Are you in the market for a new banjo? The banjo’s cousin the guitar has typically been in the limelight during past decades thanks to rockers like Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix. However, you can’t forget the musical instrument featured in banjo reviews.
The banjo’s roots date back to an African stringed instrument connected to a drum. It includes a drum, string, and stick. It’s unknown when this instrument was first played.
Meanwhile, Joel Sweeney invented the modern banjo during the 1800s. He learned how to play the instrument from African-Americans in Virginia.
Sweeney added a neck, fingerboard, and frets to the drum like those included on guitars. In fact, he became the first known person in history to play a banjo on stage.
The musician also added a 5th string connected to a tuning peg on the neck, which made the banjo a one-of-a-kind instrument. This helps to give the banjo a unique sound even compared to other stringed instruments.
The banjo’s sound is one of the various reasons you should consider purchasing one. You can also get in some exercise when playing the banjo. It can also be a social activity when you play the stringed instrument with other
Today several types of banjos are on the market. They include the classical, jazz, and bluegrass banjo. It can be tough to pick the best model, but it’s possible if you know the basics about the different features that are available.
We’ll be reviewing some of the top units on the market. This includes pricier units in the $500+ range as well as others in the under-$500 range.
Our reviews will include an objective look at some of the top banjos on the market. They’ll include some of the top features, benefits, and drawbacks of each model. This will help you to weigh each model and pick the one that’s right for your wants and needs.
Best Beginner Banjo Review
1. OB-250 Classic Orange Blossom 5-string Banjo by Gold Tone
- Ebony Fingerboard
Ebony provides various benefits for musical instruments. The wood from the African tropical tree is used for various products including musical instruments. This wood includes density/beauty that has been impressing people for centuries.
In terms of durability and appearance, ebony provides a key feature of this banjo. If you’re looking for an eye-catching and durable banjo, then this is definitely one of the best options.
- Beginner Banjo
If you’re a new banjo player, then this is a good option. That’s in terms of the instrument’s play-ability, for example. It also looks and sounds great.
- Bluegrass Reproduction
This is a reproduction of the most famous flathead bluegrass banjo on the market. So if you’re looking for an old-school look and feel this unit is a good option.
Bluegrass banjos are one of the main types of banjos along with classical and jazz. However, bluegrass banjos are famous for the unique design and sound they provide.
- Overall Quality
This banjo isn’t the “cheapest” one on the market, but it provides good quality in terms of its aesthetics, tone, and feel. For example, it feels good in the hand for playing the banjo for hours.
The under-$1500 price tag might seem steep at first. However, if you want to invest in a quality banjo the maple resonator, neck, and binding make it a solid choice.
This banjo offers incredible tone/playability. In fact, this version includes extra features like maple neck, ebony fingerboard, and maple resonator. This helps to boost the overall quality of the stringed instrument.
- 1-piece/die-cast Pot Metal Flange
Pot metal is a type of metal alloy that has a low melting point. This isn’t a high-quality metal, but a key benefit is it’s quite easy to cast. Some metals included in these alloys include copper, lead, zinc, and tin.
- 3-ply Canadian Maple
The banjo includes a rim made of 3-ply Canadian Maple. This is a nod to the country whose national flag features a maple leaf. This banjo not only includes Canadian maple but 3-ply maple, which features a thicker rim of 3 layers.
2. PC-Banjola Electric Banjo by Gold Tone
- Mandola Style
A mandolin is an 8-stringed instrument that’s set up in 4 pairs with a rounded shell. The mandolin is a type of lute, and the sound originates from the vibrating strings.
The mandola and mandolin are played by plucking the strings like with a guitar pick. This differs from stringed instruments like the violin that are played with a bow.
- Gig Bag
The PC-Banjola Electric Banjo is bundled with a deluxe padded gig bag. This is a plus since it helps to protect your investment. This adds value to the unit since it’s something you’d probably want anyway
The gig bag is useful to protect your investment. Like other instruments, you’ll want to protect the banjo when you carry it to your gigs, for example. So It’s a plus that it’s bundled with the PC-Banjola.
- Sitka Spruce
The top of the instrument is made of solid Sitka spruce. It originates from the evergreen tree. This is the biggest species of spruce and also one of the world’s biggest conifers.
- Maple Neck
The banjo’s neck is constructed from maple. Maple is a wood that originates from various species of trees. Maple lumber is used for various functions including musical instruments. Maple is picked for various reasons including its durability and aesthetics.
- Many Upgrades
This banjola has several upgrades from the original model. They include pin style bridge, wider body, rising sun inlay, etc. These features add more value to the instrument.
- Flamed Maple Back/Sides
Flamed maple is a feature of the wood in which the wood fibers’ growth is distorted in a certain pattern. It produces wavy lines called “flames.” This feature is often wrongly referred to as the wood grain.
Flamed maple is used for various musical instruments like banjos, guitars, and violins. In the past, the wood was also used to make the stocks of Kentucky rifles.
The Sitka spruce is used for different functions. The timber is used for different functions like musical instruments.
- Amplified Tone
This makes the banjo a good stage instrument. It has a unique/sustaining tone. There’s a fat tone due to the stereo pick-up system.
3. 5-String White Ladye Banjo (Lefty) by Gold Tone
- Maple Neck/Bridge
The 5-string banjo includes a maple neck and bridge. Maple is easily one of the best materials for musical instruments. That’s due to its form and function. It provides a good aesthetic while it’s also a good option in terms of durability, tone, etc.
- Good Tone
The WL-250+ offers a tone that’s plunky/punchy. This makes it an excellent option for playing old-school and folk music on the banjo.
- 12-point Setup
Each stringed instrument gets a 12-point set-up at the manufacturer’s factory. This helps to ensure the unit is inspected thoroughly before it’s shipped.
It requires extra shipping time but helps to make sure you won’t have to deal with any issues/flaws. An added bonus is you’ll have the ability to play the banjo out of the box.
- Tree of Life Inlay Design
The tree of life inlay on the banjo is unique. That’s because the position markers can easily be seen via the flower patterns for playing up the banjo’s neck. This makes your banjo playing more convenient and enjoyable.
- Accurate Replica
This banjo is an accurate replicate of the White Lady 3, which is a popular and vintage banjo. So if you like the look and feel of that unit you should consider this banjo since it’s the next best thing. You can also save big bucks vs. the original model.
- Hardshell Case
The Ladye Banjo is also bundled with a deluxe hardshell case. This helps to protect your investment when storing the banjo or transporting it between gigs. This accessory is one you’d probably want anyway, so it’s a plus it’s bundled with the banjo.
The case has an eye-catching design. However, just as importantly it’s sturdy enough to protect your banjo. This is especially critical when investing in a quality banjo.
- Left Hand Model
This Gold Tone banjo is the lefty model. Fun Fact: 10% of the world is left-handed. If you’re in that situation, it can be tough to find left-handed musical instruments. That’s why this feature is a critical one for lefties. It gives you the chance to enjoy banjo playing.
4. G9470 Clarophone Banjo by Gretsch
- Maple Neck/Fingerboard
Maple is one of the top materials used for stringed instruments like banjos. The G9470 includes a neck and fingerboard made of the hardwood. This boosts the unit’s durability and performance.
While it increases the cost, it’s arguably worthwhile in terms of increasing the overall quality of the unit. If you’re in the market for a quality banjo, then you won’t have to deal with low quality/durability. Materials like maple can increase the durability of the banjo.
- Unique Sound
The Clarophone produces a unique sound that catches people’s attention then holds it. That’s due to the maple rim/neck and Remo Fiberskyn head. These features produce a unique sound that’s even unique vs. other banjos.
- “U”-Shape Neck
This is a vintage shape, so if you’re looking for an old-school aesthetic, this is a good option. When selecting a banjo, the main options you have in terms of aesthetics are modern and classic. If you’re looking for the latter, then this banjo is a good option.
- Finger style-friendly
If you want to use a banjo for finger-style playing, then this unit is one you should definitely consider. That’s due to the boosted volume the banjo’s decision provides. You’ll get precise notes from the stringed instrument.
- Maple Resonator
This is another component of the banjo that’s made of maple. It’s another important component of the banjo, so maple is a good option in terms of aesthetics and durability.
- Concert Size
The Gretsch G9470 Clarophone is a concert-size banjo. This makes it a good option for solo and band performances on stages. So if you’re planning to play the banjo during concerts, this is a model you should consider purchasing.
- Pearloid Position Markers
The position markers are inlays like dots that function as reference points on the banjo’s fingerboard in order to informer the player where particular notes are located.
Inlays like dots have the same function. They’re just different in the aesthetics they provide. Dots are basics inlays while others are fancier.
Pearloid is a type of plastic that’s designed to look like mother of pearl. It’s often used to produce musical instruments like banjos and electric guitars.
5. CC-100RW Resonator Cripple Creek Banjo by Gold Tone
- Brass Tone Ring
When picking a banjo, the tone is easily one of the most important features to consider when picking a model. This unit features a tone ring made of rolled brass. This is a population option due to the eye-catching gold appearance.
The tone ring changes a banjo’s basic tone character. If a banjo has the “right” tone ring, it results in a warm sound that’s pleasing to the ear. The material used to produce the tone ring is certainly a key factor.
- Maple Resonator
The unit includes a 130-inch maple resonator. Maple is a good option in terms of the banjos’ aesthetics, tone, and durability. This explains why maple is often used for key components of banjos.
- Banjo Accessories
This banjo is sometimes bundled with extra accessories. It’s a plus since it adds value to your purchase. These are often items you’d normally buy anyway, so it’s a plus they’re bundled with the unit, so you get more value. This can reduce the overall cost of the banjo and accessories.
Another plus of this banjo is it’s in the under-$600 price tag. This offers more value. So if you’re a newbie banjo player, it helps you to save money on your purchase.
Even if you aren’t a new player, you might be on a shoestring budget. In that case, the banjo’s price is a big plus. The price is affordable while you won’t have to shell out big bucks.
- Wide Fingerboard
This is another key feature of the banjo since it provides more versatility. It’s important for your hands to be as comfy as possible when operating the banjo. There are various factors, but wide fingerboard is one of the most critical ones.
- Straight-line Tailpiece
This is a key feature that spread out the strings, so they pull straight from the banjo’s tailpiece to the bridge. This differs from other units that are at an angle.
The tailpiece you pick is greatly due to the particular type of music you play. For example, bluegrass players often say the straight-line tailpiece significantly improves their instrument’s tone.
6. Goodtime 2 5-String Banjo by Deering
- 5-String Banjo
Why should you consider this option vs. others like a 6-string banjo? You can find 6/7-string banjos, but these are technically banjo/guitar hybrids. If you want a genuine banjo, then you should consider a stringed instrument with 4/5 strings.
Another issue to take up when picking a particular banjo is the type of music you’ll be playing. For example, a 5-string banjo is a good option for folk music. There are other styles like bluegrass banjo, which gives you the option to add a resonator.
Since a 5-string banjo is longer, it also produces a lower tune. You can play it using either a thumb-pick or 2 metal finger picks.
The big plus of a 5-string banjo is this is the most common one on the market. So it’s much easier to find at music stores and online retailers like Amazon.com.
You can play many kinds of music like country with this type of banjo. The unique peg style/type make it a good option. If you want to play raw music, then a 5-string banjo is definitely a wise option.
- Sealed Geared Tuners
The sealed tuners help to prevent things like corrosion from forming on them, which would have a negative effect on the banjo’s sound/performance. It’s actually easier to maintain open tuner. However, since they’re more vulnerable to dirt and crud, it’s a major drawback.
Sealed tuners are often smoother. The main difference between the two types of tuners is style. So it’s something to consider when picking one or the other.
The Goodtime 2 offers good quality and affordable price. In fact, this was the reason the original Goodtime banjos were designed. The banjo isn’t “cheap,” but it’s in the under-$700 price range, so it’s more affordable than many other models.
- Rock Maple Neck
Rock maple is also known as hard maple. It’s important to know the differences between hard/soft maple. “Soft Maple” doesn’t actually refer to any species of maple. It’s instead a term that includes many different species.
Hard Maple usually refers to a particular type of maple species. It’s also known as Sugar/Rock maple. There’s also Black Maple, which is considered a sub-species of the same tree.
- Resonator Back
This feature provides the Good time 2 with better sound projection. This is one of the most important factors to consider when picking a banjo.
- Adjustable Tailpiece
Quality banjos have this feature except for several old-school banjos on the market. These units have a small/fixed tailpiece to provide a traditional look/sound.
When picking an adjustable tailpiece make sure it doesn’t have its own resonance. It’s better if it doesn’t ring/interfere with the rim’s tone. This usually includes non-resonant alloys.
- Maple Rim
This banjo includes a 3-ply maple rim. Maple is one of the most common woods used to make stringed instruments like banjos. That’s due to various factors like aesthetics and durability. So when picking a banjo, you should definitely consider materials like maple.
Best Beginner Banjo Under $500 – 2019
1. KA-BJN-BKC Concert Banjo by Kala
- Remo Weather King banjo head
The banjo head is Remo Weather King. Remo is a famous company in the musical instruments industry. When picking a banjo, it’s critical to pick one with high-quality components.
That’s why the Remo Weather King banjo head is a good option. It will improve your playing performance when playing the banjo.
- Classic Finish
The KA-BJN-BKC has a classic black finish. This is a plus if you’re looking for a basic banjo. If you’re a new banjo player you also probably won’t want a flashy-looking banjo. That’s why this classic finish makes it a good option.
- Open-back Banjo
When picking a banjo one of the main options is open and closed back units. These two banjos actually have a similar design. The main difference is an open-back banjo doesn’t have a “bowl” that’s mounted to the sound chamber’s back.
In the case of open-back banjos, the strings are usually placed a little farther from the fretboard. That’s due to the way the instrument is played. There are no fingerpicks used, so the style is different.
- 8-inch Hoop Diameter
This is another important feature to consider when picking a new banjo. The majority of today’s banjo heads have a diameter of 11-inches. On the other hand, old-school banjos might have rim diameters ranging from 10-inches to 12-inches.
Since this is a budget banjo, the 8-inch hoop diameter typically won’t be a problem. That’s especially the case if you’re a newbie banjo player. This banjo is in the under-$400 price range so the hoop’s diameter also really an issue.
- Mahogany Neck
Mahogany wood is one of the world’s most valuable wood species. It has a pink coloring that becomes red-brown when the wood ages.
Mahogany provides various benefits over other woods. For example, there are few knots/voids. It provides the wood with a grain pattern that’s smooth/even.
- 5-ply Maple Shell
This is an important component of the banjo since it affects the durability. The 5-ply maple shell helps to ensure the shell is sturdy and durable. This will help to extend the lifespan of the banjo, which is critical.
2. Learn the Banjo Starter Pack by Rogue
- Travel/Starter Banjo
This banjo is a good option if you’re looking for a travel or starter banjo. In that case, you probably won’t want to spend a small fortune on the instrument. If that’s the case, Learn the Banjo is a good option.
After you learn the basics about how to play the banjo, you’ll be ready to upgrade to a better unit. However, if you’re just getting started then this model is a good option.
- Starter Pack
Since this product is a starter pack so you’ll have everything you need to learn how to play the banjo.
Gig Bag/Banjo Case: These items can help protect your banjo. Both items make it easier when you have to transfer your banjo from storage to gigs, and so on.
Chord Book: one of the most important aspects of playing the banjo/guitar is chords. This chord book is a valuable item to help you learn them better.
Banjo DVD: This is a great resource for learning how to play a 5-string banjo. You can watch experts as they teach the basics of banjo playing. This, in turn, will make the learning curve steeper.
The DVD includes tab charts and interactive features. These are key features for improving your banjo-learning journey.
- Satin Finish
This provides the banjo with a smooth and classic look. When selecting a banjo, the finish is something you should consider in order since it affects the look and feel of the banjo.
- 18 Brackets
When picking a banjo one of the main issues to take up is the number of brackets the unit has. 24 is generally too many. On the other hand, 6 brackets is quite low.
- Affordable Price
The under-$300 price tag is definitely a plus if this is your first banjo. In that case, you probably won’t want to shell out $60,000 for a banjo.
An open-back banjo doesn’t have anything that’s attached to the back. So you can see inside the sound-making chamber.
Open-back banjos tend to have a lighter weight, mellower tone, and lower price tag. There’s also a different set-up than resonator banjo. This often involves a string action that’s higher.
3. AC-6+6 String Banjo by Gold Tone
- Padded Gig Bag
After purchasing a banjo, you’ll want to protect your investment. There are various ways to do that, but a gig bag is one of the best ones. Whenever you transport the bag, the banjo will be protected.
The padding offers extra protection for the banjo. So even if it gets bumped around it won’t be a major issue.
- Powerful Sound
This wood body banjo doesn’t look like others on the market, but that’s OK. If you’re looking for a powerful-sounding banjo, then this is a good option. It’s a good option for playing on stage, around campfires, etc.
- Travel/Starter Banjo
If you’re looking for a travel or starter banjo, then this is a good option. It’s in the under-$500 price range so you won’t have to spend big bucks on the banjo. That’s likely a situation you’ll want to avoid when picking a starter/travel banjo.
- Maple/Ebony Cap Bridge
These are some of the most durable materials that can be found on banjos. When selecting a stringed instrument, it’s critical to look for such materials to increase its durability.
- SMP-VC Sliding Magnetic Pickup
This feature provides various benefits. In particular, there’s no soldering needed or drilling a hole into the instrument’s rim.
The SMP is installed onto the unit’s coordinator rods. It’s possible to slide it to any position between the neck/bridge in order to get the exact tone you want.
On this banjo, they’re molded via a durable, strong, and durable composite material. This helps to extend the lifespan of your banjo, which is always a plus.
- Medium Frets
When picking a banjo, the frets are some of the most important components to consider in order to pick the right model for your needs.
In terms of the frets’ sizes, you’ll find a wide range available. The size you pick depends on your banjo playing style. So this is an issue to consider before selecting your next banjo.
4. B50 5-String Banjo By Ibanez
- Mahogany Neck
Mahogany is a good option for banjo materials in terms of aesthetics, tone, and durability. That’s why it’s a plus this banjo is constructed of mahogany. The neck is one of the most important components of banjos.
- Affordable Price
The under-$300 price range is ideal if you’re purchasing your first banjo or if you’re on a shoestring budget.
- Single Coordinator Rod
These rods should be solid and made of an alloy that’s non-interfering. Many people make the wrong assumption that a pair of coordinating rods are always required.
That’s because it depends on the banjo’s design/stability. For example, some banjos require 2 coordinating rods since they’re constructed around a very thin plywood rim.
However, in many cases, 1 coordinating rod is enough when the banjo is built around a 3-ply maple rim.
- Banjo Tradition
Ibanez was in the banjo business three decades ago but is back. The company was once well-known for banjo design and manufacturing. The company is back manufacturing banjos.
- Purpleheart Fretboard
The purple heart plant has deep purple leaves and flowers that are light purple-pink. Purple heart is used as a houseplant and in gardens.
The plant is native to Mexico and grows well in warm climates. It’s also able to grow in regions that have mild winters and little/no frost. The purple color can be a big contrast with other plants around it.
5. Americana B10 Banjo by Washburn
- 22 Fret Fingerboard
This banjo features deluxe Pearl inlays. This is fancier than basic inlays that are included with other banjos. One of the main issues when picking a banjo is the number of frets.
- Maple Bridge
The bride is ebony-tipped to provide clear tones, which improves the overall sound of the banjo.
- Mahogany Resonator
Mahogany is an excellent option in terms of aesthetics and durability. When picking a banjo one of the most important issues is the materials that are used. This will help to produce the best results in terms of form and function.
- Company’s Tradition
Washburn was founded in 1883. So it has 130+ years of experience producing stringed instruments. As a result, you’ll benefit from the company’s vast industry experience.
- Chrome Armrest
This feature helps to boost playing comfort, which is critical for reducing fatigue. That’s a situation you’ll want to avoid when playing your stringed instrument.
The more ergonomic the banjo is the fewer problems you’ll have when playing. This is also more likely during long sessions whether it’s a concert or jam.
- Die-Cast Tuners
This helps provide smooth tuning, which is very important when using a stringed instrument. It helps to ensure you’ll get the best sound possible from the instrument. Die-cast tuners help to provide smooth tuning.
6. BW2E Backwoods Electric Banjo by Dean Guitars
- Established Company
Dean Guitars is a US manufacturer of stringed instruments. The company is best known for its acoustic/bass/electric guitars. However, it also produces other stringed instruments like banjos and ukuleles.
Dean Zelinsky founded Dean Guitars 40+ years ago in 1976. It became famous a few decades later when Armadillo Enterprises bought the trade name. Dean now has 100+ employees. Buying a banjo from an established company provides several benefits in terms of quality products/service.
- 24-piece Bracket
In the past 24 brackets were standard on banjos. However, the situation has changed and today so you can find many models with fewer brackets. That said, a higher number of brackets means more tension on each of the brackets.
There are some situations when more brackets are more practical. That includes a tackhead banjo in which more tacks results in more even tension. So it basically depends on the type of banjo you’re shopping for and the type of music you’ll be playing.
- Mahogany Resonator
This hardwood is one of the top options for stringed instruments in terms of factors like aesthetics and tones. The timer is red-brown and straight-grained.
Mahogany is often used for the backs/sides and necks of stringed instruments like guitars and banjos. This is due to the ability to create a deep/warm tone vs. other woods like birch or maple.
- Volume Control
Here’s another plus to consider with this banjo over others. It’s a key benefit that allows you to increase/decrease the stringed instrument’s volume based on your needs. You can get full electric banjo tones for rigs or Pas.
- Humbucker Pickup
This is a kind of pickup that’s effective for a few key goals. They’re built to end the issue of suppressing external noise. They’re designed with 2 coils in a method that cancels out electrical hum and extra noises that impact single-coil pickups. They “buck” (cancel) unwanted hum, which gives the pickup their name.
Another plus of this setup is it produces a loud/warm sound vs. the bright/sharp sound of several single-coil pickups. This is another advantage of this banjo compared to others on the market.
- Good Value
The BW2E Electric Banjo has lots of features yet is in the under-$500 price tag. This makes it a practical option since you won’t have to spend big bucks for your next guitar.
- Open-faced Tuner
What’s open tuning all about? In this case, all of the banjo’s strings are tuned to the notes of one chord that’s easily identified. So when you strum the banjo’s open chords, you play that chord.
It’s critical for the chord to be easily identified. The reason is you can identify nearly any series of notes as one chord.
These items are bundled with the Dean banjo
- Pearl Dot Inlays
You can find a wide array of inlays when buying a guitar or banjo. They can range from basic to ornate, so it really depends on which ones you prefer. Mother of pearl is one of the inlays available when picking a new banjo. Other options include shells.
7. Goodtime Tenor 4-String Banjo (17-Fret) by Deering
The Deering Goodtime 4-String Banjo is priced in the under-$500 range. This is much more affordable than the $55,000 Super Earl unit. On the other hand, you’ll also be getting a quality unit vs. generic and off brands, which is something you’ll generally want to do.
If you’re a newbie player, then you’ll likely want to avoid spending big bucks on your first banjo. In that case, this Deering Goodtime Tenor Banjo is a good choice. You could upgrade later to a pricier unit if you want to do that.
- Good Workmanship
This is a basic banjo that’s a real workhorse if you’re looking for a quality instrument without a lot of frills. It’s an eye-catching, and lightweight banjo yet features good quality
It’s worth noting this model doesn’t have the loud kick that’s provided by a resonator banjo. However, it still produces enough good sound for a good playing experience. This makes it a wise choice if you’re looking for a high-quality banjo at a good price.
This banjo weighs around 4 pounds. This makes it more versatile for hiking, camping, traveling, etc. A modern banjo typically weighs up to about 3x that weight so 4 pounds is quite lightweight. This makes it easier to take the banjo with you when traveling, for example.
- 17-fret Neck
The banjo’s shorter neck reduces the banjo’s end-to-end length to just 30 inches. This makes the stringed instrument easier to relocate and play. It’s definitely a plus when you’re a newbie banjo player since it makes the instrument easier to play.
- Established Company
Deering Banjo Company was founded 40+ years ago in 1975 by Greg & Janet Deering. The company is headquartered in the US state California and manufactures several banjo brands including Deering and Goodtime.
The co-founder Greg Deering started learning woodworking and received his first tools/toolbox at an early age.
Deering has now reached several milestones including the Goodtime Series’ launch a few decades ago in 1997. The company also launched the game-changing banjo tone Eagle 2 in 2009. The company has now sold 100,000+ instruments.
- Crossover Instrument
If you already know how to play another stringed instrument, this model is a good option due to the tuning. It’s tuned in 5ths like a cello or viola. It’s also a good cross-over instrument due to other factors. They include the banjo’s weight and length.
- Easy to Play
This is one of the biggest features to consider when looking for a banjo. This is especially true when you’re buying your first banjo, for example. In that case, you won’t want to deal with the hassles of learning how to play a complex banjo.
This banjo is produced at the Deering Banjo factory located in California. This provides the company with better quality control vs. outsourcing the manufacturing to another country, for example.
Another benefit of constructing in-house banjos is it reduces the overall cost. This allows Deering to pass on the savings to its customers.
8. BW6 Backwoods 6-String Banjo by Dean Guitars
- Quality Manufacturer
This Dean 6-String Banjo is from a company that was founded 40+ years ago in 1976. When picking a banjo, it’s important to pick a company with lots of know-how and experience in the industry. When selecting products from such companies, you’re more likely to have a good buyer’s experience.
- 6-String Banjo
This Hybrid Banjo is a 6-string instrument. It’s interesting that some of the first 6-string banjos were 5-string models plus a bass string. This allowed the instruments to hit low notes like G/F based on the tuning. These early 6-string instruments nearly gave the same range as guitars.
Today many Us-made 6-string zither banjos actually look like old-school 5-string banjos. However, there’s an extra peg that produces out of the center of the peghead. Sometimes the fifth string is tunneled, and other times it’s not.
There are other types of 6-string banjos on the market. The main benefit is they provide a playing experience that’s more guitar-like so if that’s the experience you want then this is a wise choice over other options.
- Remo Head
The 1—inch Remo head is made by the world’s biggest drumhead company. The company was founded 60+ years ago and is based on the first synthetic Mylar drumheads invented by Remo D Belli.
Since then the company has released many innovative products. In fact, the company is an industry leader in terms of the technical/musical edge Remo Drumheads deliver to customers.
- Grover Tuners
Grover Musical Products is a US company that designs/makes/distributes tuners for stringed instruments including banjos and guitars. The company was founded 60+ years ago, and its name was acquired from AD Grover & Son. Grover is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio (US).
Grover tuners are considered to be high-quality by many guitar and banjo players. These tuners are generally considered better than cheap plastic units. This, in turn, improves your overall banjo-playing experience.
- Overall Quality
This banjo is produced with quality form and functionality. Not only are these banjos high-quality but also offer affordable prices. Backwoods banjos are reminiscent of 1930 banjos. They include a traditional look and bright tone. So it’s a good option if you’re looking for high performance and old-school aesthetics.
- Crossover Instrument
This 6-string banjo is a cross-over banjo/guitar. It’s also known as a “banjitar.” This is another name for a 6-string banjo. This type of instrument has often been referred to as a gimmick.
This banjo was developed for guitar players who wanted to play another 6-string instrument that had a banjo sound. It’s interesting that this banjo was invented more than a century ago when the mandolin was the US’ most popular fretted instrument. During this time the jazz banjo was about to replace it.
The Zither, Jazz-inspired, and Droneless units were the two main types of 6-string banjos. This Dean banjo is one of the various 6-string models on the market. If you already know how to play the guitar, then this is definitely an option worth considering.
9. Goodtime Banjo Ukulele by Deering
- Banjo Ukulele
You’ve probably heard of a banjo and ukulele but how about a banjo ukulele? This stringed instrument is also known as a “banjolele.” This is a hybrid instrument that blends the top features of the banjo and ukulele.
This produces a unique sound that adds color/texture to different musical ensembles. So if you want the best of both worlds the banjolele is definitely a good option. There are tons of brands, models, and features to consider so make sure to do your homework so you can choose wisely.
- Quality Materials
This banjo includes high-quality materials like Maple Rim and Neck. Maple is one of the best options in terms of aesthetics and functionality. It’s easily one of the most popular hardwoods available for stringed instruments.
This is part of the investment in a new musical instrument. While high-quality materials have a higher price tag, they’re arguably worthwhile in terms of the banjo’s aesthetics and performance.
- Natural Color
This is a matter of preference, but if you’re looking for a natural look, then this banjo is an outstanding option. This provides an old-school/classic look that is definitely a plus.
- Concert Scale
This unit includes a full 1—inch rim, which produces a warm yet loud/full sound across the strings. These tones are improved with the renaissance had and bridge plate. This boosts sustain and lowers bass.
- Affordable Price
The price tag of the Goodtime Banjo-Ukulele is in the under-$500 price range. Is this the cheapest unit in the world? It’s not, but it’s still affordable vs. other banjos that cost tens of thousands of dollars, for example.
As always it’s important not only to consider the price of the musical instrument but also the value you get. This model offers a good option in terms of that area.
- Versatile Design
This banjo provides versatility that makes it a good option for various activities/places like camping, camping, office, etc. It’s loaded with features that produce a high-end sound quality. This allows you to use the same banjo for several functions.
- Extra Features
These include 17 frets, 16 hooks/nuts, and others. These plusses provide a better experience since it improves the overall form/function of the banjo. Even if you don’t’ want tons of bells & whistles, it’s a plus to have some like these. You’ll also get:
- Extended Fingerboard
- Concert Scale
- Deering Bridge Plate
- Super Nylogut Stringers
Banjo Buying Guide
If you’re in the market for a banjo, it’s important to know which features to consider in order to pick the right instrument for your needs. Here are some of the most important ones:
TYPES OF BANJOS
In terms of playability this type of banjo function like a standard guitar. Thus, it’s a good option if you’re a guitarist who wants to try out a different stringed instrument.
These stringed instruments are like guitars in terms of the 6 strings. The big difference is the banjo sounds like bright and twangy like—well, a banjo.
These banjos are available in open/closed back variants, and you can even find 6-string electric banjos. Buyer beware! If you’re picking your first stringed instrument, you should expect to spend more time learning the instrument than a standard 5-string banjo.
If you’re a beginner banjoist, then this is a good option. It became popular during the 1830s and included a specialized/unique string that was shorter and gave the musician the ability to play the banjo at a higher/open pitch.
Another plus of the 5-stringed banjo is you can play the traditional banjo sound that people around the world are used to hearing.
These banjos don’t have to be played as base instruments. They’re in fact played in different styles like:
- Chord Melody
- Chordal Accompaniment
- Duo Style
- Single String Melody
There are two types. The Tenor Banjo has a short neck and was became popular in 1910. This type of banjo contains short scale frets and is used mostly for chordal accompaniment.
Then there’s the Plectrum Banjo. The musician plays this instrument like a guitar. It contains a pick and is sometimes used to play jazz music.
Open vs. Closed Back
These are two of the main types of banjos on the market. The main design of each type is similar, but the sound is quite different.
As its name suggests, an open-back banjo doesn’t have a back cover and has an open sound chamber. Here are some of the features:
- Classic banjo design
- Low volume
- Fingerpicks not needed
- Soft/mellow sound for mountain style
This is also known as a Resonator Banjo. Here are some of the main features:
- Wooden “bowl” covers the sound chamber
- Heavier than open-back
- Bright/twangy sound
- Strings usually close to the fretboard
- Popular with bluegrass players
- Fingerpicks can be used
- Sound is projected out to audience
You can pay over $60,000 for a banjo if you want the crème de la crème. That said, you can still find quality units in the under-$500 price range.
What determines the price tag? There are various factors including the materials, craftsmanship, bells & whistles, and so on. As always it’s important to set a budget so you don’t spend more than you can afford.
It’s easy to test the banjo’s quality by pressing down each string along the fingerboard’s length. The strings should easily contact the frets while not causing pain in your fingers.
Strum/pluck each string then together. You should hear a pleasant/clear sound that doesn’t include any buzzes/rattles.
Meanwhile, the tuners should have enclosed mechanics and function smoothly. Most banjos prefer a 5-string tuner since tuning pegs that are friction-based might not maintain their tune effectively.
We’ve just reviewed some of the top banjos on the market. If you’re an experienced banjo player, then you’ll likely want to pick a high-priced unit. Meanwhile, if you’re a newbie player, then an under-$500 banjo would be better.
In both situations, you should first determine which features are the most important to you. Are you looking for maple or mahogany components? Are you looking for 6, 18, or 24 brackets? Do you want an open or closed-back unit? These are some of the many issues to take up when picking a banjo.
Our pick for the best overall banjo is: Learn the Banjo Starter Pack by Rogue. It includes some basic features like a satin finish, high-end head, and 18 brackets. This helps make the banjo a good model for new banjoists.
This banjo is also in the under-$300 price range. So you won’t have to break the bank learning how to play the guitar. That’s likely a situation you’ll want to avoid just in case you decide it’s not the right instrument for you.
However, what puts this Rogue banjo over the top is the starter pack. Besides the banjo, you’ll also get a banjo case, gig bag, chord book, and DVD.
This is what makes the Learn the Banjo Starter Pack the best overall option. The instrument itself isn’t the fanciest one on the market. That’s OK since you’re just getting started with the instrument. You can spend more money once you get in some practice. Until then this Rogue unit is the best banjo for the buck!