What is a Small Banjo Called? Find Out About the Different Types of Banjo!

Photo of author

Are you curious about what a small banjo is called? If so, then you’re in luck. In this article, I’m going to explain what a small banjo is, and what it’s called. I’ll also provide some information about the different types of banjos and their sizes. So, if you’re looking to learn more about small banjos, then read on!

History of the Banjo

History Of The Banjo

The banjo is a stringed instrument that originated in West Africa and was brought to the United States by enslaved Africans in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is a traditional instrument of many genres including bluegrass, old-time, folk, and country music. The banjo is typically played with a five-string configuration, but there are also four-string, six-string, and tenor banjos.

The earliest banjos were most likely made from gourds and animal skins, with four or five strings made of animal gut or twisted plant fibers. In the 19th century, the banjo was popularized by minstrel performers, and the instrument was modified to include a wooden rim and a metal tone ring. This became the standard design for the modern banjo.

The modern banjo is typically made of a wooden neck, a wooden rim, a metal tone ring, and a set of five strings. The strings are typically made of steel or nylon and are tuned to the notes G, C, D, A, and E. The banjo is played by plucking the strings with the fingers or a pick, or by strumming the strings with a plectrum.

What is a small banjo called? A small banjo is typically referred to as a “pony banjo” or “pocket banjo”. These instruments are usually four-stringed, and are smaller and lighter than a standard banjo. They were popularized in the 1920s and 1930s and are still used today in folk and country music.

Types of Banjos

Types Of Banjos

Banjo Type Description
Four-String Banjo The most common type, four-string banjos have a short neck and four strings tuned to a G-D-G-B configuration.
Five-String Banjo Five-string banjos have an extra string, usually a high C-note, and are usually tuned to a G-D-G-B-D configuration.
Six-String Banjo Six-string banjos are tuned like a guitar and are often used in folk, country, and rock music.
Tenor Banjo Tenor banjos have a shorter neck and are tuned to a G-D-A-E configuration. They are often used in Dixieland, Irish, and Scottish music.
Plectrum Banjo Plectrum banjos have a longer neck and four strings tuned to a C-G-B-D configuration. They are often used in jazz and big band music.

Small banjos, also known as “travel banjos,” are typically four-string banjos that are made with a shorter neck and a smaller body. The four strings are typically tuned to a G-D-G-B configuration. Five-string banjos are similar but have an extra string, usually a high C-note, and are usually tuned to a G-D-G-B-D configuration. There are also six-string banjos that are tuned like a guitar and are often used in folk, country, and rock music. Tenor banjos have a shorter neck and are tuned to a G-D-A-E configuration. They are often used in Dixieland, Irish, and Scottish music. Lastly, plectrum banjos have a longer neck and four strings tuned to a C-G-B-D configuration. They are often used in jazz and big band music.

Discover Top 3 Banjo Bestsellers

Bestseller No. 1
Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo
  • Low-profile, 22-fret rock maple neck with hardwood bow tie inlays
  • Sealed, geared tuning machines, including fifth string
  • 5/8-Inch maple/ebony Goodtime bridge with adjustable Deering tailpiece
  • Six-year warranty
  • Three-ply, 11-inch maple rim with steel tension hoop and high crown head
SaleBestseller No. 2
Banjo Brothers 05009 Canvas Commuter Backpack, Medium
  • Classic heavy-duty 20 ounce cotton canvas exterior with a large, open interior that is 100 percent waterproof
  • Designed for bike commuters, so a change of clothes, lunch, shoes and laptop will fit just fine
  • Pockets under the flap; one large zippered pocket, a medium sized flapped pouch and pencil pockets complete the bag
  • 1500 cubic inches with dimensions are 11.5 by 8 by 16 inches
  • Water-repellent dry-wax finish
SaleBestseller No. 3
Deering Artisan Goodtime II 5-String Resonator Banjo
  • Artisan Goodtime II 5-String Resonator Banjo
  • With a Bluegrass resonator back for projection, the Artisan Goodtime Two banjo has a 3-ply violin grade maple rim and produces a bright and clear tone that projects well and is louder than its open back counterpart
  • The Artisan Two is enhanced with a Rich Brown stain, white detailing and spikes at 7, 9, and 10
  • The use of spikes enables you to expand your playing from the key of G to easily play in the keys of A, B and C
  • Here is a banjo you can have right there by your easy chair or take out an play in a jam

What is a Small Banjo?

What Is A Small Banjo?

A small banjo is a musical instrument with a small body, frets and a short neck. It is a stringed instrument with four or five strings, typically tuned to G, C, D, A or E. The strings are typically made of steel or nylon and the frets are made of metal or plastic.

The small banjo is a popular instrument used in a variety of music genres, including bluegrass, country, folk, traditional and modern. It is often used in a band or solo performance and is a popular instrument for beginners.

Type Size/Dimensions Strings
Small Banjo Small body, short neck 4-5 strings, typically tuned to G, C, D, A, or E

The small banjo is usually played with fingerpicking techniques, which involve plucking the strings with the fingertips or fingernails. It can also be strummed with a pick or a flatpick. The sound produced by the small banjo is unique and adds a unique flavor to any type of music.

The small banjo is an instrument that is both easy to learn and fun to play. Its portability makes it an ideal instrument for travel or for those who want to learn to play the banjo without having to invest in a larger instrument.

Small Banjo Design and Parts

Small Banjo Design And Parts

Small banjos are designed to be more lightweight and transportable than traditional-sized banjos. The majority of small banjos have a shorter neck and a smaller resonator than traditional banjos. Small banjos have a variety of parts including a resonator, head, neck, fingerboard, frets, peghead, strings, tailpiece, and tone ring.


The resonator is the back of the banjo that gives the instrument a bright sound. The resonator can be made out of a variety of materials such as wood, metal, or plastic. The resonator is typically larger on traditional-sized banjos than on small banjos.


The head is the plastic or animal hide drum that is glued to the top of the banjo. The head is typically made of plastic or animal hide. It is responsible for producing the sound of the banjo.


The neck is the long part of the banjo that connects the head and the fingerboard. The neck is typically shorter than a traditional-sized banjo. The neck is typically made of wood, and it may have a variety of inlays or designs on it.


The fingerboard is the flat surface on the neck of the banjo where the strings meet the fretboard. It is typically made of wood, and it may have a variety of inlays or designs on it.


The frets are the metal bars that are placed along the length of the fingerboard. The frets are responsible for pressing down on the strings to create different sounds.


The peghead is the top of the banjo where the tuning pegs are located. The peghead is typically made of wood, and it may have a variety of inlays or designs on it.


The strings of the banjo are typically made of metal or nylon. The strings are responsible for creating the sound when plucked or strummed.


The tailpiece is the piece of metal at the bottom of the banjo that holds the strings in place. The tailpiece is typically made of metal, and it may have a variety of designs or inlays on it.

Tone Ring

The tone ring is the metal ring that sits on top of the head of the banjo and is responsible for producing a bright sound. The tone ring is typically made of metal, and it may have a variety of inlays or designs on it.

Small Banjo Sizes

Small Banjo Sizes

  • 3/4 Size Banjo: Also known as a “travel banjo”, this size is ideal for beginners and children as it is lightweight and easy to carry. It has a smaller neck and scale length, with a shorter overall length.
  • 4/4 Size Banjo: This is a full-size banjo, and is ideal for adults who are more serious about learning and playing the instrument.
  • 5/8 Size Banjo: This is a hybrid size that falls between the 3/4 and 4/4 sizes. It is often used by adults who are looking for a smaller banjo but don’t want to sacrifice the sound quality.
  • 6/8 Size Banjo: This is a larger size than the 5/8, with a longer neck and scale length, and a deeper sound.

Small Banjo Tuning

Small Banjo Tuning
Small banjos are typically tuned to a higher pitch than regular-sized banjos. This tuning is known as a “high-G” tuning, with the strings tuned to G, D, G, B, and D (from lowest to highest pitch). This tuning is used for a variety of musical styles, including early jazz, old-time, and bluegrass. A small banjo may also be tuned to an “open-G” tuning, which is similar to the high-G tuning but with the second string tuned down one tone.

Playing Techniques for Small Banjos

  • Fingerpicking: This technique is used to play the strings of a small banjo individually with the tips of the fingers, without a pick.
  • Rolls: Rolls are an essential technique for playing a banjo, and involve the alternating of two or three notes in rapid succession.
  • Chords: Playing chords on a banjo is similar to playing chords on a guitar, except with a banjo, the strings are tuned differently.
  • Hammer-ons and pull-offs: This technique involves playing a note with the left hand and then using the right hand to “hammer” or “pull-off” the string to create a sliding effect.
  • Scruggs-style: Scruggs-style is a technique used by bluegrass banjo players that involves playing a melody line on the higher strings of the banjo, while keeping a steady bass rhythm on the lower strings.

Popular Small Banjo Brands

  • Deering Goodtime
  • Gold Tone Little Gem
  • Gretsch G9450
  • Rover RB-20
  • Nechville Atlas
  • Ome Sweetgrass

Small banjos, also commonly referred to as “travel banjos,” are perfect for those just starting to learn the instrument. These banjos are usually shorter in scale length, making them easier to play and lighter to carry around. Although the sound of a small banjo is not quite as rich as a full-sized instrument, some of the top banjo brands have managed to create a tone that is vibrant and full. Popular small banjo brands include Deering Goodtime, Gold Tone Little Gem, Gretsch G9450, Rover RB-20, Nechville Atlas, and Ome Sweetgrass.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of instrument is a small banjo?

A small banjo is a stringed instrument that is similar to a guitar, but has a drum-like body with a resonator. It is usually tuned to a lower range than the guitar and has four to six strings. The small banjo is commonly used in folk, bluegrass, and country music. It is often played with a flatpick or fingerstyle technique.

How does the size of a banjo affect its sound?

The size of a banjo directly affects the sound it produces. Generally, a smaller banjo produces a higher-pitched and brighter sound, while a larger banjo produces a lower-pitched and deeper sound. A larger banjo also has thicker strings, which cause the strings to vibrate more slowly, resulting in a slower attack. Additionally, a larger banjo has more tension on its strings, which adds more volume to the sound.

What are the Advantages of Having a Small Banjo?

Small banjos are often preferred for their portability, as they can be easily transported and taken to gigs. They are also lighter and easier to play for those who are smaller or have smaller hands. Smaller banjos are great for beginners as they are easier to hold and navigate, as well as having a lower price tag. They also produce a bright, crisp sound due to the smaller head, making them ideal for more traditional styles of music.

What are the different sizes of banjos available?

Banjos come in a variety of sizes and styles, from small travel banjos to full-sized professional quality instruments. Smaller banjos are typically open-backed and have either four or five strings. These include the four-string tenor banjo, which is the most common size, and the five-string banjo, which is often used in bluegrass music. Other sizes include the larger plectrum banjo, which is similar in size to the five-string banjo, and the even larger six-string banjo.

What is the best way to learn how to play a small banjo?

The best way to learn how to play a small banjo is to take lessons from an experienced teacher. It is important to find a teacher who is knowledgeable about the instrument and its techniques. With regular practice, clear instruction, and guidance, a student can quickly learn the basics of playing the banjo. Additionally, there are many online tutorials and resources available to help with learning the instrument.


A small banjo is called a travel banjo, and it is designed to be portable and lightweight. It is typically made from a wooden body and has four strings. A travel banjo is typically tuned to the key of G, which makes it easier for beginners to learn to play. Although not as loud as a full-sized banjo, a travel banjo is a great way for beginners to learn and for experienced players to take their music on the go.


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!

Leave a Comment