Searching for the best left handed mandolin, but unsure where to start? This in-depth guide should clue you in on all you could ever need to know!
Throughout this guide, I’ll talk you through my favorite lefty mandolin models that are easily available without the need to special order from a dealer. We have a few beginner mandolin bundles as well as more premium options that will suit intermediate and advanced players.
If you stick around until the end of the guide, we’ll also answer a few important questions that beginners may have about the instrument. Such as…
- The difference between A-style and F-style mandos?
- What accessories might you also need?
- How do you learn to play mandolin left handed?
Left-handed mandolins are truly a niche within a niche, so you won’t be surprised to discover that beginner lefty instruments are few and far between.
You certainly aren’t going to find many left handed mandolins for sale (if any at all!) in your local guitar store, which makes purchasing online pretty much unavoidable.
Let’s take a look at my top picks!
What Is The Best Left Handed Mandolin?
Below, you’ll discover my top 3 picks for the best left handed mandolin for beginners and intermediate players this year. I have ordered this list from the most affordable left handed mandolins first, to the more expensive options towards the end.
Disclosure: If you decide to purchase a banjo using the links in this article I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
Even right-handed players might struggle to find a local store that stocks more than a handful of mandolins, so as a left handed player you’re almost certainly going to have to purchase online. I’ve listed a few good left handed mandolins for sale below, complete with links to buy.
1. Vangoa VMA10 A-Style Mandolin
At the time of writing, the most affordable left-handed mandolin is the Vangoa VMA10. Unless you hit up the second-hand market, that is!
The main features of this A-style mandolin include a basswood body for a well-balanced sound, a strong Okoume neck, and a 20-fret ebony fingerboard. The Vangoa’s body is finished in an eye-catching sunburst that is continued on the neck and headstock for a premium aesthetic.
Other appointments on the Vangoa Mandolin include an adjustable mahogany bridge with an anti-rust top to help prolong the life of your strings, vintage-style open tuners, as well as a matching vintage-style tailpiece. It also features an arched back to help enhance resonance.
This instrument will make an ideal beginner left handed mandolin as it ships as a bundle including everything needed to start playing. Inside the package, you’ll find a gig bag, a strap, a selection of picks, spare strings, as well as a clip-on headstock tuner. In addition, Vangoa has included an optional pickup that you can use to amplify or record your mandolin.
Unless you are completely in love with the look of an F-style mando, beginners should really opt for an 8-string A-style model such as this, as you’ll get more bang for your buck. When you first start out, a mandolin is going to sound like a mandolin. Once you’ve been playing a year or two you’ll be in a better position to feel confident about dropping extra money on a more advanced instrument.
So, if you’re sold on this budget beauty, you can check it out at the link below.
2. Stagg M20 A-Style Mandolin
For just a little extra money compared to the Vangoa above, we can look at the Stagg M20 left handed Mandolin. Like the Vangoa, this is an 8-string A-style model in a burst finish and it carries similar specifications.
So, your decision may ultimately come down to which model you prefer the looks of!
The main features of this Stagg mandolin include a basswood body for a nice balanced tone, a nato neck (similar to mahogany), and a 20-fret rosewood fingerboard. A nice touch that gives the Stagg a slightly more premium vibe is that the headstock is also fully bound.
Further notable appointments include an adjustable rosewood bridge, open-gear nickel tuners, a vintage-style carved tailpiece, and a fully-bound body, neck, and headstock.
Unfortunately, the Stagg doesn’t ship with any bundled accessories. So, you will need to source your own extras if you require them. Head to the end of the page where I have prepared a list of additional bits and pieces that you might also like to pick up.
Hit the link below to find out more, plus read a few player reviews of the Stagg.
3. Oscar Schmidt OM40 F-Style
If an F-style mandolin is what you’re after, the most affordable option currently available is the left handed Oscar Schmidt OM40. And, it’s certainly a looker!
For those who don’t know, Oscar Schmidt is owned by Washburn Guitars. So, you can be assured of a high-quality instrument here.
The main features include maple back and sides, a select spruce top, a mahogany neck, and a 21 fret rosewood fingerboard. So, a tried and tested tonewood selection that will offer up a lush, bright tone.
Premium appointments include full body and neck binding, classy pearloid tuning pegs, an adjustable rosewood bridge, plus a beautiful vintage-styled gold tailpiece.
The only real downside to the OM40 is that it doesn’t ship with a gig bag, so you will need to source your own if this is something you require. Head to the end of this article for some recommendations.
Check out the link below if you love the sound of the Oscar Schmidt OM40.
What Mandolin Accessories Will I Need?
If this will be your first mandolin, there are a few extra bits and pieces that you may also like to pick up if your instrument doesn’t already come bundled with them.
Picks. Most mandolin players prefer to use a thick pick, of at least 1mm.
Tuner. My choice would be an inexpensive Snark SN5X clip-on tuner. This little gadget clamps onto your headstock and tunes very accurately via vibration (although it also includes a built-in mic).
Strap. Mandolin straps are a little different from regular guitar straps. A popular option is this beautiful brown leather Planet Waves strap.
Gigbag. Protect your mandolin when traveling to lessons or gigs with a good case or padded gig bag. A great budget option is this Donner gig bag.
Strings. Most stores won’t put a fresh set on before shipping, so who knows how old the strings will be on your new mandolin. Grab a few sets to make sure your mandolin sounds its best from day one. The most popular set for mandolin is the D’Addario J74 Phosphor Bronze pack.
Learn to Play Left Handed Mandolin
So, you’ve got your new mandolin and a bunch of shiny accessories – now what? At this point it would probably make sense to learn how to make some sweet, sweet music, right?
Obviously, your best option is going to be finding a good mandolin tutor. However, not all of us can afford pricey one-on-one lessons, and there’s no reason why you can’t teach yourself using free resources such as video lessons on YouTube.
I would suggest that if you decide to go the self-taught route, make sure to supplement with a good beginner book to ensure that you have a little structure in your education. A great book is Mandolin Primer for Beginners by Bert Casey, which includes free access to online video lessons.
There’s really no reason to look for lessons specifically aimed at left handed players. The only slight disadvantage you have is that you will need to read chord diagrams backward – not exactly a difficult task!
However, I know that some new players can struggle a little at first. So, if you want to make sure to get started on the right foot, William Bay has a great left handed mandolin chord chart.
Beginner Mandolin Questions
What IS a Mandolin?
In a nutshell, the mandolin is a small-sized instrument descended from the lute family.
Although there are 10 and 12-string variations, most common mandolins feature 8 strings split up into 4 ‘courses‘. Each course consists of two strings which are typically tuned to the same note in order to give the instrument its distinctive chiming sound.
The most common tuning is G-D-A-E, which is the same as a violin.
A-Style, F-Style, or Bowl-Back Mandolin?
Which style is best? Although there is little variance between designs in terms of tones produced, there are some key differences between each style.
A mandolin that is oval or tear-shaped is referred to as A-Style. This type of design is generally the most affordable because they are simpler to build. This is due to the lack of decorative scrolls and points which are found on F-Style models.
Due to their much lower price, an A-Style left handed mandolin is going to be the best choice for new southpaw players wanting to dip their toes in the water.
F-Style mandolins (sometimes referred to as Florentine mandolins) are instantly recognizable thanks to their luxurious body scroll and points, generally accompanied by additional lavish appointments.
They were introduced by Gibson in the early 20th century, and most modern designs are based on these original instruments. The points on the bottom of the mandolin have a small impact on the sound produced, and also provide a handy resting point for when playing seated. F-Style mandolins are generally most popular amongst country, bluegrass, and roots-style players.
Finally, Bowl-Back mandolins tend to be favored for classical, renaissance, and other historical styles of music. As you can probably tell by the name, these mandolins feature a rounded back, helping them to produce a deeper tone than the two styles above.
Are There Left Handed Electric Mandolins?
Back in the 50s, Fender produced a solid-body electric mandolin which players came to call the ‘Mandocaster‘. Today, a number of other brands produce electric mandolins. And fear not, there are a handful of great lefty options.
On the left is the Eastwood 8-string Mandocaster which features an alder body, bolt-on maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, and two single-coil pickups for a variety of tones. You can check out a great demonstration video here.
Another cool option is the Gold Tone GME-4 shown above on the right. This model has 4 strings, an alder body, a maple neck and fingerboard, and a single neck pickup. See it in action here.
Where To Find Used Left Handed Mandolins?
Although they are obviously fairly rare, you should be able to find a good used left handed mandolin for sale on sites such as eBay, or Reverb.