Best Banjo for Beginners: Tips on Buying Your First Banjo

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If you are a banjo fan and have decided to become a member of traditional American music rather than just a listener, this article is for you. Before you start playing, you need to buy your musical instrument.

Because of the wide selection, the desire to buy the best banjo for beginners becomes a challenge. Even if you are not planning to buy the most expensive instrument, you want to avoid a useless purchase anyway. In this article, I will tell you how to choose a banjo for beginners and give you an overview of some popular models.

10 Best Banjos for Beginners Reviewed

With the information in this section, I want to help you overcome the big step from wanting to play to buying your first banjo. Here are reviews of 10 popular banjo models for beginners.

1. ADM 5-String Banjo: Best Banjo for Beginners at a Low Price

Size: Large Size
Number of Strings: 5
Top Material Type: Walnut, Sapele
Back Material Type: Walnut, Sapele, Wood

The five-string banjo has a high-quality Remo reel that provides a pleasant, clear sound. The wooden body construction is corrosion-free and allows the banjo to last a long time. The frets and soundboard are in black walnut for a deeper sound.

The banjo also comes with a toothed 5th tuner, a sealed banjo bag, strap, strings, and plectrum. A buddy of mine decided to learn to play the banjo and chose the option from All Day Music as his first musical instrument. He spoke positively about this model of the banjo. It is perfect for a beginner, as it does not require significant investment and comes with all the necessary tools for easy use.

Among the advantages are the stylish appearance and the comfortable shape. The included tuner will help a beginner tune the strings. This instrument belongs to the price/quality category, so do not expect a sound like an expensive banjo and high quality from additional accessories.

Compared to the second banjo model on the list, this instrument has the advantage: a toothed tuner for the 5th string. Usually, such tuners are in more expensive models.

Things You’d like
  • Price
  • Appearance
  • Easy to use
  • Quite soft strings
  • Tuner included
  • Updated fifth string peg
  • Sturdy construction
Maybe You'll be confused
  • Mediators do not fit everyone. You might have to buy the right size
  • Not very comfortable strap attachment

2. Pyle 5-String Resonator Banjo: Best Classic Banjo for Beginners

Size: Full
Number of Strings: 5
Top Material Type: Sapele
Back Material Type: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene
String Material Type: Alloy Steel
Finish Type: Polished

Pyle’s beginner’s kit includes everything you need to start playing the banjo. The musical instrument is made of quality materials, the Remo drum coating provides a bright sound, and the 24 staples securely fix the banjo’s construction. The banjo is classic, five-stringed, and suitable for playing different styles like kart, folk, and bluegrass.

I’ve tested this banjo myself, and it sounds as good as it looks. The kit with all the accessories will help the beginner tune the instrument.

This model is comfortable to hold, and your fingers glide smoothly over the thin strings. That is important for someone who is just learning to play. Thicker strings would require more effort. The banjo lives up to its cost and even exceeds it. I don’t advise counting on high-quality accessories. After all, it is a starter kit.

The great thing about this model is the ability to adjust the backrest. This is a major advantage for a beginner in learning and finding their style. With this banjo model, it is possible to experiment and find the perfect sound.

The Pyle brand has been on the market for over 20 years. During this period, their name has become synonymous with quality and affordable prices.

Things You’d like
  • Price
  • Design
  • Build quality
  • Ability to adjust the backrest
Maybe You'll be confused
  • Modest quality accessories

3. Kmise Banjo Ukulele: Most Affordable Banjo for Beginners

Size: 23 inch
Number of Strings: 4
Top Material Type: Maple, Okoume, Walnut, Sapele, Ebony
Back Material Type: Sapele
String Material Type: Nylon
Color: Cylinder Inlay

The Kmise brand creates musical instruments made of durable materials that last a long time. The company is attentive to each customer and provides the necessary consultation. Beginners in music, students, and music schools choose musical instruments of this brand.

This banjolele with the size of 23 inches has four strings. The sturdy body is made of maple and walnut, and the drum is of highly resilient polyester. That gives the banjo a great sound and durability. Since this is a beginner’s set, you get a case, strings, strap, tuner, and picks along with the banjo.

My acquaintance’s son studied to play the banjo and chose the Kmise banjolele as his first musical instrument. The banjo is not difficult to tune. For example, you might need to set up the bridge by yourself. The beginner was able to do it by the instructions. Soft strings and a stroke of about 3 mm on the 12th fret are perfect for the beginner’s hands.

This banjo is multi-functional, as there is the ability to play in different ways, with the back open and closed, allowing for a different sound. The budget model has Aquila strings. That is another significant advantage of this instrument.

Compared to the previous models, the banjolele from Kmise is comfortable to play due to the motion of only 3 mm on the 12th fret. The tuner with closed gear is protected against dust and corrosion, unlike models with an open one.

Things You’d like
  • Price
  • Design
  • Build quality
  • Ability to adjust the backrest
  • The 3 mm motion on the 12 fret
Maybe You'll be confused
  • It needs some additional setup

4. Mulucky Banjolele: Best Concert-Size Banjo for Beginners

Size: 23 inch
Number of Strings: 4
Top Material Type: Sapele
Back Material Type: Sapele
String Material Type: Nylon

This compact four-string banjolele measures 23 inches and is made of durable materials. The banjo is equipped with premium Italian Aquila strings. Since this is a starter banjo kit, you get an extra set of strings, tuner, picks, case, and a bright Hawaiian-style strap.

A colleague of mine knows how to play the ukulele. He recently tested the banjolele from Mulucky. Denis said that this instrument looks beautiful! The build quality, the fittings, everything is made to make you not want to part with this instrument. The banjolele is compact, so you can take it to music school, on vacation, etc. An instrument of such a size is comfortable to hold in the hands of a beginning musician.

I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of the budget version of this banjolele. The 12 brackets hold the body securely in place and provide a clean sound. Many of the details in this instrument are inherent in the more expensive versions.

The manufacturer is constantly improving the models of its musical instruments. In addition to the above features, the Banjolele BU8017 has a chrome armrest, which makes it easier to play.

The Mulucky brand has been around since 2010. A young team founded the brand, so each of their products exudes a real drive. The company’s key feature, which has made it so popular, is a nice product from quality materials at a minimal price.

Things You’d like
  • Price
  • Design
  • Build quality
  • Ability to adjust the backrest
  • The 3 mm motion on the 12 fret
Maybe You'll be confused
  • Might seem tricky to tune for the first time

5. Donner 4-String Banjolele: Best Banjo for Adult Performers

Size: Concert Size
Number of Strings: 4
Top Material Type: Maple, Sapele
Back Material Type: Sapele
String Material Type: Nylon

This four-string instrument is a hybrid of banjo and ukulele. It has an 18-fret carved fingerboard and a 23-inch drum. The body is made of Sapele, which gives a clean, soft sound. The fingerboard is made from maple and hardwood, so it’s strong enough, and the strings don’t cut into the surface.

I’m into banjo playing, but I’m always interested in trying something new. This banjolele is compact, which is important for convenience and for sounding good. The instrument looks stylish and expensive. It would work well as a banjo for a beginner. First, it’s not as expensive, and second, it’s easy to tune thanks to the tuner included.

On the plus side, it has a beginner’s starter kit and quality materials that will last a long time. It’s comfortable for both adults and children to play. Of the minuses, the strings require some time to settle down. But this is true for most budget versions of banjos and banjoleles.

The Donner brand has been creating its musical instruments since 2012. They are constantly improving their products, paying attention to details, especially exclusive guitar pedals. Their goal is that people can create quality music and be happy with the result.

Things You’d like
  • Price
  • Design
  • Build quality
  • Easy setup
Maybe You'll be confused
  • Requires some time for the strings to settle down

6. AKLOT 5-String Banjo: Best Ethnic Banjo for Beginners

Number of Strings: 5
Top Material Type: Maple
Back Material Type: Maple

The classic five-string banjo is made of maple, sounds incredible, and feels good. The quality Remo plastic and the open back have a positive effect on the sound as well. Banjo comes from Africa, so this model is made in ethnic African style. The covering of the drum with imitation of bull skin not only looks beautiful but also creates a great sound, especially with the bridge of maple.

My friend ordered this banjo for his son. The quality of this banjo allows it to be used much longer than just the first practice instrument. It is easy to use, simple to tune, and it produces a great sound.

The banjo looks harmonious, and the textures are pleasant to the touch. The instrument has an anchor rod for adjusting the fingerboard and a drum head. With the help of special devices from the starter kit, it will be easy to adjust the strings and set the bridge in the correct position. Unlike many budget versions of banjo, you will find not just guitar mediators but a set of classic banjo claws in the kit.

Aklot has been making musical instruments since 2012. They started with the production of ukuleles. The goal was to popularize this musical instrument. They are constantly experimenting with materials and assembly methods to give the consumer a product that has a new and inimitable sound.

Things You’d like
  • Price
  • Design
  • Build quality
Maybe You'll be confused
  • Some users report they have issues with the assembly

7. Magic Gold Banjo Ukulele: Best Starter’s Model With Armrest

Size: 23 inch
Number of Strings: 4
Top Material Type: Maple, Walnut, Sapele, Ebony

This is a 23-inch banjolele made from materials that create a uniquely broad timbre. The smooth walnut fingerboard and copper edges are carefully polished to avoid scratching your hands. The back and sides of the instrument are made of high-quality sapele material. The banjo comes with durable Aquila strings.

My friend knows how to play the ukulele and decided to buy a brand-new banjolele for a change. She was happy with the sound quality with both the open and closed back of its head. The banjolele is comfortable to hold, and the fingers glide smoothly over the strings. A beginner musician will also be fine with a banjolele. It’s not hard to play, and a set of extras will help in tuning. Strings will stretch quickly at the beginning of use. Over time, they will settle down so there won’t be any more problems.

Despite the low cost of this banjolele, it looks very decent. It will probably last much longer than just a starter banjo. It is sold in a set with a case that will protect the device from moisture and dirt and prolong its life.

This model is equipped with an armrest for comfortable playing. Your hands should not get tired from contact with the base of the banjo.

Things You’d like
  • Price
  • Design
  • Build quality
Maybe You'll be confused
  • It requires some time for the strings to settle down

8. Costzon 6-String: Best Banjo for Beginners With Remo Head

Size: 14 x 5 x 39 inches
Number of Strings: 6
Top Material Type: Maple, Sapele

This six-string banjo sounds vivid thanks to the Remo leather and maple wood bridge. 24 brackets hold the structure firmly and provide a clear sound. It comes with tools for tuning. The instrument is suitable for playing blues and country music.

My friend Agnes started to get into music, so I decided to get her a musical instrument. I was looking for something simple and not trivial for a beginner. So I decided on this 6-string banjo. After tuning, Agnes started practicing, and I was happy to test the instrument. I must say that it sounds great and the build quality is top-notch. For a beginner, this model banjo is very comfortable to play because of the transparent neck, nylon strings, and sound dots that allow you to find the correct position.

The advantage of the banjo is its price. But for that money, you can get an instrument that is suitable for a beginner, and a professional. The banjo can be open-back and closed-back, and there is an anchor rod for adjusting the fingerboard. The beginner’s kit will help you tune your banjo properly. The only thing is, to me, the banjo sounds bright with a metal pick, so I wouldn’t use the pick from the kit.

Costzon is a store with a variety of products, including musical instruments. Their main goal is the lowest possible price and good quality service. If a customer has any problems, the store’s support responds promptly.

Things You’d like
  • Price
  • Design
  • Build quality
Maybe You'll be confused
  • There might be some cosmetic flaws from the manufacturer

9. Vangoa Banjo 5-String: Best Banjo for Starters With Open Back

Size: 38 Inch
Number of Strings: 5
Top Material Type: Mahogany

This is a premium-quality banjo made of mahogany and matte plastic Remo. The ability to play with the back closed and open allows you to adjust the sound.

A friend of mine gave one of these banjos to his nephew. Considering the cost of the instrument, it looks classy and expensive. It is possible to start playing it almost immediately after unpacking it. All is needed to install the bridge and pull the strings. There is an instruction manual in the kit, so a beginner can do it. In case the strings break during tuning, spare strings are included. The strings are soft but have a bright sound. For a beginner, this is important because you don’t have to strain your hands too hard to start playing.

The Vangoa brand has been inspiring its fans to make music since 2017. Their goal is to create original musical instruments and bring creativity to everyone.

Things You’d like
  • Price
  • Design
  • Build quality
  • Easy setup
Maybe You'll be confused
  • The first tuning might take some time for a novice player

10. Donner Banjo: Best Banjo for Beginners With Banjo Kit

Size: Large Size
Number of Strings: 5
Top Material Type: Mahogany

The banjo features Italian Aquila strings and closed tuning pegs. The smooth fingerboard provides comfortable touch and does not scratch your fingers. The plastic on the banjo is made by the famous Remo company. It provides a pleasant sound. During the play, you can tap on the plastic to add attractive accents to the music.

My cousin asked me to help pick out a banjo for her boyfriend. He wanted to learn to play the banjo for a long time, so this starter set was just right. It is a beautiful sounding instrument. Once you get your hands on it, you don’t want to let it go. Considering that this banjo is for beginners, it is easy to play because of the low stroke at the 12th fret. The mahogany banjo, combined with the high-quality Remo plastic, provides a great sound.

Things You’d like
  • Price
  • Easy to use
  • Quite soft strings
Maybe You'll be confused
  • The bracket hooks near the tailpiece might dig into the forearm

Banjo for Beginners Buyer’s Guide

Buying a banjo can be a little intimidating at first because the choice of instruments is huge, and it’s easy for a beginner to get lost in the variety. But if you determine a few parameters that it must meet, you will ease the process of choosing.

How to сhoose the best banjo for beginners

Kind of Music

First, you should understand what kind of music you want to play. That determines how many strings the banjo requires.

Open or closed back

The sound is also influenced by whether the back is open or closed. But things are easier with this question because, in modern banjos, you can remove the backrest and put it back if you decide to experiment.

Material

The basic material of a banjo is wood which also affects the sound. For example, mahogany gives a richer sound, while maple allows the banjo to sound natural and bright. A walnut instrument sounds similar to a maple one but more muted.

Frets and strings

The frets and strings are also very important to the beginner. At first glance, it might seem like they are all the same, but they are not. If your banjo has too high frets and strong strings, your hands will quickly tire from playing. It is better to choose an instrument with soft strings.

It is good if you can hold the banjo in your hands before buying it and see if the strings are easy to press, and how the banjo sits in your hand. You should not rely only on appearance.

Extras

In addition to the instrument itself, you might need picks, a tuner, a strap, and a new set of strings. There are quite a few beginner banjo packages on sale. Together with the instrument, you buy everything you need to start playing.

choosing banjos for beginners
Banjo for beginners

5-string vs. 4-string vs. 6-string

When looking for a banjo, you will come across models with different numbers of strings:

  • The four-string banjo. This banjo’s fingerboard is shorter and has a higher string. It is used for jazz and Irish music;
  • Five-string banjo. That is the classic banjo, especially for beginners. You can play in a variety of styles, such as bluegrass and clawhammer. This banjo is considered the simplest because it is tuned to the chord G;
  • Six-string banjo. That is essentially the same guitar, only with the appearance of a banjo. This musical instrument is chosen by those who are closer to the guitar but like the bright banjo sound. It is often preferred by those who already know how to play the guitar.

Open-back banjos vs. closed-back/resonator

The backrest is either open or closed, which affects the sound quality. As I have mentioned before, the modern banjo models provide you with the ability to remove and install the backrest, so you don’t have to buy two separate instruments. However, you should know the difference.

Banjos with an open back are perfect for the old clawhammer style. Fans of a deeper, richer style play banjos with closed backs. That is suitable for bluegrass or folk styles.

Left-handed vs. right-handed

A left-handed banjo mirrors a right-handed instrument. Most manufacturers make their banjos for right-handed people, so you can find left-handed versions in some brands. To answer the plural question of whether you can buy a right-handed banjo for left-handed people, I would advise against it. If you hold the banjo with the wrong hand, you will hold it upside down.

It is highly unlikely that a beginner will manage to rearrange the strings to make the banjo suitable for a left-handed player. It will take you a lot of time to practice with your right hand, and it is unlikely to be fun to play this way. It is better to save time and money and buy an instrument with the necessary orientation.

FAQ on Banjos for Beginners

I want to complete my review with answers to frequent questions from beginners.

How much should you spend on a good banjo?

If you find a banjo price guide, you can see that banjo prices range from about $70 to $3,000. It all depends on what you expect from a banjo. You can find quite decent options among budget models under $300.

How can you verify the quality of a banjo?

The tactile feel will help you determine the quality of the instrument. A high-quality banjo is lightweight and durable. Your fingers glide easily over the strings, the strings are easy to press, and nothing catches in your hand. If so, you have found a good banjo.

What is a good starter banjo kit?

In addition to the musical instrument, it should include a tuner, a spare set of strings, rulers for setting the bridge, a case, a banjo strap, and plectrums.

Find Your Perfect Banjo

If you have never played a stringed instrument before and decide to start playing the banjo, your first instrument will determine whether it will succeed or not. If you buy the wrong banjo, you might find it too challenging to play and abandon the lessons. The tips above should help you navigate through the vast selection of banjos and find your own.

What was your first banjo? Which pros and cons did it have?

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About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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