Eastwood’s Mando Famiglia
Eastwood is a guitar company. Mostly.
Yes, the company’s full name is “Eastwood Guitars.” Yes, the bulk of Eastwood instruments are guitars, but over the years, starting with the Mandocaster, Eastwood has built an impressive lineup of electric instruments in the mandolin family – a group of instruments with an older pedigree than that of the guitar.
For guitar players, a new scale, tuning, and string layout can provide new ground for creativity, exploring new voicing possibilities. For traditional mandolin, violin, or cello players, the instruments in this category may breathe new life into familiar voicings, with the added opportunities for amp combinations and pedal effects.
No matter how you come to approach Eastwood’s family of mando instruments, you will certainly come away with a new view on how you make music, and the fresh palette of inspiration that comes with it.
The Eastwood Mandocaster was the first of its kind in the Eastwood line. It was introduced in 2005, and has since been one of the top selling electric mandolins in the world.
Using a celebrated single-cutaway, solid-alder body shape, and a bolt-on maple neck, the Mandocaster is all about quality. Top-shelf materials meet all of the features you could dream of to make the instrument easy to set up and adjust for the perfect feel, including a fully adjustable T-style bridge and truss rod.
Video: Chris Thile putting the Mandocaster to use with The Fearless Flyers
The MandoMagic is a much more recent addition to the family and is a direct answer to the Mandocaster, this time celebrating another famous single-cutaway body shape.
Most specs are similar to the Mandocaster, even down to the pickups, construction materials, and bridge; however, the scale length and neck width are just a touch slighter. For some, it’s barely noticeable, but for those with small hands, it could make a big difference.
Video: Tristan Scroggins demoing the MandoMagic
The Mandocaster 12 was introduced in 2014, and shares many similarities with the Mandocaster even including the name. That being said, there are plenty of differences.
The easiest way to think about the Mandocaster 12 is that it’s an octave 12-string guitar with the tonal quality of a mandolin (or if it’s easier to imagine, a 12-string guitar permanently capoed at the 12th fret).
The double routes of strings are tuned EE-AA-DD-GG-BB-EE, and provide the perfect platform for guitarists looking for something new without needing to learn new chord shapes. Besides, who doesn’t love picking up a new instrument type and already knowing how to play it?
The Airline Mandola was the second entry in the mando family, coming hot on the heels of the Mandocaster in the 2000s. As the name suggests, this is a true mandola, tuned CC-GG-DD-AA below mandolin tuning.
Similar to the Mandocaster, the Mandola features a solid alder body and a solid maple neck, the same fully adjustable t-style bridge, and master volume and tone controls. The Mandola, however, sports a longer 18” scale length to accommodate the lower tuning, and a single mini humbucking pickup, resulting in a tone that is darker and can really fill a room.
Model S Mandola
The Model S Mandola is another newer addition to the family. This model was developed in response to our popular Mandocaster and (now-discontinued) Tenorcaster models. It gave fans of those models another scale, and another classic body shape to feel comfortable with.
This time, it came packaged with an s-style double-cut body and three single coil pickups for a percussive, tenor-focused tone that you may not get from humbucker-equipped mandolas such as the Airline Mandola mentioned above.
While it shares certain specs with the Airline Mandola, such as the solid alder body, bolt on maple neck, and fully-adjustable T-style bridge, you’ll notice one change of particular significance. The Model S Mandola has ditched the doubled routes of strings (eight in total) in favor of a four-string layout – making tuning and exploring new sounds a piece of cake.
Video: Tristan Scroggins with Model S Mandola
Warren Ellis Mandostang
The Warren Ellis Series of instruments began with the Warren Ellis Signature Tenor, but quickly became an excellent platform for unique instrument types, including those in the mandolin family.
The Mandostang is a four string mandolin. Like some others in the Eastwood lineup, it features a solid alder body, bolt on maple neck, and T-style bridge; however, the classic Warren Ellis body shape allows fret access beyond what any of Eastwood's other Mandolin models offer.
The popular Warren Ellis Blade pickup ensures that the Mandostang’s notes are expressed in perfect, high-output clarity. This pickup may well be the best platform for effect pedals found in the Eastwood arsenal.
Video: RJ Ronquillo with Warren Ellis Mandostang
Warren Ellis Mandocello
The big brother of the WE Mandostang, the Mandocello is exactly what it sounds like. The instrument’s strings are laid out in doubled routes, true to its mando heritage. The tuning is identical to that of a standard cello: CC-GG-DD-AA, an octave below the tuning of a Mandola.
Past lower notes and the longer 25” scale length, there’s another big difference between this and the Mandostang. The Mandocello features the same Warren Ellis Blade pickup in the neck position, but it’s complimented by a mini humbucker in the bridge position, giving a high-output kick to solos with the flick of a switch.
Video: Blue Oyster Cult's Albert Bouchard showing off his Warren Ellis Mandocello
The Eastwood MRG Studio Series was released in 2019 as a way for customers to affordably access multiple instrument types without sacrificing the Eastwood-ensured professional build quality.
Each of these instruments boasted a maple and mahogany semi-hollow construction, and the time-tested f-style body shape traditionally found applied to mandolins.
The MRG Mandolin is a natural fit, given the body shape. It’s a resonant instrument unplugged, but is intended for electrified use. Plugged in, it’s not difficult to dial in a setting that lights up the room with mandolin tone.
While the single mini humbucker expresses a bass-focused tone true to quality mandolin construction, it also lends itself well to higher gain settings and the stacking of pedal effects. Perfect for the mandolin traditionalist looking to explore a new soundscape.
Video: RJ Ronquillo with MRG Mandolin
The MRG Mandola is identical to the MRG Mandolin, but with a mandola tuning and longer 18” scale (as opposed to the Mandolin’s 15” scale).
For those used to the tenor range of notes available to the smaller mandolin, the Mandola is the perfect instrument to explore notes more centered in a mix, providing either a perfect backdrop of rhythm tone or full-voiced single notes runs and tremolo picking.
Playing the two side by side, they are certainly different animals that excel in their own area of a full-band sound.
Video: MRG Studio Series showcased in full
MRG Octave Mando
The MRG Octave Mando is a much larger instrument than its two younger siblings in terms of scale length. While the Mandolin and Mandola sport 15” and 18” scale lengths respectively, the Octave Mando is a sizable step up at 23”. This is necessary to accommodate a much lower range of notes than either.
True to its name, the Octave Mandolin shares a tuning with the MRG Mandolin … just an octave lower. This makes it a perfect instrument for mandolinists who are (familiar with electric mandolins or not) tired of the same old range of notes available to them.
The guitar-adjacent range of the Octave Mando provides players with a strong mid-frequency instrument perfectly capable of solo vocal accompaniment, or replacing a guitar or piano in a traditional band mix.
The Mando 5 is the latest addition to the Eastwood family of mandolin products and one of the more obscure. To our largely American and Canadian readership, many of you may have never seen or heard of a 5-string mandolin.
This particular instrument was inspired by “the Mozart of Classical Indian Music,” Uppalapu Srinivas, and the instrument that he modified by hand to make his art possible.
While the base inspiration was originally an 8-string mandolin that had been modified, the Eastwood Mando 5 simplifies the build with a 5-peg headstock and custom 5-saddle bridge plate.
Like several other entrants on this list, the Mando 5’s body is carved from solid alder, and features a t-style bridge and Warren Ellis Blade single coil pickup; however, it features a set maple neck.
The unique string layout is tuned CGCGC, perfect for droning tones and a wild range for creation and exploration.
Check out the full range of mando-family instruments on the Eastwood site here, and follow @eastwoodguitars on instagram for pics, news, and info highlighting Eastwood sales and products.