Best Beginner Banjo | Starters and Cheap Models for 2019!

The banjo is widely regarded as a traditional instrument for specific genres. However, thanks to artists like Mumford and Sons and Taylor Swift, the banjo’s popularity has resurfaced in recent years.

If you want to buy a new banjo and improve your playing skills, the good news is that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for decent sound quality and high-end construction. Let’s review some of the best beginner banjos available online.

We will also discuss the essential features of the best starter banjos to improve your playing and ensure that you don’t have to upgrade when your skills advance.

Our Top Pick

If you don’t have time to read all the reviews below, our top pick would be the Deering Goodtime banjo. This model features exceptional quality at a fair price and will work well for most skill levels. If you’d like some more details, we’ve reviewed this model first below for your convenience.

Best Beginner Banjos Reviewed

Deering Goodtime Banjo

The Goodtime banjo from Deering is a high-end open-back banjo that is enjoyed by beginners as well as seasoned players.

 

Key Features

  • Three-ply, 11-inch maple rim
  • Adjustable tailpiece
  • Geared tuning machine
  • Lightweight -only four pounds
  • 22-fret rock maple neck
  • Five strings

 

What I like

The Goodtime banjo has a crisp and sharp sound that is typically associated with maple necks. The frets are constructed to help the beginner quickly achieve the correct intonation. Beginners with small hands will be able to hold the 22-fret neck with its low profile comfortably.

This banjo has a durable, American construction, so you will be able to play this banjo for years without it losing its sound quality or structural integrity.

 

What I don’t like

While the Goodtime is easy for beginners to play, it is suitable for professional players as well. As a result, it is relatively expensive. The good news is that you won’t have to buy a new banjo when your skills improve.

Another drawback of this instrument is that it doesn’t feature a truss rod and, consequently, the neck is not adjustable.

 

Pros

  • High-quality maple rim and neck
  • Lightweight-only four pounds
  • Wooden inlays add to the instrument’s visual appeal
  • Durable maple and ebony bridge for enhanced longevity
  • Durable construction

 

Cons

  • Expensive for an entry-level
  • Doesn’t feature a truss rod for neck adjustment

 

The Deering Goodtime is one of the best starter banjos available and a sound investment to improve your skills and enjoy a lifetime of playing.

 

Overall Rating- 4.3 of 5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Jameson 5-String Banjo

The five-string banjo from Jameson is an affordable option for beginners who require high-end features.

 

Key Features

  • Closed back with a mahogany resonator
  • Adjustable Tailpiece
  • Geared 5th string tuner
  • Three-ply maple rim
  • Maple bridge
  • Mahogany neck

 

What I like

One look at the Jameson five-string banjo’s features is enough to know that this is a high-value instrument. The mahogany resonator with seven-ply maple and mahogany shell, geared 5th tuner, and adjustable hinged tailpiece are all features you can expect to find on expensive banjos.

This bluegrass banjo is highly versatile as well. If you want to play clawhammer style, you can easily remove the resonator and change your tone and volume.

If you are looking for a durable entry-level banjo that delivers high-quality sound and that you can play for many years, this five-string from Jameson is a viable option. Most banjos with these features and specifications are at the higher end of the price spectrum.

The banjo is 38 inches long with 24 brackets, and it has a mahogany neck to provide a warm sound. The nut has a comfortable width of 1.25 inches.

 

What I don’t like

Due to its design, the banjo is only suitable for right-handed players. The quality of the tuning machine can also be improved.

 

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • High sound quality
  • The resonator is removable for different styles
  • Suitable for beginners
  • Excellent value for money

 

Cons

  • Tuning machine quality is somewhat lacking
  • Only for right-handed players

 

Overall Rating – 4.6 of 5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Ibanez B200 5-String

The Ibanez B200 five-string is banjo for beginners with ample visual appeal and a wide range of high-value features.

 

Key Features

  • Closed-back
  • Mahogany resonator
  • Mahogany neck
  • Rolled-brass tone ring
  • Remo Weatherking head with a natural color
  • Five strings

 

What I like

The Ibanez B-200 is ideal for beginners as it is easy to play and durable. With this banjo, you don’t have to spend a lot of time practicing to achieve the perfect intonation, as the fretboard is constructed with precision and the strings are the ideal distance from the instrument.

The neck is made of mahogany to produce a warm sound, and it features thorny inlays to enhance the instrument’s aesthetic appeal. Since this banjo has a closed back, it creates a bright and loud sound to accommodate for a wide range of playing styles.

 

What I don’t like

The Ibanez B200 has a relatively high price tag for an entry-level banjo, mainly because it has a durable construction from high-quality materials.

 

Pros

  • Thorny inlays add visual interest to the banjo’s appearance
  • Resonator contributes to a bright, loud sound
  • Durable construction for added longevity
  • Easy to play for beginners
  • Suitable for players of all skill levels

 

Cons

  • Not the best value for money
  • The tone is not as refined as banjos with maple necks
  • Relatively heavyweight

 

The Ibanez B200 may be the banjo for you if you like its striking appearance, the sound of a closed back, and the slower response that mahogany neck offers.

 

Overall Rating – 4.2 of 5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Gold Tone CC-100R

The CC-100R from Gold Tone is a beautiful banjo that provides the beginner with easy playability and ample adjustability.

 

Key Features

  • Five strings
  • Maple Neck
  • Maple resonator
  • Two-way adjustable tailpiece
  • Maple Tone ring
  • Truss rod
  • Geared tuning machine

 

What I like

The CC-100R is a five-string banjo with a closed back and a maple neck. The resonator is made of maple wood to provide a loud, bright sound. Since the neck is also maple, the banjo produces crisp tones that are suitable for a wide range of playing styles.

Like most other banjos from Gold Tone, the CC-100R has a one-piece armrest that is modeled after the old Gibson instruments from the 1920s. The banjo also has a solid tailpiece and a tone ring that gives more clarity to your sound.

Other features include diamond inlays for visual interest, a 5th string tuner, and solid headstock with a curly maple overlay. The CC-100R also has planet pegs, which are the best tuning machines that Gold Tone has to offer.

 

What I don’t like

The CC-100R may be expensive for an entry-level banjo, but this is because this instrument was not specifically developed for beginners. However, it is easy to play and the perfect banjo to build your skills.

 

Pros

  • Durable construction and materials
  • Produces a rich, bright tone
  • Suitable for banjo players of all skill levels
  • Lightweight
  • Banjo stays in tune for a long time
  • Diamond inlays for aesthetics

 

Cons

  • Might be too pricy for a beginner

 

The CC-100R from Gold Tone is worth considering if you want a banjo, you can play for the rest of your life without need an upgrade.

 

Overall Rating – 4.6 of 5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Buying Guide

As a beginner banjo player, there are several things you have to consider to ensure that you derive optimal value from your instrument. You not only want a banjo that is easy to play, but that also produces a sound you prefer. Quality is another crucial consideration, as you ideally want the longest possible life expectancy. You can also check out this post if f you’d like to read about other great banjo brands.

 

Considerations for Beginners

Open vs. Closed Back

The first thing you have to consider when looking for the best starter banjo is whether you want an openor closed-back banjo. Open-back banjos have open sound chambers, they are lightweight, and they are ideal for playing clawhammer style. Open-back banjos typically don’t require finger picks, and they have a softer sound than closed-backs banjos.

A closed-back banjo is sometimes referred to as resonator banjos as they have a bowl resonator that covers the sound chamber. This type is heavier than open-back banjos, and they typically produce a bright or “twangy” sound. A resonator banjo’s strings are usually closer to the fretboard and may require the use of a fingerpick.

 

Number of Strings

A banjo can have anything from four to twelve strings. To an extent, the number of strings is significant when it comes to the music styles a banjo can play.

Since five-string banjos are the most common and the preferred choice of most professional players, this number of strings may also be the most suitable for beginners.

Type of Wood

Banjo necks are typically made of three types of wood, namely:

  • Mahogany – provides a slower response and a warm sound
  • Maple – gives you enhanced control over volume and a crisp sound
  • Walnut – a less common wood choice that results in a warmer sound than maple

 

Price

Several factors influence a banjo’s price, including material quality and construction methods. The price range for entry-level banjos ranges from around $100 to $1,000. If you are committed to the instrument, consider a high-quality banjo so you won’t have to upgrade in the future.

 

Final Thoughts

When shopping for an entry-level banjo, you don’t have to forgo sound quality and high-end construction for the sake of affordability. The Goodtime banjo from Deering offers you everything you need in a banjo, including a maple rim and neck, a geared tuning machine, and light weight of only four pounds.

This banjo has five strings and 22 frets that are specifically designed to make intonation easier for beginners. The best thing about this banjo is that you can play it for a long time to come. Even as a professional, your skill level will never outgrow the performance and sound that this banjo offers. It’s easy to see why it took the top spot in our reviews as the best beginner banjo.

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