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11 Best Open Back Banjo

If you’re looking for a new open-back banjo, you’ve come to the right place. Banjos are an essential instrument in bluegrass, folk, and country music.

There are two main types of banjos: open-back and resonator. Open-back banjos have a round back that allows the sound of the strings to bounce off it and resonate out into the room. They produce a warmer tone than a resonator banjo because there’s no backplate behind the strings to dampen their vibrations. 

Resonator banjos have a square metal backplate behind the strings that reflects sound waves from the body of the instrument back at the strings to create a crisper sound. The square shape can also add more volume because it creates a larger surface area for reflection.

In this article, we’ll focus on open-back banjos. We will review 9 products to find the best instrument in this category, as well as give some tips and tricks on what to keep in mind when shopping.

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We Tested 8 Products and Found the AKLOT Banjo to be the Best Open-Back Banjo

The Vangoa Banjo was our Runner Up

8 Best Open-Back Banjo – Reviewed in Detail

Table of Contents

  1. Deering Goodtime 5 String Banjo
  2. Gold Tone Plucky Banjo
  3. Recording King RK-OT25-BR Madison
  4. Oscar Schmidt OB3-O-U
  5. Gold Tone CC-Mini Cripple Creek Banjo
  6. Rover RB-20-P
  7. AKLOT 5-String Open-Back Banjo
  8. Vangoa Banjo

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The Deering Goodtime 5 String Banjo is a great option for any banjo player. It has a vintage design, but it’s surprisingly lightweight at only 4 pounds. The body of the banjo is made from maple, with a gloss finish that resists wear and tear. The neck is also maple, and it has an adjustable truss rod to keep the neck straight.

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

  • This banjo is shipped with a gig bag and a chromatic tuner.
  • The blonde slender rock maple neck with custom inlays looks pretty good in our opinion.
  • The build quality is also impressive. Deerin is very transparent about the materials used in this banjo.
  • Fairly compact design, great for traveling.
  • This banjo features an adjustable truss-rod that helps to distribute the tension of the strings evenly across the neck, as well as keep it straight.
  • Very lightweight, at only 4 pounds.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Conclusion

At $579 by the time this article was written, the Deering Goodtime banjo is not the most affordable option on the list, but the price is definitely justifiable by all its features, especially the build quality and the materials used in the instrument. It is an excellent choice for anyone from beginner to experienced musicians.

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The Gold Tone Plucky Banjo is a small, lightweight banjo that provides the functionality of a larger, heavier instrument. Sized for younger children or backpackers on treks, it is also an excellent choice for those who travel a lot. We were impressed by the weight of this banjo: only 2 pounds.

Product Specifications

  • 5-String Open-Back Banjo
  • Mini Size
  • Tonewoods Neck
  • Maple Bridge with Ebony Cap
  • ⅝ Fingerboard
  • 21 Medium-Sized Frets
  • Weight: 2 Pounds

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The Gold Tone Plucky Banjo is extremely small, compact and lightweight. It weighs only 2 pounds, making it one of the best choices for those who favor portability and like to bring the instrument on trips.
  • The small size also makes it perfect for children and beginners.
  • The strings can be tuned to different tunings such as open C or open D without the need for changing them.
  • The materials on this banjo are of great quality and the design also look very good, particularly the maple bridge with ebony cap.

Cons

  • None.

Conclusion

The Gold Tone Plucky Banjo is an instrument with unique features. One of the best choices for those looking for a compact solution to bring on the road or for beginners and children. Despite its small size, the model brings everything you would expect from a professional banjo and is made with high-quality materials. Definitely worth considering if compactness is important for you.

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The Recording King RK-OT25-BR Madison Open-Back Banjo has an open-back design that allows for a richer tone. It also has a maple neck with an adjustable truss rod, scoped rosewood fretboard, and a Remo FyberSkyn head. Another nice feature is the vintage design.

Product Specifications

  • 5-String Open-Back Banjo
  • Maple Neck with Adjustable Truss Rod
  • Scoped Rosewood Fretboard
  • Remo FyberSkyn Head
  • Maple Rim
  • Weight: 9.5 Pounds

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The design of this banjo and the overall finish looks pretty good in its vintage style.
  • The materials used are of excellent quality.
  • The truss rod is completely adjustable, allowing you to take better care of your instrument.
  • This banjo has a particularly bright sound that can cut through easily in band settings.
  • This banjo features a Remo FyberSkyn head. Remo is a well-renowned brand in the music industry.
  • Lots of positive reviews from buyers across the internet.

Cons

  • Heavy weight. At 9.5 pounds, it is one of the heaviest banjos on the list.

Conclusion

An excellent instrument, the Recording King RK-OT25-BR Madison is a banjo suited for intermediate and professional players. The build quality is pretty good and the vintage design looks especially fine. 

It is quite heavy, however, weighing 9.5 pounds, so it is not the best option if you prefer a compact banjo.

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4. Oscar Schmidt OB3-O-U

Oscar Schmidt OB3-O-U

The OB3-O-U1 is an excellent, affordable option. It has an ovangkol wood fretboard with dot inlays and a nato neck. The one-piece mahogany rim gives this instrument a rich, full sound. It has 18 brackets that are nickel-plated for durability and to impart a bright tone.

Product Specifications

  • 5-String Open-Back Banjo
  • Ovangkol Wood Fretboard
  • Nato Neck
  • One-Piece Mahogany Rim
  • Ovangkol Bridge
  • Gloss Finish

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • Quite affordable, considering the build quality of this banjo and the fact that it has a quite durable design.
  • The ovangkol wood has a pleasant tone and is hard to find at that price range.
  • Similarly, the nato neck is rare in affordable banjos.
  • This banjo is quite compact even though it’s full-sized.

Cons

  • The stock tuners are not so great.

Conclusion

This banjo is affordable yet still has all the features you need for playing bluegrass, folk, or country music. The OB3-O-U1 is an excellent beginner’s banjo because it’s affordably priced yet still plays well enough to make you sound good on stage or around the campfire.

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5. Gold Tone CC-Mini Cripple Creek Banjo

Gold Tone CC-Mini Cripple Creek Banjo

The Gold Tone CC-Mini Cripple Creek has a unique design with a short scale. It is extremely compact and lightweight, weighing only 4 pounds. The maple finish on the neck and the rim looks particularly great.

Product Specifications

  • 5-String Open-Back Banjo
  • Maple Neck
  • 8″ Maple Rim
  • Brass Tone Ring
  • Guitar-Style Geared Tuners
  • 4 Pounds

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The design looks unique.
  • The Gold Tone CC-Mini Cripple Creek is pretty compact and weighs only 4 pounds. If you put it on a gig bag, you can easily bring it with you on trips.
  • The small size also make it great for children and beginners.
  • High-quality, brass tone ring for a bright and loud sound.
  • Guitar-style geared tuners.
  • Tuned to open C but can also be tuned to standard G if you need to play in a band setting, provided you change the strings to the right gauge.

Cons

  • High price.

Conclusion

An impressive banjo, this mini instrument from Gold Tone is a perfect choice for those who favor compactness. Our favorite feature about this product was the design which looks quite unique and unlike any other option on the list. The only drawback is that it is quite expensive and can cost up to $500.

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The Rover RB-20P is a great option for a beginner. It’s made from mahogany wood that’s been handcrafted to provide a warm, clear sound. The design is minimalistic and simple. Unlike most other options on the list, it has 4 strings and the neck is slimmer, making it great for those with smaller hands.

Product Specifications

  • 4-String Open-Back Banjo
  • Mahogany Neck
  • East Indian Rosewood Fingerboard
  • Inlaid Dot Positions
  • 11″ Composite Material Rim
  • Guitar-Style Tuning Gears
  • Adjustable Truss Rod
  • 24 Frets

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • This banjo is quite affordable and a great option for beginners.
  • The East Indian Rosewood fingerboard is unusual in this price range. This type of wood has superb quality and sounds amazing.
  • This long neck banjo has 4 strings and a slimmer neck than other options, making it great for those with smaller hands.
  • The design is minimalist and simple.

Cons

  • You may need to upgrade some parts in the future for a better sound.

Conclusion

The Rover RB-20P is an affordable professional-grade banjo that looks pretty nice with its minimalist and simple style. If you’re a beginner banjo player, this is a solid option. Priced at around $299 by the time this article was written, it is quite affordable considering the build quality.

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Upon first glance, you can see that this AKLOT banjo has a great design. When we talk about beginner banjos, this option is probably the most complete one since for $199 you’ll get a gig bag, a tuner, a capo, a set of strings and several picks. It is definitely one of the best on the list regarding value for the price.

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 package comes with several extras so this banjo has the best value for the price on the list.
  • Includes a gig bag for easier transport.
  • The tiger maple wood used on both the neck and the rim looks extremely great.
  • This openback banjo is excelent for playing traditional style folk music and clawhammer style playing.
  • The 18 consolidation brackets are all adjustable.
  • A banjo ukulele concert size option is also available No products found..

Cons

  • None that is particularly concerning

Conclusion

This bluegrass banjo is the excellent choice for beginners. Considering everything that you get for $199, it is hard to find a better instrument at the same price range. The build quality is surprisingly great and you won’t need to make any upgrades for it to sound its best.

The brand also offers a banjo ukulele concert size option, which is even cheaper. Also worth looking into.

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8. Vangoa BanjoNo products found.

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Similar to the previously reviewed instrument from AKLOT, the Vangoa banjo is a complete package. It comes with an additional set of strings, a chromatic tuner, a strap, and a pick set. The biggest benefit with this model, however, is the built-in pickup. You can plug it into any amplifier to achieve a louder sound.

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

  • Even though this is actually a closed-back banjo, the resonator metal plate is removed so it can turn into an open-back banjo.
  • This banjo features a pickup so you can connect it to an amplifier in band settings or  audio interface for recording.
  • There are several extras included in the package including a chromatic tuner and a strap.
  • The wood selection provides an extremely clear tone.
  • Quite affordable price considering everything you get with the package.

Cons

  • None.

Conclusion

A great beginner banjo with amazing quality, the Vangoa banjo has several features. To begin, the package includes several extras. The resonator backplate is also removable so it is both a closed and open-back banjo. There is also a built-in pickup and the wood quality is impressive considering the price.

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Open-Back Banjo vs Resonator Banjo

There are two main types of banjo: open-back and resonator. Open-back banjos have a round back that allows the sound of the strings to bounce off it and resonate out into the room. They produce a warmer tone than a resonator banjo because there’s no metal backplate behind the strings to dampen their vibrations.

Resonator banjos have a square metal backplate behind the strings that reflects sound waves from the body of the instrument to create a crisper sound. The square shape can also add more volume because it creates a larger surface area for reflection.

Open-Back Banjo – Buyers Guide

It is important to consider a few things when choosing the best open-back banjo. First, you need an instrument that is built with quality materials that won’t break the bank. Here are some of these factors in detail.

Build Quality

The most important aspect to consider when purchasing an open-back banjo is the build quality of the instrument. That said, you will want to look for an instrument with a nice neck, with well-matched frets, and one that plays smoothly. The bridge should be sturdy enough to last you for years to come. Make sure there aren’t any loose joints or cracks in the finish of your instrument.

Luckily, most brands are very transparent about the materials they use to build their banjos. These include the type of wood used in the neck and the rim, the head, the number of brackets around the rim, and whether or not the instrument has a truss rod.

Number of Strings

The number of strings on your instrument will be the difference between a banjo and a banjolele. The standard open-back banjo has five strings, but you can find four-stringed instruments as well. We would recommend investing in a five-string instrument if you want to play with others, or if you plan to play bluegrass and folk with your instrument.

Price

The price of a banjo  is going to be the difference between a beginner model and a professional-grade instrument. The price will also reflect the kind of wood that is used for the neck and resonator as well as the materials used to build the bridge. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100-$1000 for an open-back banjo.

Size and Weight

The size and weight of a banjo can be a big deal when you are looking to buy one. You want to make sure that you will be able to carry the instrument comfortably wherever you go and that it won’t feel too heavy on your shoulders.

There are banjos that are as light as 2 pounds and as heavy as 10 pounds. When choosing the perfect instrument for you, you want to consider if you prefer a full-sized banjo or a mini-sized instrument to bring with you on trips. Smaller ones are also great for children and beginner banjo players.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Advantages of Open-Back Banjos?

Open-back banjos are usually cheaper than their resonator counterparts. They also offer a unique, brighter, and more natural sound that resonators can’t emulate.

What Styles are Open-back Banjos Usually Used For?

Open-back banjos (also known as clawhammer banjo) are usually preferred for traditional and mountain genres. They usually have a lower volume than their resonator counterparts but you can always install a piezo pickup on the instrument if you need to play in a band setting.

What is the Best Type of Pickup for an Open-Back Banjo?

There are several types of pickups that will work with open-back banjos, including electromagnetic and piezo ones. A piezo-type pickup will give you the most natural sound, however. A pickup will allow you to connect your banjo to an amp and get a louder sound.

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

Yes, you can. While it is not usual, you can add a resonator on an open-back banjo if you want to. This will make your instrument louder.

Can a Beginner Banjo Receive Upgrades?

Yes, you can upgrade certain parts of a beginner banjo such as the tuning gears and even the head so as to achieve a higher quality on your tone.

Do I Need a Banjo Teacher to Learn the Banjo?

A qualified banjo teacher will give you the fastest and best results, but nowadays you can also learn to play banjo by yourself given there’s so much information on the internet.

Conclusion

In our list of the best open-back banjos, we reviewed 8 great instruments with their own particular features and details. All of the options on the list were proven to be of great quality, but two of them were our favorites: the AKLOT 5-String and the Vangoa Banjo.

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AKLOT 5-String – Best Open-Back Banjo

The AKLOT 5-String is our top choice for the best open-back banjo because it packs in so many features at an affordable price. This banjo is priced at only $199 and will certainly please beginner to intermediate players.

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Vangoa Banjo – Runner Up

Another instrument with so many features, the Vangoa Banjo is a closed-back that can turn into an open-back due to its removable backplate making it extremely versatile. Not only that, but this banjo features a built-in pickup and is built with a high-quality wood selection that sounds great for any style.

How to Buy

The link to each product is at their respective title on the list. Remember to research extensively and consider all of the factors we discussed in this article before buying. Happy banjo playing!