Music is such an integral part of our daily lives, many experiences are defined by the songs that were playing. This results in many people loving musical instruments and wanting to learn one. This article introduces to you a fantastic hybrid instrument known as a Banjolele and we will highlight the best banjolele models available in the market today.
It is an instrument that has been around for about a century now but has stayed relatively unknown to popular music culture. As you might expect, the Banjolole is mixture between the banjo and the ukulele.
Luna 8" Banjolele with Ulu Design
Oscar Schmidt OUB1 Ukulele
Kmise 7092660 Banjo Ukulele 4 String
Gold Tone Little Gem Banjolele
What is a Banjolele?
You might think that a banjolele is a new instrument, but no, it is not. A banjolele a unique and distinctive musical instrument that has a body of a banjo, and a fretted ukulele-sized neck. The instrument has four strings and has been around since the early 20th century. The first known banjoleles were made in 1917 by Alvin D. Keech and John A. Bolander.
The instrument is a combination of a banjo’s construction and tone with the playing style, small scale, and tuning of the ukulele, hence the name banjolele. The vaudeville performers need for an instrument that had more volume but played with ease of the ukulele, highly contributed to the development of the best banjolele. Initially, they were made of wood that ha metal accouterments, but later in solid metal banjoleles were featured.
The banjolele is sometimes referred to as banjo uke and has remained popular to date in particular styles of music. Both bluegrass and Island style music will use the hybrid banjo ukulele to give their songs a distinctive, unique style and flavor.
Here are four of the best banjolele available in the market today. If you want to skip this section we have a complete banjolele buying guide down below that will help you choose the instrument right for you!
Also, if you are looking for a more traditional banjo but want to stick with the four strings, look at our guide for the best 4 string banjos!
Luna 8” Banjolele with Ulu Design
It has maple back with inspired etchings on it. Its mahogany neck has a 15.5’’ soprano scale and a black walnut fingerboard rests on top of it.
The etched patterns at the back of the instrument pay tribute to the design of the traditional guilt design of Hawaii. Like many of banjo ukes, it is tuned like a concert ukulele and therefore adds distinctive tones to music.
While not the cheapest instrument on the list, it’s not the most expensive either and is a great mixture of price and quality.
- Beautiful design and Style
- Great Value
- Luna name brand known for quality
- Crispy, sharp tone
- Rarely has intonation issues
Oscar Schmidt OUB1 Banjo Ukulele
This is another incredible banjolele model characterized by a Remo head. It has a beautiful mahogany resonator and a bound rosewood fingerboard. The model also has a headstock made of flame maple veneer.
- High Quality Sound
- Removable Back Plate for tone options
- Mahogany Resonator
- Very heavy instrument
Kmise 7092660 Banjo Ukulele 4 String Ukelele
This model has a drum head made of polyester that has excellent elasticity and quick response. It has 3mm action at the 12th fret. This makes it best for learners since there is no need to press it too hard with that kind of low action.
A Kmise banjolele can be played differently, the traditional resonator style and an open back style after removing its back. The model also has a 90-day warranty and a lifetime string replacement.
Also, if you are on a tight budget this is the instrument for you, being the lowest cost option on our list!
- Classic design and look
- Best budget option
- Durable design
- Needs to be tuned often.
- Could have better quality tuning pegs
Gold Tone Little Gem Ukes
This banjolele is a 15’’ concert scale with 8’’ acrylic rim and a smooth maple neck. It has sealed guitar-style tuners and a smooth maple neck.
This instrument won Best in Show at the 2018 NAMM summer session, this banjo ukulele comes in four “Gem” colors that add a little style and flare to an already great banjolele.
Topping the deal is that it comes with a bag that has a single shoulder strap. It is also among the best banjolele you can own.
- 2018 NAMM Best in Show Winner
- Sharp, penetrating tone
- Sealed Tuners
- Nice Gig Bag
- Not for traditionalist
Banjolele Buying Guide
Are you looking forward to getting yourself the best banjolele? There are many factors to consider before settling for the best choice that suits your needs. Here is a brief guide to what we look for in a banjo ukulele!
It is essential to consider the types of banjoleles available. These are generally based on the tonal ranges and sizes. There are four tonal ranges which include soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.
These four sizes follow the standard ukulele sizing for instruments, and the pitch will change from high to low as you go from soprano to baritone.
Price is always a consideration. For most people it is a balancing act between money and quality. We didn’t include any instruments under $100 on this list as their just aren’t any good options that we found, but we also didn’t go super expensive. The banjo ukuleles on this list are a great mix of quality at mid range price points!
Shapes, wood types and construction methods are also to be put into consideration in order to get the best banjo ukulele. Solid wood options like mahogany and maple are better than laminates, which both tend to beat plastic for sound quality. Geared tuners are also something we will generally look for!
Banjolele accessories which include, cases or gig bags, felt pick or standard guitar pick, and strings. String materials determine the sound quality and playability of the banjolele. The strings may be made of nylon, titanium, fluorocarbon, and aluminum.
Are Banjolele and Ukulele Chords the same?
Yes! The banjolele is tuned the same as standard ukuleles and thus the chords are the same. The big difference between the two is that the banjolele is normally fingerpicked, while ukes are often strummed.
Does a Banjolele Sound Like a Banjo?
The banjolele sounds a lot like a standard 5 string banjo without the normal hum of the drone string. The sound does retain it’s sharp, loud, crisp notes the banjo is known for rather than the softer, somewhat smooth sound of a ukulele.
Is the Banjolele Easy to Learn?
The Banjolele is very easy to learn compared to the guitar or the banjo. The fewer number of strings and the shorter neck make the instrument much easier to play. Plus, anyone coming from a ukulele background will be able to transition without any problems since the chords are the same in standard tuning!
The Final Note on Banjoleles
The banjolele, or banjo ukulele is a fun little instrument that brings you the best of two different instrument styles and sounds. While a very niche instrument, you can use it to spice up old classics that would normally belong to the ukulele or to the banjo and add a unique, different sound!
Due to it’s uniqueness, this instrument is not always easy to find in music stores, so throughout the article we’ve linked to places to shop for your first banjolele!
Last update on 2023-01-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API