When deciding on your first banjo, or upgrading a cheap one that you bought and have outgrown, the first question you need to ask yourself is open-back or resonator.
With this in mind we've broken this article into sections for each. You'll find several great options in each of the two categories! We picked out Banjo's based on price, quality, durability, and sound.
We couldn't come up with the absolute best, so we've got three options in each category for you to choose from. They are all great models from vendors we trust so find the one that is right for you and get to picking!
Best 5-String Open Back Banjos
Epiphone MB-100 Open Back Banjo
The first Banjo on our list is the Epiphone MB-100 which is close to the least expensive model they offer. Many are surprised when Epiphone makes this list, as they are much better known for their value based Fender guitar models.
Just like those value based guitars, the MB-100 is a steal for the money.
This Banjo features a mahogany body and neck combined with a classic Remo head. The Rosewood bridge that is included is also a nice bonus at this price range.
Like all the Banjos on this list, if this is your first instrument we recommend you get it professionally set up. You will need to install the bridge, adjust the strings, and possibly tighten the hoop.
Doing all this can be a choir, so get a pro's help unless you know what you're doing!
Gold Tone CC-50 Cripple Creek Banjo
Gold Tone is a very famous name in the bluegrass world. It's entry level offering is the Cripple Creek 50 (CC-50).
This Banjo uses maple wood, a straight-line tailpiece, rosewood fingerboard and a rolled brass tone ring to create a great sounding beginner instrument.
Assembled in Florida, this banjo comes completely set up. It still is a good idea to have it adjusted by a pro if you feel it doesn't sound quite right out of the box!
Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo
Look for reviews on Banjos anywhere and you'll find a Deering Banjo listed. Not only do they have a gigantic catalog of instruments but they have a reputation for quality.
The Goodtime Banjo is no exception.
This instrument has a ton of history, as it was the first model made as a affordable, professional quality banjo. Before Deering started to make this model you had to choose between quality and price.
The Goodtime has a high quality violin grade maple build with a satin finish, the patented Goodtime tailpiece, steel tension hoop. The big bonus you find on this instrument that many in this range lack are the geared tuners on all five strings.
While this is the most expensive Open-Back model we've listed, it is one that you may never grow out of. The Goodtime banjo is great for beginners and experienced players alike.
Best Resonator 5-String Banjos
Open-back Banjos have their benefits. They are light weight, great to learn with, and quiet enough to be played anywhere. Add a resonator though, and you can pluck with some power. Here are our favorite three Resonator Banjos for beginners.
Oscar Schmidt OB5 5-String Banjo
The first close-back Banjo on our list might just be the best value on the list as well! The Oscar Schmidt OB 5 has a reputation as a great sounding instrument for a very small price tag.
Equipped with a Remo head, Mahogany resonator, geared 5th string tuner and 30-bracket cast-aluminum tone ring the OB5 truly sings.
One of the oldest, most respected, and liked entry level banjos available, you can't go wrong with the OB5
Washburn B9 5-String Banjo
The Washburn name brand has been around almost as long as Oscar Schmidt, and their entry level Banjo offering is just as impressive.
The Washburn B9 Resonator Banjo is surprisingly affordable without sacrificing the quality you'd expect.
The B9 comes with a very similar build to the OB5 including the standard adjustable tailpiece, Remo head, Mahogany resonator and rosewood fingerboard.
This Banjo is normally a little more expensive than the Oscar Schmidt, but the look and the feel of the instrument might just make it worth it.
Deering Goodtime 2 Five-String Banjo
If you looked through the section on Open Back Banjos, you saw the Deering Goodtime. The Goodtime 2 is the resonator equipped counterpart.
Like all Deering Banjos, this instrument and all of it's parts are made in the U.S. and assembled in California. It also sports the traditional "blonde" finish that make Goodtime instruments stand out from the crowd.
The banjo has an 11 inch frosted head, Maple on the head, resonator, and pot, nickel plated hardware, the patented Goodtime tailpiece, and stylish bow tie inlays.
Not only is this an excelent beginner banjo, it is one that you won't be looking to upgrade for years to come.
There you have it! Six excellent options that will make any beginner happy with their first instrument!
If you're looking for a great online instructional program, check out Tony Trischka at ArtistWorks!
Did we miss a Banjo you feel should be on this list? Let us know in the comment section below!