When starting to learn the banjo you have a lot of things to consider, which instrument is right for you shouldn’t be one of them. With that in mind, we put together a list of the four best beginner banjo options you have on the market today!
After we cover our four recommendations, we dive deep into what makes a great beginner banjo and things you want to consider when shopping for one. These are the same things we took into consideration when making this list. Everything on this list is a 5 string banjo, because that is what most beginners are thinking of when they shop a banjo, but we do talk about your other string options as well as quality factors!
If you are in a hurry, out pick for the best beginner banjo is the ADM 5-String Banjo 24 Bracket with Closed Solid Wood Back!
The Best Beginner Banjo – 5 Strings
Want more detail? Keep reading for more detailed reviews on each of our top 4 best banjos for beginner picks!
Rover RB-20 Open Back 5 String Banjo
The Rover RB-20 is a no-frills, basic student banjo option. Rover has done a great job as a company bringing quality banjo options to the market that don’t cost as much as other beginner options.
Our one complaint about the Rover line is the composite material their heads are made of. This isn’t as good of quality as a real wood, but sounds surprisingly good for what it is.
The mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard are quality though, and combined with the adjustable truss rod are good for beginner banjoists.
If you continue past the beginner stages of playing banjo, you will need to upgrade this instrument. That being said, you could do significantly worse for your first banjo and the Rover RB-20 will keep you picking for quite a while!
- Mahogany Neck
- Rosewood Fretboard
- Outstanding Value Instrument
- Super light
- Composite Head
- 5th String Peg needs adjustment
ADM 5-String Banjo 24 Bracket with Closed Solid Wood Back
Our top pick for best beginner banjo, the ADM 5 string banjo is a great value for what you get! The Remo head is the same you find on much more expensive instruments and for the price this instrument sounds really good.
The removable resonator gives the option of playing both closed backed or open backed, and is made from a Sapele which is a wood more often found on guitars.
The mahogany body and head are stained a really nice red and combine with the white Remo head and geared tuning pegs for a really sharp look, especially when the resonator is on.
The last benefit of this banjo for beginners is the kit that comes with it that includes a gig bag, tuner, strap, extra strings a wall hanger and cleaning cloth, giving a brand new banjo player all the gear they need in combination with a good sounding instrument to start with!
- Mahogany body and head
- Removable Resonator
- Beginner Gear Kit included
- Remo Head
- Best Value for Beginner Banjoist
- Accessories are cheap and will need upgraded
Stagg BJM30 DL 5-String Bluegrass Banjo Deluxe with Metal Pot
If you are looking for a cheap beginner banjo and don’t need the kit that comes with the ADM, the Stagg BJM30 is a great option. Stagg is a reputable name that makes a lot of instruments in the beginner to intermediate price range.
Just like the ADM, this banjo comes with a mahogany resonator to help project the sound and give the instrument a warmer tone and is combined with a Remo Head.
The pot on this instrument is an all metal alloy, which results in an extremely bright, tinging sound. We definitely prefer the sound of a real wood, but it is much better than a cheap plastic.
For a cheap banjo, the Stagg BJM30 is a good instrument to learn to play banjo on as long as you understand you’ll need an upgrade within the first few years of playing.
- Mahogany Resonator
- Cheap Option for Beginners
- Geared 5th String Tuner
- Remo Head
- Metal Pot
- Open-Gear Headstock Tuners
Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo
The Deering Goodtime series is a staple for the best beginner banjos. Although more expensive than the other options on this list, this banjo is hands down the best instrument on this list if you can afford to spend a little more.
This instrument comes with the banjo standard 3 ply maple rim and maple neck, giving it a rich, warm, bright sound that is a true delight to play.
The coordinator rod on this banjo is something the other cheap beginner banjos don’t have, and really make adjustments easy and quick.
The best part about this instrument for beginners is the slender, low-profile neck that is easy to finger and comfortable for any size hand. This makes finding and fingering chord shapes easier for beginners, transitioning to faster improvements!
If you’d rather a Resonator Banjo than the Open Back design we picked, the Deering Goodtime 2 is this exact banjo with the addition of a resonator!
- Maple Rim and Neck
- Intermediate level quality instrument
- Goodtime Banjo Series is a staple in the Banjo world
- Sealed Geared Tuners
- Slender Neck Profile
- Expensive compared to many Beginner instruments
The Best Beginner Banjo Buying Guide
One of the main thing you want to consider when finding the best beginner banjo is what type of music will be playing. Banjos are versatile but they have developed different string types that are used predominantly in different genres of music. While we only recommended 5 string banjos in our beginner list, you may want to explore a 4 string or 6 string banjo as well.
4 String Banjo
Jazz musicians and any classic Irish, Celtic or Scottish music often prefer a 4 string banjo. The likely pick for jazz musicians is a Plectrum banjo, which uses a pic and thus gets its names. The neck on this instruments is 23 frets and is longer than the other popular 4 string option, the Irish Tenor Banjo.
The Irish tenor banjo shows up in all sorts of Celtic music and comes in either a 17 or a 19 fret model.
The 5 String Banjo
The 5 String banjo is generally what people think of when they think of the instrument. This is why all of the instruments on the best beginner banjo are of the five string variety.
The interesting part of the 5 string banjo is the 5th string, mounted on the side of the neck at the 5th fret. This string, usually picked with the thumb, is called the drone string and gives the banjo its distinctive sound.
You will see this instrument in many different styles of music, including bluegrass, Jazz, folk, rock and in place of either a 4 string or a 6 string banjo when they aren’t available.
The 6 string Banjo
A six-string banjo takes a step closer to the guitar. This banjo is great for a guitarist who wants to try a different sound without learning an entirely new instrument. In fact, this instrument is often referred to as a banjitar and really can be used anywhere a guitar would be to add a distinctive sound and feel to the song being played.
The type of material used on the different parts of the banjo greatly effects the sound, quality and durability of an instrument.
Tonewood has the biggest effects on sound and sound quality, so it is vital to an instrument. The neck, the head and the resonator on quality instruments will all be made from wood.
Mahogany creates a warmer sound from the banjo and is common, but the best banjos use Maple for a brighter, shaper sound. Walnut is a cross between the two, warmer than Maple and brighter than Mahogany. As you get better you will find that the type of tone wood is generally a question of personal preference.
Geared tuners are also an important distinction. Anything else will tend to have trouble staying in tune, especially as they age.
There are plenty of other parts on a banjo that are important, but if you focus on the tuners and wood used on the instrument, you can generally find yourself a great beginner banjo.
Resonator vs Open Back
Which is better, a resonator or an open back? It depends on personal preference and where you will be playing the instrument. Resonators give the instrument and twangy sound and are more expensive. They are also louder, so if you are playing for a crowd or in a band they are generally preferred.
Open back introduces a more gentle sound, and these are cheaper and lighter. Depending on the setting, both options could be assets.
The Final Note
In the end, we chose the ADM 5-String Banjo 24 Bracket with Closed Solid Wood Back as the best beginner banjo. If you are able to spend a little more money and want an instrument that will last you long into your days as an intermediate player, the Deering Goodtime Banjo is hard to beat though!
Last update on 2021-09-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API