Mandolin vs. Banjo: What Are the Key Differences?

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The world of music and musical instruments is truly amazing and incredibly diverse. Mandolin vs. banjo: They have many differences, but they are also a bit similar. Let’s explore their distinctive features to understand which instrument best suits your musical tastes.

Which Instruments Suits You Best?

A banjo:

  • Has the resonant ringing, makes sharp sounds, lower than a mandolin;
  • Has a round shape;
  • Is easier to learn;
  • Has 4 or 5 strings;
  • Is generally associated with folk and bluegrass.

A mandolin:

  • Has a sound similar to a guitar with a higher pitch;
  • Has a teardrop shape;
  • Has 8 strings;
  • Is used in creating music of various genres.

Comparison of banjos and mandolins

Choosing Between Mandolin and Banjo Guide

In this article, I will help you select your perfect musical instrument. Beyond that, I will analyze their key characteristics that are becoming more popular every day due to their colorful and authentic sound. It is important to consider the primary differences between a mandolin and a banjo.

These instruments have a lot in common but are not the same as beginner musicians may think. Since these distinctive features are crucial for musical style, you should first understand what sound you need.

Differences between a banjo and a mandolin


Sound is a hallmark of these instruments. What does a mandolin sound like? The mandolin makes a rather high-pitched sound. It is very different from the sound of a banjo. It does not have the resonant ringing heard when playing the banjo.

When you hear the banjo, you immediately think of folk music and bluegrass. You can experiment with musical genres on the mandolin: bluegrass, folk, country, and even classical music.

The banjo will suit you if you want the instrument to be heard among the louder ones. It has a brighter and more memorable “twang” sound. The mandolin has a richer sound, similar to a guitar with a higher pitch. You can listen to the mandolin and banjo playing to get an idea of ​​what sound suits your style.

A comparison of banjos and mandolins


The number of strings is another critical difference between these instruments. How many strings does a typical banjo have? Modern banjos have only 4 or 5 strings. The most popular are the 5-stringed banjos.

The mandolin usually has 8 strings, but it t plays like a 4-stringed. On each note, the mandolin has 2 strings, so when playing, both of them are involved at the same time. As a result, we have 4 rows of 2strings. In the banjo, everything is arranged simpler: one string per note. But they are longer than the mandolin’s ones. So it sounds a little deeper.


Mandolin and banjo hold a special place in various musical applications. The colorful sound of each of these instruments creates a unique style. The banjo is more commonly used in folk music and bluegrass, and even in Dixieland jazz music.

The mandolin is also a frequent element in the folk, country and classical music of Europe. Music has no boundaries, so the sounds of these amazing musical instruments can be used in rock and pop tracks.


Each musical instrument has its own unique tone. If you compare the sound of a banjo and a mandolin, then the first instrument makes sharp soundsmuch lower than when playing the mandolin. A characteristic feature of the banjo is the “twang.” The mandolin has a soundsimilar to a guitar, but it sounds higher.

Comparison of Banjo and Mandolin


The standard banjo has a very long neck: This feature resembles a classical guitar. A mandolin usually has 14 frets. That is why its neck is even shorter than that of the ukulele. Thus, the mandolin looks more like a violin than a guitar. The mandolin neck is thicker, as it has 8 strings. Due to its small size, musicians with small hands prefer it more often.


Banjo and mandolin have completely different shapes. Also, various materials are used for their manufacture. Mahogany or maple are usually used for banjos. Maple is a very dense type of wood, so the neck is often made from it. The mandolin body is usually made of spruce and maple, namely of their laminated wood.

What does a mandolin look like? The mandolin has a hollow body made of wood with 2holes in the form of the letter “F.” The standard mandolin has a plastic triangular pickguard under the strings. This pickguard protects the wooden case from damage.

The banjo is a wooden ring with a tone ring inside. The body also houses a drum head (front) and a bowl-shaped resonator (rear). If we talk about the obvious visual differences, a banjo is round while a mandolin is teardrop shaped.

Is the banjo or mandolin easier to learn?

Fewer strings make it easier to read music. That is why learning the banjo and the mandolin is quite easy. If you have inspiration, then any learning will be easier. How hard is it to learn to play the banjo? The banjo is more suitable for beginners as it is a simpler musical instrument to learn. The only difficulty in mastering it may be the speed of playing which is much faster than the mandolin.

A Comparison of Banjo and Mandolin

How to decide which instrument you should select?

Mandolin vs banjo: What musical instrument to choose? Before you buy a banjo or mandolin, decide what kind of sound you need. Your musical style is the key to the solution. Perhaps, you want to learn how to play both the banjo and the mandolin. In this case, it is better to start with the banjo, as this instrument is easier to learn. The banjo is suitable for both playing music with friends and on stage.

FAQ on Mandolin vs. Banjo

What’s the average price of banjo and mandolin?

You can pay a nice sum for the instrument of your dream. The cost of a banjo starts at $200 and can go up to several thousand dollars. A decent banjo costs between $500 and $700. The cost of a mandolin is about the same as that of a banjo: The price varies depnding on the model and manufacturer.

If I can play the mandolin, will I just switch to the banjo?

In case you are not new to music, then mastering a new musical instrument will not seem too difficult for you. If you really want to learn to play the banjo, then the transition will be easy for you, and the learning process will not take a lot of time.

Which Instrument Would You Choose?

I have described the main differences between these instruments, so choosing the best one for you will not be challenging. Banjo or mandolin: With any of them, your musical world will become brighter.

The sound of which of these instruments has got under your skin? What musical genres do you prefer?

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About the author

Country Music Singer, Tayo Reed, grow up listening to Country Music as a child in sweet home, "Alabama". "I am authentically a true country girl at heart. I have only desired to sing one style of music. I have never wavered, in spite of disappointments, delays, rejections, and detours."

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