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10 Best Beginner Banjo

The banjo is a type of fretted stringed instrument with a round, hollow body. It’s an iconic American folk instrument that has been around for a long time. The banjo was originated in the U.S., but it has evolved to become an important part of many genres of music worldwide—from folk music to country to jazz to rock and roll.

Many beginner musicians want to start playing banjo but don’t know where to start. Luckily there are thousands of options on the market to choose from. You will find instruments of different types: with 4 strings, 5 strings, regular-sized, mini, etc. The most important factor, however, is buying a high-quality banjo that will serve you for years to come.

In this article, we will review 10 products to find the best beginner banjo. We included several types of instruments in our guide and they all have their own characteristics and features.

Vangoa Banjo 5 String Acoustic Electric

We Tested 10 Products and found the Vangoa Banjo to be the Best Beginner Banjo

Kmise Banjo Ukulele 4 String Banjo

The Kemise Banjo Ukulele is our Runner-Up

10 Best Beginner Banjo – Reviewed in Detail

Table of Contents

  1. AKLOT 5-String Open Back Banjo
  2. Deerin Goodtime
  3. Epiphone MB-200
  4. Mulucky 5 String Banjo Mini
  5. Vangoa Banjo
  6. Pyle 5-String Resonator Banjo
  7. Kmise Banjo Ukulele
  8. Kmise Tenor Banjo Ukulele

1. AKLOT 5-String Open Back Banjo

AKLOT 5-String Open Back Banjo

The AKLOT 5-string is a high-quality acoustic banjo at a great price. Its open-back design will give you a more natural sound if compared to its resonator counterparts, and it is excellent for playing folk music. One of the greatest features about it, however, is the number of extras included with the instrument, including a tuner and a capo.

Product Specifications

  • 5-String Open-Back Banjo
  • Maple Neck
  • Maple Rim
  • Remo Head
  • The Package Includes Several Extras Including a Tuner, a Capo, a Set of Strings and Several Picks
  • Weight: 10 Pounds

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The open back design has the benefit of having a more natural sound.
  • This banjo has one of the best values for the price on the list since the packages include: a tuner, a capo, a set of strings, and several picks.
  • Built with high-quality materials. This banjo has a maple rim as well as a maple bridge, a high-quality type of wood.
  • The Remo head has great quality. You won’t need to do any upgrades on this particular part.
  • Also available in concert size here.

Cons

  • None.

Conclusion

This is an excellent instrument for beginner banjo players, considering its price ($185.99, by the time this article was written) and everything that is included in the package: from a tuner to a set of strings. The build quality is also surprising considering it is a budget product. Definitely worth the price.

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2. Deerin Goodtime

Deerin Goodtime

The Deerin Goodtime is a simple 5 string banjo with a reduced scale size. While the instrument is on the more expensive side, its sound quality is impressive. Furthermore, the design looks beautiful, especially the blonde slender rock maple neck with custom inlays. The package includes several extras as well.

Product Specifications

  • 5-String Open-Back Banjo
  • Comes with a Deluxe Padded Gig Bag and a True Tune Chromatic Tuner
  • Blonde Slender Rock Maple Neck
  • 22 Pressed in Nickel Silver Frets
  • Sealed Geared Tuners
  • Weight: 4 Pounds

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The package includes several extras such as a padded gig bag and a True Tune chromatic tuner.
  • The wood used for the neck and scale looks beautiful.
  • Speaking about the wood, Deerin is very transparent about the materials and components on this banjo and this is a great way to know that this is a quality product.
  • The reduced size scale is excellent for children and for people with smaller hands.
  • The geared tuners are sealed, reducing the need for maintenance.
  • This banjo is extremely lightweight, at only 4 pounds. Great to take with you on the road and on trips.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Conclusion

The Deerin Goodtime is one of the best beginner banjos on the list when it comes to materials and sound quality. Its reduced size and light weight (4 pounds) are excellent for beginners since it is easier to play, but also for those who plan to bring their instrument on the road and on trips.

However, the price is quite expensive. Priced at around $579 by the time this article was written, it is quite an investment for a beginner to make. If you’re on a budget, there are better options.

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3. Epiphone MB-200

Epiphone MB-200

Epiphone is a renowned brand in the music industry. The Epiphone MB-200 is a banjo with a beautiful design made from red-brown mahogany. Not only that, but it offers excellent sound quality at an affordable price. We also like the fact that it is very lightweight, weighing only 5 pounds.

Product Specifications

  • 6-String Resonator Banjo
  • Mahogany Body
  • Rosewood Fretboard
  • 26.25 Scale
  • Weight: 5 Pounds

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • Unlike most other options on the list, this beginner banjo has 6 strings. This provides a fuller sound and is great for playing traditional styles
  • Even though this is a 6-string banjo, the scale is 26.25, shorter than most banjos of this size.
  • Built with excellent quality materials.
  • The price is quite affordable considering the quality of this beginner banjo.
  • Lightweight: only 5 pounds.

Cons

  • May need upgrades in the future.

Conclusion

The Epiphone MB-200 is an entry-level banjo made by one of the most renowned brands in the banjo world. It offers a great balance between affordability and quality and is an excellent choice for beginners. One of the most outstanding features of this instrument is that it has 6-strings, unlike most other options on the list. This will give you a brighter and fuller sound.

However, that doesn’t mean that the instrument is bulky or heavy since it only weighs 5 pounds. The only drawback is that the Epiphone MB-200 may need upgrades in the future due to it being an entry-level instrument.

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4. Mulucky 5 String Banjo Mini

Mulucky 5 String Banjo Mini

The Mulucky 5-String Banjo Mini is very simple in its design and is one of the best banjos for those who favor compactness. Excellent for bringing on trips and for playing around the campfire, its sound is quite loud for an instrument of that size, and the package includes several useful extras.

Product Specifications

  • 5-String Resonator Banjo
  • Maple Neck and Fretboard
  • Polyester Head
  • 28-Inch Size
  • 12 Brackets
  • Includes Several Extras
  • Weight: 4 Pounds

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • This 5-string banjo is very compact but still sounds very loud. Its compactness makes it excellent for bringing it with you on the road and on trips.
  • The smaller size also makes it easier for beginners to play.
  • The package includes several extras but is one of the only ones to include a piezo pickup. A piezo pickup is usually only found on electric banjos.
  • The metal tone ring contributes to the loudness of this banjo.
  • Closed geared tuners for a reduced need for maintenance.
  • Lightweight. The Mulucky 5-string banjo only weighs 4 pounds.

Cons

  • None

Conclusion

At only $149, this affordable 5 string banjo is a complete package for beginners. One of our favorite features of the Mulucky is that it includes a piezo pickup, something unusual to find in this price range. This cheap banjo also has a reduced 28-inch size so it is easy to bring it with you wherever you go.

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5. Vangoa Banjo

Vangoa Banjo

The Vangoa Banjo is a 4-stringed instrument. It’s made of mahogany and walnut wood and has a gloss finish. The banjo is easy to tune and with the included tuners and strings, you will be able to start playing right away. This instrument also includes resonator hoops that will give it more volume when played.

Product Specifications

  • 5-String Resonator Acoustic-Electric Banjo with Removable Resonator
  • Mahogany Neck
  • Walnut and Mahogany Rim
  • Remo Head
  • Arched-Back Design
  • The Package Includes Several Extras

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The design of this banjo looks expensive but it is actually pretty affordable.
  • Adjustable hinged tailpiece.
  • The remium mahogany wood contributes to the sound quality.
  • The arched-back design contributes to the loudness of this banjo. Unlike the flat-back design found on most banjos, it can reflect the sound better.
  • Several extras are included in the package, excellent for beginner banjo players to start playing right away.

Cons

  • Fixed resonator.

Conclusion

To be honest, the Vangoa Banjo is one of our favorite beginner banjos on the list. The design choices on this instrument, such as the arched back, are spot on, as wel is the wood choice: a mix of walnut and mahogany. The package also includes several extras for you to strat playing right away.

The only one thing that we think is lacking is the ability to remove the resonator so it can turn into an open-back banjo and offer more versatility to the player.

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6. Pyle 5-String Resonator Banjo

Pyle 5-String Resonator Banjo

The Pyle 5-string banjo has a unique design with its red-toned wood. The biggest feature about this great banjo is that the resonator is removable, so you have a high amount of versatility on your sound. This instrument is full-size so you can expect it to have a full tone with plenty of loudness.

Product Specifications

  • 5-String Resonator Banjo
  • Removable Resonator
  • Sapele Top
  • Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene Back
  • Adjustable Truss Rod
  • 22 Frets
  • Includes Several Extras
  • Full-Size Banjo

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The resonator on this banjo is removable, meaning you have more versatility with your tone and can choose between keeping it for a brighter sound or removing it for a louder sound.
  • The truss rod is adjustable. This is important so as to keep the neck of the banjo on a straight position.
  • Several extras are included in the package such as a chromatic tuner and a set of strings.
  • This banjo is full-size, meaning it has a fuller sound if compared to smaller counterparts.

Cons

  • None.

Conclusion

This inexpensive banjo has some great features. Our favorite, by far, is the removable resonator. You have much more versatility over your tone with a banjo that has a removable resonator. Priced at $250 by the time this article was written, it may not be the most affordable option on the list but the price is justified by the extras and the quality of the instrument.

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7. Kmise Banjo Ukulele

Kmise Banjo Ukulele

This plectrum banjo is similar to the tenor ukulele banjo, also by Kmise, however, it has a regular scale rather than tenor. Priced at only $88 by the time this article was written, it is the most affordable option on the list. If you’re on a budget, this particular banjo is one of the best choices.

Product Specifications

  • 4-String Banjo Ukulele
  • Maple Fretboard
  • Okoume Neck
  • Maple Back
  • Maple Bridge
  • Frosted Mylar Head
  • Lower Action
  • Weight: 2.6 Pounds

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • This acoustic banjo ukulele is smaller than most other options making it easier to play, especially for beginners.
  • The maple fretboard looks amazing, especially with the block inlays.
  • This particular instrument has low action strings, which makes it much easier to play.
  • Very lightweight: only 2.6 pounds.
  • Extremely affordable, priced at only $88 by the time this article was written.

Cons

  • None.

Conclusion

This is, in our opinion, the best banjo for beginners on a budget. You won’t find any better option in that price range, it is extremely affordable. Furthermore, this instrument features low action strings, which improves the playability a lot, especially for beginners. Definitely a great banjo for beginners.

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8. Kmise Tenor Banjo Ukulele

Kmise Tenor Banjo Ukulele

This is a banjo with 4 strings, which is smaller than the traditional 5-string banjo. It’s perfect for beginners who want to learn how to play the instrument without investing too much money. This instrument also has a ukulele neck, which means it can be used like a ukulele, guitar, mandolin, and other instruments.

Product Specifications

  • 4-String Tenor Banjo Ukulele
  • Okoume and Sapele Top
  • Sapele Back
  • Adjustable Truss-Rod
  • Beginner Kit Included
  • 26-Inch Size

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • This banjo features a tenor scale which is larger in size than the regular one and allows for a wider range of tunings.
  • As this is a 4-string smaller banjo, it is excellent for beginners. It also has a ukulele neck and can be tuned to ukulele tuning.
  • Built with high-quality okoume and sapele.
  • Adjustable truss-rod for easier maintenance.
  • Comes with a beginner kit including a chromatic tuner, a strap, a gig bag, and a piezo pickup.
  • Extremely affordable.

Cons

  • Less versatile than full-size banjos.

Conclusion

The Kmise Tenor Banjo is an excellent choice if you’re a beginner looking for a small-sized instrument. This ukulele-style plectrum banjo has only 4 strings, different from most other options on our list. It still has, however, a quite powerful and loud sound. A great thing is that it comes with a piezo pickup.

The only drawback with this type of banjo is that it is less versatile than its full-size counterparts, but still has lots of benefits.

Banjo Ukulele

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Best Beginner Banjo – Buyer’s Guide

Here are important factors to take into account when choosing the best beginner banjo for your particular use case.

Open Back or Resonator

There are two types of banjo: open back and resonatorResonator banjos are more common and were designed for amplification purposes. Open back banjos are the original type of banjo and do not have a resonator.

Open back banjos are usually cheaper, lighter, and louder than resonator banjos. Since they lack a resonator, open-back banjos have a brighter, thinner tone than resonators. Resonators on the other hand have a fuller tone but they also create feedback at high volumes.

Open back or resonator is largely a matter of personal preference but it’s worth noting that open back models will be easier to hear in jam sessions where there are other instruments playing at high volume.

Number of Strings

Different models come with a different number of strings: 4-strings, 5-strings, or 6 strings.

4-string banjos have 4 plucked strings. They are lighter than 5-string models but they have a thinner tone with less volume. 

5-string banjos have 5 plucked strings and they are heavier than 4-string models. They produce a fuller tone with more volume. 

6-string banjos have 6 plucked strings and they are the heaviest type of banjo. They produce a deep tone with lots of volume.

Scale Length

Scale length is the distance from the nut to the bridge.  Short-scale banjos are usually between 20 and 22 inches. They are easier to play, lighter, and cheaper than long-scale models. On the other hand, they do not sound as full as long scale banjos and they are more prone to feedback. Longer scale banjos have a bigger, fuller sound but they are also heavier and more expensive.

Left Handed or Right Handed?

If you are left-handed, you will want to buy a left-handed banjo. Most brands offer a left-handed version of their instruments. Otherwise, if you are right-handed, buy a right-handed banjo.

Brand/Manufacturer

The brand name is important because it shows that the manufacturer has taken time to build their brand and reputation for quality, reliability, and consistency. Choose banjo brands that are renowned in the market and that are transparent about the materials used on their instruments.

Quality and Price

There is a wide range of banjos available and they range in price from very affordable to extremely expensive.

The most expensive banjos are typically high-quality instruments built with top-of-the-line components. They can be used for both recording and live performances. The cheapest banjos will require more upkeep and may not last as long as more expensive models.

The choice between cheap and expensive banjos is largely a matter of your needs. If you’re planning to play at home or in small jam sessions, then a cheaper model will probably suffice. If you’re planning to play in large venues or recording gigs, then an expensive model will probably be worth the investment. For beginners, an entry-level banjo will be a great companion to your practice for a long time.

Quality and Price

Bonus: How to Maintain Your Banjo

It is important that you take some actions and precautions to make sure stringed instruments play well and last a long time. With banjos, it is no different. Here are some things you should to do keep your banjo in pristine condition.

Always Use New Strings

The strings on your banjo must be changed frequently. This is especially true for the banjo as it is played more often and more vigorously than other stringed instruments. When strings go bad, they break easily and sound worse than when new. They also may cause the frets to buzz, which is not a good thing. Change the strings on your banjo every 3-6 months depending on how often you play it and how hard you play it.

Clear the Head Regularly

The head of your banjo is one of the most important parts. It is what makes the sound resonate throughout your instrument. It also is a big part of keeping the drum head in place and in good condition. Cleaning this part regularly will help maintain its condition and keep the banjo playing and sounding great for as long as possible.

Clean The Scale Regularly

The scale on the neck of your banjo is very important. It should be cleaned often with a soft cloth. This will keep it free of dirt and oils that can build up over time, which can cause the strings to slip off the frets and create buzzing noises when you play.

Keep it Dry and Clean

Another big problem that you will have with your banjo is humidity. The humidity in the air can cause a lot of problems with your banjo, especially if you don’t keep it dry and clean. In some cases, moisture can easily get inside and damage the instrument. If this happens, then you will have to take your banjo in for professional repairs to fix the damage that was done.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Put a Resonator on an Open-Back Banjo?

A resonator is the part of a banjo that adds volume and projection to the sound.  You can add a resonator to an open-back banjo, but you should be aware that it will not be as loud as a banjo with a resonator.

What Are the Parts of a Banjo?

The parts of a banjo include the neck, head, tone ring, rim, bridge, and tailpiece. The neck is the long wooden piece that connects the head to the body of the banjo. The head is where you attach your strings.

Can a Cheap or Beginner Banjo Receive Upgrades?

Yes, you can. The upgrades will depend on the model of the banjo that you have. For example, if you have a beginner’s open-back banjo, then you may want to replace the bridge and upgrade the tuners.

If your beginner banjo has a resonator, then you may want to replace the piece with a better one. You can also replace the head with a better one if needed.

Is a 6-String Banjo Better than a 5 or 4-String Instrument?

Not necessarily. A six-string banjo will provide you with a louder and fuller sound, but the best choice will ultimately depend on your particular use case.

What is the Difference Between Acoustic and Electric Banjos?

Acoustic banjos don’t feature any pickup system. Electric banjos usually have a piezo pickup on the bridge. You can also buy a piezo pickup separately for your banjo.

Conclusion

In our search for the best beginner banjo, we reviewed 8 great products. Each with its own characteristics and features, the choice of the best banjo will highly depend on what style of music you play and your goals as a player.

If you have plans to only be a hobbyist, a cheap and inexpensive banjo is everything you need to get started. If you intend to play professionally in the future, it would be good to think about investing in a medium-tier banjo right away.

The banjo market has thousands of great musical instruments, but two banjos from the list caught our attention: the Vangoa Banjo and the Kmise Banjo Ukulele. Here is why.

Vangoa Banjo

Vangoa Banjo – Best Beginner Banjo

The Vangoa Banjo comes in a perfect package for beginners. This five-string banjo will give you classic bluegrass tones and has lots of great features. To start with, the materials are of excellent quality. Another feature we liked is the arched-back design. This kind of design provides you with a louder sound.

Kmise Tenor Banjo Ukulele

Kmise Banjo Ukulele – Runner-Up

The Kmise Banjo Ukulele is a small-sized instrument with an incredibly affordable price: only $88, by the time this article was written. This is an excellent first banjo as it is great-looking, compact, easy to play, and has excellent quality. We like that, despite the size of this affordable banjo, it is still quite loud.

How to Buy

You can find the link to each product at their respective titles on the list. Make sure to research extensively before you decide which starter banjo to buy. Happy playing!