New to playing the Banjo? Looking for the best 5 string banjo that you can get? We have you covered! There are a lot of things that you need to consider when shopping for a beginner banjo. The first, Resonator vs Open back. After that, things like brand, size, frets, tuner style and construction material all play their part.
The first thing we cover is resonator banjos vs open back banjos, you need to make this decision before you even start shopping. After that we go through our top picks for both open back banjo and resonator banjo styles. Finally, we end the article with a detailed Banjo buying guide so you can make educated choices on your own!
Table of Contents
Open Back Banjo vs Resonator Banjo
The first question to ask is Open Back banjo or Resonator. The open back banjo is exactly what it sounds like. Behind the pot and the head there is an open sound chamber. Open back banjos are usually played clawhammer style and are light with low volume. Fingerpicks are normally not required and they product a great mellow sound.
Singer-songwriters, folk musicians, clawhammer style players, and solo artists generally prefer the open back banjo because of its mellow tone and the lower volume.
The Resonator banjo, or closed back banjo has a wooden or metal plate that sits covering the sound chamber. This ‘bowl’ piece helps to project the sound towards the audience. It also means that it is heavier and produces a louder volume than open back banjos.
Bluegrass musicians tend to favor the resonator banjos because of the bright, twangy sound produced by the resonator and the fact fingerpicks are generally used.
Best 5 String Open Back Banjos
If you are in a hurry, our favorite 5 string open back banjo is the Gold Tone CC-100 Cripple Creek. If you have the time though, we’d reviewed each of our top picks in more detail below!
Epiphone Mb-100 First Pick Banjo Natural
This is one of the best priced banjos on our list and a perfect option for a first time picker. Epiphone’s first patent was for a banjo and the company has stayed true to its roots.
This lightweight instrument has a warm but mellow tone that is sure to please. This banjo is a perfect for the first year or so of a pickers education with the instrument!
Both the neck and the body are made from mahogany, while the fretboard is a rosewood. The Remo head is fairly standard at this price point, and is a good value. The white buttons on the nickel machine heads gives this instrument a classic look and finish!
- Mahogany neck and body
- Remo Head
- Nickel Tuners
- Great Value!
- Bridge may need lowered
- Might be quickly outgrown
Gold Tone CC-100 Cripple Creek Banjo (Five String, Clear Maple)
Gold Tone boasts that in the entry level banjo category in this price range you simply won’t find a better banjo with “more bang for your buck”. We completely agree!
With over 7000 Cripple Creek’s sold since its release 12 years ago, this is one of the all time best selling beginner banjos ever made.
The CC-100 has both a maple neck and rim with a brass tone ring. The maple headstock not only brings a great tone but a good finished look and pairs nicely with the black binding on the neck.
This banjo is known for its low string action that really helps beginners pick it up and play. It is also an instrument that you can grow into, a banjo player won’t need to upgrade for quite some time if they start with this model!
- Maple Rim, Headstock and Neck
- 2 Way Truss Rod
- Low Action Strings
- Brass Tone Ring
- Over 7000 units sold to beginners everywhere!
Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo
Deering is an American company out of California that is one of the first brand names that many think of when they think of banjos. The Goodtime is Deering’s beginner banjo, but many reviews mention it plays like a much more expensive instrument.
Just like the Gold Tone Cripple Creek, The Goodtime comes with a maple neck and rim. The satin finish on this instrument gives it a sharp, but understated look and feel.
One of the main benefits for beginner banjo players is the slim neck profile of the Goodtime banjo. This makes it easier for inexperienced pickers to finger different chord shapes and the fret work is extremely accurate guaranteeing correct intonation.
Last but not least, this instrument is extremely light, weighing in right around 4lbs. This makes it great for students who have to travel to lessons or need to carry the banjo for any length of time!
- Maple Rim and Neck
- Slim Neck
- Amazing Value
- Good for Beginners and Intermediate Banjo Players
- Finger Jointed Neck
- More expensive than some beginner instruments
Rover RB-20 Open Back 5 String Banjo
Beginner banjos are generally more expensive than beginner models for many of the other stringed instruments. The Saga Rover RB-20 helps to solve that problem!
This model has a mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard and truss rod, all components you find on much more expensive models of banjos.
The rim is made of a composite material that doesn’t quite have the tone of the higher end maple construction on the Goodtime and the Gold Tone, but it is better than many we’ve heard for similar prices. The upside to this is the composite material does tend to be more durable than comparable wood models.
If you are on a budget and want a solid beginner instrument, this is the best 5 string banjo on a budget!
- Great Value
- Shorter neck is great for learning
- Mahogany Neck
- Adjustable Truss Rod
- Composite Rim
There you have it… our picks for the best 5 string open back banjo! Each one brings a slightly different option to the table while all having great reviews and history to speak to their quality!
Now, lets look at the best 5 string banjo with a resonator!
Best 5 String Resonator Banjos
If you are in a hurry, the best 5 string resonator banjo we found for beginners is the Deering Goodtime 2 5-String Banjo! Click the link to shop it on Amazon. If you’ve got more time to research the different options we found, check out the full product reviews down below.
Oscar Schmidt OB5 Gloss Mahogany 5-String Banjo
We start our list with the Oscar Schmidt OB5 resonator banjo. You won’t find many beginner banjo lists that don’t include this instrument!
A solid wood rim and neck combine with a mahogany resonator for a bright, lively sound. The gloss finish, while not helping the sound, does give this instrument a great finished look.
The Remo head on this banjo is fairly standard for this price point, and the head is attached to the neck with a single connecting rod and the fretboard is a nice Indian-rosewood.
The biggest complaint we have heard about this instrument is that in recent years manufacturing has moved over to China rather than the United States. This has led to some quality issues that come from mass manufacturing or shipping, but almost all the reviews we see are still very positive for this banjo!
- Mahogany Resonator
- Remo Head
- Great Value
- Solid, Reputable Brand
- Manufactured in China
Washburn Americana B8-Pack with Gig Bag, Banjo
The Washburn Americana is a traditional line of banjos that are made for bluegrass pickers in mind. Many of these banjos are beginner/intermediate friendly, including the B8!
This banjo is made with a mahogany body, neck and resonator matched with a standard Remo head. For the price, you won’t find a better sounding or quality instrument!
Another benefit of the Americana B8 is this is the only banjo on our list that comes with a starter pack. This pack includes a gig bag, picks, pitch pipe, strap, and instruction book. While none of these pieces are amazing quality, it gives you a basic version of each that you can upgrade individually if you need too!
If budget is a big concern for you, this is not only the cheapest instrument on our list but comes with accessories so you won’t have to spend money on those either! Phenomenal value!
- Mahogany Body and Neck
- Remo Head
- Full Beginner Accessory Kit
- Amazing Value
- Accessories are very basic
- Plastic picks
Deering Goodtime 2 5-String Banjo
The Deering Goodtime Banjo made our list for the open back banjos, and the “2”, which is the resonator version, is our top pick for the closed back banjos!
There is a good reason for this, these have consistently been one of the most popular beginner instruments for many years. Deering has a reputation for great quality, fun instruments that play much better than the price tag associated with them.
Real maple wood is used throughout the construction of this instrument, resulting in an amazing sound and tone. It also has the same slender neck style as the open back Goodtime, making it easier for beginners to find and finger different chord shapes as they learn.
Finally, these instruments are still manufactured in the United States and Deering stands behind the quality and process in making them!
- Slender Maple Neck
- Full Maple Body Construction and Resonator
- Adjustable tailpiece
- Made in America
- Deering Brand Quality
- Expensive Compared to other Beginner Options
Rover RB-25 Resonator 5 String Banjo
Just like our open back banjo list, the Saga Rover series finds its way onto our resonator list as well! The RB-25 is very similar to the RB-20, just with the addition of a mahogany resonator.
The rim is made of a composite material that is finished in a metallic gun grey finish that looks great, but lacks the sound of solid wood options.
Saga has made it their mission to bring back the affordable, high-quality instruments that were available to beginner banjo players in the 80’s into the 21st century. With the RB-20 and the RB-25 they are doing just that!
- Mahogany Resonator
- Value Option for Beginners
- Rosewood Fretboard
- Gun Metal finish is a great look
- Composite Rim Material
Best 5 String Banjo Buying Guide
Didn’t see something you like on our list, or would you rather buy from your local music shop? Totally understandable! In this section we’ll cover the things that we look for when shopping instruments. This way you can shop for the best 5 string banjo for you!
The first thing to consider is if the 5 string banjo is actually the one you want. There are several types of banjos including two styles of 4 string banjos, the 5 string, 6 string and even a 12 string option!
You might even want to try a banjolele… a fun little hybrid between the banjo and the ukulele!
After you decide on your preference between open back and resonator banjo styles, next thing you want to consider is the construction material used.
High quality rims are often made out of maple, giving the banjo a bright tone that sounds amazing. Mid Level instruments, including many on this list, will include mahogany, maple or other hard woods. While not as nice as maple, these still sound good and are significantly less expensive than maple plies.
Cheaper instruments will use either really soft wood or aluminum, neither of which resonate as well and produce a subpar sound. You often find these cheaper instruments with laminate necks as well, reducing the sound quality once again.
Better instruments will have solid hardwood necks on them, and once again maple is the gold standard here although options like mahogany are common. The best necks will have a truss rod inside which allows advanced players to make intonation adjustments quickly.
For a beginner, the neck and the rim are the two components you want to pay most attention too. As you gain experience playing things like the fretboard wood, bridge, nut, heads and strings will all make a difference, but for now stick with the basics!
While we would never recommend you break the bank to buy yourself an instrument, the best 5 string banjo for beginners aren’t going to be the cheapest options out there either.
On this list we have a few options in the low $200s, and you can find some decent beginner instruments for around $150. Below that you will probably be getting a very low quality instrument that will actually make learning more difficult and won’t sound good, even in tune!
You can also spend thousands of dollars on a banjo, but we don’t recommend that for beginners either. As a new player you won’t be able to appreciate the details and intricacies of a top end instrument. Even worse, you could decide you don’t like the banjo (unlikely we know) and then all you have is an expensive piece of wall art!
By shopping for specific, well know banjo brands you can normally get a good quality instrument banjo. The best 5 string banjo list is made up of brands we know and trust, afterall! Deering, Recording King, Rogue, Epiphone and Ibanez are all good bets for a good beginner banjo!
Final Thoughts on the Best 5 String Banjo
You now know everything you need to in order to pick out the best 5 string banjo for you! We have given you our recommendations for both 5 string open back banjos and resonators, and the choice between them is yours!
Once you’ve picked out your banjo, head over and learn a few easy banjo songs!
Last update on 2021-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API