How to choose a banjo

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Banjos come in a variety of types, each with a different number of strings, different construction materials and methods, different types of resonators, and different playing techniques. The type of banjo you choose will depend on what type of music you want to play, what kind of sound you want, and your budget. After reading this article you’ll never again have questions like “what banjo should i buy”, we’ve made it that simple.

Types of Banjos

There are a lot of banjos of all forms and colors, that can be categorized by different features, such as number of strings, sound type, materials, etc.

How many strings?

Banjos have 4, 5 or 6 strings. The number of strings depends on the music you want to play and the type of sound you want.

7-string banjo

Resonator (closed) or open back

Banjos come in two main types: resonator and open back. This defines type of sound the banjo would make and is one of the most important characteristics when you’re choosing yourself a banjo.

Resonators are made of wood or plastic. They have a metal cover that is attached to the body and is used to amplify the sound. Resonators have a bright and “ringing” sound and are usually used in bluegrass music.

Open backs have no resonator, and all the sound comes directly from the strings, so they are not as loud as resonator banjos. They are used in folk music and are often the choice of those who play solo or want a more mellow sound.

Banjo Playing Techniques

There are two main playing techniques: finger picking and flat picking.

Finger picking

The player’s thumb plays bass notes, while the other fingers are used for the melody.

The player usually uses a claw-grip, where the thumb and index fingers are used to hold down the strings and the other fingers are used to pluck.

Flat picking

The player uses a flat pick to pluck the strings. The picking hand is placed behind the neck and the fingers are used to pluck the strings.

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Parts of the Banjo

The banjo has a few different parts: the neck, the body, the head, the bridge, the tailpiece, and the strings.

The neck

Neck is a part of banjo that extends from the body and has the tuning pegs at the top. The neck is usually made of wood, but can also be made of metal or composite materials. The fingerboard is attached to the neck and has frets, which are metal bars that the strings sit on. The nut is at the top of the fingerboard and the strings go through it. The peghead is at the end of the neck and has the tuning pegs, which are used to tune the banjo.

banjo-neck

The body

The body of the banjo is the round part that the neck is attached to. The resonator is attached to the body and the strings run over the bridge. The sound hole is usually in the middle of the body. The pot is the round part of the body that the resonator attaches to.

The head

The head is a piece of cloth or skin that is stretched over the pot. The head is what makes the banjo sound. The tension of the head is important for the sound of the banjo.

The bridge

The bridge is a small piece of wood that the strings sit on. The bridge helps to transfer the vibrations of the strings to the head.

banjo bridge

The tailpiece

The tailpiece is a metal piece that the strings are attached to. The tailpiece is what holds the tension of the strings.

The strings

The strings are made of metal or nylon. The strings are tuned to different notes and the player plucks them with their fingers or a pick.

Banjo Construction Methods and Materials

Banjos can be made with different materials and construction methods. The most common materials are wood, metal, and composite materials. Banjos can be made with a resonator or without a resonator.

Wood

Wood is the most common material for banjos. Banjos can be made with different types of wood, such as maple, mahogany, and cherry. The type of wood used for the banjo affects the sound of the banjo.

Metal

Metal banjos are less common than wood banjos. Metal banjos are usually made with aluminum or brass. Metal banjos can have a resonator or be open-backed.

Composite materials

Composite materials are materials that are made of two or more different materials. Composite materials are sometimes used for banjos. Composite materials can be made of wood and metal, or metal and plastic.

Assessing a Banjo’s Quality

The quality of the banjo is important for the sound of the instrument. The materials used for the banjo have an affect on the sound quality, as does the construction method. The instrument should be in tune, have good sound and intonation, and have proper set up. A good quality banjo is going to be more expensive than a lower quality banjo.

banjo strumming

So, how to determine the quality of a banjo? First, you need to consider the materials used. Second, you need to consider the construction method. Third, you need to consider the set up of the instrument. Fourth, you need to consider the sound quality.

The materials used for the banjo have an affect on the sound quality. The type of wood, the type of metal, and the type of composite material all have an effect on the sound quality.

The construction method also has an affect on the sound quality. The way the neck is attached to the body, the way the head is attached to the pot, and the way the bridge is attached to the head all have an effect on the sound quality.

The set up of the instrument also has an effect on the sound quality. The intonation, the action, and the string tension all have an affect on the sound quality.

The sound quality is the most important factor in determining the quality of the banjo. The sound quality is affected by the materials used, the construction method, the set up of the instrument, and the playing style of the banjo player.

Banjo Accessories

There are a lot of accessories that can be used with a banjo. These accessories can be used to help the banjo player play the banjo, or they can be used to help protect the banjo.

Some of the accessories that can be used with a banjo are:

  • A strap: A strap can be used to help the banjo player hold the banjo.
  • A case: A case can be used to help protect the banjo.
  • A metronome: A metronome can be used to help the banjo player keep time.
  • A tuner: A tuner can be used to help the banjo player tune the banjo.
  • A pick: A pick can be used to help the banjo player pluck the strings.

New or Used

A used banjo will have less value than a new banjo, but can be a good option for a budget-conscious player. The wear and tear will affect the sound quality of the instrument, but a good banjo can be found for a good price.

A new banjo will be more expensive than a used banjo. A new banjo will also have less value than an equivalent used banjo.

FAQ

What banjo type is better for a beginner?

A resonator banjo is usually recommended for a beginner. A resonator banjo is easier to hold and play than an open-back banjo. A resonator banjo can be very loud, so it is easier to hear the new player making mistakes.

What is the difference between open-back and resonator?

A resonator is a piece of metal that is attached to the body of the banjo. A resonator helps to amplify the sound of the banjo. A resonator is often closed and is found in most bluegrass banjos. An open-back banjo doesn’t have a resonator.

What music styles use banjo?

There are a lot of different types of music that use the banjo. These music styles include bluegrass, folk, and old-time.

How to buy a banjo

If you are thinking about buying a banjo, you will want to make sure that you buy a banjo that is a good quality. There are a couple of things that you can look at to help you decide whether a banjo is a good quality or not.

The first thing that you can look at is the materials used to make the banjo. The wood and metal used to make the banjo will affect the sound quality. A high quality banjo will have materials that are high quality.

The second thing that you can look at is the construction method used to make the banjo. A high quality banjo will have a high quality construction method.

The third thing that you can look at is the set up of the banjo. A high quality banjo will have a good set up. A good set up is going to affect the sound quality.

The last thing that you can look at is the sound quality of the banjo. A high quality banjo will have a high quality sound. Hopefully, this banjo buying guide helped you.

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About the author

Hey, my name is John Peters, and I’m a co-founder and Jack’s co-editors. My country sole was born when I was not more than 4 years old and my dad brought several country records home. These were the records by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Asleep at The Wheel, and Neil Young. I fell in love with the genre forever back then. Before entering the university, I managed to gather a collection of over 1200 vinyl records with both classic and modern country releases.

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