6 Best Beginner Mandolins of 2023

When shopping for a beginner mandolin, there are lots of things to consider. First, you’ll need to pick out an A or F-style mandolin (style refers to the body of the mandolin), pick out a budget, and decide if you want an acoustic or acoustic-electric mandolin (an acoustic-electric mandolin has a built-in electric pickup system).

So, what’s the difference between an A-style and an F-style mandolin? An F-style has an ornament scroll in the headstock with 2 points on the lower body. An A-style is pear-shaped with no points. As for sound, many players don’t note much of a difference between A-Style and F-Style mandolins. To help you out, we’ll pick out several mandolins that cover all of your options.

To give you a little heads-up, note that you’ll spend anywhere between $150-$450 on an excellent beginner mandolin. If you’d like to lower your budget, you can consider buying a used mandolin in good used condition from our friends at Reverb. Reverb has a selection of new and used instruments in various conditions.

Best Beginner A-Style Options Under $200

1. Ibanez M510 Mandolin – Dark Violin Sunburst High Gloss

The Scoop:

Ibanez is a top-tier guitar brand, sitting with Fender and Gibson. Their mandolins are also quality picks for mandolin players of all ages. We picked out this A-style mandolin for beginners for good reason. Ibanez makes great, affordable mandolins for beginner and intermediate players.


This M510 has a spruce top and mahogany back and sides, and a rosewood fretboard. This gorgeous mandolin produces a warm tone when chording and a higher to midrange voice for soloing. It’s under $170 and is a reasonable price for a brand of this quality.

2. Ktaxon A Style Mandolins Instrument, 8 Strings Mahogany Acoustic Mandolin for Beginner Adults

The Scoop:

We get it, when you’re eager to learn but can’t stretch your budget, you won’t go for the big-name brands. We wanted to find a quality mandolin under $70 if you’re in this situation, so to make sure there’s a pick for everyone, we added Ktaxon’s beginner mandolin to the list. The affordable mandolin has a basswood body, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and a mahogany head.


The basswood material has a good vibration to make the sound quality crisp. It has steel strings that are smooth and delicate, a perfect lightweight string for beginners. With less frictional resistance, you won’t experience as much fatigue. Plus, it has an ergonomic neck for comfortable playing as well. Overall, it doesn’t lack quality. Just be sure to tune it when it arrives, and if you find that the strings aren’t to your liking, feel free to replace them. The mandolin has a perfect 5-star rating. One customer wrote, “For the price, this is excellent for beginners it is not a huge investment but it is quality and you can learn easily.”

Best Acoustic-Electric A-Style Mandolin

3. The Loar Honey Creek Acoustic-electric A-style Mandolin -Satin Brownburst

The Scoop:

The Loar honors Lloyd Loar with some of the best mandolins on the market. Their Honey Creek acoustic-electric is a great mandolin for the beginner to take into intermediate playing. So, if you’re willing to spend more than $400 on a new mandolin, consider this pick.


This golden-age-inspired mandolin is an awesome pick for bluegrass players. The mandolin has a hand-carved spruce top and a 1920s-inspired tone with a new-age presence. If you’re an experienced mandolin player that’s ready to get back into lessons you’ll enjoy the versatility of this mandolin. It has a comfy v-shaped maple neck and a padauk fretboard that prevents fatigue after long periods of playing. It’s also equipped with a clear and accurate Fishman Nashville Series pickup. You’ll love gigging with this mandolin.

Best F-Style Acoustic Mandolin Under $400

4. The Loar LM-310F-BRB Honey Creek F-style Mandolin – Satin Brownburst

The Scoop:

Here’s another Loar best, but an F-style instead of an A-style mandolin. This mandolin is another great pick for bluegrass, as well as for exploring the tones of country, folk, and Americana music. The F-style mandolin has a solid spruce top, maple neck, back, and sides. So pretty, huh? The padauk fretboard brings a rich tone to any performance.


Mandolin players love this model because of its thin neck that’s easy to hold. These mandolins are also known for easy fretting and single-note runs. You just can’t go wrong with The Loar.

Best Acoustic-Electric F-Style Under $500

5. Washburn Americana M3E-PACK Mandolin Pack

The Scoop:

Washburn is another brand we hold in high regard. Washburn has been making some of the best mandolins in the U.S. for over 135 years now, and to no surprise, they have the ultimate starter kit for mandolin players. This F-style mandolin has a spruce top and maple back and sides that offer excellent sound and projection. A customer wrote, “Very happy with my mandolin. Beautiful neck and body binding. Crisp, full sound. I’ve had it about a month now and still smile every time I play it!


Some features to highlight are the rosewood fretboard and bridge and the included gig bag, strap, picks, and more. You’re all set for mandolin lessons or a gig, especially with the built-in piezo pickup. Plug in and play at venues, coffee shops, and wherever you may end up at. These tones are great for all styles of music.

Best Splurge

6. Gibson F-9 Mandolin Vintage Brown

The Scoop:

Gibson makes quality mandolins you can’t find anywhere else. Amos Lee uses this same mandolin. It’s a professional-level mandolin, so while we may not recommend this for beginners, we think it’s a great pick for experienced players to splurge on one day, especially if you’re working towards being a touring musician. The mandolin is pricey, but Gibson has packed this mandolin with features professionals love, all the way down to the Gibson Bill Monroe Medium Gauge strings and satin lacquer finish.


The F-style mandolin has a spruce top and a figured maple body. The F-9 has many of the same features the F-5 has, including its tone. It also has a hand-fitted dovetail neck joint and a hand-tuned tone chamber. A hardshell case is included.

A & F-Style Pricing

You may have noticed that A-style mandolins are cheaper than F-styles, we definitely recommend finding an A-style mandolin if you don’t want to stretch your budget too much. You can still find quality F-styles for a reasonable price (under $600). Just know that once you begin shopping for professional mandolins, you can pay anywhere between $1,100-$6,000 for one, and even over $20,000. The Gibson F-5 construction and details are far from cheap.

Best Online Mandolin Lessons

You can find many lessons at Udemy and Skillshare, but we’d like to highlight our friends over at TrueFire. TrueFire has great courses for beginners to check out. Consider Bluegrass with Andy Wood. Andy’s been playing since childhood and has been touring bluegrass festivals for years. Not only is this course designed for mandolin players, but it’s also geared toward guitarists who’d like to explore the mandolin.

In the first section, you’ll learn essential mandolin fundamentals like alternate and cross-picking, rhythm and chopping approaches, and traditional elements of bluegrass performance like using double shuffles and playing tags. You’ll also get a few quick workouts to help get you up to speed.

In the second section, you’ll play your way through 5 popular bluegrass standards. For each of the 5 tunes, Andy will show you how to play the melody parts of mandolin variations. You can also loop or slow down the videos so you can learn and play at your own pace.

Course Info

  • 47 Video Lessons
  • 18 Charts (.pdf)
  • 15 Jam Tracks (.mp3)
  • 18 Tabs (.gp5 or .ptb)
  • Runtime: 02:05:48

Photo Courtesy Sweetwater, Guitar Center, & Amazon

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