Best Beginner Banjo (2020)

Starting any new instrument is hard and can feel overwhelming when you first see the range of options that are available to you. The banjo is no exception. Many first-time players feel confused about which model to purchase, and which option or banjo brand will best suit them. 

Luckily, this handy guide is here to take you through some of the best options, answer some of your burning questions and show you some of the things to keep in mind when buying your first banjo that you’ll be able to use for every banjo you think of buying.

Whether you’re just thinking about picking up a banjo for the first time, you’re getting back into the instrument after some time away, or you think you might want something that’ll see you through your beginner years and beyond there are lots of options available and you’re sure to find something that suits you and your music.

Best Beginner Banjo

Top 5 Best Beginner Banjo 

OUR TOP PICK

ADM 5-String Banjo 24 Bracket with Closed Solid Wood Back and Geared 5th Tuner, Banjoe Beginner Kit with Gift Package 1

Summary

First up we have this closed-back option from ADM. ADM specializes in making great instruments for beginners and music students, and they only use great quality materials on their instruments. By choosing to go for an ADM banjo you can be certain that you’ll have responsive strings that won’t need too much pressure to produce the sound you want, a quality crafted body, and the included geared 5th tuner on this banjo makes it easier to tune too, which is exactly the kind of beginner-friendly thinking you’d expect from ADM.

This model is a 24-bracket 5-string closed-back banjo with as already mentioned a geared 5th tuner. It comes with everything a beginner will need to get started, including a carry bag, extra strings, a strap, and picks. If you’re just starting out going for a full comprehensive package might not be a bad idea because it’ll get you used to some of the things you need to maintain your banjo, and you’ll start to get to grips with the things you like and don’t like in terms of accessories.

This a great instrument for anyone who’s looking to start the banjo, the neck and resonator are made from mahogany, with a maple bridge and a 7-ply maple and mahogany body all of which contribute for a lovely full sound. This is a beautiful instrument that sounds great and is built to last you at least until you want to upgrade to something with a better sound. This is a great banjo to learn on, or if you’re a casual player looking to while away the long winter nights but it’s probably not going to be the perfect banjo for performers or those looking to pour a lot of time and effort into their music.

Pros

  • A great looking instrument with a lovely sound

  • Easy to tune thanks to the integrated geared 5th tuner

  • Comes with a full beginner’s bundle with everything you need to get started

  • Durable and made from quality materials

  • Great for beginners to learn on

Cons

  • Beginners bundle does not come with learner’s manual or DVD but these can easily be bought separately to supplement lessons or found for free online

ADM 5-String Banjo 24 Bracket with Closed Solid Wood Back and Geared 5th Tuner, Banjoe Beginner Kit with Gift Package 1
  • High-Quality Remo Drum Head - As Banjo panel can produce a sweet tone, ensures clarity sound, stable bridge setting when fast fingerpicking
  • Superior Material- Mahogany fingerboard and bridge, sturdy and stable, make the sound more layered; Sapele sides and back have beautiful wood grain, hard and not liable to warp or corrode, making the banjo durable.
  • Geared 5th Tuner - Important for both tuning and playability, brings you the classic tones and perfect for country, folk, bluegrass and even some modern rock. And it is important upgrade over the common friction tuner.
  • Equipped with a thicker bag to better protect the banjo,ideal for traveling, camping, hiking, taking to the beach. And Perfect for anyone who has always wanted to learn to play this iconic instrument.
  • ECONOMICAL KIT Coming with bag, digital tuner, strap, strings, picks, hanger, clearing cloth. you can get these accessories which is suited to beginner one-off at a cost-effective price.

EDITORS CHOICE

Vangoa 5 String Banjo Remo Head Closed Solid Back with beginner Kit, Tuner, Strap, Pick up, Strings, Picks and Bag

Summary

Another solid option for beginners this model also includes a beginner’s starter kit making this a great value option for those just starting to play. Made from solid mahogany, this 5-string banjo is durable and unlikely to warp or break over extended usage. The surface is nice and glossy providing a comfortable hold for the player which should make playing for longer periods a comfortable and rewarding experience.

A really interesting feature to this banjo is the removable resonator which means you can turn your closed-back banjo, into an open-backed one simply and easily, giving you a more versatile playing experience. If you wanted to play something outside of the bluegrass style, but don’t want to shell out for another banjo than this could be a great option for you.

This banjo doesn’t include a beginner’s playing guide, so if you want to supplement any lessons you might be having you may find this a bit of a problem. Luckily, there are plenty of free online resources that are easy to find so it’s really not worth worrying about. This is a slightly smaller banjo than standard, so large adults may want to look elsewhere, but this is a lovely instrument with a great sound. The banjo panel is a Remo Drumhead, which helps produce the distinctive sweet tone on this model. It can also be used to fuse different timbres in your songs if you gently beat it, adding to the versatile music this instrument is capable of creating. The included truss rod makes it easy to adjust the string height to make sure your playing is as comfortable and fluid as possible.

Pros

  • Made from mahogany which helps create a sweet and full sound

  • Removable resonator making this effectively an open back and a closed-back banjo in one package

  • Includes a beginner’s kit with all the accessories you’ll need to get started

  • Truss rod makes adjusting string height easy for a comfortable playing experience

  • A great option for beginners

Cons

  • Some adults will find this model a little small

Vangoa 5 String Banjo Remo Head Closed Solid Back with beginner Kit, Tuner, Strap, Pick up, Strings, Picks and Bag
  • 1. REMO DRUM HEAD It uses high-quality Remo drum head as Banjo panel that can produce a sweet tone. You can also gently beat the head to fusion different timbres in your melodies.
  • 2. ADJUSTABLE STRING HEIGHT It equips a truss rod that can adjust the string height, so that you will feel comfortable and perform fluently.
  • 3. DURABLE MATERIAL Mahogany neck, sides and back have beautiful wood grain, hard and not liable to warp or corrode, making the banjo durable.
  • 4. SMOOTH DECENT TOUCH It has a fine bright paint, glossy and smooth, giving you a comfortable playing experience.
  • 5. ECONOMICAL KIT Coming with bag, guitar Tuner, Strap, Pick up, Strings, Picks, you can get these accessories which is suited to beginner one-off at a cost-effective price.

BEST VALUE

Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo 24 Bracket with Closed Solid Back and Geared 5th Tuner

Summary

This option is a high-quality closed-back 5-string banjo with a great sound, ready to play right of the box. While other options may require you to fix strings or install the bridge, all this banjo requires is a little tuning and it’s ready to go. With a solid mahogany back, and a 24-bracket maple bridge this option has a lovely delicate sound. It comes with a geared 5th tuner which makes tuning incredibly easy, perfect for the beginner.

The resonator can also be removed, making this a versatile instrument suitable for most styles of banjo playing which again is a great feature for the beginner, especially if you’re not certain about a preferred style yet. This is a well-sized model great for adults but maybe a little heavy for younger players. Some beginner banjos can go out of tune the higher up the fretboard you get, but this model stays in tune like a dream for longer periods of comfortable playing.

Pros

  • Has geared 5th tuner for easy tuning

  • Lovely sound

  • Removable resonator making for versatile playing

  • Ready straight for the box without the need for set-up

  • Well sized for adults and a great option for beginners or more experienced players looking for a practice banjo

Cons

  • No beginner’s kit, meaning that new players will have to buy/find other accessories separately

Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo 24 Bracket with Closed Solid Back and Geared 5th Tuner
  • 5 String Full Size Banjo with Geared 5th Tuner
  • Amazing Low Price on Best Selling Banjo
  • 24 Bracket with Closed Mahogany Back; Nut Width - 1.25 inches
  • Made by Jameson/Davison Guitar Company. Overall length - 38 inches
  • Ships Fast - Top Seller - Customer Favorite

RUNNER UP

5-String Geared Tunable Banjo with White Jade Tune Pegs & Rosewood Fretboard Polished Rich Wood Finish Maplewood Bridge Stand & Truss Rod Adjustment Tool- Pyle PBJ60

Summary

Another model built with beginners in mind, this is a mahogany banjo with 5-strings. Lightweight, with a deliberately slim neck this is a very comfortable banjo to play, perfect for beginners who are likely to spend long periods practicing while they master the basics. The quality of this instrument means that it’s durable and likely to last you until you want to upgrade to something a bit more advanced.

The layered wood rim is a nice difference to the usual aluminum that you find in a lot of similar sort of banjos, and the tone is perfect for country, bluegrass and you even might be able to play some rock with it too!

It’s a great lightweight option too that makes it easy to take with you on a road trip for songs around the campfire once you’ve got to grips with the basics. It’s an instrument that’s made for comfort thanks to the added armrest, and it comes with a bridge stand and truss rod adjustment tool so you can make your instrument fit your needs, so it’s as comfortable as possible. The 5th string tuner makes it easy to tune and play but does not come with a geared peg but a friction peg instead. If this doesn’t suit you then it’s easy to replace. This instrument will require a little assembly, but so do many banjos and it’s an important skill to learn anyway.

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to carry, perfect for road trips and campfire songs

  • Comfortable and easy to play

  • Versatile for a wide range of genres

  • Durable and likely to last you until you wish to upgrade

  • Lovely rich sound 

Cons

  • Friction peg instead of a geared peg

5-String Geared Tunable Banjo with White Jade Tune Pegs & Rosewood Fretboard Polished Rich Wood Finish Maplewood Bridge Stand & Truss Rod Adjustment Tool- Pyle PBJ60
  • PREMIUM QUALITY - The rich wood and high-gloss finish are accented with white jade machine head tuner key pegs and chrome-plated hardware. Crafted with mahogany neck, back, and side, plus a rosewood fingerboard and Maple Wood bridge
  • FABULOUS TONE - Brings you all the classic tones of a traditional 5 string banjo. Perfect for country, folk, bluegrass, and even some modern rock. It's designed to sound as good as it looks
  • GEARED 5TH TUNER - Important for both tuning and playability. A premium feature usually found only on more expensive banjos this geared 5th tuner is an important upgrade over the common friction tuner
  • LIGHTWEIGHT - Full scale & lightweight ideal for traveling, camping, hiking, taking to the beach. Whether you are pro, a weekend warrior, a hobbyist or a beginner: Start playing your favorite songs right away
  • CLASSIC TRADITIONAL STYLE - Styled after the innovative models of the early 20th century, these new/old banjos are true players that exude undeniably providing a vibrant singing banjo tone in any situation

RUNNER UP

Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo

Summary

Unlike other musical instrument manufacturers like Yamaha, you probably won’t have heard of Deering unless you’re a banjo enthusiast. Despite that Deering are known for making some of the best banjos around, and this is one of the best, period. This stunning and most importantly incredibly playable instrument is an open-backed, 5-string banjo made with a 22-fret maple neck, maple and ebony bridge, and a maple body.

Made from high-quality wood, the construction of this model has been designed with beginners in mind for a comfortable playing experience. The wood used is responsible for the sound and playability of any banjo, and on this one, they create a mellow and dynamic sound with almost perfect playability due to the excellent projection from the bridge, and a tone that’s easy to control. The maple and satin finish make this a beautiful instrument with excellent vibration for a wonderful tone.

Open back banjos are normally considered better for beginners because they’re lightweight and produce a lovely mellow sound, and this is one of the best options for beginners, especially ones who may not be as comfortable with the banjo as they might be. Some open back banjos don’t quite get the volume you might want, but the Goodstring doesn’t seem to have this problem. This is an excellent model that’s likely to last you a good while. It’s perfectly suitable to learn with and continue to play once you’ve grasped the basics, and you may even be able to use it in front of an audience once you’re comfortable with playing.

Pros 

  • Excellently constructed with high-quality materials

  • Lovely mellow and dynamic sound with excellent tone thanks to the maple wood vibrations

  • Looks amazing with a nice stain finish

  • Great projection and volume

  • Suitable for beginners and more experienced players

Cons

  • A protective case will need to be bought separately

Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo
  • Low-profile, 22-fret rock maple neck with hardwood bow tie inlays
  • Sealed, geared tuning machines, including fifth string
  • 5/8-Inch maple/ebony Goodtime bridge with adjustable Deering tailpiece
  • Six-year warranty
  • Three-ply, 11-inch maple rim with steel tension hoop and high crown head

Best Beginner Banjo Buying Guide

Hopefully, you now feel like you have more an idea about the options out there for your first banjo and more of a clue about what sort of thing you’re looking for. But it might be that you want a bit more information about banjos in general and want to know some of the things you should keep in mind before making a choice. This section of the guide is here to take your through some of the things worth knowing about banjos, and what you should be thinking about to decide what banjo is best for you and your music.

Closed or Open Back

The first thing to think about is a closed back and an open back banjo, or banjos with a resonator and banjos without one. A lot depends on what sort of music you want to play. Resonators give a banjo a fuller sound and are louder, meaning that those with a resonator are a great option for ensembles where you’re competing with other instruments. A resonator is a metal plate on the back of your banjo which projects the music forwards and most bluegrass players much prefer a resonator than an open-backed banjo. If you’re a folk musician than you’re probably going to want an open back banjo, where the sound is projected back into the player’s body before going forward which makes the sound more mellow and darker perfect for the traditional clawhammer technique. So, you see a lot depends on what sort of music you want to play. Most beginners decide to go start with an open-back banjo and switch later, though there’s nothing wrong with starting off with a closed-back, especially if you know you want to play bluegrass. As you’ve seen some banjos even have a removable back, and this might be the way to go if you don’t know what you want to play and think you should experiment a bit first.

Strings

This guide has looked at 5-string banjo as they’re the most common kind, and typically considered the best for beginners but you can get 4 string banjos, 5 string banjos, and 6 string banjos, and even 12 string banjos and even fretless banjos. Different styles are associated with different strings and if you’re interested, they’re well worth an exploration. Most players though stick with the 5-string especially those who want to take their banjo playing seriously.

Material

The wood your banjo is made of is possibly the most important aspect of your banjo as it determines the quality of the tone. The hoop that goes around the banjo’s body is called the rim, or the pot and is considered to be the most important aspect of construction. The vibrations that move through the bridge when you pluck the strings end up going through the rim which vibrates and creates the sound you hear when you play meaning you need the rim to be made out of a tough resonant material. High-quality banjos will use maple, but an aluminum or softer woods can also be used. If you want a banjo that’s going to last though, and consistently produce a high-quality sound than look out for maple as the best choice for your banjo’s rim.

The most important thing is to not get overwhelmed by the choice available for your banjo, and instead, pick one that suits you and you feel comfortable with. Think about what and where you want to play and keep an open mind. Most importantly have fun!

FAQs

How much does a banjo cost?

A banjo can cost anywhere from $50 to a couple of thousand dollars, like with most instruments the range in price is enormous. Luckily, that means that there’s something for everyone and you’re certain to find something that suits you and your budget. The most important thing to keep in mind how much you want to spend and look in those ranges.

Is the banjo easy to learn?

The banjo, especially the 5-string banjo, is easy to learn and hard to master. Within a few weeks of learning, you’ll be able to begin playing songs and melodies, and as long as you keep practicing, you’ll keep progressing. It takes years to master any instrument and the banjo is no exception. Luckily the banjo is one of the most fun instruments to play, so you’ll have a great time learning!

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