Best Banjo for Beginners : Complete Buying Guide And Reviews
If your aim is to uncover the best banjo brands on a budget, then you are in the right place.
Before we go into details of the best banjo for beginners, check out these must-read factors that will make your search for a good quality banjo easier and more successful. Read on!
This banjo buying guide is a necessity for every beginner planning to invest in a brand new banjo. It is a comprehensive review of some of the popular banjo brands and other vital things that will help you make the right choice when buying a banjo.
Table of Contents
- 1 Importance of Banjo Reviews & How we picked the Best Banjo For Beginners
- 2 Top 7 Best Banjo for Beginners and All Ages
- 2.1 Rogue Banjo Starter Pack Review
- 2.2 Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo Review
- 2.3 Jameson 5 string banjo Review
- 2.4 Epiphone MB-100 Open Back Banjo Review
- 2.5 Oscar Schmidt OB5 Gloss Mahogany 5-String Banjo Review
- 2.6 PYLE-PRO PBJ60 5 String Banjo Review
- 2.7 Luna Folk Series Celtic Five-String Banjo Review
- 3 10 Things Beginners Should Look Out for When Buying A Banjo
- 4 Parts of the Banjo
- 5 Most Important Banjo Accessories beginners Should Include in Their Budget
- 6 Banjo Mentainance: What Every Beginner Should Do
- 7 Common Questions Beginners Ask & Answers:
- 8 Final Words
Importance of Banjo Reviews & How we picked the Best Banjo For Beginners
This review is going to point you to the best banjos for the money.
Banjo reviews are a great tool for beginners who have little or no experience on how to spot a good banjo. Details of the best banjo for the bucks have been put together to help beginners to make the right choice.
Top 7 Best Banjo for Beginners and All Ages
Full Product Review
Rogue Banjo Starter Pack
Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo
Jameson 5 string banjo
Epiphone MB-100 Open Back Banjo
Oscar Schmidt OB5 5-String Banjo
PYLE-PRO PBJ60 5 String Banjo
Luna Folk Series Celtic Five-String Banjo
Below are the best beginner banjos and the most popular in the market. These instruments are fairly priced but offer great value for the money. You can read and make a decision based on your personal needs and budgets because they come at different prices.
Rogue Banjo Starter Pack Review
Editor Rating: 4.4/5
Rogue is a big name when it comes to making quality but inexpensive banjos.
They have the least-priced banjos in the market though the quality of the instrument reflects the price.
Weighing in at only 9.4 pounds, the Rogue Learn the Banjo Starter Pack is fairly portable and also a great choice for individuals just starting out.
It comes with a complete starter pack that beginners need to get started such as a chord book, how-to guide, and a gig bag.
Features & Buyer’s Benefits of the Rogue Banjo
Benefits for Players
First-rated tuning machine
Easy to use
Less friction & allows the’ hand to glide up and down the neck with ease.
Open back style
5-String Banjo DVD with Tab chart
Guide for beginners
- Sounds great for the price
- Great instrument to learn with
- Great price
- Super sturdy
- The bridge has to be installed properly before one can start playing.
- Not the best to use for stage performance
- Gig bag offers limited protection
- It is not the prettiest on the market
Rogue banjo review – Final Thought
If you are looking for a good quality banjo to appease your itching fingers but don't want to spend too much, then the Rogue Learn the Banjo Starter Pack is a good instrument to invest in.
It is not the prettiest of banjos but you might not get a better one at this price point.
Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo Review
Editor Rating: 4.8/5
It is impossible to talk about best banjos in the world without mentioning any model from Deering Goodtime.
As the largest American-banjo manufacturer established in 1975, the company have remained consistent with the quality of banjo they produce throughout the years.
This Deering Goodtime 4 lbs lightweight banjo packs a punch with its bright tone and loudness as a result of its 3 plies 11 inches maple rim.
Benefits for Players
Sealed Geared tuning machine
Retains tune well
22 pressed in nickel silver frets
Accurately fretted and does not buzz
Single Coordinator Rod
Allows easy adjustment
Maple & Ebony bridge
Delivers good balance of richness and clarity of sound
3-ply maple rim
Great intonation & playability
Stable and durable
Open back style
Lightweight making it more comfortable to hold & transport.
- Product has 6 years warranty
- Great for beginners and advanced players
- Lightweight makes it comfortable to carry and travel with
- The bridge is better than the ones found in most budget banjos.
- Body looks pretty and finish is even throughout
- Neck is not adjustable because it doesn’t have a truss rod
- Does not come with a gig bag
- The tension hoop is un-plated
Deering Goodtime Banjo Review – Final Thought
Deering Goodtime has some advantages over expensive professional grade models.
It weighs just 4 pounds, making it easy to travel with and also to the beach or camping, unlike the heavier and higher priced models.
Deering has a solid reputation and known for building reliable and quality banjos. This banjo has a six-year warranty, so you can be sure this will stick with you for a longer time.
Jameson 5 string banjo Review
Editor Rating: 4.8/5
Jameson is one of the big shots in the instrument-making business that has always strived to make playing music more affordable for all.
The Jameson Guitar 5 string banjo offers a unique combination of great build quality, performance, and price.
It comes with great features such as a geared 5th string tuner for easy tuning, real wood bridge, solid back and 24 brackets, in addition to other offerings.
Features and Buyer’s Benefits of the Jameson 5 string banjo
Benefits for Players
Geared 5th tuner
Easy and precise tuning
Great projection and tone
Weighs 9.9 pounds
Hard maple bridge
More volume & durability
Designed for right handed players
Smooth & very comfortable to hold and play
- Great quality workmanship.
- Fret ends are properly dressed.
- Holds tune quite well even after playing for extended periods.
- Has adjustable truss rod
- Great quality instrument for the price
- The action is a bit high which means more pressure has to be applied to get the strings to touch the neck.
- Finish and staining in the back are not complete, leaving the instrument with a rougher edge.
- It does not come with a gig bag, meaning one has to spend additional money to buy a bag
Jameson Banjo Review- Final Thought
If you are just starting out on playing the banjo, but don’t want to spend a ton of money on buying your first instrument, then the best banjo for beginners you should be looking at is the Jameson banjo.
This banjo is a great entry-level banjo that is not only affordable but will stick around for quite a long time.
Epiphone MB-100 Open Back Banjo Review
Editor Rating: 4.2/5
Founded in 1873, Epiphone has evolved into one of the world’s most reputable instrument builder.
The company hails from Nashville Tennessee, a well-recognized bluegrass country and has remained consistent with the quality and price of the instrument since inception.
The MB-100 Open Back Banjo is Epiphone’s lower end banjo and has some great features.
It is made of rosewood fretboard, mahogany body and offers a warm sound.
Features and Buyer’s Benefits of the MB-100 Open Back Banjo
Benefits for Players
Bright tone and durability
Weighs 3.9 pounds
Comfortable to play for extended periods.
Open back design
Comfortable to hold and solid
Bright and clear sound
Looks more appealing
- Lightweight makes it comfortable on the shoulder
- Perfect for traveling
- Great price
- The bridge is not installed and has no sign to direct beginners on where it should be.
- Neck width is narrow, which may be good for people with smaller fingers or kids.
- Has no strap buttons but that’s understandable considering its price tag
Epiphone banjo review – Final Thought
If you are looking for the best inexpensive banjo to start with, the Epiphone MB-100 open back banjo is a great option.
Though this comes with a mouthwatering price tag, you still need to get a professional to set it up before you play.
Just get a hard shell case and set this up nicely and you will know you invested wisely.
Oscar Schmidt OB5 Gloss Mahogany 5-String Banjo Review
Editor Rating: 4.2/5
In the area of folk music, Oscar Schmidt as remained a leader since 1886 till present.
The company is known to produce affordable and high-quality instruments, and their OB5 Gloss Mahogany 5-string Banjo reflects that.
It is constructed with 30 tone ring brackets made of high-quality aluminum and geared 5th tuners which allow the instrument to maintain its tune even after heavy playing.
The beautiful styling and sweet sound of the OB5 Gloss also make it even more satisfying to the most-demanding of banjo pickers.
Bluegrass lovers will have a blast with this banjo, too!
Benefits for Players
Delivers warm tone
Bright tone and durability
Perfectly installed and delivers clear sound
Multi inlay rosewood fretboard
Durable and offers bright sound
Enhance look of the instrument
30 bracket cast aluminum tone ring
Great tension and tone
Geared 5th string tuner
Holds tune well and very easy to use
- Great price
- Easy to set up
- Projects well
- High volume and clear sound
- Great instrument for beginners and advanced players
- Needs proper setup on arrival before playing.
- Not easy to hold while playing without a strap
- A bit heavier than other banjos in this category
- More weight makes it uncomfortable to play for extended periods without a strap.
Oscar Schmidt Banjo Review – Final Thought
The sound of this banjo is not the best when compared to other higher model, but you can’t get anything better at this price point.
This Oscar Schmidt 5 string banjo has great volume and sound, too! And is a great option for beginners looking to buy their first banjo that has a resonator without breaking the bank.
PYLE-PRO PBJ60 5 String Banjo Review
Editor Rating: 4.8/5
PylePro is one of the top instrument makers that have never compromised on quality despite offering a fair price for their instruments.
Founded in the 1960s, and their new banjo line till date has received positive reception and comments from players in different parts of the world.
The Pyle-Pro PBJ60 5-string banjo is built with chrome plated hardware making it look more professional and attractive to play in the open.
The Maple bridge mahogany back, neck and sides combine to give this tiny but comfortable to play banjo a warm but clear sound.
Features and Buyer’s Benefits of the PBJ60 5-string banjo
Benefits for Players
Easy to adjust
Neatly fretted and does not buzz
Tame unwanted overtone & delivers clear sound
Mahogany neck, body, and sides
Warmer & softer tone
Chrome plated hardware
Resistant to the effect of acid from the skin & prevents tarnish
- Smooth action
- Bridge is easy to install
- Strings gives a clear tone and are easy on the fingers
- Stays in tune once strings have properly settled in.
- Possibly the best banjo for beginners under $200
- Quite heavy - weighs 7.2 lbs and has small size
- Its 5th string’s tuning peg is friction and not geared. But replacing it with a geared peg does not cost much.
- Gaps between frets closest to the pot are very slight. But this does not affect playability in any way.
PylePro Banjo Review – Final Thought
Though inexpensive, PylePro banjo is durable and sounds great.
The sturdiness and playability also make it great for players just starting out on the banjo.
This PylePro Banjo may not be great for stage performance.
But if you need a good companion, something to keep your fingers warm and set your banjo-playing career rolling, then it’s worth buying.
Luna Folk Series Celtic Five-String Banjo Review
Editor Rating: 4.8/5
Luna is among companies that produce quality entry-level banjo for beginners.
With a beautiful Celtic knot design and sound that is as beautiful as it looks, the Luna Folk Series Celtic Five-String Banjo ranks as the best banjo for beginners at this price point.
The sound is loud and crystal clear. Great to practice with and to be clearly heard in group settings
Features and Buyer’s Benefits of the Luna Folk Series Celtic
Benefits for Players
Lightweight (2 lbs)
Great travel banjo
Warm and softer tone
24 pieces bracket
Great tension and sturdy
Even on the rosewood fretboard and plays well without buzzing
Accurate and comfortable to hold and play
- Comfortable to hold and play for extended periods
- Great strings for strumming/finger picking
- Great for beginners and experienced players
- Possibly the best banjo for beginners under $400
- Drum-head gets fingerprinted easily
- Case is sold separately
- Rim is made of plywood but overall is a decent banjo for the money
Luna 5 string banjo review – Final Thought
Whether you are a beginner just starting out or an experienced professional looking for more affordable banjo with great sound, the Luna Folk Series Celtic is a decent banjo worth buying.
10 Things Beginners Should Look Out for When Buying A Banjo
Before you start reading reviews about different banjo brands, it is important you know these 10 important factors about the banjo.
These 10 factors are what every beginner must think through carefully before buying their first banjo. Continue reading as I walk you through each of them.
1. Budget & Price
As a beginner, you have to first and foremost determine your budget size before you start searching for a brand new banjo to buy.
The price of the instrument varies from one brand to another but the least you can get start at $150 and to higher figures.
Though the higher the price the more reliable the construction and material of the instrument would be but have it at the back of your mind that most expensive brands are identical to some inexpensive banjo brands.
Their cosmetic differences may just be the major reason they are highly priced and nothing more.
There are many inexpensive banjos that offer great value for the money. So price cannot be the yardstick for concluding on the quality of the instrument alone.
Instead, consider its features and specifications to see whether they suit your needs or not.
Consider banjo brands in your budget range and do a little research to find the best banjo for beginners within that range. This will help to narrow your search and stop you from getting carried away.
2. Music type
Though, as a beginner, your main focus might just be to learn the banjo. But it is very necessary for you to choose the type of music you plan on playing from the start. Is it bluegrass, or Dixieland tunes?
- Bluegrass, Jazz, Country, Classical, Gospel, Folk and Rock Music
To play these types of music, you would need a five string banjo.
- Dixieland, Irish Music:
The four-string banjo is the right choice if your plan is to play these music types. It's bright and prominent tone makes it great for this type of music.
In this category of four string banjo, we have the following types:
- Tenor Banjos with 17 Frets
- Tenor Banjos with 19 Frets
- Plectrum Banjos
3. Which Hand is Dominant?
Whether you are a right-handed or left-handed player, you can still find a banjo that suits your dominant hand
There are banjos for left-handed players and right-handed players too. However, most banjos are for right-handed players, so notify the seller that you are left-handed if that's the case.
4. Open back VS Closed back
Simply put, a banjo with an open back means the back side is not covered. This type of banjo is not produced with the resonator plate and sound is projected backward before it leaves.
Open back banjos have a mellower tone and are preferred for old time or string band music where the volume of the banjo does not need to be too loud. Singers and songwriters also prefer this banjo type.
On the other hand, the closed back banjo has a resonator. The back side is closed and sound projects forward. The resonator gives the closed banjo more fuller and louder sound than the open banjo type.
The closed banjo is popularly used for bluegrass music.
Open or closed back: Which of them is the best banjo for beginners?
The answer is both of them are great for beginners. The major thing is that closed back banjo has more volume and is suitable for playing the bluegrass music.
So if it is bluegrass you want to play, then, choose a closed back banjo. Again, do not forget that the closed back banjo is more expensive.
But if you do not know what type of music to play or want to venture into playing folk music where the loudness of the banjo does not really count, then, choose the open back banjo.
5. Choose Banjo Type to Buy
After you have chosen the type of music you want to play and concluded whether you want an open back or closed back banjo, you still need to determine the type of banjo you want to buy.
The different types of banjo come with a different number of strings. You will find:
- Four String Banjo
- Five String Banjo
- Six String Banjo
There is also the 12 string banjo, fretless banjo, and electric banjo.
The four-string banjo is sometimes referred to as “ukulele banjo” because of its size and the fact that it plays more like the ukulele.
But it still sounds very much like a banjo. This four string banjo offers a bright and prominent tone.
It is also great for playing Dixieland Jazz kind of music. Examples of the four string banjos are the plectrum and tenor banjo.
On the other hand, the five string banjo is used in almost all recordings and performance with the banjo. It is commonly used by professional banjo players for songs like folk and bluegrass. It is available in the closed or open back type.
The built of the six string banjo is almost exactly like a guitar. From the peg head of the instrument down to the neck, except for the pot assembly it originally has.
Guitar players planning to switch over to banjo will find it much easier with this banjo type.
6. Wood Type:
Summary of features of the three tone-wood types:
Creates the brightest sound
Creates the warmest sound
Sound is warmer than maple and brighter than mahogany
Response is in between the other wood types (maple & mahogany)
As a beginner, you need to consider the type of wood used in making the banjo, because wood can influence tonal quality.
An expert can go beyond wood type to spot other issues like a faulty construction, which also can affect tonal quality.
But beginners should be more concerned about the wood type at this level.
The rim (pot) which is like a wheel that goes round the banjo’s body is a very crucial part of the instrument.
The material used for the rim should be firm, vibrant and resonant to produce better quality sound.
Here are the most common types of wood for building banjo and how they sound.
- Mahogany wood:
Mahogany is the softest compared to all the hardwood types. It also gives a gentle and warm sound. Its response is also very slow compared to the other wood types.
So, players who are not looking for a bright sounding and quick responding banjo will find the banjo made of the mahogany wood ideal.
- Maple Wood:
Maple banjos are louder than banjos made of mahogany. The reason is that maple is a much harder wood than mahogany.
So less of the strings vibrating energy are being absorbed. This makes maple banjos louder than the mahogany banjo.
Maple Banjo delivers a sharper and clearer sound. Players can also play very loud or soft. The wood is also very responsive and rare to find.
This type of wood is not as popular as the mahogany or maple tonewood used in constructing the banjo. The tonal characteristics are also in between; it is brighter and warmer than mahogany and maple respectively.
7. Acoustic Vs Electric
The decision of whether to buy an electric or acoustic banjo depends on your budget size.
However, electric banjos are more expensive than the acoustic type.
The electric banjo plays quieter and much louder.
The reason most beginners stick with the acoustic banjo is that the electric banjo is more expensive. They are also not common like electric ukulele or guitar.
Acoustic banjo can be amplified with a microphone to play louder. And unlike the electric type that is not so common to find and cost more, acoustic banjo is less expensive and common to find.
Beginners on a budget can also find quality acoustic banjo much easier.
8. New VS Used
Used products may have tons of problems that a beginner or someone with less knowledge on the banjo cannot detect.
Take for instance, when you are buying a used car for the first time compared to when an auto mechanic is going for a used car.
The auto mechanic can easily spot all or most of the problems with the car, which you may not notice.
Only buy used banjo from a dealer you trust completely. Or you can ask a friend you trust to help out. He or she should have experience on the banjo too.
It is not encouraging to buy a used banjo online, especially from a dealer you don’t know much about. The reason is that you never can tell how faulty the instrument is by mere looking at it online.
Another factor to consider when buying a banjo is the hardware such as the tailpiece. The material used for this part should not vibrate with a tone of its own.
Resonant metals like bronze and brass should not be used to construct the banjo tailpiece.
Such materials will only add an uncontrollable sound that cannot blend well with the banjo rim.
The shape of a banjo neck has a vital role to play. The thickness, thinness, contour or shape of the neck, are important factors to consider.
The shape of the banjo neck or contour can be used to determine the quality of the instrument. Some banjos have a slender and comfortable neck profile that allows a player to reach for any string or fret with ease.
Whether thick or slender, the shape of the neck is one major factor that influences playability. A poorly shaped neck will make the player strain to reach the banjo frets during playing.
So, it's not just about the neck being slender or thick, it is about being correctly shaped that also counts.
It is important for beginners to buy their banjos from a reliable manufacturer with excellent craftsmanship.
These manufacturers shape the neck of the instrument using computer-controlled milling machines to ensure precision.
The machine also cuts the fret slot into the neck precisely while the frets are pressed into each of the slots accurately.
In addition to the shape or size of the neck, a poorly fretted banjo will never play in tune. So buy one that is accurately shaped and fretted to enjoy playing the instrument.
Parts of the Banjo
Before you start learning the banjo, it is important that you learn about the different parts of the instrument. Below is an image showing different banjo parts.
Most Important Banjo Accessories beginners Should Include in Their Budget
If you are just in the planning phase of getting a new banjo, then you should include all the relevant accessories that will help you as a player.
Most banjos come with relevant accessories to let you start playing immediately but if the one you bought doesn't, then get ready to place an order.
1. Quality Banjo Tuner
Those new strings are going to demand regular tuning before they break in. And besides, no individual will like to play or practice with a poorly tuned banjo.
Beginners need to practice and master how to tune their banjo manually that is using their ears. But before that, getting a good tuner will make things simple.
For fairly priced and easy-to-use tuners, I would recommend Korg and Snark.
2. Banjo Picks
Playing banjo with a pick is a matter of choice, nevertheless, picks are great accessories beginners might also need along the line as they continue to play the banjo.
There are assortments of decent picks online, but I would recommend the National Finger Pick Set.
3. A Banjo Case or Bag
Even the best banjo in the world needs a case or bag for protection. And if you are really serious about keeping your banjo for a long time, then you must carry it along in a bag or case.
Most new banjo comes with a case or bag, but many of them do not protect the instrument completely.
You can choose a hard case or well-padded bag. Ensure you use a case especially if you like traveling a lot. Choose a case that fits the instrument properly.
Banjos are not just heavy but have an unbalanced weight which lies all in the head.
By using a strap, you will not only have the banjo in place but feel more comfortable as you play.
In fact, a steady head and neck are essential when learning some fingerpicking.
You will find a great selection of banjo straps to choose from here.
Banjo Mentainance: What Every Beginner Should Do
It is important for beginners to know how to maintain their banjo. Not only to find the best banjo for beginners but without maintenance, the instrument, might not last longer
The top performance and quality of your banjo are dependent on what you do daily to maintain it.
Create a routine to maintain your banjo any time you put it away.
1. Use a clean cloth on the metal parts. Wipe off the smudges and fingerprints there.
Acid from your skin can eat up or tarnish your banjo’s metal parts so you must wipe thoroughly. However, a chrome plated banjo is resistant to tarnish.
Run the clean cloth through from one end of the strings and fingerboard to the other.
Cleaning Your Banjo:
There isn’t much to say here. If you want your banjo to remain at its best, then clean and polish the metal and wooden part at least every 3-6 months. You can also do this often.
Common Questions Beginners Ask & Answers:
1. Where are banjos made?
Banjos are made in different parts of the world. They are made in the United States of America, China, Korea and Great Britain. But it hasn’t been manufactured in large quantity in Great Britain for many years.
2. What is the tuning for a 4 string banjo?
We have three popular and common configurations for banjos with 4 strings. There is also three common tunings for the 4 string banjo.
- Irish tuning is EADG
- Jazz tuning is ADGC
- Plectrum tuning is DBGC.
3. What is 6 strings banjo?
This banjo is called “Guitar player’s banjo” because it has the same tuning as a guitar.
It is also the perfect crossover banjo for guitarists looking to branch into playing the instrument.
Other names for the 6 strings banjo are; ganjos, guitjos, and banjitars.
4. Can I find the best banjo for beginners who are left-handed?
Yes, you will find the right banjo for your dominant hand. However, make sure you ask questions or check properly before buying a banjo suitable for your dominant hand.
5. Can I order for a banjo online?
Yes, you can order for a banjo online and it will be delivered to your doorsteps. Buying online is very convenient and simple. Price is also reduced.
6. What is the best banjo for beginners?
You will find a list of the best and most popular banjo brands and model listed here. Now it is left for you to make a choice. You can choose based on your budget or features of the banjo you find suitable for your needs.
The banjo is a great instrument to learn and plan. And if you are a beginner just starting out on the banjo, buying the best will make your journey smoother.
We are confident you now know more about the banjo. So choose any among the best banjo for beginners we have provided for you and start making music.
Please don’t forget to share your experience on the comment section below, thanks for stopping by!