Are you planning to buy your first banjo but don’t know where to start?
If yes, you’ve come to the right place!
We completely understand that buying an instrument can be a bit overwhelming. Especially because there are so many popular brands promising the best quality for a reasonable price.
But the fact that there are so many great options on the market shouldn’t be a bad thing. On the contrary, if you know what you’re looking for, your banjo buying process will be smooth and easy.
And to make your process easier, we will introduce you to the 15 best beginner banjos.
All of these brands offer reliable banjo models popular among students. But the right choice for you depends on your preferences.
For example, if you want to play country and bluegrass, you should get a banjo with a resonator. And if you prefer folk and old styles, you should check out open-back banjos.
But more on that in our banjo buyer’s guide.
Before sharing some advice on how to choose the right banjo for you, let’s explore the best beginner banjos!
15 Best Banjos For Beginners
1. Vangoa 5-string Banjo
Without a doubt, Vangoa offers some of the best instruments for banjo newcomers.
It’s an ideal choice especially if you’re on a budget. The price is $200 which is really great for a beautiful, high-quality instrument.
The Vangoa 5-string banjo has very good construction. The instrument is not lightweight, but that means it’s quite durable. And it’s very comfortable to hold and play.
Moreover, this starter banjo is also adjustable. You can remove the resonator, so it can work as both an open and closed back banjo. This means you can play any genre you want!
And you’ll get everything you need with it – from the quality carrying bag to the pack of extra strings.
- Rich tone
- Comes with all the accessories
- Not the best quality of picks and straps
- Not lightweight
2. Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo
After years of making high-quality instruments, Deering has earned the reputation for manufacturing some of the best banjos for beginners. And it’s definitely the largest American manufacturer.
The Goodtime is Deering’s flagship open-back banjo, and it’s their best starter banjo.
It’s lightweight, so you can easily carry it with you wherever you want.
Quality maple rim and neck, maple/ebony bridge, and distinctive wooden inlays make this instrument durable and reliable. Such high-quality material is not common for budget banjos.
Although it’s considered a budget banjo, Deering Goodtime costs a bit more than some other open-back starter banjos, but it’s definitely worth it.
- Good value for money
- Quality wood
- Non-adjustable neck
- Quite standard looking
3. Jameson 5-string banjo
Jameson 5-string banjo is known as one of the best budget-friendly beginner banjos.
It’s a beautifully-made instrument, with a closed mahogany back, a maple bridge, and an adjustable hinged tailpiece.
The resonator is removable which gives you more freedom in the styles you want to play.
But one of Jameson’s best features is that it arrives completely set up. You’ll just need to tune it a little and it will be ready to play.
On the other hand, this model doesn’t come with various accessories like the Vangoa. So even though it’s very affordable, you’ll still have to pay extra for the rest of the kit.
- Good sound
- Quality materials
- Comes set up
- Comes without accessories
4. Epiphone MB-100 Open Back Banjo
If you’re seeking a good beginner banjo that is also within a reasonable price range, you should consider the Epiphone.
You can get the Epiphone MB-100 open-back banjo for around $225.
And what you’ll get is a reliable instrument with a surprisingly good tone.
It has a mahogany neck and body, and a nice natural wood finish. It’s also very lightweight so you can easily travel with it.
All in all, it’s one of the most affordable beginner banjos on the market, and it definitely offers amazing quality considering the price.
- Good tone (especially considering the price)
- It might take you a while to set it up
5. Costzon 5-String Banjo
Another affordable yet reliable banjo excellent for beginners is the Costzon 5-String Banjo.
It’s made of solid plywood and it has durable strings and a solid fretboard.
It also features a middle-range close handle so it’s convenient for players of all sizes and heights. That’s why it’s popular among children and students.
On top of that, the Costzon produces a really clean tone. You can even adjust the sound with the digital tuner.
And to make your banjo even better, you can perhaps replace the bridge.
Either way, the Costzon is a really good starter banjo you won’t regret buying.
- Clear tone
- Mid-range closed handle (fits everyone)
- Easy to set up
- Some parts could be improved
6. Oscar Schmidt Banjo OB3
Folk lovers have probably heard of this one – the manufacturer has been loyal to folk music since 1871.
The OB3 model is quite affordable and it’s a great option for banjo beginners. It produces a clear and strong sound.
It’s made of mahogany, and along with a unique bridge and headstock design, it looks really appealing. And it’s, therefore, quite durable.
It also features an 18-bracket tone ring, geared 5th-string tuner, and a removable resonator.
- Clear and high-volume sound
- Easy to set up
- It’s a bit heavier than some other similar models
7. ADM 5-String Banjo
ADM 5-string banjos are very popular among banjo students and beginners.
They are sturdy, durable, and made of mahogany. Their steel strings are also very nice and responsive.
It’s one of the most affordable banjos, especially considering it comes with a bag, picks, strap, extra set of strings, cleaning cloth, and a geared 5th tuner.
Without a doubt, the ADM 5-string banjo is a great choice for beginners who want to play all kinds of styles.
And most importantly, this good-looking banjo produces a clear, sweet sound you’ll learn to appreciate once you gain your basic banjo skills.
- Good sound suitable for different genres
- Comes with all the accessories
- Picks might be too small for some players
8. Rover RB-25 Banjo
The Rover RB-25 banjo is an instrument for serious students. It’s a high-quality banjo with a professional resonator.
It has a fast neck that is accurately fretted, producing the sound reminiscent of the most expensive banjos.
And although it’s more pricey than other models on our list, it’s great value for money. It’s definitely worth it if you’re committed to improving your banjo skills.
However, before purchasing this banjo, you need to determine whether you want a closed-back banjo or an open-back banjo.
- High-quality sound
- Great for advancing students
- More expensive than other options
9. Ibanez B200 5-String Banjo
This beauty is created by the famous Japanese manufacturer Ibanez. They even made a signature banjo for the great Earl Scruggs.
Although it’s not made from the best quality materials, Ibanez B200 5-string banjo produces a solid sound.
So if you’re searching for a fancy-looking banjo with a good sound, you should consider this model. Especially if you’re prepared to spend a bit more.
The problem with eye-catching banjos is that they are usually more expensive than the banjos with similar sound quality. And the sound quality should always be a priority.
- Beautiful appearance
- Solid sound
- Not the best quality materials
- More expensive due to its appearance
10. Fender Concert Tone 54 Banjo
Fender might be specialized in guitars, but this iconic brand also creates some of the best banjos for beginners.
To ensure quality, the Fender instrument will cost you a bit more than some other models, but it’s definitely a smart investment.
There’s no doubt that the Fender Concert Tone 54 banjo will stick with you for a while. Apart from being durable, it has a charming vintage-inspired style.
It’s also not too heavy to carry around, and its steel tone ring helps to create a sharp sound.
So, although it’s a bit pricey for an entry-level banjo, the Fender Concert Tone 54 banjo is easy to handle, good-looking, and resilient.
- Nice appearance
- Rich sound
- Relatively lightweight
- Pricey if you’re on a budget
11. Pyle 5-String Geared Tunable Banjo
The Pyle 5-String banjo is definitely one of the best starter banjos in its price range.
It’s really comfortable and easy to play, mostly due to its rosewood fingerboard and lightweight construction.
And you’ll also find it quite attractive – it has traditional bindings and a nice high-gloss finish.
Although it doesn’t have the best quality hardware (which is to be expected considering the affordable price), this charming banjo produces a great tone.
It’s ideal for folk, bluegrass, and country, but also for modern rock.
The only disadvantage of the Pyle 5-String banjo is that you’ll have to set it up yourself. But don’t let that intimidate you – it’s not as hard as it might seem.
- Nice, deep tone
- Nice appearance
- Great value for money
- It doesn’t come set up
- Not the best quality hardware
12. Kmise Concert Size Banjo (Banjolele)
If you’re intrigued by trying to play banjolele, this model is for you.
This 4-stringed concert-sized banjo by Kmise has a small banjo-like body and a fretted ukulele neck. You can play it like the ukulele – the banjolele is commonly tuned G–C–E–A (“C Tuning.”)
But you’ll still produce a banjo sound, and with this model, a rather good one.
Kmise banjolele entails various playing methods. The traditional resonator style creates a gentler sound, and the open-back style has a somewhat brighter sound.
Either way, it’s a unique and challenging (but not demanding) instrument for beginners.
And it’s undoubtedly one of the cheapest options on this list – you can get this banjolele for less than $100!
- Very affordable
- Interesting, authentic sound
- Requires some ukulele playing experience
13. Washburn B10 Banjo
The Washburn company has been manufacturing banjos for over 120 years now. So, they have undoubtedly honed their craft.
Washburn banjos are affordable yet reliable, especially the elegant B10 model. And you can always count on high-quality materials when it comes to Washburn instruments.
This beginner-friendly banjo features a traditional design, mahogany resonator, and rosewood fingerboard.
With its smooth sound, it’s ideal for playing bluegrass tunes.
This model doesn’t come with a bag, straps, and other accessories, so you’ll have to spend a little extra money to complete your kit.
However, the Washburn B10 Banjo is a great choice if you’re looking for a reliable, durable instrument for a reasonable price.
- High-quality materials and craftmanship
- Good tone
- Doesn’t come with accessories
- It requires some set up
14. Donner 5-string banjo
The Donner 5-string banjo is a fantastic banjo for beginners, but also for more advanced players.
The Donner DBJ-200 banjo bundle features all the necessary accessories: a quality gig bag, banjo strap, polishing cloth, and a tuner.
It has a mahogany neck, sides, and back, and it’s quite durable so you won’t have to worry about getting a new banjo for a while.
After purchasing this model, you’ll have to set up the bridge and tune it a little, but that’s all the effort it requires. You’ll be able to produce a clear, beautiful sound in no time!
- Great sound
- Good value for money
- Doesn’t come fully set up
15. Gold Tone CC-100R
If you’re not on a budget, we strongly suggest you check out the Gold Tone CC-100R.
Yes, it’s a bit more expensive than some other entry-level banjos (around $500), but it also has a better sound and volume. And it will definitely last you longer.
The Gold Tone CC-100R features a multi-ply maple rim, a removable resonator (so you can play any style), and a two-way adjustable truss rod (you can easily adjust the neck alignment.)
And the convenient armrest will allow you to play it for a long time without hurting yourself.
Besides being well-designed, it’s really lightweight and comfortable to play. And it delivers a beautiful, crisp tone. So, a banjo player’s dream come true!
- Quality construction
- Great sound
- Comfortable and lightweight
- More expensive than other beginner banjos
Buyer’s Guide – How To Choose The Best Banjo For You
All of the banjo brands we’ve shown you in this article are a great option for beginners. So how to choose the best one for you?
Well, if you’re a lefty, it’s great news that lots of banjos have left-handed models.
Of course, there are several other things you’ll have to figure out before making a purchase.
First of all, you’ll probably want to choose a 5-string banjo, and that’s why most of the models we recommended you are banjos with five strings.
Why a 5-string Banjo?
A 5-string banjo is the easiest type of banjo to master. In fact, it’s the easiest stringed instrument to learn.
It’s considered easier than guitar because its standard tuning is an open G tuning. This means you can play a G chord just by strumming, and playing it on a guitar requires a little more effort.
And once you master the basic three banjo chords, you’ll be able to play hundreds of tunes!
Also, various techniques are used to play a 5-string banjo, including the popular clawhammer style. The clawhammer style is considered the best playing style for beginners.
However, a 5-string banjo is mostly used for folk, country, and bluegrass, and those genres are known for their fast-paced, energetic songs. So, it will take some time to reach advanced levels. But with regular practice and proper guidance, there’s no doubt you’ll get there!
By the way, the type of banjo for you also depends on your learning source. If you’re planning to attend music lessons or hire a banjo teacher, it’s a good idea to consult with them before buying your first banjo.
And if you’re going to learn from online banjo music lessons, we will assist you by pointing out important elements you should consider before buying a banjo.
Once you know what you’re looking for in a banjo, the buying process will undoubtedly be a smooth and fun one!
Resonator vs Open-Back Banjo
When going through our list of the best banjos for beginners, you’ve noticed that some of these models have a removable resonator.
So, what’s the difference between a resonator-equipped and an open-back banjo?
A resonator is a metal plate attached to the rear of the pot of the banjo. It projects the sound forward and makes it stronger and fuller.
Bluegrass musicians use banjos with a resonator because they are lead instruments in bluegrass music. And a louder sound is preferred in ensemble playing.
On the other hand, folk musicians are fond of open-back banjos because they produce a softer tone.
Open-back banjos don’t have a resonator plate and you can see the inside of its sound-producing chamber.
So, whether you need a resonator or an open-back banjo depends on the music style you want to play. However, open-back banjos might be a slightly better option for beginners, especially if you’re not sure which style you want to play.
On the other hand, some models come with removable resonators and they are convenient for experimenting with different styles.
If you decide to buy a banjo with a removable resonator, this short Gold Tone tutorial on how to easily remove the resonator might come in handy:
Type of Wood
Another thing you’ve probably noticed in our beginner banjo list is that we kept mentioning the type of wood the instrument is made of.
Well, the type of wood is the most important element in tone quality and, therefore, a key factor in your playing experience.
So, what type of wood is preferred in good-quality banjos?
The best woods for banjo building are hardwoods, and the most popular ones are maple, walnut, and mahogany.
The rim of the banjo is usually made of maple, which is good. Many affordable entry-level banjos are made of maple or other suitable hardwoods.
The rim (pot) is an essential part of the banjo and it has to be made out of firm material. Cheaper banjos have aluminum or less resonant woods which results in poorer sound.
Maple is also used in making a quality neck of the banjo. Some beginner banjos have laminated necks with stuck-together pieces, and high-quality banjos use a single piece of wood.
Mahogany is another popular type of wood in making quality banjos. It creates a warmer, sweeter sound than maple.
And as maple is a denser wood, it has a brighter tone. Bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs played on a maple banjo and had that familiar bright tone.
When it comes to fretboards (a thin wooden strip that holds the frets), most of them are made of rosewood. Some budget banjos use the same material as the neck. The best option is, however, ebony.
Needless to say, banjos made of top-notch materials are more expensive. But they will also last you longer, and they definitely produce a much better sound.
However, as a banjo beginner, you’ll find standard starter banjos more than suitable for you. After all, many brands offer durable and eye-catching yet affordable models for beginners.
As we’ve just mentioned, expensive banjos are made of high-quality wood and they produce a better, clearer tone.
Many expensive banjos also have details such as decorative inlays carved into the neck of the banjo.
Professional banjoists will definitely seek a top-notch instrument with an impeccable sound. But if you’re a beginner, cheaper options will do you just fine.
Most banjos made specifically for beginners are quite affordable. At least compared to intermediate and professional banjos.
The least expensive banjos cost around $150. You can find some really good options for $200.
So, as far as the price is concerned, it all depends on your budget. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, you’ll get a durable, high-quality instrument that won’t let you down.
And if you decide on a less expensive model from our list, you’ll get a good instrument, but you might come across some issues eventually.
However, some ‘issues’ can be easily solved as you can simply replace a part of the banjo.
Also, if you’re shopping online, check what’s included in the offer before making the purchase. Some banjos are less expensive but they lack all the accessories so you’ll have to buy the bag or picks separately.
When making sure what’s included when you’re buying a banjo, apart from accessories like picks, straps, and extra pair of strings, it’s good to get a tuner.
Geared tuners are convenient for beginners as they’re easy to use. A good tuner is essential so you don’t fall out of tune while playing.
Some banjos come completely set up and ready to play. But some banjos require a little tuning or minor adjustments (like setting up a bridge.)
Although it’s easier to buy an instrument that’s already set up, don’t let this discourage you. Even if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, you can always take your instrument to a local music shop and get it sorted.
Furthermore, all adjustable features can come in handy. We’ve already mentioned the removable resonator that will allow you to play different styles. An adjustable truss rod is also quite convenient.
Also, aim to buy a lightweight banjo. Although heavier banjos produce a stronger sound, with a lightweight instrument you can practice longer. And it’s, of course, easier to carry around.
In the end, if you’re buying from a reliable manufacturer, you’ll most likely get what is promised. And if you don’t, many brands have a refund policy.
Acoustic vs Electric Banjo
In case you’re wondering if an electric banjo would be a better option for you, we decided to shed some light on the main difference between a standard acoustic banjo and an electric banjo.
Many musicians such as Taylor Swift and Mumford and Sons actually use an electric banjo. So, is it any better than the acoustic one?
Well, the biggest difference is the volume. Electric banjos produce a louder sound convenient for major concerts and large crowds.
But if you’re planning to work on your banjo skills in the comfort of your home, you’ll do more than fine with an acoustic banjo. Banjos are naturally loud instruments, so you won’t need an extra volume. Unless you’re seeking revenge on your neighbors.
New vs Used Banjos
Another question that might arise if you’re considering buying your first banjo is: should you buy a new or a used banjo?
Well, you never know what you might find in a local pawn shop. You might come across an affordable, barely used model that will catch your eye.
But buying a used banjo is a tricky business if you don’t have any experience. The thing is, a skilled player will notice potential problems right away, which is not the case with beginners.
So, unless someone knowledgeable and trustworthy assists you in shopping, buying a used banjo might not be the best idea. You have to be sure of what you’re buying.
However, if you don’t buy a good-quality banjo, you’ll have more problems in learning how to play it.
Your instrument, whether it’s used or a new one, has to be comfortable, easy to play, and produce a solid sound. Anything else will make your learning process harder than it’s supposed to be, or you’ll think that the poor tone you’re creating is your fault.
Learning how to play an instrument is not a super quick and easy process. But having a good-quality instrument by your side will undeniably make things easier.
As the 5-string banjo is one of the easiest stringed instruments to learn, we definitely suggest it be your first type of banjo.
Luckily, there are many 5-string banjos made specifically for beginners. And most of them are not too pricey. Once you improve your banjo skills, you’ll be ready to invest in an intermediate banjo.
Your starter banjo should be comfortable and durable. It should also be made of a quality type of wood and, therefore, produce a rich tone.
So, even though you’re searching for an entry-level banjo, you should expect a quality instrument that won’t disappoint you.
We hope this buying guide inspired you to buy your first banjo and helped you to make an informed decision.
We’re sure you’ll make the right choice!