Are you a beginner player, and you want to purchase the best cheap banjo? While professional banjos can brag an impressive sound and also cost a lot, it is still possible to purchase a great beginner instrument without spending a fortune.
There is a lot to consider before buying a new banjo — its size, quality of the materials, number of strings, and more. You should make sure that your instrument is both easy to use and suitable for your needs. In this guide, you will find the information you need to make a decision.
10 Best Cheap Banjo Models Reviewed
Banjo is an instrument with an incredibly rich history. There are plenty of banjo models out there, but it can be difficult for a beginner to determine which ones are worth the attention. Here you will find 10 affordable options that won’t disappoint.
- Vangoa 5-String Banjo – Best budget banjo for beginner players
- Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo – One of the best banjos for the money
- Kmise 4-String Banjo Ukulele – Best cheap banjo and ukulele combination
- ADM 5-String Banjo
- Mulucky 5 String Banjo Large
- Ashthorpe 5-String Banjo
- Costzon 6-String Banjo
- MIRIO 5-String
- Donner 5-String Banjo
- EDMBG 5-String Banjo
1. Vangoa 5-String Banjo – Best budget banjo for beginner players
|Dimensions:||38 x 14 x 5.5 inches|
|Top Material Type:||Walnut, Mahogany|
In my opinion, the 5-string banjo from Vangoa is a perfect choice for beginner players who don’t know what instrument to choose. This banjo has a combination of a beautiful design and great sound, which is achieved thanks to the use of mahogany wood. What I like about the design of this banjo is that it has an arched back, which makes it louder. As opposed to flat-back instruments, you get a more effective sound reflection. Also, it is possible to adjust the position of the strings and remove the resonator to turn it into an open banjo.
Another significant benefit of this banjo is that it comes with the necessary accessories that you won’t have to purchase separately. This includes an adjustable strap, tuning key, backup strings, and more.
- Beautiful design
- A great instrument for beginners
- Banjo has an adjustable neck
- Comes with the necessary accessories
- Strap and pick could be of higher quality
2. Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo – One of the best banjos for the money
|Dimensions:||45.6 x 17.9 x 6 inches|
The next banjo I decided to add to this review is a 5-string one from Jameson Guitars. One of the reasons why it’s such a great banjo for beginners is that you can play this instrument right after you receive it. As opposed to many instruments, this one only needs some tuning.
The instrument has a good construction with 24 brackets, a closed-back, and an adjustable tailpiece. The neck is made from mahogany, and if you want, it is also possible to remove the resonator, so you can achieve the versatility in the sound. As for the hardware of this instrument, one of its useful features is that it has a geared 5th tuner. You won’t find this tuner part on many cheaper banjos, and its presence allows you to keep the tuning for longer.
- Affordable cost
- Balanced construction
- Lightweight instrument
- Expensive-looking design
- The sound could be louder
3. Kmise 4-String Banjo Ukulele – Best cheap banjo and ukulele combination
|Dimensions:||23 x 8.4 x 2 inches|
|Material:||Maple, Okoume, Walnut, Sapele, Ebony|
The ukulele is one of those instruments that many people pick up to play as a hobby. If you are a beginner, you may want to consider purchasing Kmise Banjo Ukulele. The reason is that you get the advantage of having an approachable ukulele neck and the most affordable price.
The instrument has 4 strings, and its sides, neck, and back are made from sapele wood. As this Kmise model has a ukulele-style neck, there are only 12 frets. This banjo is lightweight, and, thanks to this fact, it can easily be used even by children. When it comes to the sound, I like how clear and mellow it sounds, but you should be ready that this instrument is not as loud as banjos that have resonators.
- Its light weight makes it suitable for kids
- Ukulele-style fretboard for beginners
- Very affordable cost
- Sapele tonewood is not the highest quality material
- The sound may seem not loud enough for some people
4. ADM 5-String Banjo — Good inexpensive banjo that doesn’t need assembly
|Dimensions:||41 x 18 x 5 inches|
The next affordable banjo that deserves the attention of beginners is the ADM 5-string banjo. If you don’t want to deal with the assembly, you would be happy to know that this instrument is playable right out of the box.
The instrument has a mahogany bridge and 24-bracket fingerboard, which is certainly great news. When testing this instrument, I noticed that it holds its tuning quite well, and I like that it has a geared 5th tuner, which definitely adds to this and helps achieve the classic banjo tones. As opposed to many inexpensive models, it’s obvious how well this one is built thanks to the use of maple, rosewood, and chromium in its construction. The kit also comes with the tuner, picks, strap, and strings.
- Great construction and high-quality tonewoods
- Low price
- Comes with accessories
- Ready-to-use out of the box
- A resonator is loud enough only for small gigs
- Won’t be appropriate for people with large fingers
5. Mulucky 5 String Banjo Large — Cheap banjo for beginners made in a traditional style
|Dimensions:||39 x 10 x 3 inches|
Mulucky 5-string banjo, in its large design, is another decent instrument for beginner players that don’t want to spend too much on their first banjo. The banjo looks traditional and has a cool head designed by Remo. It features 24 chrome-plated brackets and has a mahogany body that contributes to its soft sound. You will find a convenient chrome armrest, adjustable hinged tailpiece, and also a geared 5th string tuner. In such a way, this banjo has all the features that a beginner instrument should have.
One issue to mention is that it’s better to file down the fret wire, as it can be quite sharp in some places. Overall, it’s a comfortable instrument, and if you purchase a kit, you also get fingerpicks, a tuner, a strap, and more.
- Good sound for a beginner banjo
- Pleasant traditional design
- Made from high-quality materials
- Low-quality case
- Fret wire can be quite sharp
6. Ashthorpe 5-String Banjo — One of the best banjos for the price from a reliable company
|Dimensions:||5-String, Left Handed|
This banjo from Ashthorpe is another interesting option that can be safely purchased by beginner players. I like the classic design of this instrument, and I think it works for all kinds of styles and music genres. This Ashthorpe banjo has 24 brackets, a laurel fretboard, a mahogany neck, and a gorgeous high-gloss finish. Similar to many other models, it’s great that this one can be played without the resonator.
It’s obvious that the manufacturer paid attention to details, as I immediately noticed that frets had been smoothly polished on the instrument I tested. The instrument has an adjustable truss rod, which allows you to ensure that the neck is always straight.
- Good quality of the materials
- Smooth frets
- Suitable for different music styles
- Gorgeous design
- The sound is clear but not loud enough
7. Costzon 6-String Banjo — Cheap 6 string banjo with all the features a beginner needs
|Dimensions:||14 x 5 x 39 inches|
The only 6-string instrument that I decided to include in this review is from Costzon. For its price, this is one of the best instruments for banjo players that prefer playing on 6 strings. The instrument has a sapele back, 24 steel brackets, and an adjustable truss rod. When playing, I noticed that this instrument is quite good at holding the tuning. You can play with an open back to get a bright and clear sound while the close resonator gives mellower tones.
I like that this model has dots on the fretboard, which makes it easier for beginners to find notes. When you buy a kit, you get picks and a strap, but you should be ready that such accessories are not of the highest quality.
- Versatile model
- Can be played with and without the resonator
- Holds tuning well
- Full-size banjo suitable even for players with larger hands
- Picks and a shoulder strap are low quality
8. MIRIO 5-String — Classic banjo with a 3-year guarantee
|Dimensions:||41 x 17.45 x 5.8 inches|
This instrument from Mirio is another one I have chosen for this review, and I definitely don’t regret testing it. The instrument has a great design, and the same can be said about its sound and construction. It features a rosewood fingerboard, while the other parts are made from mahogany tonewood. This banjo has the standard 24 brackets and also a geared 5th tuner, which is always something I want to see on such models.
As opposed to friction tuners, this one holds tunning better. I was also happy to see that the manufacturer gives a 3-year warranty on this instrument, and this is always a pleasant bonus. While this is a full-scale it is still lightweight enough, so you can take it with you anywhere.
- Made from high-quality tonewood
- Reliable construction
- Has a geared 5th tuner
- Low-quality accessories that come in a kit
9. Donner 5-String Banjo — Affordable instrument that has a nice sound
|Dimensions:||39.76 x 16.54 x 4.92 inches|
This Donner 5-string banjo is yet another high-quality yet inexpensive option. The banjo has a traditional design and a Remo head, which positively influences its sound. I tried playing this instrument with and without the resonator, and both times I was impressed with the quality of the sound. The instrument has low-action strings, which are ideal for beginners.
As for the materials, this banjo features a mahogany neck, back, and sides, which add to its sturdiness. The instrument has the usual 24 brackets. The only downside of this instrument is that it doesn’t come fully set up, so either you will have to do it on your own or ask for professional help.
- Durable construction
- Low-action strings
- Comes with a beginner kit
- Can be used as an open banjo
- Can be used as an open banjo
10. EDMBG 5-String Banjo – Traditional instrument for players who like a bright sound
|Material:||Remo head, Sepele wood|
Another affordable instrument you may want to consider is the 5-string banjo from EDMBG. One of my friends had this exact banjo, and he says that it’s one of the best for its price. The banjo is fairly lightweight, having a great REMO head, a maple neck, and sapele back and body.
While sapele is not the premium tonewood, this instrument produces punchy and bright sound, which can be an ideal solution for when you play in bands. Overall, this is a good beginner instrument that has a traditional design and reliable construction.
- Suitable for beginners and more advanced players
- Has a REMO head
- Classic stylish design
- Bright sound
- Sapele wood used in its construction is not the best
Buying a new instrument is a nerve-racking process because you want to make the best decision. It is important to consider all factors, such as materials, features, and more before you purchase your first banjo.
Types of budget banjo
Choosing the budget banjo means that you should consider the available types. Different styles of music and preferences of musicians determine which instrument would be best for them.
The two main types of banjos are resonator and open-back ones. The first option is ideal for bluegrass music, and its significant advantage is the fact that they are louder and thus suitable for larger gigs. Open-back banjos are ideal for country music and some other traditional styles, as they give the most natural sound.
What type of banjo to choose?
What is great about many modern banjos is that they come with resonators that can be removed whenever you want. If you don’t yet know what banjo type you prefer, it is best to choose a model that allows you to play both ways. Luckily, there are numerous versatile models on the market to select from.
What characteristics to consider before buying?
There is a lot to consider before buying a banjo, some of the characteristics you should pay attention to include:
Number of strings
Modern banjos that you can purchase have 4, 5 or 6 strings. 5-string instruments are ideal for folk music and bluegrass. When it comes to 4-string banjos, such instruments are widely used by Dixieland bands, as they ensure the brightest tone and can be heard perfectly well when the ensemble is playing. 6-string banjos are the most controversial ones, as they are too similar to traditional guitars only with the sound of the banjo.
The most commonly used number of strings is 5 and most beginners are recommended to purchase banjos with this many strings. The reason is that 5 strings give you the necessary versatility and are less difficult to get into compared to the 6-string ones.
Tonewood plays a crucial role in how the instrument will sound. For instance, mahogany provides a warm and gentle tone thanks to the softness of the wood, which is why it’s often used in high-quality banjos.
Maple is known for its brightness and quick response, which is why instruments that use this material generally sound louder. This is another material that is popular among banjo players.
Walnut is another material that is somewhere in the middle between maple and mahogany when it comes to brightness and softness. It provides a well-balanced sound that is definitely warmer than maple but not as soft as mahogany.
Not all modern banjos come with a warranty, as it all depends on the manufacturer. High-quality instruments can come with a lifetime limited warranty, but this is rather an exception than the rule if we are talking about cheaper banjos. It is also possible to get instruments with 1-3 years warranties, so this is something you should pay attention to.
Inexpensive Banjos FAQ
Choosing the right banjo can be quite a challenge when you are a beginner. Here are some common questions that players ask.
What style of banjo is easiest to learn?
While this depends a lot on the person, the clawhammer style is traditionally considered the easiest one to learn for beginner banjo players. Once you are able to get the basic stroke of this style, it’s not difficult to play simple tunes and keep up the proper rhythm, even if you are a complete novice.
How to upgrade a cheap banjo?
There are several ways how to make a cheap banjo sound better:
Use high-quality strings on your instrument. This often means that you should replace strings that your banjo came with.
Adjust the distance between your strings and the fretboard. They shouldn’t be too high or too low.
Make sure that the neck is always straight by adjusting the truss rod. If you are a beginner, it’s a good idea to entrust this to a professional.
You can improve the sound by changing the banjo’s head if you know that it’s not a good one.
Either adjust or completely change the bridge, as it often provides a huge difference in the tone you get.
Beginner Instruments Don’t Have to Be Low-Quality
The times when good country music instruments were extremely expensive are long gone. Nowadays, you can buy a decent banjo even on a budget. While all of these banjos on the list are inexpensive and give a good sound, my top pick is the 5-string model from Vangoa. It is made from high-quality materials and doesn’t feel or look cheap by any means. The instrument is sufficiently loud and has all the features that a player may need.
What do you think about these instruments? Have you ever played any of them? Please share your thoughts on these banjos and any suggestions in the comments below!