Playing the banjo can be a great new hobby, but discovering the best banjo brands before you fully understand how your instrument works can be quite challenging, especially if you’re not exactly certain about all that you want to do with your instrument.
Thankfully, most brands of banjo for beginners are of an affordable price range and produces a generally good banjo.
Before you make any final decisions about your banjo, take some time to research about all of the different banjo brands, makes and models of banjos and banjos for beginners on the market. You should also consider refining what you’re looking to achieve with your instrument:
- Are you looking to play the banjo live?
- Which banjo music do you like? Maybe bluegrass? What genre of music are you looking to play with your banjo?
- How many strings would you like your instrument to have?
- Do you prefer a tenor banjo?
These are all basic questions you should ask yourself in order to help yourself better understand which types of banjos would best suit your personal taste and needs before starting playing the banjo. I have created today’s article as a guide for you to follow when you’re looking to purchase a banjo, banjo brands as well as reviews of the best beginner banjos on the market for you to have a deering goodtime.
What to look for when buying a banjo
When looking around on the market for your new banjo purchase, you’re probably focusing most of your attention on the reviews other people leave, specific models that are on the market, and banjo brands that can produce a good banjo. However, before you finalize any purchase, take a quick look at this guide to figure out some basic tips for banjo shopping.
Resonators are a metal plate that is attached to the back of the banjo to project the sound the instrument forward. These metal plates provide banjos with a fuller and louder sound and tune, which makes the banjos that come with a resonator a better fit for playing with an ensemble, especially if you’re looking to have the banjo sound past other musical instruments. Resonator banjos are extremely common among bluegrass music players, so I would highly recommend picking a resonator banjo if you’re interested in playing bluegrass.
Open back banjos
Banjos that are referred as an open back banjo are banjos that do not have a resonator plate. The sound that open back banjos create is projected back towards the player and then is projected forwards. This produces a darker and more mellow tone that is very popular among folk music players.
If you’re playing the banjo for fun, and you not exactly certain what type of genre you’re looking to play, an open back banjo makes a great beginner’s instrument.
How many strings should you choose?
The different number of strings that are available on a banjo isn’t just increasing your note range, but instead distinct the different types of music you can play with your banjo. Specific styles of music are connected to banjos that have a different number of strings.
Banjos that are the most commonly bought at five-string banjos, but four-string banjos all the way 12 string banjos are also available on the market; you can even find fretless banjos is you know where to look.
Most beginner banjo players end up choosing five-string banjos, although the majority of professional banjo players tend to lean towards five-string banjos. Five-string banjos can be found on open back banjos and resonator banjos, which means that you can find a five-string banjo that fits any genre of music.
However, you should be aware that unlike mandolins and guitars, the five strings on a banjo are tuned from highest to lowest as you move across the neck, which is opposite in comparison to mandolins and guitars. Guitars and mandolins are tuned from lowest to highest as you climb up the neck.
What are the best woods to have on my banjo?
If you’re a beginner banjo player, understand that when you’re doing your research that there is going to be a lot of expert banjo musicians who are going to list off all of the different aspects of the construction of a banjo that changes the tone quality of the instrument.
As a beginner banjo player, all you need to focus on is the different types of wood that go into creating your banjo, as the types of woods that are used will have the biggest impact on the tone quality your instrument is producing.
The most important piece that goes into the construction of the banjo is the hoop that goes around the body of the instrument, which is referred to as the rim or the pot of the banjo.
It’s important to know this because you should look for a banjo that has a rim that is comprised of a firm, resonant wood. When you pluck the strings on your banjo, the vibrations from the strings travel through the banjo bridge and the head, all the way to the rim. The rim vibrates and helps to project the sound of these vibrations.
Banjos that are of great quality typically use several layers of maple in the composition of the rim. The rims on inexpensive banjos are either comprised of aluminum or from softer woods, which causes less resonance and a poorer sound quality. Mid-range banjos either use hardwoods or maple, but will choose from less refined pieces of wood, in order to cut down on overall costs of production.
Calfskin vs Mylar
While wood components are important in the construction of a banjo, there are a few other things that go into building this instrument that also play a large contribution to building a quality sound.
Banjo heads were traditionally comprised from calfskin; just like a drum, the banjo has a material that’s stretched across the top that acts as a sounding board. Many musicians tend to still enjoy using calfskin on their banjo, as it helps the instrument to produce a mellower sound.
Today, most banjo heads are comprised of mylar, which creates a brighter tone for the banjo; mylar is also weather and humidity proof, meaning that it won’t swell or shrink with a change in temperature or humidity.
Electric banjos or acoustic banjos?
Electric banjos typically are a lot quieter than acoustic banjos, but their sound is meant to be projected by an amplifier. Electric banjos are more difficult to find than acoustic banjos, but there are a few different options available on the market. You should be prepared to spend more on an electric banjo than an acoustic banjo; I would recommend that if you’re are banjo playing for the first time, you stick with an acoustic.
Is banjo easier to learn than acoustic guitar?
A lot of people believe that banjo is easier to learn than guitar because it has fewer strings; most banjos have five-strings, while all guitars start off at six-strings. However, this assumption is actually incorrect; banjo can be more difficult to learn how to play in comparison to acoustic guitar.
With playing banjo, you’re going to have to get used to moving your strumming wrist around more often. The thumb string (the top string on the neck) is a lot shorter than other strings on a banjo, so it starts off in the middle of the neck instead of the end of the neck.
What is the best banjo brand?
You’ve probably come to this article looking for the best brand of banjo, but the answer to that question isn’t very simple. If you’re a beginner and are really open-minded into what you’re looking for in an instrument, you have unlimited options in the market. I have created this article to provide you with an overview of the best banjo brands, as well as the most popular banjo that each brand produces.
Ibanez is a brand that’s been around since 1957 and is well-known for producing acoustic guitars; the majority of the instruments that Ibanez produces are inexpensive to middle range in terms of price.
The most popular banjo that Ibanez produces is the:
Ibanez B50 5-String Banjo
For under $300, you can purchase the Ibanez B50 5-String Banjo Naturalthat makes a great banjo for beginners to experiment with that is comparable to the Ibanez B200, but less expensive. The Ibanez closed back banjo is less expensive than the B200 because it comes with less frills, but still has the same sound integrity as their pricy B200.
The B50 is one of the best beginner-level banjos on the market and provides people who are on extreme budget with a quality option. While you may not be able to afford to invest in a high-quality instrument, you’re going to receive a high-quality sound from the B50.
Pros of the Ibanez B50:
- Professional look
- Attractive finish
- One of the best affordable (under $300) banjos on the market
- This banjo does have dot position markers, which helps musicians to keep track of the placement of frets
- Outstanding sound quality in comparison to other budget instruments, but doesn’t cost a whole lot more
Cons of the Ibanez B50:
Since this is a budget instrument, most of the banjo is put together with a machine. This means that you should expect to run into problems with quality control.
Epiphone is one of the most famous guitar brands in the industry today. This brand was bought out by Gibson in the 1950s and began producing instruments in Asia. By building instruments in Asia, Epiphone was able to provide affordable instruments, with the outstanding design behind Gibson guitars.
Epiphone MB-200 Banjo
The Epiphone MB-200 will run you around $300 and is a great instrument for both beginner banjos players and intermediate banjo players. While this instrument isn’t going to provide you with a refined tonal quality that comes out of a more expensive guitar, the MB-200 was built with amazing quality.
Pros of the MB-200:
- Lightweight, great for those with smaller statures
- Has a rich, powerful sound
- Cute cosmetic detail, such as the floral inlay pattern
Cons of the MB-200:
- I would recommend replacing the tuners on this banjo if you’re looking to maintain a consistent tuning
Deering is a brand that specializes in producing banjos, unlike 95% of other brands on the market. This company focuses mainly on producing middle to high priced banjos and is considered to be a trustworthy brand to lean to if you’re looking for a reliable banjo. The most popular banjo that Deering banjo models are:
The Goodtime banjo has an open back and serves as a great banjo for entry-level musicians. Even though this instrument is considered to be entry level, it is going to cost you a lot more than other open-back banjos that fall into the same quality. Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo
However, Deering has an outstanding track record when it comes to professional musicians and banjo players when it comes to reliability and quality; if you’re looking for a banjo that you can grow into and not have to re-buy when your skill has advanced, the Deering Goodtime bajno may be a great option for you.
Pros of the Deering Goodtime banjo:
- Great travel instrument, weighing in at only four pounds
- Made in the USA
- High-quality maple neck and rim, wood that you would only find on high-quality banjos
Cons of the Deering Goodtime banjo:
- The neck of this banjo is not adjustable, as there is no truss rod installed.
- The design isn’t very unique or fun
When you talk guitars with people who aren’t in the music industry, you’d be surprised at how many people know Fender’s name. Fender has an outstanding reputation for quality that dates back decades and not many people know that Fender not only builds guitars, but they also build banjos.
Fender Concert Tone 54 Banjo
This banjo does cost more than a lot of other beginner models on the market, but keep in mind that with a brand that’s as famous as Fender, you are in part paying for the Fender name. However, if you’re ready to invest in an instrument that’s going to last with you throughout your future (as long as you take good care of it), the Fender Concert Tone 54.
Pros of the Concert Tone 54:
- Lightweight build
- Steel tone ring, which adds to the tone quality
- Crisp, warm sound
- Attention to detail was paid when it comes to the cosmetic appearance, as there are also attractive geometric inlays on this guitar
- The banjo has a mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard which adds elegance to the whole design
Cons of the Concert Tone 54:
- While this banjo is comprised of lightweight construction, the construction has provided the instrument with a tone that’s less full sounding.
Rogue is a brand that builds a large variety of stringed instruments and sells them at an inexpensive price range that’s comfortable enough for beginners to invest in. This brand provides a unique platform to their audience by building their instruments using designs from other brands and creating inexpensive ways to build instruments for a mass market.
Rogue B30 Deluxe
The Rogue B30 Deluxe is an instrument that’s comparable to the brand less basic starter kits that you can find on Amazon or eBay. However, the Rogue B30, you are paying for the beginner’s CD, a gig bag, or a neck strap; instead, your money is going towards an instrument that’s constructed of higher quality and produces a larger sound.
If you’re an intermediate or advanced musician or banjo player, I would recommend that you check out other banjos. While this banjo is great for those of you who are on an extreme budget, I would not say that this banjo is going to last for years to come.
Pros of the Rogue B30 Deluxe:
- Amazing sound projection
- Great for people who are on an extreme budget
Cons of the Rogue B30 Deluxe:
- Comes with an aluminum rim, which is very pliable and doesn’t add to the tone quality of the banjo
- There is a gearless tuner on the drone string, which means that this top string is going to go out to tune often
- Does not have a great cosmetic appearance
FAQs About Banjos
What is the difference between open and closed back banjos?
The cost is one of the differences between open back banjos and closed back banjos, so the open back are less expensive, and also the sound they make. Open back benjos produce a mellow and softer sound, whereas closed back bajos produce louder sound.
Which is the best banjo tuner app?
If you want an application that can help you tune your banjo, you can try Yousician which is trusted among plenty of banjo and guitar players. The application offers two modes of operation: Automatic and manual, so you can choose how to adjust the tuning of your instrument.
Is banjo a musical instrument that is hard to play?
On contrary to most people’s beliefs, playing banjo is easier than playing the guitar as it has fewer strings than the guitar, and also strumming the banjo is easier and can be learned in less than 10 minutes.
If you’re on an incredibly tight budget and don’t have a whole lot of wiggle room when shopping around for your banjo, Rogue is a brand that has a list of several banjos that are extremely affordable. However, if you have the ability to take your time and save up an extra $100 for your instrument, you’ll have the ability to skip over the very basic banjos that Rogue offers and upgrade in sound, build, and quality.
There are a lot of great options when you’re looking for the perfect banjo for your own personal taste, so make sure you take your time and figure out what exactly you’re hoping to accomplish with your new instrument.