I often get asked what gear I use and what I would recommend. Below are all the music products I use regularly along with links to buy them if you’d like.
If you buy them through the link, you pay the same, but in some cases I get a small payment which helps me keep this site going. I appreciate the support.
Mandolin – Newson Mandolin – this is my primary mandolin since 2018. Great sound and exclusively available at Gruhn guitar’s in Nashville. Tell George I said hi 🙂 If you are brand new to mandolin and want a more affordable mandolin to start with – check out the recommendations on my New Mandolin Gear page.
Picks – There are so many picks out there and believe it or not, your pick really impacts your tone. I’ve played a lot of picks before (and lost just about as many). For me, I like Dunlop gator picks. They are guitar picks, but they last a while, sound good, are cheap ($5 for 12) and thick. I don’t personally like the “mandolin” picks that are more a triangle or circle (like golden gate or the Dawg pick). Experiment when you can but below are the ones I use most often:
Amplifier – I’ve found that even with a good sound guy, having a good personal amp for the stage is a really great idea to avoid issues. Normally I use the Fishman Loudbox Mini setup behind me on stage as a backup. If I’m getting lots of feedback from my mandolin through the monitors, I’ll have be able to turn those down or off and use my amp instead
Mandolin Strings – Used to use coated Elixir strings but they have since ceased production. Now I mainly just use D’Addario. They are well priced, last a while, and don’t break on often.
- D’Addario Mandolin Strings – I use 11 gauge primarily
Books – I have a lot of music books in my collection, below are what I think are essentials.
- Mike Marshall’s Great Book of Finger Busters – Great strumming hand practice book
- The Practice of Practice – Great explanation of how to practice properly
- 30 Fiddle Tunes For Mandolin Taught By Butch Baldassari – selection of fiddle tunes arranged for mandolin.
- Parking Lot Picker’s Songbook – tons of tunes with lyrics, chords, and melodies. Great to help get ready for a jam / festival!
- Fiddler’s Fakebook – another good pre-festival study guide. Lots of fiddle tunes with melodies and chords. It is all standard notation, but the melodies are pretty simple and should be easy to move through even for those that don’t read standard notation often.
- Tone Gard – a must have to avoid tone loss. I have one on all my mandolins. This keeps the mandolin off your stomach so you get better tone and more volume.
- Clip on Tuner – this one is a USB rechargeable one so no more issues with stupid batteries!!
- Leather Strap – This is kind of generic, but the Mandolin Store has some great options and are some of the nicest people out there. Support small business!
- Cleaning Supplies – Cleaning your mandolin is important! All that gunk build up can both hurt your finish and your tone. Lemon oil on the fingerboard and use a clean rag to polish the finish (spray the finish on the rag!)
- Matrix Metronome – I’ve seriously had the same MR-500 metronome from Matrix for over 15 years. Unfortunately, I don’t think they make them anymore, but the MR-800 seems similar. You can get free or paid digital ones for your phone too – but that can be annoying if you want to record a clip on your phone while using the metronome. I like have the separate purpose built device for that reason.
- Amazing Slower Downer – a must for practice. I’ve used this almost daily since the early 2000’s. Slow down songs, change keys, and create loops for practicing
- EQ Charts – While not “gear” it’s good to know where the mandolin frequencies are so your other gear works better. It’s hard to find a chart that includes mandolin, but there’s plenty with violins listed like this and this. While mandolins are violins are different – there’s enough similarity where this is a good start.
If you have a mandolin product you’d like me to review, please contact me.