10 Best Banjo for Beginners in 2020: Brand Buying Guide

The Banjo is among the most melodious string instruments. Its sweet, soothing tune creates unmatched magic. When played alongside vocals, it gives the song another dimension. Initially played by the African slaves in the 18th century, the soulful instrument made its way into modern-day music and adds a beautiful variation. 

While many want to learn this old instrument, it is not very easy to find the perfect banjo for a beginner. So, in this article, we will look at the best banjos that beginners can opt for as they prepare themselves to walk on the melodious journey of country music.

The Different Types of Banjos

The shape of a banjo includes its strings, a body, and the neck. Based on its type of body, banjos are of two types – open back banjos and closed back or resonator banjos. Although the difference seems to be very minor, it creates a lot of differences in terms of the music produced by these types of banjos.

An open back banjo will have a relatively lower intensity of the music. This is the oldest form of banjos, and its sound quality instantly gives a country music vibe. Not having a back cover makes it light in weight. Also, these types of banjos do not necessarily require fingerpicks.

A closed-back or resonator banjo produces a much louder and fuller tone. As it has a solid back made of wood in a convex shape, it helps the sound to reverb, making the tone brighter. These types of banjos are played with fingerpicks. The wooden back makes it heavier than the open back banjos.

Furthermore, based on the number of strings in the banjo, it can be classified into three types – four, five, and six-strings banjos.

Among the three variants based on strings, the five-string banjo is the most commonly used. It was the first type of banjos ever invented and is the easiest to learn among the three. These banjos have a smaller fifth string, with usually a tuner attached to it sideways. The classic country-style tone that you relate to the word ‘banjo’ comes from this version of the instrument.

The six-string banjo is an equivalent of a guitar, but with the tonal quality of that of a banjo. Relatively, the six-string banjos will have a brighter tone than guitars. This variant is harder to learn and play.

While banjos are majorly used as the lead instrument, the four-string banjos act as the bass instrument. It is used to compliment the chords. It is harder to pick up than a five-string banjo.

Which Type Of Banjo Is Easier for Beginners?

We have already discussed the types of banjos. Every learner needs their own time to learn to play any instrument. There is a myth about banjos not being easy to play. But this is completely wrong. Rather, the five-stringed banjo is actually considered by a lot, as the easiest string instrument for beginners. 

So, a five-string banjo is suggested as the best option for a beginner. It is the oldest type of banjos, producing the classic nostalgic brighter tone which the beginners usually look for. The build of the five-string makes it the most comfortable for playing compared to the other variants.

This type of banjos is tuned higher than the other ones. It is generally tuned at G, so even if you are not holding any fret, it plays G chord. To play the C chord, which is another important basic chord, one needs to hold just one finger on the fifth fret. 

Similarly, another finger holding all the strings in the seventh fret produces the D chord. These three chords are the foundation chords, and the most essential. Learning to play these, one can play the banjo along with many songs. 

As we can see, the five-string banjo makes it easier to play for those who are not used to stringed instruments, or those who are learning to play banjos.

The five-string banjo can be played in both three-finger and clawhammer style. The three fingerstyles are known to be easier, but it totally depends on the person’s comfort level. 

Things to Consider When Buying a Banjo

Finding the best banjo for a beginner is not easy. There is always confusion if the instrument will suit the learner or not. There are some factors that determine the quality of the banjo, and knowing about these might be helpful for a novice. 

Here are the factors which a beginner might keep in mind while buying their first banjo.

Often, the budget is the biggest constraint for a beginner looking to buy an instrument. While there can be many really cheap options available in the market, it is advisable to look for the minimum features and warranty that the seller offers. Having said that, it does not mean that only bigger brands manufacture good products.

While buying a banjo, the student must keep in mind the kind of music they are aiming to play. For instance, while any five-string banjo can accompany folk songs, for American retro and country music, an open back five-string banjo is recommended. 

So, having clarity about the type of music he or she will play, is necessary. Similarly, the buyer must also check the weight and features of the banjo for playing it comfortably. 

Finally, another important aspect is to keep in mind if you will play it right-handed or left-handed. Since the tuning of the fifth string is done in a specific way, it is a really necessary aspect to check for in a five-string banjo.

 10 Best Banjos for Beginners

Now that we have some idea about the suitable types of banjos for beginners and what kind of music a banjo can produce, we can now proceed to look at some really handy options. Here we are listing 10 of the best beginner-friendly banjos which a buyer can consider while they are bringing home their first banjo.

 #1. Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo

1. Deering Goodtime 5 Strings.jpgTo start the list, we have a company which specializes in manufacturing banjos. Deering is a quite famous name among those who play the banjo. The California based company has been in the market since 1975 and is known for producing banjos at a reasonable price. 

Their uncompromised quality earns them a place among the best banjo makers today. So, owning a Deering banjo will be a great step forward for beginners looking for a banjo.

Deering’s Goodtime five-string banjo is one of their most popular products. The banjo suits beginners and professionals alike, making it a great choice. The banjo will surely be an asset to a diligent learner. Let us now look at the features the Deering Goodtime five-string banjo boasts of.

Key features:

  • Five-string open back banjo
  • The neck has 22 frets and is made of maple wood
  • The neck has hardwood bow tie inlay
  • The tailpiece is adjustable
  • Has a Good Time bridge which comes in two options – maple or ebony
  • The rim is 11-inch wide and made of three-ply maple wood
  • The rim has steel tension hoop and high crown head
  • Comes with sealed geared tuners, including the fifth string
  • Comes in a satin finish
  • Deering provides a six year’s warranty with the product

With so many features and unique qualities, the Deering Goodtime five-string Banjo surely makes for a great beginner banjo.

 #2. Epiphone MB200

Among the modern-day instrument manufacturers, Epiphone is one of the front runners. Established in the 1870s, Epiphone has manufactured instruments for famous brands such as Gibson before making their own identity. 

Epiphone is considered as one of the best among the manufacturers of entry-level instruments. The company has a huge range of string instruments, but are considered among the top manufacturers of banjos.

The advanced procedure which the Epiphone instruments are made through makes them flawless. One of Epiphone’s most popular products is their MB200 banjo. Below, we will look at its distinct features.

Key Features:

  • Five-string closed back banjo
  • Brilliant projection of sound
  • Punchy, bright tonal quality
  • A resonator back made of mahogany wood
  • Neck made of mahogany wood has a rosewood fretboard
  • Comfortable neck width for people with shorter fingers as well
  • Has a stylish US Remo head
  • Magnificently built geared fifth string tuner
  • Full size yet lightweight banjo

Despite its great features, this Epiphone banjo comes at a very low price tag. The MB200 maintains all of Epiphone’s quality features and enlists itself among the best beginner banjos available.

#3. Jameson five-string banjo

Known for their guitars, Jameson also manufactures other stringed instruments, including banjos. While their guitars are a symbol of impeccable quality and brilliant sound, their banjos are no different. 

Jamesons have maintained unmatched quality in all their products, including this five-string banjo, and have lots and lots of satisfied customers across the globe.

The closed-back five-string banjo by Jameson has earned its own place among the best beginners’ banjos one can find. Best in quality, yet not too big a price tag – this has been Jameson’s policy since the very start. So, the budget constraint is well taken care of. 

Now, let us give the features of the Jameson five-string banjo a look.

Key Features:

  • Five-string closed back resonator banjo
  • Back made with mahogany wood
  • 24 brackets bind the resonator
  • Has a geared fifth tuner, a feature found in expensive models
  • Comes with an adjustable tailpiece
  • The armrest is chrome plated
  • Has a maple bridge
  • The bound neck is made of 7-ply maple-mahogany shell
  • Comes in a glossy finish look

All these features make the Jameson five-string banjo one of the best beginner-friendly banjos.

#4. Oscar Schmidt OB5

With a wide range of stringed instruments, Oscar Schimdt is one of the most popular instrument makers. The company manufactures acoustic and electric guitars, ukuleles, mandolins, the lesser common autoharps, and, of course, banjos. 

Though they are makers of many types of instruments, their banjos are among their best-selling products. The US company, established in the 1870s, has not let its quality drop and has managed to stay among the top instrument manufacturers.

The Oscar Schimdt banjos have their own unique qualities to add to the x-factor. For the beginners, Oscar Schimdt has created their five-string banjo OB5. Let us now have a look at the features of the banjo.

 Key Features:

  • Five-string closed back resonator banjo
  • The resonator is removable
  • Has a geared fifth string tuner
  • The resonator back is made of mahogany wood
  • The resonator is attached with 30 ring brackets made in cast aluminum tone
  • Has a flat head
  • Has a rosewood fingerboard
  • Has traditional fingerboard inlays
  • Comes in two variants of the fretboard – rosewood, and ovangkol
  • Has a glossy finish
  • Comes with a lifetime warranty from Oscar Schmidt

The best part about owning an Oscar Schmidt is that the company adds features to its instruments which are user-friendly. Lifetime warranty on the product gives the buyers a sense of security. The look and the features make the Oscar Schmidt OB5 one of the best beginners’ banjos.

#5. Ibanez B50

To string instrument lovers, the brand Ibanez needs no introduction. For many years, Ibanez has been producing instruments for both professionals and new learners. 

Ibanez’s variety of products and many different models in each category helps a buyer choose a suitable product from plenty of options. Besides guitars, ukuleles, Ibanez is also known for making some of the finest banjos around the globe.

Here, we will look at the B-50 model of the Ibanez. Though it is not the cheapest of Ibanez’s banjos, this particular model is a good investment for serious learners who want to continue to become professional players and might need a transition into a better model than an entry-level one. Below are the features of the Ibanez B50:

Key Features:

  • Closed-back five-string banjo
  • Bright, punchy tone with loud output
  • Has the unique 24-lug configuration
  • Resonator, neck, and a rim made of high-quality mahogany wood
  • Has a Remo 11inch coated weathering headstock
  • The neck has a dotted position marking
  • Has a rosewood fingerboard
  • Has geared fifth string tuner

Excited about all the features that this amazing model has in it? The Ibanez B50 will surely make a great model for beginners.

#6. Pyle PBJ60

A company renowned for its digital products also manufactures some of the best banjos in the world. Gadget lovers know the US-based brand Pyle for their varied range of digital products. 

The company not only has digital musical solutions but other gizmos as well. However, they are also manufacturers of different key and string instruments, including banjos. Just like their gadgets, their instruments, especially banjos, have been rated higher by the ones who have purchased their products.

As Pyle produces professional-grade music instruments, they have incorporated many features of high-end instruments in entry-level ones, making it worth every penny. While the company has many models, their PB60 five-string banjo has been really popular among students for its longevity and features. 

Let us quickly look at what makes this particular banjo special and a part of our discussion.

Key Features:

  • Five-string closed back resonator banjo
  • Has geared tuner for the fifth string
  • Has chrome-plated hardware
  • White Jade tuner key pegs used for machine head
  • Has an adjustable truss rod
  • Bridge stand made of Maplewood
  • Fretboard made of rosewood
  • Resonator body made of Shabili wood
  • Comes in a glossy polished look
  • Comes with truss rod adjusting tool

The renowned company understands the requirements of a novice learner well and has hence created a model for them. The company has also packed some important accessories and tools along with the banjo, which makes it a perfect package for any beginner.

#7. Fender Concert Tone 54

A discussion about stringed instruments is incomplete without Fender. The world-famous brand, along with its popular guitars, also manufactures some of the finest banjos. Among them, the Concert Tone range is perfect for beginners or even intermediate learners.

The Concert Tone 54, in the entire range, has acquired a lot of popularity for its distinct features. Let us have a look at them.

Key Features:

  • Five-string closed back banjo
  • Rolled brass tone rings
  • Has a bright, rich tone
  • Has three-layer maple-mahogany-maple neck
  • The headstock has mother of pearl and blue-green abalone inlay
  • Has the signature Concert Tone block inlay at 18th fret
  • The resonator has Cherry Sunburst gloss finish with tortoise-shell binding
  • The rim has a satin finish
  • Fender offers a lifetime warranty on the product

Elegant look with the highest quality is what the Fender Concert Tone 54 promises of, and is surely one of the best beginners’ banjos.

#8. Gold Tone CC-100R

Yet another company who are the makers of fine string instruments. Gold Tone has earned themselves a huge fanbase with their products which deliver professional-grade performance even at entry-level. Gold Tone has been making guitars, mandolins, ukuleles, and banjos for a long time, and the brilliant sound and perfect intonations is the USP of their brand.

Gold Tone has produced many, many models of banjos. However, the Cripple Creek range has been especially popular among the Gold Tone fans. 

While many professionals own models from this particular range, it is extremely beginner-friendly in usage, which makes it a perfect pick for a novice learner. Let us look at the features of the CC-100R model from Gold Tone’s Cripple Creek range of banjos.

Key Features:

  • Closed-back five-string resonator banjo
  • Has low string action, making it easier to play
  • Extremely durable
  • Neck, rim, and resonator made of hard maple wood
  • Neck and resonator has black binding
  • Has dual coordinator rods and a two-way adjustable truss rod
  • Has a curly headstock made of maple wood
  • The banjo has a stylish veneer coating
  • Comes with straight-line tailpiece
  • The rings are made in a brass tone
  • Can be converted to an open back banjo easily

Plenty of features in a budget-friendly price tag makes the Gold Tone CC-100R one of the best banjos for beginners.

#9. Ibanez B200

Yet another Ibanez banjo makes it to the list due to its sheer class and quality. The aesthetically beautiful Ibanez B200 is a stylish gear for beginners with all the qualities of a professional-grade instrument. Let us quickly have a look at its features.

Key Features:

  • Five-string closed back banjo
  • Has basswood rim with signature 24-lug configuration
  • Neck and resonator made of mahogany
  • Rings have rolled brass tone
  • Fingerwood made of rosewood with mother of pearl inlay
  • Has chrome banjo tuners
  • Has geared fifth string tuner

With top-grade features and high-quality parts, the B200 from Ibanez is easily among the best beginner banjos money can buy.

#10. Rogue starter banjo

Well, if the other banjos still don’t seem to be right for you, here is a package that will definitely help you start your journey. Rogue is a brand relatively new to the business and started off its string instruments in the 1990s with guitars. 

They brought to the market a wide range of products, including banjos. Their banjos not only have fine quality but are budget-friendly and come in a compact package with plenty of accessories.

For those who have a very limited budget yet want a good banjo with all its accessories, the Rogue starter pack is simply perfect. Here is what features and accessories come packed in with the banjo.

Key Features:

  • Five-string open back banjo
  • Has 18 brackets to hold the body
  • The head is made of high-quality wood
  • The Banjo has a satin look and finish
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Comes with a padded carrying bag
  • A book for learning basic banjo fingerings included
  • Comes with a special interactive DVD to learn banjo

With a carrying bag, learner’s kit, high-quality parts, and great output, the Rogue beginner’s banjo kit is complete.

Conclusion

The beautiful, mesmerizing sound of a banjo becomes lively with the skills of the one playing it. While these options are there to help you find the best banjo for beginners, it is your skill that matters the most. 

So go ahead, pick the most suitable instrument according to your style, and start off learning the nuances of the instrument asap. I hope this article comes in handy. Best of luck for the melodious journey.