The 10 Best Banjos for Beginners (2024)

Whether you’re a bluegrass lover or looking for a good starter banjo, there are a lot of options on the market. With so many models out there, knowing where to start can be challenging. That’s why I have rounded up the ten best banjos for beginners.

My main recommended banjo is the Ibanez B50, known for its sweet and vintage sound, mahogany back and sides, and rosewood fingerboard with dot position markers. It’s built with a 24-lug configuration and open-gear tuners that will keep your tune in check.

My second recommended banjo is the Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo. It features a closed solid back mahogany resonator, 24 chrome-plated brackets, and a purpleheart fretboard for a pleasant acoustic sound and tone.

For this article, I paid close attention to the sound quality, materials, and build quality of each banjo. I included both budget-friendly options and higher-end banjos.

The Best Banjos for Beginners (2024) – At a Glance

Now let’s move on to the full list:

1. Ibanez B50

Top Pick - Traditional 5-string design with vintage open-gear tuners
A sweet-sounding instrument with mahogany back and sides, 24-lug configuration, vintage open gear tuners, and dot position markers.
View Price at Amazon

Here’s an interesting tidbit: the Ibanez B50 Banjo is Ibanez’s return to banjo-making after a 30-year break. What we get is an instrument that mixes old-style looks and sound with updated features, ensuring it fits well with different music styles. This fresh yet budget-conscious banjo features a mix of classic and modern banjo designs.

Pros

  • Great quality for the price
  • Easy to set up and play
  • Beautiful design and appearance
  • Consistent sound and performance
  • Remo 11″ coated weatherking banjo head

Cons

  • Gig bag or case not included

The Ibanez B50 offers excellent quality for its cost. With 24 lugs, it delivers top-notch tuning stability and precision. The guitar-like adjustable bridge system improves the banjo’s playability. The open gear tuners add a vintage touch without losing function – making the B50 a versatile 5-string banjo that won’t break the bank.

The Ibanez B50’s craftsmanship is vital. The 5-string banjo showcases a gorgeous design, with a mahogany neck, back, and sides – nicely paired with a rosewood fingerboard. The blend of mahogany and rosewood not only looks elegant but also gives a rich, warm tone. With dot position markers and a natural finish, the B50 has a truly timeless look that radiates sophistication and elegance.

Specs

  • Design: 5-String
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Back and Sides Material: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood

2. Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo

Budget Pick - High-quality construction at an affordable price.
An affordable banjo with a beautiful mahogany body that produces classic tones, great for folk, country, and bluegrass music.
View Price at Amazon

The design of this budget-friendly banjo is fairly decent, featuring a mahogany neck, a closed-back mahogany resonator, and a purpleheart fingerboard. Its quality materials not only make it look beautiful but also help produce excellent sound. The instrument reflects great attention to detail, making it a pleasure for both the eyes and ears.

Pros

  • Excellent value for the price
  • Suitable for beginners
  • Beautiful design and appearance
  • Warm tone and good sound quality
  • Detachable resonator for versatility

Cons

  • May require setup work after the purchase
  • Tuning pegs may not be the most accurate

A significant upgrade in this banjo is the geared 5th tuner side peg, which is better than traditional friction tuners. This improvement allows for better sound control and tuning stability, ensuring that the instrument stays in tune during each performance.

What sets this 5-string banjo apart is its sound, suitable for playing various music styles. From energetic bluegrass and expressive clawhammer to exploring the complex worlds of folk, country, and rock, this instrument’s adaptability and beautiful sound will appeal to beginners.

Specs

  • Design: 5-String
  • Body Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Fretboard Material: Hardwood

3. Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo

Pro Pick - High-quality instrument with quality materials for rich and clear sound
A lightweight, 5-string banjo made of maple with a frosted mylar top and an open-back design for acoustic style playing.
View Price at Amazon

The Deering Goodtime Banjo represents top-notch American workmanship. Carefully made with high-quality materials like maple for the body and neck, and a frosted mylar head, this banjo not only looks attractive but also has excellent sound quality suitable for various music genres.

Pros

  • Lovely sound quality and tonal clarity
  • Excellent craftsmanship and built with quality materials
  • Lightweight and easy to handle
  • Stays in tune consistently
  • Good value for the price
  • Patented Goodtime Smile Bridge produces a fuller sound

Cons

  • Does not come with a resonator or armrest
  • Does not come with a strap or case
  • A bit pricey

Featuring the unique Goodtime Smile Banjo Bridge, the Deering Banjo has been skillfully designed to improve vibration and resonance. This innovative bridge produces rich and expressive tones, allowing the banjo to reach its full potential. Its open-back design, along with its lightweight build, makes it a great option for both new and experienced players.

It has a flexible 5-string setup and a classic look featuring elegant hardwood bowtie inlays. The comfortable 22-fret low-profile maple neck works well for different playing styles and techniques, making the Deering Banjo an amazing blend of versatility and musical depth.

Specs

  • Design: 5-String
  • Body Material: Maple
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fretboard: Maple

4. Costzon 5-String Banjo

Solid, durable banjo for long-term use
A sturdy banjo with a durable plywood frame, 24 adjustable brackets, and a mid-range closed handle for easy use.
View Price at Amazon

The standout feature of the Costzon 5-String Banjo has to be its strong plywood frame construction. Made for high quality and lasting durability, this five-string banjo gives an excellent playing experience. With its manageable size and stylish brown color, it’s suitable for many players. It is beginner-friendly and offers good value for money.

Pros

  • Great for beginners
  • Affordable price
  • Includes useful accessories
  • Solid and durable construction
  • 24 adjustable brackets for sound customization
  • Geared 5th tuner for better tuning stability

Cons

  • String quality is not the best
  • The strap and carrying case are low quality
  • May require a professional setup for the best performance

The Costzon Banjo delivers versatile classic sounds for various music styles like country, folk, bluegrass, and modern rock. Its 24 adjustable brackets let you change the sound to fit different genres. The comfortable Maqiao rosewood fretboard creates a unique sound.

This lightweight but strong beginner banjo comes with a top-quality REMO drumhead for wonderful sound output that echoes with every note. The tough and corrosion-resistant sapele wood back and sides help the instrument keep its sound quality for a long time.

Specs

  • Design: 5-String
  • Top Material: Rosewood, Sapele
  • Back Material: Sapele
  • Fretboard: Maqiao rosewood

5. Epiphone MB-100

Aesthetic banjo with a Mahogany body and traditional shape for a classic sound.
A 5-string banjo with an open back design, Remo head, and a traditional white color.
View Price at Thomann (Europe)View Price at Amazon

The Epiphone MB-100 features an elegant white Remo head that matches perfectly with its traditional mahogany body. This visually appealing banjo offers an amazing sound at a modest price, making it highly popular in today’s country music scene.

Pros

  • Good quality banjo
  • Modest price
  • Mahogany body with a traditional shape
  • Good sound quality
  • Remo head top material

Cons

  • The open-back design may not suit all players
  • White color may not appeal to everyone

The MB-100 Banjo is suitable for beginners and experienced players, offering good quality in a user-friendly design. Its open-back style allows for effortless playing. This adaptable instrument lets you explore different music genres without limitations.

Belonging to an exceptional range of instruments from the renowned Epiphone brand, the MB-100 Banjo has gained increasing popularity since its launch. Although the differences between this model and earlier versions are not detailed, musicians at all levels will likely appreciate its enhancements, making it a fantastic addition to their instrument collection.

Specs

  • Design: 5-String
  • Body Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Rosewood

6. Oscar Schmidt OB3-A-U

Open-back, 5-string banjo with a Mahogany resonator and top for durability.
A great banjo with mahogany top and back material, 5 strings, and an 18-bracket tone ring.
View Price at Amazon

The Oscar Schmidt OB3-A-U stands out because of its open-back style. The unique sound it creates appeals to both casual listeners and dedicated musicians, perfect for classic and folk music styles. It moves seamlessly between pleasant melodies and expressive chords.

Pros

  • Modestly-priced 5-string banjo
  • Open-back design
  • 18-bracket tone ring
  • Mahogany resonator
  • Geared 5th-string tuner
  • Natural color and finish

Cons

  • Stock strings could use changing
  • Heavier than most banjos

Notice the versatility brought by the five strings on this banjo. They provide a flexible playing experience that can be adapted to various music styles such as bluegrass, country tunes, or finger-picking techniques. These strings can accompany any musical path you choose.

Lastly, I’d like to mention the 18-bracket tonal ring in this banjo. This contributes to excellent sound projection and clarity, making your music stand out and pleasing listeners’ ears. With precise and resonant strumming, this well-made tonal ring helps give a very pleasant audio experience.

Specs

  • Design: 5-String
  • Top Material: Remo Head
  • Back and Sides Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Material: Nato

7. Vangoa 5-String Banjo

A beginner kit is included for a useful start.
A full-size beginner banjo kit with a mahogany back and a Remo head for a warm, soft sound.
View Price at Amazon

The Vangoa 5-String Banjo comes with a high-quality Remo drum head that produces a lovely sound and mixes different tones. I appreciate the nice look and well-crafted design. Known for its excellent performance, this drum head guarantees a pleasant and captivating banjo-playing experience. It offers a rich and full sound.

Pros

  • Beautiful design and appearance
  • An impressive instrument for a modest price
  • Well-constructed and a great fit
  • Easy to set up and tune
  • Comes with useful accessories
  • Durable mahogany material

Cons

  • Needs initial setup
  • May require professional servicing for optimal playability
  • Subpar quality of provided strings

A notable feature of this banjo is its adjustable truss rod, which makes it easy to change the string height. This feature is useful for musicians, ensuring smooth performance and comfort while playing. Whether you’re an expert or just starting out, this banjo adapts to your playing style with ease.

This instrument can switch between a resonator and an open-back banjo, offering a versatile playing experience with different sound styles. Its mahogany resonator not only provides stability and a warm sound but also displays a beautiful medium-brown wood grain for visual appeal. Plus, the 24 chrome-plated brackets strengthen the top and ensure accurate tuning.

Specs

  • Design: 5-String
  • Top Material: Mahogany
  • Back Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Material: Mahogany

8. ADM 5-String Banjo

Quality banjo, easy to tune, and great for beginners
A banjo made of sapele wood with a walnut color and black walnut fretboard, perfect for beginners and music lovers.
View Price at Amazon

The ADM Banjo comes complete with a high-quality Remo drum head for vibrant and clear tones. The attractive design and quality materials make it perfect for beginners and is suitable for a variety of musical genres like country, folk, bluegrass, or modern rock.

Pros

  • Beautiful design and good craftsmanship
  • Great value for a beginner banjo
  • Comes with essential accessories (tuner, strap, etc.)
  • Easy tunability with adjustable truss rod
  • Remo drum head and walnut fingerboard for quality sound

Cons

  • Fragile construction requires proper handling
  • Strings may snap easily during tuning

You can tailor the Banjo to your liking with the ADM Banjo Kit’s adjustable truss rod, which helps customize the neck for your chosen playing style. This flexible feature empowers musicians to showcase their skills and unique personality without constraints, regardless of their preferred genre.

With the ADM Banjo, you don’t need to choose between comfort and appearance, as it provides a chrome-plated armrest that’s both stylish and comfortable. The sleek design enhances playing convenience, allowing for long sessions without fatigue.

Specs

  • Design: 5-String
  • Top Material: Walnut, Sapele
  • Back Material: Walnut, Sapele, Wood
  • Body Material: Mahogany

9. Pyle-Pro PBJ60

Affordable banjo with classic, traditional style, and vibrant singing banjo tone
A quality 5-string banjo with a fabulous traditional tone, featuring a mahogany neck, back, and side, a rosewood fingerboard, and a Maple Wood bridge.
View Price at Amazon

The Pyle-Pro PBJ60 banjo is made to impress, using a mix of top-quality woods like Rosewood, Maple, and Mahogany for great sound. The banjo body and bridge use Shabili and Maple wood for a strong construction. Stainless steel strings make sure the banjo lasts long and sounds good.

Pros

  • Affordable price for a beginner banjo
  • Surpasses expectations in quality and sound
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Geared 5th tuner for better tuning and playability
  • Beautiful design
  • Constructed from quality materials

Cons

  • Some assembly and setup required
  • Bridge installation may require research or knowledge, instructions not included

If you want a decent instrument, this banjo has a Rosewood fretboard with a shiny finish that looks amazing. It also has White Jade tuner pegs to help with tuning stability and accuracy. The banjo’s design is very detailed and brings a feeling of elegance to any player.

A big part of the Pyle 5-string banjo’s excellent performance is the REMO M1 drumhead and geared 5th tuner. These features show how reliable and playable this instrument is. Apart from all this, I really like its excellent value for the price.

Specs

  • Design: 5-String
  • Top Material: Maple, Mahogany
  • Back Material: Maple, Mahogany, Wood
  • Fretboard: Rosewood

10. Ibanez B200

Pro-grade Ibanez banjo with a quality mahogany resonator
A 5-string closed-back banjo with a basswood rim rolled brass tone ring and mahogany resonator.
View Price at Thomann (Europe)View Price at Amazon

The Ibanez B200 has great quality, and this beautiful instrument certainly delivers with its warm-toned mahogany resonator and neck. It was created in collaboration with banjo legend Earl Scruggs, ensuring top-notch design. With a smooth rosewood fretboard, it’s perfect for beginners and experienced players.

Pros

  • Good quality for the price
  • Beautiful design and finish
  • Nice sound projection
  • Great for beginners to intermediate players
  • Mother-of-pearl inlays on the rosewood fingerboard
  • 24-lug configuration on basswood rim

Cons

  • Tuning pegs may not hold strings in tune well
  • Can be a bit heavy for some
  • The metal guard may cause discomfort
  • A bit pricey

This banjo is clearly not old-fashioned, featuring a modern dual coordinator rod design and a detailed 24-element lug pattern. The basswood block rim and rolled brass tone ring create a clear, resonant sound, which I appreciate. It also has stylish details like an etched chrome armrest and clamshell tailpiece for comfort.

With a mix of modern and traditional features, this banjo offers plenty of variety. It has a contemporary look with ABS-multi-material resonator binding and acrylic pearl block inlay but retains reliable performance with chrome friction tuners and a 22-fret design. The rosewood and maple bridge add to the instrument’s beauty and musicality.

Specs

  • Design: 5-String
  • Top Material: Mahogany, Basswood
  • Back Material: Mahogany, Basswood
  • Fretboard: Rosewood

Key Features and Specs to Look Out For in a Beginner Banjo when Buying

There are a couple of things you need to consider before committing to a banjo. Some things beginners need to look for in a banjo are the size, quality, sound, and price, among other things.

Size and type of banjo (4-string, 5-string, or 6-string)

When considering the size and type of banjo for beginners, it’s important to understand the differences between the 4-string, 5-string, and 6-string options. The most popular choice for beginners is a 5-string banjo, which is versatile and ideal for various music styles, including bluegrass, folk, and country.

A prime example of a beginner-friendly 5-string banjo is the Ibanez B50, known for its durable mahogany construction and vintage open gear tuners. For those who are more inclined towards playing the guitar, the 6-string banjo-guitar version of the Jameson Guitars Banjo is another solid option.

Quality of materials and construction

In choosing the best banjo for beginners, it’s crucial to consider the quality of materials and construction. A well-built banjo made of superior materials will not only sound better but also last longer and be easier to play.

For instance, the Ibanez B50 5-String Banjo features a mahogany body and neck, along with a Remo 11-inch coated weatherking banjo head, which ensures durability and easy maintenance. Similarly, the Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo uses a closed solid back mahogany resonator as well as a 5-ply maple and mahogany shell for a rich tone.

Price range and budget

When considering the price range and budget for a beginner banjo, it’s essential to find a balance between affordability and quality. Banjos can vary significantly in cost, with higher-end models like the Deering Goodtime Banjo offering exceptional craftsmanship and sound quality at a steeper price. However, if you want a more budget-friendly option, the Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo and the Costzon 5-String Banjo are great options.

Ease of playability

Ease of playability is crucial for beginners when choosing their first banjo, as it heavily impacts the learning experience and overall enjoyment of playing the instrument. Both the Ibanez B50 5-String Banjo and the Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo offer features that cater to newcomers, making them ideal for those just starting their musical journey.

Availability of accessories and learning resources

The availability of accessories and learning resources is a crucial aspect to consider when choosing a beginner banjo. A full-featured beginner kit, like the one offered with the Vangoa 5 String Banjo, sets you up for success by providing essential accessories such as a clip-on tuner, adjustable strap, and padded carrying bag. Likewise, the Costzon 5-String Banjo includes a 420D Oxford cloth bag, strap, wiper, and picks in its beginner kit.

Buyers Guide

Picking up a banjo for the first time is an exciting experience; however, choosing the right banjo can be a daunting task. This guide breaks down the top considerations that beginners need to know when purchasing their first banjo, along with recommendations for some of the best beginner banjos available.

Types of Banjos for Beginners

When you first start learning the banjo, you need to decide on the type of banjo you want to play. Some popular options for beginner banjos include the 5-string banjo (like the Ibanez B50), the 4-string banjo, and the Irish tenor banjo. Ultimately, your choice will depend on the music genres you’re most interested in – for instance, 5-string banjos are primarily used for bluegrass and country music, while 4-string banjos are popular in jazz and Irish music.

Open-Back vs. Resonator Banjos

Another important decision is whether to pick an open-back or resonator banjo. Open-back banjos (such as the Deering Goodtime Banjo) are lightweight, have a mellow tone, and are more affordable – making them a great choice for beginners.

Resonator banjos, like the Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo, have a closed back and produce a louder, brighter tone, making them better suited for more experienced banjo players or those looking to play in a band setting.

Finding a Banjo Instructor

Whether you’re taking in-person lessons or following online tutorials, finding a skilled banjo instructor is crucial for beginners. A good teacher will help you build a solid foundation, correct any bad habits, and inspire you to progress in your banjo journey.

Tips for Banjo Maintenance

Keeping your banjo in good condition is essential for its performance and longevity. Regularly changing strings, ensuring proper humidity levels, and cleaning your banjo (with supplies like those included in the ADM 5-String Banjo Kit) will keep it sounding its best. Maintain your banjo’s head by replacing it when needed, and using a truss rod adjustment tool to keep your banjo’s neck straight and well-adjusted.

FAQs

1. What type of banjo should beginners consider purchasing?

Beginner banjos should have open-back, lightweight construction, and a shorter neck with four strings.

2. What is the best material for a beginner banjo?

Beginner banjos should be made with cheaper materials like laminated wood, plastic, or aluminum to keep the costs lower.

3. What brand produces the best beginner banjos?

Brands like Deering, Gold Tone, and Ibanez are widely recognized as producing the best beginner banjos.

4. Are there any necessary accessories that should be purchased alongside the banjo?

A beginner should purchase a high-quality tuner, a carrying case, and finger picks to make the learning process easier.

5. How much should beginners be willing to spend on their first banjo?

Beginner banjos can range from $150 to $500, with the median price being around $300. It’s recommended to spend a decent amount for a quality instrument that will hold its value.

Conclusion

The banjo is an interesting instrument for those looking to dabble in country, folk, and bluegrass music. There are a lot of suitable options for beginner banjo enthusiasts on the market with models ranging from budget-friendly to high-end.

My top pick is the Ibanez B50. It has a sweet and vintage sound, mahogany back and sides, and a rosewood fingerboard with dot position markers. It’s built with a 24-lug configuration and open-gear tuners that will keep your tune in check.

My budget pick is the Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo. It features a closed solid back mahogany resonator, 24 chrome-plated brackets, and a purpleheart fretboard for a pleasant acoustic sound and tone.

Brian Clark

Brian Clark

I’ve been a writer with Musician Wave for six years, turning my 17-year journey as a multi-instrumentalist and music producer into insightful news, tutorials, reviews, and features.

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