Open Back vs. Resonator Banjo: What Is The Difference?

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The banjo differs from other musical instruments by its characteristic cheerful twang, without which it is impossible to imagine folk music and bluegrass. If you cannot decide which one to pick – open back vs. resonator banjo, then you need to know their primary distinctive features.

The Key Differences Between an Open Back and Resonator Banjos

Open back banjo:

  • Has no resonator on the body;
  • Has a soft and quiet sound;
  • Is ideal for playing folk music;
  • Has a small weight;
  • Is low in price;
  • Is the best choice for beginners.

Open back banjo

Resonator banjo:

  • Has a resonator on the body;
  • Has a loud and bright sound;
  • Is ideal for playing bluegrass music;
  • Weighs more than a banjo without a resonator;
  • Has a high price.

Open Back or Resonator Banjo Buyer’s Guide

There is something unusual and fun in the sound of a banjo making you enjoy its music and get this instrument in your collection. There is a wide range of banjos, so disputes arise about what is better: open or closed-back banjo?

There is no one right answer for everyone: One musician loves the resonator banjo, another will play with an open back, and the third performer will not have to choose at all because he wants to play both. First, you must decide on the music style you like. For many beginners, the difference between these types is not clear, but knowing their main characteristics will help you select the perfect musical instrument that will make you happy.

Open back and resonator banjo choice

What is an open back banjo?

  • It is an instrument without a resonator on its body. The sound of an open back banjo is softer and a little quieter than that of a resonator one. The reason is that with an open back, part of the volume “leaves” in the direction of the music performer and is absorbed by his body. The string spacing of this instrument is usually larger.
  • This type is the best choice for those who play music with friends or just learn to play the banjo. Also, it is better suited for those who prefer the clawhammer banjo style. The soft sound is more appropriate and harmonious when it comes to folk music. That’s because usually in folk music, all instruments sound in unison without a loud leading one.
  • This instrument is generally cheaper than a resonator one. It is also lighter as it does not have a resonator on the body. This feature made it convenient for traveling.

What is a resonator banjo?

  • Let’s understand first: what’s a resonator? The resonator is an additional bowl-shaped part attached to the back of the pot on the banjo. Due to it, the instrument sounds louder. It does not dissipate, but is directed forward to the audience.
  • A resonator banjo sounds louder and more resonant than an instrument without a resonator. That is why musicians playing in the bluegrass style prefer the resonator instrument. In this style, the banjo leads. This type of banjo gives a bright sound that is not lost among other musical instruments and makes it possible to play virtuoso solos.
  • Since a resonator banjo has an additional physical part, it weighs more. Also, the resonator banjo’s price is higher as more material is used to make it.

resonator banjo

Difference between open back banjos and resonator banjos

  • What does a banjo sound like? This stringed instrument is known for its characteristic ringing and loud sound. When you hear the banjo being played, you may notice an interesting twang inherent in this musical instrument. Various types and configurations of banjos add variety to the world of sound: The resonator banjos sound louder and more sonorous, and the open back ones have a softer and quieter sound.
  • It is not right to believe that a resonator banjo is better, and an open back one is worse. These musical instruments are just different. And when choosing, you need to start from what sound and musical style you like best. For the bluegrass style, an instrument with a resonator is more suitable. Playing the second type of this instrument is more characteristic of folk music.
  • Most musicians in concerts for a large audience play resonator banjos. The banjo without a resonator is more suitable for solo performances with friends and those who are just starting to learn to play this musical instrument.
  • One of the main differences is also the cost of these musical instruments. The open back banjos cost a bit less because they require less material to make. Of course, if you dream of a resonator banjo, you will have to pay a little more.

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FAQ on Open Back Banjo vs. Resonator Banjo

Can you add a resonator to an open back banjo?

Yes, you can add a resonator to it. But not all these banjo models can be set this way, and the result is not always a good sound. Before buying and installing a resonator, it is best to check the sound and possibility of installation.

Can I take the resonator off my banjo?

You can take off the resonator from your musical instrument whenever you want. But the sound will only slightly resemble an open back banjo. The sound will be much quieter and not as sonorous as with a resonator.

Soft Sound or Loud Sound?

Do not be afraid to experiment. You can master different styles of music on any musical instrument. It’s just that some of them are more convenient to use in certain genres. The main thing for a musician is an inspiration.

Have you already figured out which of these musical instruments suits your style best?

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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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