The banjo is one of the most iconic instruments when we think of American folk or country music. This instrument first emerged during the 18th century and likely came from the Caribbean.
Wherever it came from, the banjo now occupies a special place in American culture thanks to its unique sound.
If you are looking to learn the banjo for the first time, then you will want to pick the right instrument. You want something that won’t take ages to set up, and that you can start playing as soon as possible.
Some banjos are more comfortable to play than others, so you will want to find a product that makes the learning process smooth.
Today, we have selected some of the best banjos for beginners that you can buy online. We will look at budget models that won’t break the bank, as well as more serious models for those who have experience with other stringed instruments.
No matter how skilled or unskilled you are, these banjos will have you strumming the blues in no time at all.
Best Banjos For Beginners (Quick Summary)
- Multi-Ply Rim
- Adjustable Coordinator Rod
- Maple Neck with Adjustable 2-Way Truss Rod
- REMO Recording King Head
- Presto Tailpiece
Open backed banjos are better for people who want to learn how to play clawhammer style, but they can work equally well for bluegrass as well.
This ‘Dirty Thirties’ banjo made by Recording King has lots of features that make it very easy to play for beginners. It is open-backed as well, which helps you to try out unique playing styles.
For a start, it has a D-shaped neck, which helps with getting your hand around it to reach all the strings. It also comes with geared tuning pegs that are much better at holding their tune when compared to friction tuners.
This means you will only need slight movements of the peg when tuning your banjo. It will stay in tune for considerably longer.
The multi-ply rim on this banjo has great resonance, for a spotless sound. While it doesn’t have the brightness of a rim made from steel or bronze, it has enough clarity to help beginners know when they have hit a bum note.
Having an open back also helps you access the coordinator rod, which can raise or lower the strings as necessary. With this, you get a more comfortable experience.
- D-shaped neck that is easy to get your hand around.
- Multi-ply rim offers great resonance.
- Coordinator rod in the back helps with adjusting the action as you wish.
- You may need to adjust the action when you get it.
- 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
As well said above, open-backed banjos are a brilliant choice for playing clawhammer style. However, if you know you are more interested in learning Bluegrass, buy a Banjo with a closed back like this one made by Pyle.
Pyle crafted this instrument from high-quality materials, including a neck made from mahogany and a body constructed from rosewood and maple.
Thanks to the shallow D-shaped neck, you shouldn’t have any problem reaching all the strings on this banjo. The frets are also higher than the one you would find on a more conventional banjo, which makes it easier to push the string down to contact them. Both features combine to create an instrument that is easy to play and has a fantastic, clear tone.
Weighing just 7.8lbs, this is a great banjo for taking on hiking or camping trips. All the metal components are chrome plated for a traditional aesthetic and great durability.
The best part is that this banjo is very affordable when compared to other brands, offering a great starting place for beginners.
- Lightweight and very portable.
- Made from high-quality materials for excellent tone and durability.
- Does not come with the geared tuning pegs specified in the description.
- 【MAPLE WOOD BANJO】AKLOT 5 string banjo is made of all maple wood material, the sound is very bright and clear. Especially the head adopt tiger maple wood imported from Europe, compliment with Remo drum head.
- 【OPEN BACK & REMO HEAD BANJO】The open back and professional high-quality Remo head can get a more professional sound. The head is fixed by 18 brackets, which can make the head more stable and easier to adjust.
- 【ADJUSTABLE BRACKETS & BANJO NECK】There are 18 consolidation brackets around the drum which can be adjustable to your desire sound. And you need adjust the drum several times for a certain sound. The banjo also has a 2-way truss rod to adjust the neck and drum head.
- 【BANJO STAYS IN TONE BETTER】The solid wood bridge is matched with the bull saddle, which can make the strings get better vibration and better sound. The con-sealed pegs can better protect the gears, keep the tone better, and make tuning easier.
- 【AKLOT BANJO KIT】AKLOT 5 string banjo kit comes with full size banjo x1, strings set x1, tuner x1, tuning wrench x2, finger pick x1, strap set x1, cleaning cloth x1 and gig bag x1. All accessories can meet everything what you may need for new beginners and professionals. 2 years warranty.
Now, you don’t need a lot of accessories to learn how to play the banjo, but they can certainly help. Tuners, picks and a banjo strap are all useful things to have that can make learning your instrument a lot easier.
That’s why this kit comes with an open-backed banjo along with all the tools and accessories you need to learn.
This is a superb choice for anyone working on a tight budget, as it comes with loads of great accessories for a lower price than many stand-alone banjos.
AKLOT made the instrument using maple with a remo drum head behind the strings. It also has a solid wood bridge coupled with a bull saddle, offering a crystal clear tone and a great overall sound.
AKLOT has configured this banjo to have a low action, with the strings resting close to the frets. This makes it easier to push down the strings and get a clear note, and thankfully the action is still high enough that you won’t have to deal with fret buzz.
As well as the banjo itself, you also receive a set of finger picks, a strap and a case to keep your instrument safe.
- The banjo has a low action, making it easier to push down the string
- Comes with picks, strap and a tuner.
- You have to set up and attach the bridge yourself.
- 5-string banjo design
- 24-lug configuration
- Mahogany neck
- Mahogany back and sides
- Remo 11inch coated weatherking banjo head
You might know Ibanez for their excellent guitars and basses. You should know they also make a very nice banjo.
Ibanez made the B50 from mahogany with a rosewood fretboard. It looks very traditional and sounds incredible when played in any style, including bluegrass and clawhammer.
Since this is a resonator banjo, it has a back panel that reflects sound forwards to make it much brighter and louder.
Even an amateur should have no trouble getting a wonderful sound out of this instrument. It also has five geared tuners, which help to keep the instrument in tune for longer.
You will need to set up the bridge on this Banjo when it arrives, but this is common practice to prevent instruments from being damaged in the post.
You may also need to adjust the coordinator rod at the back to raise or lower the action as you need. Thankfully, Ibanez provides a special tool for this very purpose, making it simple to maintain your banjo.
- High-quality instruments made from mahogany and rosewood.
- Works well for any style of playing.
- Geared tuners to help the instrument stay in tune for much longer.
- Requires you to set up the bridge.
- ✔️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.
- ✔️ADJUSTABLE STRING HEIGHT It equips a truss rod that can adjust the string height, so that you will feel comfortable and perform fluently.
- ✔️DURABLE MATERIAL Mahogany neck, sides and back have beautiful wood grain, hard and not liable to warp or corrode, making the banjo durable.
- ✔️SMOOTH DECENT TOUCH It has a fine bright paint, glossy and smooth, giving you a comfortable playing experience.
- ✔️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.
This is another kit that comes with a great banjo, as well as all the accessories you could need for learning how to play it. Vangoa has made this banjo out of mahogany with a walnut fretboard to make an instrument that looks as great as it sounds.
With a remo drum head behind the strings, this instrument has a bright, warm sound that is great for folk music or blues.
It has geared tuners and 24 chrome-plated brackets, this banjo keeps its tune very well. This makes it a splendid choice for beginners as they won’t have to spend ages tuning and returning their instrument.
Instead, this is the type of banjo that you can simply pick up and play, no matter where you are.
It comes with lots of great accessories, including a gig bag that will keep your banjo safe if you ever want to take it traveling. You also get a set of finger picks and a strap that will help you be as comfortable as possible while learning.
When you are ready to make some noise, you can plug in the pickup that comes with this kit to channels you playing through a guitar amp
- Chrome plated brackets and gear tuners help the instrument to stay in tune for longer.
- Made from a combination of mahogany and walnut for a classic aesthetic.
- Comes with a gig bag, pick up and a set of finger picks.
- The frets may be slightly out of position on some individual models.
- Includes padded gig bag: Included with this 5-string banjo is a deluxe 15mm padded gig bag for secure carrying and storage. In addition, this guitar case is designed with a front pocket, backpack shoulder straps, and a carrying handle.
- Premium craftsmanship: Crafted from the finest woods, with a 5-ply maple and mahogany shell, mahogany neck, closed back mahogany resonator, as well as a purpleheart fretboard, this beautiful 5-string banjo from Jameson is exceptional.
- High-quality design: Jameson’s banjo features a Remo Weatherking drum head, a 5/8-inch maple ebony bridge, a chrome plated armrest, an adjustable tailpiece, and truss rod. Also, designed with a removable resonator allowing you to play the banjo both open and closed back.
- Geared 5th tuner: As a 5-string banjo, this model features a 5th geared tuner side peg. This is a beneficial enhancement over the more typical friction tuners, allowing for better control of your instrument’s sound.
- Beautiful tone: The design behind this banjo and the chosen materials enable it to produce an eloquent, rich tone. It offers distinctive and beautiful sound characteristics, perfect for playing bluegrass, clawhammer, folk, country, and rock tunes.
If you are looking for a product that offers excellent value for money, then this 5-string banjo made by Jameson Guitars is a great place to start.
Made from mahogany and maple, this instrument looks great and sounds even better. The brackets made from alloy steel are very durable and help the banjo hold its tune.
It also has a geared tuner on the 5th string, which is another feature that helps to reduce the time you will spend tuning your instrument.
The removable back panel allows you to use this product as a resonator or open-backed banjo. This gives you a lot of versatility for the various styles and genres you can play.
When compared to other similar brands, this banjo is very affordable but doesn’t sacrifice on quality. It has an outstanding tone and sound that will allow you to play any kind of music you like.
You can also buy it with a gig bag to protect your instrument from damage when carrying it from place to place.
- Removable resonator.
- Durable mahogany construction.
- Geared tuners prevent the instrument slipping in and out of tune.
- The strings that come with this banjo are not the best.
Buying the right banjo for a complete beginner can be a challenging process. To find an instrument that will make learning a simple process, you will need to consider several factors.
In this section, we will cover what a few of these factors are and what you should look out for when buying a banjo.
What is the best type of wood for your banjo?
The wood used to make a banjo will affect how it sounds when played. Various types of wood will resonate differently, causing them to have their own tone when used to make a stringed instrument.
Banjos made from maple will have a naturally bright sound, while those made from mahogany will have a more subtle warmth to their tone. Walnut lies between these two woods, with a sound that is warm like mahogany but with a little more brightness.
If you buy an instrument with a rim made from metal, just make sure the manufacturer does not build it from aluminum. This metal is not as tonal as steel or bronze, meaning it will sound much flatter and more tinny.
Often the rim will be made from wood and topped with a metal tone ring. Look for instruments that have a tone ring made of steel or bronze to enhance the natural resonance of the wood and to get the best sound possible.
Looking for the right frets in banjos
You don’t want the frets on your banjo to be too high, as this could lead to buzzing, among other issues. That said, you don’t want them to be too low either, as this will mean you will have to push the strings down further to get a clear note.
Many banjos will use a thinner gauge of fret wire than seen on a guitar. While this is fine for experienced players, it can make pushing the strings down more challenging for beginners.
If you can, look for a banjo that has thicker frets, so you won’t have to worry about not being able to push the strings down far enough.
How do tuning pegs affect banjo playing?
For a beginner, you want to buy a banjo that has geared tuning pegs rather than friction pegs. These pegs are easier to use, as they allow you to make more precise adjustments to the tuning of your instrument.
They also are much better at holding their tune, which means you won’t need to worry about constantly tuning your banjo every time you pick it up.
Resonator vs open-backed banjos, which are better?
This will largely come down to a matter of preference. However, consider if you want a resonator banjo or an open-backed model.
Open-backed banjos are a bit quieter but have a more twangy sound that is great for clawhammer style playing.
If you are more of a bluegrass fan, then you should invest in a resonator banjo. These are louder and sound much better for this style of playing. If you aren’t sure which style of playing you want to try, then don’t worry too much.
You can play both styles on any banjo, and once you know which one you like, you can always buy a better banjo that is better suited to your preferred techniques.
Buying a resonator banjo is the better choice for a beginner, especially one that has a removable resonator. This allows you to swap between the two types whenever you want, so you can experiment with both.
Picking action in your banjo
The action refers to how high manufacturers elevate the strings above the fretboard. If you are buying your first banjo, then you will want to buy one that comes set up for you, to save the difficulty of configuring your instrument.
However, this isn’t always possible, and sometimes you may get an instrument that is supposed to have been set up but is clearly not.
Get an open-backed banjo, or a resonator banjo where you can easily remove the back. This will give you instant access to the coordinator rod behind the drum head.
Altering the position of this rod will raise or lower the action of your strings, allowing you to adjust it to your preference. When buying a banjo, always check reviews to see if other customers have had issues with the action.
Since this is one of the trickier parts of configuring your instrument, it will be best to find a model that comes already set up.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Set Up The Bridge On A Banjo?
Many banjos will require you to set up the bridge yourself, to prevent the tensioned strings being damaged in the post. This is a relatively simple process that only requires a ruler and a bit of patience.
You need to place the bridge on the drum head under the strings so that each string falls into one of the notches on the bridge.
However, your bridge needs to be in the right place, or it will cause your banjo to sound out of tune as you move down the frets.
To get your bridge in the right place, take a long ruler and place one end of it in line with the top nut at the top of your banjo’s neck (right before the tuning pegs).
Measure the distance from the top nut to the 12th fret, and make a note of it. You want to place your bridge, so it is the same distance from the twelve frets as the top nut.
To test if your bridge is in the right place, try playing a harmonic on the 1st and 4th strings. To do this, place a finger at the twelfth fret and only lightly touch the string, not pushing down. You should hear a clear note sound, which will indicate that your bridge is in the right place.