Open Back Banjo vs Closed: Complete Guide

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There are two types of banjos – closed back (also called resonator) and open back. This is the biggest difference between resonator and open back banjo there can be and it significantly influences how the instrument sounds and feels. In this article, we will explore the differences in design, sound, weight, string position, and cost between resonator banjo vs open back.


The design of a banjo is the most significant difference between open back and closed back.

Design of a Closed Back Banjo
When looking at the back of a closed back banjo, you will see that the back of the instrument is completely closed, with a cover over the sound hole. This cover can either be a piece of wood, or a resonator.
Design of an Open Back Banjo
Open back banjos have an open back, and the soundboard is visible on the back of the instrument. As for what looks better, that’s up to personal preference.


closed back banjo


The sound of an open back banjo is much quieter than that of a closed back banjo. This is because the back of an open back banjo is open and the vibrations can escape, rather than being contained in the resonator. This is the reason these two are used in different music styles, for example bluegrass, folk, and old time music use open back banjos, while most other styles of music use closed back banjos.


The weight of an instrument is another significant difference between open back and closed back. Closed back banjos are heavier than open back banjos because the back of the instrument is a resonator. This means that the back of the instrument is closed, and the soundboard is usually made of wood.

String Position

Another difference between the two types of banjos is string position. Open back banjos have the strings at the top, while closed back banjos have the strings at the bottom. Strings that are positioned closer to the deck are really helpful for bluegrass players and this is why this type of banjo is favored by them.

banjo strings, close view


The last difference between open back and closed back is cost. Open back banjos are usually cheaper than closed back banjos because they are easier to produce.


What is the difference between an open back and a closed back banjo?

An open back banjo has an open back, which means there is no resonator. A closed back banjo has a resonator, which is a piece of wood that the soundboard is made of that allows for more loud and deep sound.

Is open back or closed back banjo better?

It really depends on the type of music you are playing. Open back banjos are better for bluegrass, folk, and old time music, while closed back banjos are better for most other styles of music.

What type of banjo should a beginner buy?

A beginner should buy an open back banjo because it is cheaper and easier to produce.


Open back banjos are cheaper, lighter, and produce a quieter sound than closed back banjos. They are also better for bluegrass, folk, and old time music styles. Closed back (resonator) banjos are more professional instruments and allow for a deeper, louder sound. They also suit most other music styles. This doesn’t mean that one or another is better, these two types are suited for different purposes and it doesn’t make much sense to compare them like open back banjo vs closed. You can choose either open or closed back banjo, although, open back is slightly more beginner-friendly and also it’s cheaper.

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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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