A common hurdle many beginners face is choosing the right type of starter banjo that has all the features they need, high quality and will speed up their learning curve.
Determining which features to look for in a new instrument can be a daunting task, especially if you have no idea what to look for.
In a Hurry? – Here are the top banjos for beginners:
That’s why we wanted to give you a clear understanding of which banjo you should choose as a beginner.
We have reviewed all fifteen banjos to give you the best information and resources to give you the best choice possible.
You can jump you one of the reviews from here or just scroll and see one that catches your eye.
- Best Overall – Deering Goodtime
- Best Budget Option – ADM 5-String
- Best For The Money – AKLOT 5-String
- Best For Clawhammer – Rover RB-20
- Best For Bluegrass – Kmise 5-String
- Best Open Back Banjo – Recording King
- Best Resonator Banjo – Jameson 5-String
Things To Consider As A Beginner
Open Back vs. Resonator
There are two types of banjos, Open back and Closed back resonator banjos.
Resonators help with producing more volume and tailored more for bluegrass music. Open back banjos have a more natural and tailored for old time and country music.
Though it doesn’t really matter when you’re a beginner.
Number of Strings
Banjos have three string option: 4,5,6 strings. The most common is the 5 string and that is what we suggest getting as your first banjo.
Left Handed or Right Handed?
Very simple just make sure the banjo is made for your correct hand. Most banjos we have here are right handed with left handed options.
A standard to tell the quality of a banjo is to look at the price. The better quality of the banjo the more the price will go up. Not every time but it’s a good starting point.
15 Best Beginner Banjos
Made in the south of California, the Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo probably needs no introduction if you have been looking at getting a banjo or know anything about banjos for that matter.
If you are a new player, it has become one of the most popular brands and the company where it comes from; Goodtime is a reputable brand since 1975.
The construction of the Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo is expertly done and the materials used are of great quality. For example, it has a 3 ply pot made from grade maple that makes its tonal qualities so pleasing.
On the inside of the pot is a single coordinator rod that gives it additional structural support. It can be adjusted to provide neck angle and control height and this enables you to dial up the right setup for the playing style and preferences.
Also, the pot has a top head that is held together by the pot’s rim with a low tension hoop. The hoop is held together by 16 flat-topped hooks that have brackets attached by screws. This hardware is strong and feels strong.
The Goodtime banjo’s bridge is made of 2 pieces of wood with an ebony top which makes it easy for the string replacement. The string is replaced by simply loosening the nut which is below the tailpiece which can be raised or lowered to change the string tension that is over the bridge.
The 5 string banjo does not need any adjustments to fine-tune the intonation. It is an absolute joy to play it as its neck is smooth, fast and very comfortable to handle. It is best for traditional styles of music such as the clawhammer and frailing. The sound it produces is sweet and warm and hence very appealing to the listeners. This is the best banjo for beginners but the price might be too steep for some people.
The AKLOT 5-String Banjo is a budget friendly instrument that offers high quality at an affordable price. The size of this banjo is perfect for beginners and advanced players alike because it’s lightweight and compact. It has a full, rich sound with excellent volume control so you can play in any setting from quiet to very loud.
The AKLOT banjo has a mahogany neck and resonator which combined with the tungsten steel-wound fifth string produces an even, warm tone. It also comes in two sizes: 26 inch or 30″ scale length.
The strings are made of nickel plated brass that sounds great acoustically but if you prefer electric amplification there is plenty room to add pickups on top without any modifications needed (this can easily cost up around $150 extra).
In terms from quality vs price point we have found nothing cheaper than what they offer already at such high standards while still maintaining affordability; so why would anyone go for anything else if you are in this price area.
The AKLOT banjo offers an affordable solution for people looking to buy their first instrument while not compromising on sound quality or craftsmanship in any department – from tuning pegs and tailpiece all way up through strings this really does seem like it was made by musicians who know what they are doing!
We highly recommend taking one of these out if at least trying because we believe there would be no regrets whatsoever as compared against other options.
The ADM 5-String Banjo is a beautifully made budget banjo. This banjo comes with an optional resonator back and neck that features a laminated three ply mahogany neck and maple rim.
The tone quality of this banjo sets it apart from other models on the market due to its hybrid design which blends traditional Appalachian music with modern bluegrass tones.
The ADM-5 string banjo is built with a slim neck that makes it easy for playing up and down the neck. They also have adjustable truss rods that have a broad range of specifications that fit for all the needs of the player.
The banjo is specifically made to be durable and you are sure to use it for a long time to come.
The ADM 5 string banjo has an eye-catching and brilliant look thanks to the high-quality metal and wood finishings on its exterior. It also easy play thanks to its adjustable tailpiece with an armrest.
It comes with a resonator and neck made from a 7 ply mahogany that enables the ADM 5-string banjo to produce a wonderful sound.
The Kmise 5 String Resonator Banjo is a great banjo for beginners and intermediate players. It has a high-quality sound that will not disappoint!
This banjo is made with all wood, including the resonator, which gives it a classic look. The strings are quality steel and they are easy to tune.
One of the best things about this banjo is that you can play it with or without amplification because it has an open back design.
This banjo comes with the ability to play as a traditional banjo or with its open back design. It is made of all wood and has quality steel strings that are easy to tune, but more importantly it sounds high-quality!
This instrument also comes in various sizes to meet your needs, so be sure to check them out!
The Jameson 5-string banjo is without a doubt is the best budget option banjo for beginners.
Is has stood the test of time and has is beloved by beginners all around the world with thousands of customers. The price is honestly unbelievable for the quality and sound it produces. Which is why it is why we selected it.
The 5-string, 38 inch full scale, closed back banjo comes with a removable mahaongny resonator which will allow you to be more flexible.
As well as a mahogany neck, maple bridge, rosewood fretboard and geared 5th tuner you can’t go wrong for the price. It also comes with a left handed option.
The Jameson 5-string allows you the best of both worlds, like we said before this banjo allows you to take off the resonator which allows you to have a much more versatile playing style and allows you to play pretty much every type of music.
This model of the banjo was developed by the Saga to create some modern refinements while keeping traditional features to create a banjo that will serve people of the different worlds. It comes at an affordable price compared to other banjos in its class.
The build of any instrument determines the quality of sound and ease of playing the instrument. The build mostly depends on the craftsmanship applied when putting together the finer details of a banjo.
The RB-20 banjo comes with an 11-inch rim that is grooved with a tension hoop. Its neck is made of mahogany for smoothness and it does not disappoint.
The RB-20’s fingerboard is pretty smooth and the lightweight build of most of the materials used to assemble it is an indication of the manufacturer’s wish to bring out an instrument that is easy to use.
Also, the banjo’s tension hoop has a nickel-plated tension hoop and its guitar style geared with a 5th peg. Some people may feel as if the tension on this model to be too high but one can adjust them to their liking.
Many banjos of the same class as the RB-20, produce quieter and mellow sounds. It produces sweet and balanced tones. All you need to do is ensure that you adjust the action and strings accordingly and you will end up with the perfect sound and volume.
#7 Pyle PBJ60
This banjo is designed for those who are just starting out with the banjo.
It is a lightweight instrument that is also a good choice for beginners. It also doesn’t cost a lot and can be a banjo to use to train someone who is learning without having to worry if they may spoil it.
The Pyle’s play-ability comes from its lightweight construction and rosewood fingerboard. Its durability and longevity comes from its well-bound wood that has perfect finishing for preservation from getting worn out.
The beauty of the Pyle is that for the price that you pay it comes with an amazing resonator sound that rivals top tier professional banjos.
The Pyle may not look like it but it produces one of the best and fine sounds in the banjo world. You may assume that since its hardware is not top-notch compared to other banjos, that the same is of its sound.
On the contrary, it produces a tone that is deep and sweet much to the amazement of the player and listeners.
The Vangoa 5-string banjo is a high quality instrument that will last for years to come. It has an excellent sound and comes at a very good price. If you are looking for a 5-string banjo on the lower end of the budget spectrum but with great value, then this should be your choice!
This review will go over some of the features and talk about how it compares to other violins in its class. We’ll also talk about whether or not we recommend it to others considering buying it.
The first thing to mention about this banjo is the quality. It has a very solid construction, and feels quite heavy (which means it’s durable).
The sound coming from an instrument like that will be rich in tone due its weight – perfect for any kind of genre you choose!
As far as budget goes this model offers great value around $200 US dollars which makes if difficult not recommend considering how good those features are compared with other violins on the market. All things considered we would say go ahead take advantage now.
The Vangoa banjo is an excellent choice for any type of player from beginner to professional looking at a high-quality instrument on their budget. The features includes in this model, sound quality and weight are great – the only downside we can mention about it would be that there isn’t as much customization available.
The Donner 5-string banjo is a great instrument for beginners and experienced players alike. It has the classic sound of a banjo, with very little effort needed to produce beautiful music.
The quality of this instrument is top notch, so you won’t need to replace it anytime soon. If you are looking for an affordable yet high-quality instrument that sounds great, then the Donner 5-string Banjo should be at the top of your list!
The Donner 5 string banjo comes with various accessories such as a gig bag, strap and picks. It also has the all-important tuning pegs that allow you to quickly tune up your instrument with ease!
The sound of this banjo is fantastic for beginner players who are looking at getting their first taste in music performance or playing solo. The Banjos deep resonating tone will fill any room it’s played within beautifully.
#10 Washburn B10
This banjo comes from the Washburn company which has been in the industry for over 120 years. The B10 model of the banjo integrates the tradition of banjos with the demands of contemporary needs making it a great banjo that is affordable and has high quality.
The B10 has a closed back resonator with a very elegant styling and its price tag is affordable. The main features of its hardware are a resonator made from mahogany wood and its rosewood fingerboard has 22 frets.
With its traditional design, the B10 produces a smooth and plucky sound that you need from a banjo that has a resonator-back.
Once your fingers start moving across the fret-board, the most soothing sound will be produced from this greatly magnificent banjo.
Also, the B10’s resonator produces a brighter tone with a great projection that is associated with the bluegrass music type.
Recording king dirty ’30s is an instrument that is used to bring many years of history into the present.
It first becomes most popular in the early 1900s due to its C-D-A tuning, which matched perfectly for Dixieland, folk, and Celtic music. Recording king dirty thirties is unique is usually used by players who are looking to spice up their sound with a traditional tenor vibe.
It is the perfect instrument for crossover viola, mandolin, cello player, and violin.
Recording king’s dirty thirties is commonly made of two sections- banjo and the acoustic guitar. Presently the acoustic guitar is famous and highly used by players as compared to the banjo side.
Still, the banjo side also offers the same level of quality.it is made with the same styling as the rest of dirty guitars and banjos. It has a narrow 10-fret neck, which makes it pleasurable to hold and 23’’ scale, which helps to deliver a perfect combination of crisp clarity and feel.
It is advisable to put it in a decent quality case to avoid any kind of mishap, especially on its traveling.
Recording King Dirty Thirties have excellent historic vibe and playability; this makes vintage style accessible to many players.
#12 Rover RB-25
In recent years, the increase in price and completion in the area of musical instruments has led to the production of weak quality instruments, to meet this need, saga developed the Rover RB-25 resonator five-string banjo mid-level instruments.
This is an instrument of high quality styled with a professional resonator, more volume and carrying to match players developing banjo skills.it is among the primary type of banjo that is generally heard in the country, folk music, jazz, American bluegrass, classical and jazz music.
It has a fast and accurate fretted and plays just like most recording king’s most expensive banjos. Still, it is much cheaper making I affordable to many player or serious student. It always gives life satisfaction to those who know to play it.
Buying a correct Rover RB-25 is difficult unless one has the right knowledge to determine the exact type he or she requires. Before purchasing, a player should first consider whether he or she wants a closed-back banjo or open back banjo and whether he or she needs a left-handed banjo or right – hand banjo.
Open back banjo produces a lesser volume than a closed banjo and is more used in the old-time music where it is needed to fit in a bit instead of rising above the noise.
Closed-back resonator banjos always produce a louder volume that enables it to ring out too loud in a bluegrass band and in other types of music also.
Left-handed banjo is used by the players who are left-handed while right-handed banjo is used by the right-handed people; hence it is essential to consider the active hand of the player before purchasing the Rover RB-25.
This instrument is eye-catching and attractive because it is made in a vintage-style with bound mahogany resonator and has a standard rim made of composite material in the metallic gun-grey finish.
#13 Washburn B9
Washburn B9 is an easy-playing and well- built student grade banjo, which offers a quality sound that, at some point, maybe consider to sound better than that its price.
It has a mahogany resonator that gives back the player the volume, and the projection needed to be heard in any setting. Its neck is smooth –playing and has a rosewood fretboards which is effortless to play from the first fret to the last one.
The genuine Remo head that t is combined with ebony-topped maple bridge delivers a punchy and bright sound that the player wants .it is a susceptible instrument; hence it is worth investing in a decent quality bag to avoid any kind of mishap, especially on its travel.
Washburn is among the primary type of banjo that is usually to deliver classic bluegrass tones.
Oscar Schmidt OB3 is considered to be a leader in folk music because it is the only instrument that has supported the musical way of life since 1871.
It is one the most pleasurable and affordable open back five string banjos in the whole world. It has a distinctive bridge, headstock and rosette designs that give it a professional identity and look. Its resonator is made up of mahogany, which is removable hence making it lighter and easy to carry, therefore reduced price.
Oscar Schmidt OB3 fingerboard is maple, and the bijou has twenty-four brackets where a musician can use the geared fifth to produce the best pitch.it also contain a Remo drumhead helps to advance acoustics and creating a loud, sharp sound.
Oscar Schmidt is one of the musical instruments that bluegrass has always used, but it is the best musical instrument that can be used to experiment with a different genre of music. Oscar Schmidt OB3 is handcrafted and made up of mahogany, and this makes it attractive and durable.
#15 Costzon 5-String
This is a five-string banjo that is made of plywood that makes it durable and resistant to corrosion hence a long time service.
The Costzon contains a digital tuner with a button cell that makes it easy to adjust the sound level it produces. In the presence of useful accessories, the digital tuner with a button cell in the cost can modify the sound level the Costzon is creating precisely.
The drum is surrounded by twenty-four consolidation brackets, which adjustable to control and produce the perfect sound that meets the design requirements.
It is advisable to adjust the drum several times to make an excellent sound that matches the design requirements. Costzon is designed with a mid-rage handle that is closed that fits various people while the solid mid-range steel wire is made to be flexible to enable the player to pluck the strings.
It is usually the best option for kids and beginners, as it is easy to take along with them while protecting it from scratch and corrosion.
Costzon has a geared fifth tuner, which helps to produce the best pitch and classic tones.it is among the necessary type of banjo that is generally heard in the country music
Buying Guide: Choosing a Banjo For Beginners
If you love listening to banjo music, whether it’s bluegrass, dixieland, or folk music, you have probably considered picking up a banjo and learning to play.
How much should you spend? How many strings should it have? Should you buy a used banjo? How much should it weigh? What brand should you buy? What style of body should it have?
Understanding the differences in each of these factors can lead you to a banjo that will provide years if not decades of enjoyment for you, and it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming decision.
How Much Should You Spend?
Since banjos vary widely in quality, it’s probably a good idea to figure out what your budget is before you make a decision.
It’s probably not a great idea to get the cheapest banjo you can find, but you probably don’t want the most expensive one either since it’s like anything else, the sky’s the limit.
However there are a great many entry level, quality banjos to choose from, and you can probably find one that suits your needs at a price point between $300 and $800.
Many music retailers offer monthly payment plans as well, so you can get a better instrument if you’re willing to sign up for one of these payment options.
In any case, get the best one you can afford.
How Many Strings Should it Have?
You’ve probably noticed by now that banjos sometimes have four strings, and sometimes they have five strings. There are even some which have six strings. Learn more about banjo strings.
Which should you get? A lot of this depends on the style of music you’d like to play.
The main difference between four and five string banjos is the fifth “drone” string, which is shorter than the other strings, starting from the fifth fret.
We strongly suggest and recommend getting a 5-string banjo. The 5-string is the most common type of banjo and will allow you to easily play and use the most resources out there without much trouble.
4 vs. 5 vs. 6 String Banjos
4 string tenor banjos are fine for beginners because there are less strings but will hurt in the long run as the standard banjo is a 5 string. 6 string banjos are a no no for beginner banjoists as there is no real need until you already know the basic 5-string.
Should You Buy a Used Banjo?
Banjos are similar to other stringed instruments in that purchasing a used model can save you a bundle of money. But there is a caveat here, because buying a used banjo can also end up costing you money in the long run.
It’s very important to know what you’re looking for in a used banjo, to make sure that the instrument has been cared for and hasn’t been neglected or abused.
The intonation of the neck is a key factor, as it can affect how well you’re able to play the banjo.
Either read more about how to assess a used banjo before you start shopping, or get an expert opinion on a particular instrument before you buy it.
You can save a lot of money buying a used banjo, but you have to be careful.
How Much Should it Weigh?
The variance in the weight of different banjos is largely determined by whether or not the instrument has a resonator.
The resonator is a bowl shaped back on the body of the instrument, behind the tone ring, and it helps to project the sound outward towards the audience.
This additional part adds significant weight to the instrument, and more importantly it changes the overall sound of the banjo.
Open backed banjos weigh far less, but seem quieter since much of the sound escapes from the back of the instrument.
Choose a banjo that you can comfortably stand and play with a strap, or then you can hold and play while sitting.
Materials/Types of Wood
Banjos are typically made of wood, which is a natural material. It’s important to know what type of wood to use for your banjo because it can have an impact on the sound quality and playability of the instrument.
There are many different types of woods that could be used for this purpose; here are some tips on how you might choose the right one.
Wood is often the most desirable material for banjo manufacturers because it can give a rich, resonant sound. The wood used in making these instruments needs to be very dense and tight grained so that tuning pitches will not vary from place-to-place on the drum head.
Wooden banjos are also typically more expensive than other types of materials such as plastic or metal.
However, they may last you much longer depending on how well you take care of them! Often times when plastics and metals break down over time they lose their tension which causes detuning problems while wooden instruments maintain their tone through wear and tear.
What Brand of Banjo Should You Buy?
There are several banjo brands which are synonymous with the instrument itself, because they have been manufacturing quality banjos for many decades.
Like many other manufactured items, some off-brand banjos are mass produced as cheaply as possible, and while they have a much lower price point, you should be wary of their quality.
Manufacturers such as Gold Tone, Oscar Schmidt, or Deering, an American manufacturer known for producing banjos of the highest quality, are some of the better brands to look at when you’re trying to find your first banjo.
What Style of Body Should it Have? (Banjo Type)
Open backed banjos are very commonly used for styles of music in which the banjo is blended in with the other instruments, such as the clawhammer style of playing.
Resonator banjos are most often used for styles of music in which the banjo is the featured instrument, such as in bluegrass music.
As previously mentioned, choosing between these two body styles can determine the weight of the instrument as well.
Open backed banjos come in very light weight models too, known most commonly as traveler banjos.
This can be an important factor to consider if you plan to take your banjo with you when you travel.
Another factor affecting the style of the body is whether or not the banjo has a tone ring.
This is a metal ring which is mounted inside the wooden body ring of the banjo. Tone rings are most often made of steel or brass.
This part adds brightness to the tone of the instrument, and also affects the overall weight of the banjo.
Best Banjo Brands For Beginners
Purchases of stringed instruments are tough because of the many brands in the market and your specific needs that you want from the instrument. Purchasing a banjo is no different.
You want a banjo that is durable, affordable and has a great quality of music.
Some banjo brands provide you with a variety of choices for the number of strings you require and choices of whether you want open back or resonator.
Other brands offer good prices for quality products. Below is a list of brands we consider the best in the market.
- Gold Tone
- Oscar Schmidt
Here are some of the best brands in detail.
Manufactured handmade in the US in San Diego by the Deering Banjo Company founded in 1975, the Deering brand has good quality and great sounds. It has earned its reputation years of sales and use by regular customers.
You know a good brand through the people who trust it and Many big bands such as Mumford and Sons use this banjo due to having the best configuration for them to produce their music.
The Southern California manufacturer has a value line called the Goodtime Banjos that have a great quality of sound and focuses on a beginner and low budget customers.
The budget notwithstanding, they produce very good sound and are durable hence a good value for money.
The Deering has other complex and fancier banjos such as the Eagle, Artist and the private collection. They have such a big collection and all their products have top-notch quality.
The goldtone produces high-quality instruments for players of all levels. They aim to meet the demands of beginners and professional players.
If you start off as a beginner, they will have a banjo for you every step of the way as you graduate to the next level of skill.
For beginners, all banjo lovers recommend the Gold-Tone CC-50 for its ease of use and low budget.
For the quality and ability to use, it should have attracted a much higher price and that is why its recommended for beginners who are learning to play and use the banjo.
The company has gone on to manufacture other quality products apart from the banjo such as guitars, mandolins, bass, and the ukulele. They also offer hybrid instruments like the Bela fleck, cello banjo, and other string instruments.
The company has been in the stringed instrument business for over 100 years and are known for their good quality products.
Reputation is one of the most important things that people seeking banjos will ask about before deciding on how to use their money.
While they are best known for their guitars, their experience over the years has enabled them to produce some of the best-stringed instruments known for their quality and longevity of products.
Currently, they have the OB5 brand which is used by beginners and intermediate banjo players much to their satisfaction and joy.
The R.W. Jameson brand is often associated with guitars but has in the recent past gone into the banjo market and made some considerable progress among banjo lovers.
They have many instruments to select from and have banjos that go for as less as $200 and some to their thousands depending on the usability of the banjo.
Beginners and intermediate users have banjos like the concert tone from this group of companies to choose from.
All their products have a warranty.
This company began in the 1930s and have been mastering their skill since that time. They started as a house brand for the Montgomery Ward and they form the history of banjo and musical instrument making in the US and world at large.
Their longevity in the industry is an indication of the great work they do. For people to trust them these many years, it means they are doing the right thing on their products.
The company specializes in making instruments with the vintage style with modern details and twists.
Their products such as the LBL starlight series look like a 1950’s instrument and the users love it. Some bands prefer using this banjo as it has unique characteristics that they enjoy.
If you want a banjo that will serve you for many years, produce the best sound and have a low cost, then you have the list above to choose from.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a banjo for a beginner.
Deciding first and foremost what style of music or banjo playing you want to learn will go a long way to helping you decide when it comes to the other considerations of how much to spend, whether or not to buy new or used, what your banjo should weigh and who manufactures it, and what style of body and number of strings it should have.
Take your time and choose wisely, get advice from experts, books, and manufacturer’s websites.
Most importantly, try out as many different models as you can in your local musical instrument store.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
A good banjo will be made with quality materials, proper tuning ability and strings. It should also be from a reliable brand.
A beginner should start learning on a standard 5-string banjo. It doesn’t matter if it is an open back banjo or a closed resonator.
Either a Open Back or a Closed Back Resonator banjo will be adequate for beginners.
Yes you can get a 4 string banjo as a beginner but we strongly recommend a standard 5 string banjo.
No, 6 String banjos are for more advanced players. 6 strings will just complicate your progress.
No, if you want to progress and properly learn the banjo we strongly recommend a standard 5 string banjo to learn on.
Image from flickr creative commons Canned Muffins