Best Beginner Banjo Review in 2019 [The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide]

So, you want to learn how to play the banjo. For that, you need to have your own instrument. Otherwise, how will you practice and get better without having one yourself?

However, you should not go straight from wanting to learn the banjo to buying one. You should know more about the instrument first. Keep an eye out for what features, brands, models to look for and what to avoid. Read on about factors you need to consider before buying and how to make a smart purchase.

Already feeling worried about the daunting task ahead of you?

Don’t be!

We’re here to guide you to the banjo which will be the perfect fit for you. We have included reviews of best banjo for beginners and a buying guide to nudge you in the right direction.

Here, you’ll definitely find something worth your time.

So, let’s find out what lies ahead.

Best Beginner Banjos

Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo

Jameson Guitars 5 String Banjo Review

Perhaps the best banjo for beginners out there, the Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo offers high-quality features at an affordable price.

This is a closed-back banjo with an adjustable hinged tailpiece, 24 brackets, a chrome-plated armrest, and a geared 5th tuner. Usually only found on expensive models, the geared 5th tuner is an upgraded version of the common friction tuner.

The Jameson 5-String Banjo also features a mahogany resonator and neck with a 7 ply mahogany and maple shell. The white binding and maple bridge gives the banjo a stunning high-gloss finish. The blend with maple and mahogany enables the instrument to produce a warmer yet louder sound.

It comes completely out of the box which makes this banjo perfect for beginners. You don’t need to fix or install anything. Just tune the instrument a little at first and you are ready to play. Also, you can remove the resonator easily, so that you can play versatile sound.

Even if you are left-handed, you don’t need to worry. Jameson provides left-handed options for this model as well.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Durable Yet Elegant Design
  • Slim Neck for Better Playability
  • Quality Sound with Good Tunes
  • Built to Last for Many Sessions
  • Easy and Clear Instructions
  • Affordable with Versatile Features

Cons

  • Frets Quality Not Best
  • Less Durable Strings

Kmise Concert-Sized Banjo

kmise banjolele

The Kmise Concert Sized Banjo Ukulele is for players wanting to experiment with their sounds. The banjo ukulele or more like banjolele generally has the neck of the ukulele and the body of the banjo.

The 4-String banjo is equipped with a polyester drum head, superior Aquila String and high quality closed geared tuners. These features are responsible for producing a bright and percussive tone and in tune sound as well.

Another great feature is the removable backplate. By detaching the back, you will get a brighter sound. But with the plate, you will get traditional resonator style as in a mellower, softer sound.

The banjolele is concert-sized meaning it is more suitable for adult players, rather than children. However, it is lightweight and the multifunctional adjustable strap makes it comfortable for playing.

Moreover, the piezo pickup helps to connect the recording equipment for stage performance. So you will also be able to use this banjolele as a multifunctional musical instrument.

The best aspect of this model is perhaps the package it comes with. The Kmise 23 inch banjo comes with an additional bag, tuner, strap, picks, extra strings, and a few more accessories. The cost is already inexpensive to begin with. The accessories with the instrument in that price come as an added bonus.

If you are a beginner looking for something different, then you won’t get a better deal than this model.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Great Intonation and Sound
  • Versatile Music Style Compatible
  • High Density and High Wear Resistance
  • Comfortable and Easy on Fingers
  • Complete Accessories
  • Suitable for Practice and Performance

Cons

  • Less Stable Tuning
  • Strings Need Replacing

ADM 5-String Banjo

adm 5 string banjo

For entry-level musicians, ADM provides high quality, hand-crafted instruments at an affordable price. This 5-String Banjo certainly delivers on that.

The first thing you will notice is that it comes with extra perks. The model includes accessories like a carry bag, strings, straps, cleaning cloth, digital tuner, 3 extra picks, and replacement strings. You get all of these with no additional cost!

This full-size banjo is also equipped with standard features similar to other 5-string banjos. It has a geared 5th tuner, 24 brackets, a maple bridge, an adjustable hinged tailpiece, and chrome-plated armrest.

The mahogany resonator and the maple and mahogany shell produce a bright clear sound. The rosewood structure and high-gloss finish give it an appealing and elegant look.

The easy and comfortable nature of playing this banjo makes it such a great instrument for beginners.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Variety of Extra Accessories
  • Nice Sound Matching Different Genres
  • Easy Tuning and Smooth Fretting
  • Strings Easy to Press Down
  • Comfortable While Playing
  • No Assembly Needed

Cons

  • Picks Too Small for Some
  • Resonator Not Too Loud

Best 4-String Banjo for Beginners

Deering Goodtime 17-Fret Tenor Banjo

deering goodtime banjo

Deering has always been a reputed brand for producing high-quality banjos. This Goodtime 17 Fret Tenor banjo is another example of that.

The banjo is outfitted with a 3 ply maple rim, a maple resonator, and the maple neck. The 4-string slender neck produces a bright clear tone. Maple is the most popular choice in the world for making renowned banjos. It has a closed-back design with a resonator. However, you can remove the resonator and play different styles of music.

4-string tenor banjos are mostly used for Irish music. This Goodtime banjo is also suitable for Celtic music, Dixieland, Jazz or Folk music. The standard tenor tuning is C, G, D, A or G, D, A, E.

As a newbie, this banjo is a good choice for easy playability. Being lightweight, you can simply play the instrument without any strain. Along with being comfortable, you can carry this banjo and go places easily.

Simple design, world-class tone, and economical price – the Deering Goodtime 17 Fret Tenor Banjo is perfect for beginners and professionals alike.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Great for Irish or Jazz Music
  • Shorter Neck for Easy Play
  • All Geared Tuners
  • Nickel Plated Accents
  • Lightweight and Portable
  • Classic Maple Tone Sound

Cons

  • Set-Up Needed
  • No Accessories Included

Vangoa 4-String Banjo Ukulele

Vangoa 4-String Banjo Ukulele

The Vangoa Banjo Ukulele or Banjolele comes with a total package. The whole bundle consists of a carry bag, a tuner, extra strings, bracket wrench, strap, picks and pickup for stage performing. If you are a beginner, these accessories will help you out a lot.

The banjo is constructed with high-quality materials. Sapele has been used for back and sides and environment-friendly walnut for the fingerboard. There is also a maple bridge, 18 frets, and chrome geared tuning pegs. All these features contribute to a sweet, resonant and clean tone with louder projection.

Another great feature is that it is designed to be a converter banjo. You can play this banjolele in two styles depending on whichever suits your mood. If you remove the back you’ll get a bright sound. But if you want to play traditionally with a resonator then you will get the softer mellower sound.

The bracket wench also comes with the package. Its function is to tighten or loosen the banjo head and you can easily do that according to your need. The high tenacity Aquila strings are nicely placed and easy to tune. It is not delivered tuned but that’s when the tuner comes in handy.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Well-Built with Great Sound
  • Full Bundle Available
  • Different Style Convertible
  • Concert Ready Features
  • Portable and Secure Bag
  • Extremely Affordable

Cons

  • Initial Set-Up RequiredInitial Set-Up Required
  • Strings Need More Tuning

Kmise 4-String Banjo Ukulele (MI1868)

The Kmise 4-String Banjo Ukulele can be also called a Banjolele, which is a combination of the easy playing technique of ukulele and the louder volume of a banjo. It uses standard ukulele tuning of G-C-E-A.

The banjolele features a maple bridge, walnut fingerboard and 18 frets with chrome tuners. The rest of the body is constructed from Sapele mahogany. The exclusive Aquila string, the fretboard, and the fret wires are preset neat and smooth. That way you can play comfortably without scratching your hands.

The 23-inch concert size banjolele is the same as the standard size banjo. With the sweet tone of a ukulele and the louder tangy sound of a banjo, this is perfect for performance as well. If you want a louder sound than it comes with, you can remove the back of the banjo. That way you will get a more mellow soft sound.

This model comes with a package containing accessories like a zippered bag and a tuner as well. These certainly add more value to the instrument and additional perks for you. If you are looking for the perfect mix of warmth and twang, then this banjolele is highly recommended.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Solid and Durable Built
  • High-Quality Professional Look
  • Wider Neck Easier for Playing
  • Both Loud and Soft Sound Possible
  • Lightweight and Comfortable
  • Inexpensive with Multifunction

Cons

  • Variable Tuning Stability
  • Clip-On Tuners Not Working Well

Best 5-String Banjo for Beginners

Dean Backwoods Mini Travel Banjo

dean backwoods mini travel banjo

Are you looking for a mini banjo to take with you on travel? Or are you just looking for a mini version which is better-fitted to your body?

If the answer is yes, then the Dean Backwoods Mini Travel Banjo is a great option for you. Like other models from the Backwoods series, it also has that classic Backwoods look.

This mini banjo features a mahogany body, mahogany neck, and Remo head. It is equipped with a rosewood fretboard, a maple/black walnut bridge, white dot inlays, and open-gear tuners. You will be getting high-quality material and construction at an affordable rate.

If you are someone who wants a compact banjo with standard tuning, then go for it. The scale length on this model is viable for the standard banjo tuning that is G, D, G, B, D. However, it is better suited to a higher tuning.

You will be certainly happy with its size and playability. The size is not that mini but it’s not that heavy either. As the name implies, you can easily take it to hiking trips or just on any travel. It comfortably fits in overhead compartments or under the airplane seat.

Who knows! The Dean Mini Travel Banjo may become your next travel buddy.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Bright Tone with Traditional Look
  • Lightweight and Compact Design
  • Comfortably Spaced Fretboard
  • Great Playability
  • Dual Action Truss Rod
  • Value for Money

Cons

  • Instrument Not Assembled
  • Heavier Strings Required for Tuning

Vangoa 5-String Banjo

vengoa 5 string banjo mini

The Vangoa 5-String Banjo is flexible enough to suit different demands and playing styles of the musicians. High-quality construction, optimized performance, and reasonable price make it a perfect banjo for beginners.

The high-quality Remo drum head along with the mahogany neck, sides and back produce a warm and soft sound. The durable hardwood is not liable to warp or corrode and has a glossy smooth texture. The nice surface makes it comfortable for you to hold the banjo and play.

It is also equipped with a truss rod that can adjust the string height. Because of that you will feel comfortable and perform fluently. The 24 brackets stabilize the top and provide more precise sound. It is a resonator banjo but the back can be removed thus making it an open-back one. That way you can play with different sounds and styles. You can also connect the instrument to an amplifier by the pickup system and take it out for shows.

The 5-string banjo comes with a kit including a bag, a tuner, strap, picks, an extra set of strings, and a pickup. These extra accessories make this banjo very cost-effective. For that, you can save money and don’t have to buy all the gear separately.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • High-Quality Durable Construction
  • Well-Suited to Traditional and Modern Music
  • Small and Large Size Both Available
  • Easy to Set Up and Play
  • Economical Kit Included
  • Affordable and Portable

Cons

  • Not Too Bright Tone
  • Some Features Seem Lacking

Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo

deering goodtime 5 string banjo

No wonder the most popular open-back banjo for beginners comes from one of the best banjo brands out there. Yes, we are talking about Deering and the Deering Goodtime 5-String banjo.

Whether you are a newbie or pro, with smaller hands or larger, this banjo is suited to all of you. The 22 frets are precise and ensure correct intonation. And the slender maple neck is comfortable enough for you to hold and play. The geared 5th string tuner helps you tune the strings and the adjustable tailpiece allows you to experiment with different tones.

The manufacturer used high-quality tonewoods such as a 3 ply maple rim and maple/ebony bridge to deliver excellent sound and durability. Despite using sturdy hardwood, the build is lightweight with a clear satin finish. The banjo comes fully assembled out of the box. You don’t need to set-up or adjust anything.

The Deering Goodtime Banjo produces a round brighter tone and is a perfect choice for Clawhammer style musicians.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Great Intonation and Playability
  • Easily Played and Well-Fretted
  • Sharp Sound from Maple Resonator
  • Right-Hand and Left-Hand Models
  • Reliable and Solid Built
  • Lightweight and Excellent for Travel

Cons

  • No truss Rod
  • No armrest

Best 6-String Banjo for Beginners

Jameson 6-String Banjo Guitar

Jameson 6 String Banjo Guitar

The 6-string Banjo Guitar from Jameson optimizes the 6-string banjo rule. That is – tunes and plays like a guitar, sounds like a banjo. Musicians affectionately call this model banjitar for being such a clever mix between banjo and guitar.

The banjo offers a closed-back mahogany resonator, 24 brackets, a maple bridge, an adjustable hinged tailpiece, and chrome-plated armrest.  The neck has a 7-ply Maple and Mahogany shell with high-gloss finish gives it an appealing appearance. The Diecast Enclosed Tuners helps your playing with plenty of volume and resonance.

Probably its best feature is that it is great for players of any age or ability. Whether you are a beginner learning to play the banjo or a pro looking for something different to try, this is a perfect option for you.

Also, this Jameson banjo plays like a guitar.  So you can learn easily if you are already used to playing the guitar.  Along with the warm, bright and crisp it produces, it is made from high-quality materials. That’s another reason for it being durable and long-lasting.

If you want to try something new without spending a lot of money, then go for this Jameson banjitar.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • High-Quality Design
  • Rich, Warm, Resonating Tone
  • Well-Constructed and In-Tune Sound
  • Long Period of Playing
  • Suitable for Beginners and Pros
  • Budget-Friendly

Cons

  • Resonator Can’t Be Removed
  • Set-Up Required Before Playing

Best Acoustic-Electric Banjo for Beginners

Dean Backwoods 2 Acoustic-Electric 5-String Banjo

dean backwoods 2 acoustic-electric 5-string banjo

Dean offers the best of both traditional tone and modern performance in their Backwoods series. The Acoustic-Electric 5-String Banjo delivers full-on that promise.

The banjo sports a mahogany body and neck and a rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot inlays.  The transparent Remo head and 24 brackets ensure greater tension stability. The vintage die-cast tuner helps you maintain the tune and produce an authentic and articulate sound.

Another great feature is the DMT design Humbucker in the backwoods series. The pickup helps to deliver the genuine banjo sound while playing it through speaker cabs and combo amplifiers. You can plug into your PA or rig and you are ready to rock on electric banjo tones. This model provides you the experience of both the worlds of acoustic and electric banjos.

This 5-string banjo is easy and comfortable to use. The armrest gives you support for your hands and you will not have strained your body even with playing for hours. The design is more suited to right-handed players. With chrome-plated hardware and gloss natural finish, the banjo gives off a certain classy appearance.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Volume Control Knob
  • Maximum Versatility
  • Higher and Brighter Sound
  • Great Precision for Fingering
  • Acoustic and Electric Settings
  • Well-Suited to Concert Performance

Cons

  • No Additional Accessories
  • Slightly Difficult Set-Up

Deering Goodtime Acoustic-Electric Banjo

deering goodtime acoustic electric banjo

Similar to other Deering products, the Goodtime Acoustic-Electric Banjo brings about high-class quality with great functionality. If you are looking for incredible volume without feedback and excellent banjo tone, then this model is the answer for you.

The Deering is reputed for classic construction with quality materials. This banjo also guarantees a quality built with its slender maple neck, a maple/ebony bridge and the 3 ply violin grade maple rim. The geared 5th tuner, nickel frets, and steel tension hoops add more in tuned and accurate sound. It uses the G, D, G, B, D in standard G tuning.

This 5-string banjo boasts off a Kavanjo Banjo Pickup System which is used by many world-famous musicians. The pickup is extremely feedback resistant and you can use any effects pedals, amps or other electronic effects the same as used with an electric guitar. Any stage with electric guitars, you can perform there with this banjo as well.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Durable Satin Finish
  • Stable and Quality Construction
  • Steel Coordinator Rod for Adjustments
  • Easy to Play with Clear Note Separation
  • Genuine Round Full-Bodied Tone
  • Pickup System for Concert Use

Cons

  • Slightly Expensive
  • Initial Assembly Needed

Best Beginner Banjo for the Money

Pyle 5-String Geared Tunable Banjo

pyle 5 string banjo

The design of Pyle 5-String Geared Tunable Banjo is a nod to the traditional early 20th century models.

This banjo features a rosewood fingerboard, mahogany neck, sides and back, a shabili wood body, and a maple wood bridge. The components of this instrument are precisely constructed with the finest quality materials. That’s why this PBJ60 model is great for delivering a strong clear sound that is perfect for any music genre.

It also offers a geared 5th tuner, white jade turner pegs, and a Remo drumhead. There is a universal adjustable truss rod that helps to modify the sound of your banjo. The coated and polished rich wood finish gives a high-gloss appearance.

The banjo is suitable for beginners not only for its affordability. Rather it’s because of how easy and comfortably you can play this instrument. Being very lightweight, you can carry it wherever you go. Also, the chrome-plated armrest provides support while playing.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Traditional and Elegant Design
  • Easy and Comfortable Playing
  • Clear and Strong Sound
  • Lightweight
  • Not Too Hard on the Fingers
  • Affordable for Beginners

Cons

  • Requires Set-up
  • Loose Fifth Peg

Resoluute 5-String Resonator Banjo

resoluute 5 string banjo

The 5-String Resonator Banjo from Resoluute offers you professional functionality at an incredibly affordable price.

The Resoluute banjo is equipped with 24 brackets to enhance the tension of the body and the 5th tuner to ensure the best pitch and tune. The professional Remo drumhead maximizes the sound and impact. The body is lightweight and comfortable enough for playability.

It also features a maple fingerboard and a mahogany resonator. The high-quality maple wood has a smooth texture and easy to play with. The resonator can be removed easily to give you quieter open-back playing. Just by removing or fitting the resonator, you can try the Clawhammer technique, folk or bluegrass music.

One of the best aspects of this model is it comes fully assembled with an informative banjo guide. You don’t need to worry much about setting up the instrument. If you are just starting to learn to play the banjo, then the Beginner Banjo Guide will be the absolute help for you. Also, the upgraded packaging ensures the banjo comes gently packed and padded without any damage.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Aesthetically Attractive Design
  • Consistent Crisp Loud Sound
  • Solid Maple Wood Construction
  • Removable Resonator for Versatility
  • No Buzzing or Dead Notes
  • Affordable and Easy to Use

Cons

  • Frequent Tuning Required
  • Difficult Resonator Adjustment

Buying Guide for Beginners

Earlier you learned about the best models available on the market. Now it’s time to consider the factors that will help you find the banjo you need.

Before making the purchase, learn about what features make a banjo great. Also, some banjos may not be suited to your needs or expertise. What is the best banjo for beginners will not be perfect for professionals. Figure out why you need the banjo first.

Do you want an open-back or closed-back? How many numbers of strings or what type of wood you prefer? Are you left-handed or right-handed?

You can easily find all these answers in the following buying guide. Let’s proceed!

Open-back vs. Closed-back

The first thing you should look for is whether you want an open-back or a closed-back banjo. The classic banjos used to have an open back. The closed-back banjos have a resonator to project the sound and making it larger. They are also called resonator banjos.

Even though the basic design is similar, both banjos produce different volume and sound. Before committing to one, first, know the main differences between both types.

Open-Back Banjo

  • No Back Cover
  • Original Banjo Design
  • Low Volume
  • Fingerpicks Not Required
  • Soft/Mellow Sound for Mountain Style
  • Lightweight
  • Popular with Clawhammer Style

Closed-Back (Resonator) Banjo

  • Wooden “Bowl” Covering the Sound Chamber
  • Strings Placed Closer to the Fretboard
  • Louder Sound Projected Out to Audience
  • Use of Fingerpicks
  • Bright/Vivid Sound
  • Heavier Than Open-Back
  • Ideal for Bluegrass Players

If you have already decided to play bluegrass, then go for a closed-back banjo. However as a beginner, perhaps you are not sure of your style yet and just looking for something to play with. Then open-back is the best option. Besides, you can always switch up later if you aren’t satisfied while playing.

Number of Strings

The number of strings on a banjo is not only for playing more notes. Rather distinct styles of music depend on banjos with different numbers of strings.

To an extent, a banjo has anything from four to twelve strings. But the most common types are 4-string banjos, 5-string banjos, and 6-string banjos.

4-String Banjo

Traditional and classic banjos used to have 4 strings. These banjos aren’t played as base instruments. Rather they are played in different styles like Chord melody, Chordal Accompaniment, Tremolo, Single string melody and Duo style.

There are two types of 4-string banjos, such as:

Plectrum Banjo

It can be played like a guitar with a pick. Besides, it has been utilized for playing jazz music.

Tenor Banjo

It has a shorter neck and short scale frets. And it is mostly used for chordal accompaniment.

5-String Banjo

Most professional players consider it to be the best banjo due to its popular design, playability, and tradition. The unique fifth string is shorter and gives off a higher open sound.

It comes with either an open-back or a closed-back with resonator and suitable for traditional styles. It also provides plenty of versatility and a favorite for Clawhammer, Frailing, Bluegrass, Classical and Folk players.

If you want to play the traditional banjo sound, then the 5-string banjo is the answer.

6-String Banjo

6-string banjos are tuned similarly to a standard guitar. So if you are a guitar player, you can easily play this instrument. However, if you are planning to become a professional banjo player, it is not the best option for you.

Most banjo playing techniques are different from guitar playing techniques. So to be able to play the distinct banjo style, you should look for other models instead.

So which will suit you the most as a beginner?

Well, in that case, you should consider the 5-string banjos. These are the most common and most preferred choice of professional banjo players around the world.

Type of Wood

The type of wood used in constructing the banjo is the most important factor in its tonal quality. The most crucial part of the banjo’s construction is the banjo’s rim, which is also known as its “pot”. For a quality sound, the rim needs to be made out of a firm resonant material.

The other major wood component of the banjo is its neck. The best ones are made from hardwood, which helps to maintain stability, brightness, and clarity.

There are typically three types of wood used for building banjos, and each offers a unique tone and response.

Mahogany

It gives a gentle, warm sound and a slower response. If you are not looking for a bright sound or quick response, then mahogany wood banjo will be ideal for you.

Maple

It is a much harder wood than mahogany so the sound is also louder. It gives a clear sharp sound. Also, you’ll have increased control over volume. That is you can play either very soft or very loud.

Walnut

It is the least common wood choice and rarely used in making banjos. Walnut also gives an in-between sound; it is brighter than mahogany and warmer than maple.

Therefore as a beginner, you need to consider the type of wood used in making the banjo for it will influence and determine the sound you produce.

Playability

The wooden component of the banjo is not the only factor to determine the quality of the sound. The thickness, thinness, contour or shape of the neck, are crucial factors to consider as well.

Whether thick or slender, the shape of the neck is one major factor that influences playability. With a slender and comfortable neck, you can play the banjo with ease. You won’t need to strain to reach for any string or fret.

Therefore it is important to buy banjos from a reliable manufacturer. A banjo needs to be accurately shaped and fretted to play in tune. Another thing to consider is the tone ring. Better instruments tend to have a tone ring, but lesser instruments don’t. So look for a tone ring on the model you want to purchase.

Acoustic vs. Electric

Electric banjos are not so common like electric ukuleles or guitars, but definitely, you can find some available options. The electric banjos sound pretty quieter compared to acoustic banjos. Although with amplifiers, the sound can be much louder.

If you are on a budget, then it’s better to go for acoustic banjos. They are more common and way less expensive than electric ones. You’ll be easily able to choose a quality acoustic banjo within your budget.

Left-handed vs. Right-handed

There are banjos out there suitable for both left-handed players and right-handed players. First, determine which hand you are going to play with. For playing the banjo, your dominant hand is crucial as banjos are set up differently for left or right hands. So, get the one that suits your dominant hand the best.

Conclusion

So, have you found out what you came here looking for? Could we answer your questions?

As a final thought, choose something which meets your needs and budget as well. Don’t buy something you’ll regret later on. Look for the banjo you’ll get the most out of yet which won’t make a dent on your budget.

The banjo you are planning to buy, it’s better to hold and play it before making the purchase. Have a feel for the instrument in your hands At least.

Because what is the best banjo for beginners may not be the ideal one for you. Only you can decide which banjo is going to be yours.

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