Best Mandolins for Classical Music: [5 Top Picks]

The mandolin is a stringed instrument with a characteristic round, deep, and resonant sound. It is often referred to as the “Italian mandolin” developed in Naples, Italy, during the 18th century. This guide will present you with some of the best mandolins for classical music available today. We will also provide you with information about what to look for when buying one so that you can make an informed decision.

The mandolin is played by plucking the strings with one or two fingers and can be used to play a wide range of musical styles. Its flat-backed shape and deep hollow body produce a great sound that performs well.

The instrument has been part of popular music since the 1920s and is a major part of American traditional music and bluegrass. The mandolin is tuned in fifths like violins and violas. It is mainly used as a rhythm instrument to provide a beat for many Irish, Scottish, Italian, and Brazilian music styles.

Top 5 mandolins for classical music

There are several varieties of mandolin, each with a unique form, features, and price range. But not all are suitable for classical music. You then wonder if purchasing a low-end or high-end mandolin for classical music is preferable. And which style should you use to create the ideal classical music?

We have listed all the essential information and analyzed the best classical music mandolins on the market. Continue reading, and you will have very clear ideas! But if you’re in a rush, our choice for classical music is the Kentucky KM-256 Mandolin. So, here is a list of the top 5 mandolins for classical music:

1. Kentucky KM-256 Mandolin

Kentucky KM-256 Artist A-model Mandolin - Transparent Brown

$595.00  in stock
4 new from $595.00
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of December 7, 2022 3:07 am

The Kentucky KM-256 Artist A-Style Mandolin is a fantastic option for your classical music. It boasts a sturdy Sitka spruce top, giving you the desired crisp articulation. A top like this likewise offers a clear, bright tone. The back and sides are crafted from genuine alpine maple wood for that added touch.

Additionally, its compact alpine maple neck was built for a pleasant and simple motion. Also, it uses premium woods to construct the fingerboard, resulting in a silky-smooth playing experience. The high gloss, clear brown lacquer finish produces its typical luster and attractiveness. The string material is made of steel alloy and has a dimension of 27.88 x 27.88 x 3.75 inches with a weight of 2.27 kg.

Pros:

  • Has a quality sound at a great price
  • It comes with an extra deluxe gig bag
  • It is a nice choice for starters.

Cons:

  • Not fully set up

2. The Loar LM-520 Mandolin

The Loar LM-520-VS Performer F-Style Mandolin

$599.99  in stock
8 new from $599.99
1 used from $449.99
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of December 7, 2022 3:07 am

The Loar LM-520 Mandolin is a classic F-style mandolin that players of all levels will appreciate. It is constructed with hand-carved Spruce wood, an excellent material for stellar instruments like this one.

The solid maple back is also hand-carved, and the sides give the material a quality construction and a rounded V profile neck. It has an extended rosewood fingerboard with an adjustable compensated ebony bridge. It requires a battery of not more than 1.9 V and weighs 1.32 kg.

Pros:

  • It is an exquisite mandolin for its price
  • Suitable for all player levels
  • It sounds very impressive.

Cons:

  • The bridge often needs an adjustment.

3. Adjustable Truss-Rod HM-3TS

Hola! Music A Style Mandolin Instrument with Adjustable Truss-Rod Model HM-3TS, Glossy Sunburst Finish

 out of stock
Amazon.com
as of December 7, 2022 3:07 am

Hola! The Musical Mandolin, Model HM-3TS, is a traditional eight-string A-style mandolin. The mandolin’s back, top, sides, and neck are all maple, as are most of its components. So, the bridge is adjustable and constructed of compensated rosewood. It’s important to note that the neck brace of this mandolin has a truss rod that you can adjust.

There are 20 silver nickel frets on this mandolin as well. It features a tailpiece and chrome open gears. It also has a white ABS binding around the body, head, and neck, in addition to a black ABS pickguard. It is a lightweight instrument with a weight of 0.91 kg and a dimension of 26 x 12 x 3 inches, making it comfortable for long-term use.

Pros:

  • It is portable and effortless to carry
  • It is a great instrument choice for amateur players
  • It has a very great sound and intonation.

Cons:

  • It sometimes needs minor tuning adjustments.

4. Donner DML-100B Mahogany Mandolin

Donner A Style Mandolin Instrument Black Beginner Adult Acoustic Mandolin Musical Instrument Mahogany 8 String, Bundle With Tuner String Bag Guitar Picks, DML-100B

$119.99  in stock
Amazon.com
as of December 7, 2022 3:07 am

You can play classical music using the 8-string Donner mandolin, which has a fine polished finish. This instrument features an AAA African Mahogany for the back, sides, body top, and neck with Die-cast steel tuning machines.

A bridge that may be modified and provides an outstanding frequency response is part of the equipment. With this instrument, you can produce greater music because of its unique design. The brand is Donner, and the dimensions are 10 x 62 x 36 centimeters; the color is black, it is made up of eight strings and weighs 1.9 kilos.

The points used in constructing this musical instrument allow for optimum accuracy and mobility. The sound it creates is rich, warm, and brilliant all at once, thanks to the outstanding construction that makes it small. Given its high-quality construction, excellent fit, and fantastic sound, it is the best option for players of any skill level.

Pros:

  • This instrument comes with a lot of accessories to ease the playing experience
  • It is a perfect package for a beginner player
  • It is a tool worthy of its price

Cons:

  • The strings can be too tight

5. Ibanez M522SBS Mandolin

Ibanez M522SBS F-Style Mandolin, Brown Sunburst High Gloss

$329.99  in stock
5 new from $329.99
Amazon.com
as of December 7, 2022 3:07 am

Besides creating guitars, mandolins, and other musical instruments, Ibanez is a trusted brand. A solid yet lightweight construction made of mahogany, maple, spruce, and rosewood, will allow you to handle the instrument easily.

You will also have a useful movable bridge that allows you to switch musical styles and many keys that will enable you to play various notes and scales. Finally, its timeless style is reminiscent of the Bluegrass models adored by all music lovers. Our experts believe that the Ibanez M522S-BS is fit for classical music.

The mandolin is simpler to play because the movable wooden bridge lets you touch the keys with great ease. Additionally, because of its resistance, you can be guaranteed that it won’t degrade over time or affect the sound quality. You won’t have any issues playing the instrument for long hours because it just weighs 1.13kg.

Pros:

  • Uses a quality material for construction
  • It has a great sound and quality for its price
  •  The design has been studied to offer sweet, clear, and clean notes at all times.

Cons:

  • The clear coating is uneven and has very sloppy places.

Things to consider before buying classical music mandolin

Figuring out the right classical music mandolin might seem very easy. But there are several factors you need to consider before buying. To choose a good quality mandolin, you must consider factors such as craft and style and how much you will spend.

You should know that various brands, models, and materials can be found on the market. In fact, not only the prices or the buyers’ reviews make the difference, but also fundamental elements such as the type of musical instrument and the production materials.

In this regard, we have decided to show you a small guide in which you will find everything you need to check before making a decision. Read below!

Body style

You can find three different body shapes on the market: style-A, style-F, or a bowl. The ideal shape for you depends on the musical genre you intend to play and your available budget. The most used model is a bowl, which has a round back and guarantees a perfect timbre for popular music, classical music, and ensemble.

But, this type can be complicated for an inexperienced player, and even if the prices are low, some are of poor quality. Therefore, non-experts should choose a non-bowl model since finding a quality one is difficult. The factor that makes the two types of mandolins different is the design and aesthetics.

Generally, mandolins have two different shapes and change according to some design details, and each is more suitable for a specific level of player experience. Those of style A have an O-opening in the central area or two F-openings, one present on each side.

Most mandolins have a smooth surface on the front while they are curved at the bottom. The handle is tendentiously arched at the level of the upper extremity.

Beyond these characteristics common to all mandolins, there are differences between some models that justify the differentiation into various “styles.” The most common is the “A-Style” and “F-Style” mandolins.

  • A-Style Mandolin: This type of mandolin emits a sweeter and more “canonical” sound than the F-Style, which is for lovers of a sharper and dissonant tone. This feature makes it suitable for playing virtually any musical genre. It usually has an oval-shaped hole.
  • F-Style mandolin: It has a more recent history and derives from the original Gibson model. It is popular with country and bluegrass lovers due to the drier and “ramshackle” sound it produces. Typically, this type of mandolin has two F-holes, like a violin.

The A-style mandolin is generally cheaper than the F-style but maintains an excellent value for money. For this reason, a beginner should choose between the two models based only on his aesthetic taste and, of course, the available budget.

Wood and materials

The shape differences of the mandolins have little impact on the timbre. Even if the materials used are essential to understand if we are talking about a good instrument. Many models are exposed to high pressure. This means they are concerned with products made with many types of wood.

The instrument’s upper area is the main tone. So the best models have a soundboard made of solid spruce wood, which is reliable and light. Spruce is quite sought after for most musical instruments. The cheaper models contain two types of wood, and the stamp is strong.

The best is formed by a laminate top, where some layers are squeezed instead of cut. The upper part is generally made of spruce, and the inner part has a lower quality since it is not very visible. The sides will be laminated, guaranteeing a low cost, without a bad tone, as the soundboard is more important.

Quality tools feature better and rare materials, unlike cheaper ones. The wood used to create the neck is vital for its quality. In fact, it is very sensitive, as it can generate chord and sound problems.

Another feature to consider for the neck is the truss rod. This factor allows you to make adjustments to the neck and can create a major effect on the chord and the ability to get good volume out of the instrument. It would help if you also thought of the mobile bridge, which is often made of ebony, or rosewood, which is the most used.

Strings and Frets

String and frets made of poor materials would be counterproductive to playing a good song. In this sense, most mandolins have metal strings that are quite resistant to wear. Be wary of other types of components, as they can break easily.

Likewise, the keys are mostly metal, although some models feature alloy or synthetic keyboards. Again, trust only those made of materials such as stainless steel and the like, as they can withstand wear, scratches, and bumps.

Decorations

As for the decorations, it will depend only on your taste and preferences. Many mandolins have small incisions that improve their look, making them real collector’s items. But, if you want to avoid ruining these particular finishes, you may decide to buy a model without decorations which usually has a lower price.

Cost

If you are looking for a high-quality mandolin, you can find them on the market starting at $100. Below $150, you can find a whole series of models of Neapolitan mandolin, acoustic mandolin, and Sicilian mandolin with all similar characteristics, regarding the materials’ quality and the overall sound performance.

Carefully consider the choice to make: if you decide to save some extra money, you will be able to enjoy a high-level stringed instrument, which can accompany you for a long time. Furthermore, if you choose a good quality mandolin from the beginning, you can always resell it later when you want to upgrade. There is a dynamic market for these musical instruments!

Conclusion

The mandolins presented above are perfect for classical music. However, when selecting other models, it is important to know each product’s characteristics. Awareness will go a long way in determining the ideal product for classical music based on your preference.

Sourav Biswas

Music is my life and I love to play guitar so much. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents were always supportive of my passion for music. I am also a freelance writer who has been writing for over 10 years. I have written for both online and offline publications, including Amazon and Medium.

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