spruce sounds brighter, and cedar gives warmer and smoother tones.


There are many different formulas for finish types for the mandolin, and you can find different types used by different brands. But the two most frequent ones are oil varnish and spirit varnish.

Oil varnish makes a light layer that will maintain the natural sound of the mandolin, and spirit varnish gives more protection but probably influences the sound, lowering the volume and dampening the tone.


The mandolin is certainly a unique and visually attractive instrument, and the beautiful colors always stand out first when you see this instrument.

The most used colors are natural, vintage, and glossy sunburst, but there are many more color schemes and designs you can find depending on the brand and the particular model.

The Overall Tone & Sound

Depending on the price tag, the sound of the mandolin varies. The low-budget ones might have a brighter and more “screaming” tone to them, and the most expensive and professional ones might have a more defined and clear sound.

The wood construction might influence the overall sound quality too. Solid-body constructions will give you more sustain and overall greater sound and undertones.

A musician playing a mandolin

And don’t forget that with the passage of years, your mandolin might get smoother tones and better undertones overall, as the wood evolves with time.


Nowadays, the mandolin is not just a uniquely luthier-made instrument that can rarely be found on sale. Today there are dozens of new brands creating this instrument for a quite competitive price tag.

I personally used many of the low-tier mandolins, and I can assure you that the sound is sometimes indistinguishable from the most expensive and professional ones.

7 Best Beginner Mandolins Overall

Here’s a small list of the best beginner mandolins. Some of them are great for students and kids who are trying to learn to play this magnificent and unique instrument.

1. Rogue RM-100 A-style

  • Size: 27.3 x 13.3 x4.25 inches
  • Weight: 2.85 pounds
  • Wood type: Maple neck, rosewood fingerboard
  • Finish type: Vintage red sunburst, black
  • Sound: Bright and clear

The Rogue RM-100 A-style is a well known and highly respected model. Because of its high durability, the Rogue RM-100 has been used by students, amateurs, and professionals as a studio and live performance mandolin.

Easy to tune and play, this mandolin is in the perfect balance between price and quality.

✅ Durable materials
✅ Easy to set up
✅ High volume
✅ A perfect instrument for learning
❌ Sometimes difficult to tune
❌ Bland design

Why I Recommend It

I personally played this instrument many times, and it always surprised me with its material quality and bright sound. Once I played this instrument back to back with other more professional ones like Washburn or Gretsch, and it was really difficult to guess which one was the low-budget mandolin.



2. Donner DML-1 A-style

  • Size: 24.41 x 4.72 x 14.17 inches
  • Weight: 3.53 pounds
  • Wood type: Mahogany top, back, and sides
  • Finish type: Vintage sunburst
  • Sound: Rich and bright

Donner DML-1 A-style is a low-cost instrument with a solid and robust structure made of carefully selected wood. The neck is very easy to approach, and it seems that the people behind this instrument knew what they were doing, as they created a quite comfortable and solid sonic experience.

✅ Easy to play
✅ Durable materials
✅ Includes gig bag, tuner, strings, and picks
✅ Great for learning
❌ Poor sound for professional standards

Why I Recommend It

This instrument includes all the necessary accessories, and it has durable materials and decent sound for a low-budget mandolin. Easy to use and tune, this mandolin is a perfect match for anyone learning to play the double-string beast.



3. Ibanez M510 A-style

  • Size: 27 x 3 x 10.5 inches
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Wood type: Spruce top, sapele back and sides, mahogany neck
  • Finish type: Brown sunburst, dark violin sunburst
  • Sound: Smooth and clear

The Ibanez M510 A-style is a brilliant instrument for this price range. As always with the Ibanez brand, the attention to detail is incredible for this low-budget instrument.

Made of a mix of three types of wood, this mandolin has a pleasantly smooth and clear sound to enjoy.

✅ High-quality materials
✅ Beautiful finish
✅ Smooth and clear tones
✅ Easy to tune
❌ Case not included

Why I Recommend It

With a simple but elegant finish and overall great sound, the Ibanez M510 A-style is a solid choice for anyone who’s looking for the best beginner mandolin to buy.



4. Hola! Music HM-3TS

  • Size: 26 x 12 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Wood type: Maple top, back and sides
  • Finish type: Glossy sunburst
  • Sound: Clear and bright

The Hola! Music HM-3TS was obviously designed with travel in mind. Lightweight and highly portable, this mandolin has a decent quality sound and is a perfect stepping stone for something more professional.

✅ Easy to play
✅ ABS pickguard
✅ Durable materials
❌ Sometimes difficult to tune

Why I Recommend It

Easy to play and low cost, this mandolin is a good match for first-timers with the mandolin who don’t want to get obsessed with the sound and just want to learn the basics of the instrument.



5. Vangoa Mandolin A-style

  • Size: 28 x 14 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Wood type: Basswood back and top, mahogany fretboard and neck
  • Finish type: Red glossy sunburst
  • Sound: Rich tones

The Vangoa Mandolin A-style is a solid contender for the best low-budget mandolin. This newly created brand is highly competitive with its price-quality ratio, as it’s trying to make the mandolin more accessible for everyone.

✅ Glossy and unusual finish
✅ Rich sound and tone
✅ 1-year warranty and many accessories
✅ Electric jack for the amplifier
❌ Not the best wood and overall structure

Why I Recommend It

The most interesting feature of the Vangoa mandolin is its unique and flashy color scheme. The glossy red finish will certainly gain the attention of anyone seeing this mandolin. The electric jack is a useful feature too.



6. Gretsch G9310 New Yorker

  • Size: 30.9 x 12.1 x 5 inches
  • Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Wood type: Solid mahogany body, rosewood bridge and fingerboard
  • Finish type: Vintage semi gloss
  • Sound: Warm and smooth

The Gretsch G9310 New Yorker is a well-balanced instrument created with special care and attention to detail. A solid mahogany body will give you long sustain and smooth tones all around the spectrum.

✅ High-quality materials
✅ Smooth and balanced tone
✅ Classic and unique design
✅ Solid wood structure
❌ Low-quality pickguard
❌ Low tonal brightness

Why I Recommend It

This mandolin is particularly loud and clear for this price range. I heard this mandolin several times in a live show, and I must say it has a unique and distinctive sound.


7. Kentucky KM-150 A-Style

  • Size: 29 x 13 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Wood type: Solid maple back and sides, solid spruce top
  • Finish type: High gloss sunburst
  • Sound: Balanced tone

The Kentucky KM-150 A-Style is an old favorite that continues to captivate new generations of mandolin players. This instrument is a well-balanced and solid-body beauty that will bring high-quality sound to any player.

✅ Solid body
✅ Great high-range tones
✅ High-quality materials
✅ Easy to play
❌ Simple and bland finish
❌ Dull low-range tones

Why I Recommend It

This mandolin is one of my favorites. I had an opportunity to try it several times, and it sounds quite professional. A solid construction through and through and high-grade materials make this mandolin one of the best at this price range.



Best Cheap Beginner Mandolins

If you’re low on funds but still want to start learning to play mandolin, I can suggest several low-cost options for you to enjoy.

Some of these best cheap beginner mandolins have decent wood and sound qualities with some extra accessories in the bundle.

  • Donner DML-1 A-style: A solid, robust, and decent-sounding mandolin with some extras in the bundle make this instrument a perfect match for beginners.
  • Vangoa Mandolin A-style: A well-balanced and low-cost mandolin with a flashy and interesting design
  • Rogue RM-100 A-style: A high-quality and popular mandolin for a great price for anyone to enjoy

Best Beginner Mandolins for Kids

The best mandolins for kids are normally simple and easy-to-use instruments with a decent and robust body structure. The overall affordability and material quality can be an important factor too when you’re deciding on the best starter mandolin.

  • Kentucky KM-150: A well-known classic for your kids to enjoy. This mandolin will surprise you with its high-quality sound and materials.
  • The Loar LM-220: A solid-body mandolin with a great sound and a beautiful design and finish. Simple to set up and play
  • Rover RM50: Beautiful and easy to use, this mandolin is all solid-body with a pleasant tone and harmonics.

Best Bowlback Mandolin for Beginners

The bowlback is quite a rare type of mandolin. Mainly used in classical music and folk, the bowlback has a mellow and quiet sound with natural tones and harmonics.

Here we’ll take a brief look at some of the best bowlback mandolins for beginners.

  • Washburn Bowlback Mandolin: A handmade vintage mandolin with a unique sound and undertones
  • Victoria B&J Mandolin: A solid-body beauty made of high-grade wood and materials
  • Suzuki Bowlback Mandolin: A robust and well designed bowlback mandolin that’s perfect for beginners

Best Archtop A-style Mandolin for Beginners

The archtop A-style is the most used type of mandolin. The popularity of this type is due to the smooth and loud sound of its construction. It’s a simple but effective instrument for any beginner.

Here are some of the best archtop A-style mandolins on the market.

  • Kentucky KM-150 A-style: This renowned mandolin is a well-balanced instrument that will give you many hours of enjoyment for a good price.
  • Rogue RM-100 A-style: One of the best mandolin models on the market. Great tone and high-grade materials make this instrument a must-have for any young mandolin player.
  • Ibanez M510 A-style: Hand-selected wood with great attention to detail is an essential part of this beautiful instrument. It has high-quality sound and materials with an elegant finish for anyone to enjoy.

Best Archtop F-style Mandolin for Beginners

The F-style is the most elegant and sophisticated of the two archtop styles. The carved scrolls and double F-shaped soundholes create a bright and balanced sound.

Here are some of the best archtop F-style mandolin out there.

  • Ibanez M522 F-Style: Visually beautiful and great sounding F-style mandolin that’s perfect for beginners
  • The Loar LM-520 F-Style: Hand-carved and high-quality mandolin. Quite robust and easy to set up and play
  • Rogue RM-100 F-Style: This is an F-style version of the previously mentioned Rogue RM-100 A. Beautiful design with bright and clear tones

Best Flatback Mandolin for Beginners

The flatback style is not the most common one, but it certainly has its own advantages and features. Flatback mandolins can be easier to transport and more comfortable to play.

Here I selected some of the best beginner mandolins in flatback style.

  • Ozark 2001 FlatBack Mandolin: A solid-body Portuguese style flatback mandolin with a unique design and smooth tone all across the spectrum
  • Stagg M20 Flatback Mandolin: A simple and low-budget flatback mandolin made of rosewood and basswood. Decent sounding and quite robust
  • Barnes and Mullins Abbott Flatback Mandolin: Based on the classic Abbott model from the early 20th century, this mandolin is a smooth sounding and elegant instrument that’s perfect for folk and classical music.

Best Beginner Mandolin Brands

Some brands have great offers and bundles for beginner players. I recommend choosing high-quality and well-known brands that will provide a solid and robust instrument for you to play and abuse.


Founded in 1990 in the US, Rogue started as a low-budget store for Gibson and Fender instruments. Later it evolved into a respected company that fabricates ukuleles, banjos, and mandolins for a great price.

The solid construction of Rogue instruments along with the great prices make this brand one of the most competitive on the market.


Ibanez is a renowned veteran in the field. Famous for their electric guitars and basses, Ibanez also creates unique and easy-to-play mandolins, banjos, and ukuleles, all of them with great success and the highest possible quality.


Kentucky is an old and traditional brand that creates high-quality instruments with a simple but effective visual design. You can never go wrong when buying any instrument from this brand.


Donner is a new brand founded in 2012. This company produces a wide variety of instruments with great affordability in mind. Donner instruments are usually easy to play and come in big bundles with some extras.

The Loar

The Loar brand specializes in high-quality, hand-carved instruments. They mainly fabricate mandolins and small guitars similar to ukuleles. All of their products have great materials and fabrication quality to them.

What’s in the Beginner Mandolin Box?

You can find several packs and bundles with your starter mandolins. Some of them might have several sets of tuners, picks, or strings, depending on the model and the bundle.

Gig Bag/Solid Case

Some bundles may include a gig bag or a solid case for your mandolin. They’re easy to use and quite necessary for your instrument’s protection.

Chromatic Tuner

A chromatic tuner is a must-have if you want to have those double strings tuned correctly each time you play.

The chromatic tuner will help you find the correct harmonics for each pair of strings and keep them tuned with each other.

Set of Strings

Some mandolins might have a standard set of strings. Those might be not of the best quality, so you might consider buying a better set for a more professional sound.

Set of Picks

Some mandolin bundles might include a default set of picks for you to use. They come in standard sizes but in different colors.


Some mandolin models don’t include some of the essential extras you might need to buy separately. This might include the gig bag or solid case and better strings. The default strings that come with your mandolin are usually not of the best quality.

Buying a Mandolin New vs Used

With a newly bought instrument, you might get a bundle of useful accessories and an instrument warranty. You can also get some customer service if something is broken or not to your taste.

A set of mandolins

In the case of used mandolins, it might get tricky, as you need to trust the information on display.

But sometimes the gamble pays off, as you could find some amazing battle-proven instruments for a great price. Some older and used mandolins could have a better and smoother sound, as the wood had aged already.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to common questions beginners have when buying a mandolin.

Is It Hard to Learn to Play the Mandolin?

It’s harder than the guitar because you’ll need to learn to press the double strings correctly, and this will take time. The unique tuning, similar to the violin, will take time to get used to. Overall, I’d say it’s quite easy with some help from online lessons, teachers, or videos on Youtube.

How Difficult Is It to Tune Mandolin Double Strings Correctly?

It’s somehow difficult, but you’ll get used to it in a few weeks. Make sure to use a chromatic tuner, as it will help you have the correct harmonics on those double strings.

Do I Need an Electric or an Acoustic Version Mandolin?

It depends on what you’re looking for. The electric version will give you the possibility of playing with an amplifier, so you can play with a band or in a live show.

I personally used some electric versions, and some of them have mediocre pickups that can create unnecessary feedback and noises. Make sure to try the electric version with an amplifier when you’re buying it in a store to hear the possible imperfections.

How Much Do Beginner Mandolins Cost?

There’s a big price range to choose from for a beginner mandolin. Some might be quite cheap and affordable, and some are near the medium price range.

The low range for a beginner mandolin is around $100 and could go up as far as $400-$500. Nowadays the mandolin market is quite competitive, and you can certainly find a great instrument for a reasonable price

What Are the Best Beginner Mandolins?

A perfect mandolin for beginners is an easy to use and set up mandolin with decent wood and great durability and price range.

Here are some of the best beginner mandolins.

Rogue RM-100 A-Style: Best Beginner Mandolin Overall

A robust, well-proven mandolin with high-grade materials and a great sound and tone

Ibanez N510 A-Style: Best Sounding Beginner Mandolin

An affordable and great-sounding mandolin with great attention to detail

Donner DML-1 A-Style: Best Low Cost Beginner Mandolin

A simple and easy-to-use instrument with some extras in the bundle

Where Are the Best Beginner Mandolins Made?

Traditional mandolins are made generally in Europe, but nowadays you can find many factories in China that produce high-quality instruments for other brands like The Loar, Ibanez, or Rogue.

An up-close of a mandolin

There’s no best place or country for high-grade mandolins, so you should look at the brand’s fabrication methods and materials used in their mandolins.

What Is the Best Sounding Beginner Mandolin?

Personally, I think the Rogue RM-100A and Ibanez M510A have the best sound for this price range. But it’s a matter of opinion, as the Rogue has a bright and clear sound, and the Ibanez has a smooth and warm tone.

I honestly recommend trying the instrument before you buy it, or watch some videos with a sample performance.

Where to Buy Beginner Mandolins

There are different pros and cons to buying your mandolin online or in-store. Buying it in-store will give you the option to try the instrument to see how it responds to your touch and hear the sound in its pure clarity.

But, when choosing your instrument online, you might have a better selection of instruments, fast delivery, some special offers, discounts, or free returns for testing, depending on the brand and the offer.


Amazon is a world leader in online retail. There you can find a great selection of instruments for a great price tag with some extras and warranties, again, depending on the bundle or offer you get. Plus, you have the option to read reviews.

Online Music Retailers

Some of the best online music retailers are,,, Thomann,, and Some of them might have special offers for a really good price.

Your Local Music Store

Your local music store might have a small selection of instruments, but you can certainly try some of them and see for yourself if they’re worth your money.

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In Conclusion

In this article, we explored some of the best beginner mandolins out there. Some of them have a great sound for the low price range with some high-grade materials and beautiful designs.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, and hopefully I really helped you to decide the right choice for you. Whatever you want to spend on these instruments, it’ll certainly be worth your while, as the mandolin will give you hours of entertainment and enjoyment.

Feel free to share and comment on this article if you have some doubts or questions.

And as always, good luck with your sonic adventures!