Top 8 Best Banjos for 2020

best banjo

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Do you love the unique sound of a banjo? It can bring life to most types of music and get the toes tapping while folks are grinning from ear to ear. If you have always wanted to learn how to play the banjo, or if you are looking for a new banjo, it’s the perfect time to start looking. You can find banjos for beginners, as well as instruments that are suited for those who have been playing for a while.

Of course, as you start to look at all of the various options, it quickly becomes clear that there are a lot of banjos on the market today. How do you know if you are getting one of the best? To help make it easier for you to find the best banjo, we have collected the top nine options on the market today. You can learn more about each of those banjos below. In addition to a collection of the best banjo options, we have also included information about the banjo, why it is a popular instrument, terminology, and more.

If you have always wanted to play this remarkable instrument, but you were worried that you wouldn’t be able to find the best banjo, it’s time to start looking. Whether you would like a banjo for yourself or you would like a banjo to give as a gift, there are some great options below.

Best Banjo Reviews and Brands

Name
5-String Geared Tunable Banjo Pyle 5-String Banjo PBJ60
  • Strings: 5
  • Wood: Mahogany
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Deering Goodtime Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo
  • Strings: 5
  • Wood: Blond Maple
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Deering Goodtime Deering Goodtime 2 Resonator Banjo
  • Strings: 5
  • Wood: Blond Maple
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AKLOT Banjo Ukulele Aklot Banjo Ukulele
  • Strings: 4
  • Wood: Maple
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Washburn Americana Washburn Americana B10
  • Strings: 5
  • Wood: Alternative Engineered Wood or Rosewood
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Kmise 4 String Banjo Kmise Banjo Ukulele
  • Strings: 4
  • Wood: Maple
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Washburn Americana Washburn Americana B9 Resonator Banjo
  • Strings: 5
  • Wood: Alternative Engineered Wood or Rosewood
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Luna Celtic 6-String Banjo Luna Celtic Banjo
  • Strings: 5 or 6 string options
  • Wood: Mahogany
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Pyle 5-String Banjo PBJ60

5-String Geared Tunable Banjo

The 5-string banjo from Pyle, model PBJ60, is a premium quality instrument that is made with beautiful wood. It features a high-gloss finish, white jade machine head tuner key pegs with chrome-plated hardware. There is also a geared 5th tuner, which is something that is typically only found on banjos that are considered to be high-end. Many consider this to be an upgrade from the usual friction tuner that is used with banjos.

The instrument has a mahogany neck, back, and side, along with a rosewood fingerboard. You will also find that the bridge is made from maple wood. It also features a universal adjustable truss rod.

No matter what you might be playing, you will be able to enjoy rick, classic tones with this banjo. The banjo provides a concert tone that could be used for a wide range of different musical styles and genres.

Although the instrument provides banjo players with a full scale, it is also quite lightweight. The low weight makes it easy to take along with you when you travel, when you are camping, etc. New banjo players and those who have been playing the banjo for years will find a lot to like about this option.

Pros

  • It works well as a good beginner banjo
  • High-quality design and materials
  • Provides you with a great, classic sound

Cons

  • The banjo is high quality, but some customers have found that their instruments arrive after having been damaged in shipping – this tends to be rare, though

Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo

Deering Goodtime

Deering is a popular banjo brand, and you will find that they make this list of the best banjos several times. Once you see the quality they can offer, you will see why these are a highly sought after instruments. This option from Deering features a low-profile with 22 frets pressed in nickel silver along the maple neck. You will also note the nice aesthetic choice of the black bowtie inlays to denote certain frets.

The open back banjo features sealed geared tuners, including on the fifth string. The pegheads have a fiddle shape and a satin finish. The instrument has a maple/ebony bridge along with an adjustable tailpiece. This three-ply instrument has an 11” maple rim along with a steel tension hoop and high crown banjo head for added durability.

The instrument has a slender neck with a satin finish, making the banjo a pleasure to play whether the banjo player has large or small hands. The banjo is lightweight and is one of the best options for those who are looking to get a quality instrument that looks and sounds great.

Pros

  • This is a high-quality instrument for beginner banjo players and those who have been playing a while
  • The open back banjo produces a great sound
  • It comes ready to play after tuning

Cons

  • Some new banjo players have had trouble tuning the 5th string

Deering Goodtime 2 Resonator Banjo

Deering Goodtime

The Deering Goodtime 2 Resonator Banjo is very similar to the previous Deering on the list. This instrument is a resonator banjo, which means that it is louder than an open back banjo. Those who are looking for a great banjo that can provide a concert tone and that has some nice volume to it may want to consider a resonator banjo.

This 5-string banjo features an 11” frosted top, high-crown banjo head, along with a blond slender rock maple neck and a three-ply violin-grade Goodtime maple rim. It features 22 pressed in nickel silver frets, as well. You will also notice that it features the same bowtie inlays on certain frets as the regular Goodtime open back banjo.

One of the other benefits of the banjo is the hard case gig bag that is included. This helps to keep the instrument safe when it is being stored and when you are traveling. It’s a good option for beginning banjo players, as well as those who have more experience.

Pros

  • The banjo is easy to tune and easy to play
  • The sound quality is very impressive
  • The included gig bag is a huge benefit

Cons

  • There are no real complaints about this banjo from a performance perspective, but some new banjo players wish it were cheaper

Aklot Banjo Ukulele

AKLOT Banjo Ukulele

The Aklot Banjo Ukulele is one of two banjo ukuleles on our list. You will notice that this type of banjo is smaller, and it only features four strings. Even though it is not a traditional banjo, it can still provide you with the sound quality that you want and need. The instrument, often called a “banjolele” was highly popular in the 1920s and 1930s, and that popularity is starting to return. This is an open back banjo with a deep rim, which helps to produce a substantial amount of sound for such a small instrument.

The banjo has a Remo head, which can provide a warm, round town. It can provide a “plucky” sound or a sound that is typically associated with Appalachian mountain music. This is partially due to the open back on this little banjo. The instrument has a 15:1 geared tuner that allows you to tune the banjo ukulele more accurately. It also means that the instrument will stay in tune for longer. You will be able to customize your own action thanks to the two-way truss rod. The frets have been sanded, and maple fingerboard helps to make this instrument a pleasure to play.

When you choose the bundled option seen here, you will find that the banjo comes with many helpful accessories. It comes with a gig bag, as well as a rule for measuring action, five picks or plectrums for banjo, a clip-on tuner, a wrench, a cleaning cloth, and a banjo strap.

Pros

  • Provides a quality sound in a small package
  • Setup, including setting the action, is nice and easy
  • High-quality geared tuners

Cons

  • The ukulele-sized banjo might not be the right solution for those who want to learn to play a traditional banjo

Washburn Americana B10

Washburn Americana

Washburn is a popular instrument maker that is often associated with instruments like guitar and bass. However, they are a popular banjo brand, too. In fact, the company has been building banjos since the 1800s.

This banjo, the Americana B10 is a 5-string banjo that features a mahogany resonator that is finished in a beautiful gloss sunburst. You will find two options for the wood used with this banjo. You could opt for alternative engineered wood or rosewood based on your preferences.

The resonator banjo is a beautiful option that features a 22-fret fingerboard with deluxe pearl inlays. The banjo also features die case tuners that help to make the tuning smooth and easy. You will also find an authentic Remo head on the banjo. The ebony-tipped maple bridge is a nice touch, and the chrome armrests help to make the banjo more comfortable to play. This banjo comes with D’Addario strings.

Pros

  • The instrument is lightweight, and it sounds great
  • The banjo has an authentic Remo head
  • Works well for new banjo players and those with more experience

Cons

  • It only has a single coordinating rod, whereas model B14 has dual rods

Kmise Banjo Ukulele

Kmise 4 String Banjo

Another banjo ukulele has made the list. This banjolele from Kmise has a small body and a fretted concert size ukulele neck. The banjo uses the standard tuning of a ukulele – GCEA – and it has a smaller scale than a typical banjo. The drumhead is made from polyester, which provides it with a substantial amount of elasticity. This banjo ukulele features high-quality Aquila strings along with closed geared tuners. It can produce a bright tone, and thanks to the quality of the tuners, it can stay in tune.

The banjolele has a 3-mm action at the 12th fret, which means this should be a comfortable instrument to play even for those who are just starting out. It has a truss rod already in the neck, and it is possible to adjust the action when needed. The fretboard is nice and smooth, which makes the instrument fun to play. You will not have to worry about having your fingers or hands scratched.

The ukulele banjo also comes with a gig bag, as well as a tuner. The overall size of this instrument is 23”, which is the same as a concert ukulele.

Pros

  • A fun, small instrument that you can take with you
  • Produces a bright sound
  • The banjo ukulele is comfortable to play

Cons

  • Some users have complained that the action is too low and that the high notes can become muddled

Washburn Americana B9 Resonator Banjo

Washburn Americana

The Americana B9 is another banjo option from Washburn. This mahogany resonator banjo is also available in either rosewood or alternative engineered wood. The 5-string banjo has an aluminum rim, an 11” grooved tension hoop with an authentic Remo banjo head. You will find die-cast tuners with Pearloid buttons, which make for a smooth and easy tuning experience. You will find many other similarities to the B10 including ebony-tipped maple bridge for better articulation and chrome armrests.

This is a great banjo for those who are just starting to play the instrument. It is well-made and it has a nice sound.

Pros

  • The resonator can be taken off and put back on easily
  • The banjo is made from high-quality materials
  • The banjo has nice sound quality

Cons

  • Some buyers see this only as a beginner’s banjo and do not believe it will grow with the player

Luna Celtic Banjo

Luna Celtic 6-String Banjo

The Luna Celtic Banjo provides two options when it comes to strings. You can opt for a 5-string version, or you could choose a 6-string banjo. The latter option is like a guitar in terms of the number of strings and the 25 ½” scale, but it will still provide you with the quality sound that you expect from a banjo.

You could also choose to tune is like a guitar, EADGBE, which can provide the banjo with a very interesting guitar-style tone. You can trust in the sealed die-cast tuners to provide you with a banjo that is easy to tune and that stays in tune.

This banjo could be played in modern Celtic-style music, or it could be used for Bluegrass and country, for example. It is a versatile instrument. The neck of this banjo is made from mahogany, while the fretboard and the bridge are made from black walnut. The finish is a beautiful tobacco sunburst.

This banjo from Luna Guitars is a finely crafted instrument that looks as good as it sounds. The company has been making instruments for many years, and their expertise shows in this beautiful banjo.

Pros

  • The banjo has an excellent sound
  • The added string provides more versatility for the banjo
  • You can use the banjo to play a wide range of instrument types

Cons

  • Some customers wish that it included a case

Why Play the Banjo?

There are many different types of instruments including guitars, drums, bass, and keyboards. So, why are so many people interested in picking up and learning how to play the banjo today? There are plenty of reasons to start playing. For starters, it happens to be a very fun instrument with a truly unique sound. Whether you are new to musical instruments or you are picking up another musical instrument to learn, the banjo can be a good fit. It will expand your musical knowledge and your ability to play alone and with others.

Playing the banjo is also relaxing. You will be able to unwind as you start learning. While there is something of a learning curve to the banjo, it’s not as difficult as some might think. In fact, many believe it is a relatively easy instrument to learn.

You will also find that the banjo tends to be an instrument that can get quite a bit of attention. Lots of people play guitar and lots of people haul their guitar with them to the beach, camping, parties, etc. However, not nearly as many people are going to pull out a banjo. This can be a way to break the ice with people.

If you have never picked up a banjo before, it can be nice to get into a brand new way of making music. A great banjo can be a perfect choice.

Banjos Are Used in Many Types of Music

The banjo has a very distinctive sound to it, and you can pick up on songs where banjos are playing almost immediately. However, you still might be surprised at the wide range of different types of music that are using banjo today. While it might not be the most versatile instrument in the world, it is becoming welcome in a range of musical genres.

Naturally, you will hear banjo being played in a lot of country music. It’s been a popular instrument in country and western since the early days of the musical genre, and it is still popular today. It’s also popular in many of the subgenres of country, such as dark country and gothic country. In addition, there are many indie bands that are making use of this instrument today. It’s a staple of bluegrass, folk music, and Irish music, as well. You can even hear it in some rock songs today.

Just because the banjo has a unique sound, it doesn’t mean that you have to be limited in the types of music that you can play with it. Many cover songs exist that utilize the banjo as the main instrument. There are some songs that you might never have expected that have been covered by the banjo.

For example, you can hear bluegrass and banjo covers from banjo players of songs like “Thunderstruck” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” from AC/DC, “Black Dog” from Led Zeppelin, and more. There are even banjo covers of songs like “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, “Walking on Sunshine”, and “Danger Zone”.

The banjo is a fun instrument that can be used in some surprising ways. It’s time that you had some fun and learned to play. You are going to have a great time, and you might even be able to come up with some surprising covers of your own.

Banjo Terminology to Know

You don’t have to become an expert when you start playing the banjo, but it will be helpful if you know at least a few of the basic terms regarding the instrument. For example, some of the banjos above have resonators, and you might be wondering what a resonator banjo is. The resonator is a piece of wood that’s shaped similar to a bowl and that goes on the back of the banjo. This helps to direct the volume of the banjo outward, helping the sound to “resonate”. These tend to be somewhat louder than the open-back banjos, which literally have an open back.

Another term to know is head, which is the part of the banjo where the bridge sits. The head of the banjo might be made from materials like mylar or hide, for example. The rim on a banjo is the circular piece of wood that is under the tone ring. This might be a maple rim, for example. The tone ring just mentioned is a piece of metal that wraps around the rim of the banjo. It will typically be made from pot metal or brass. Pot is the term that includes the rime, heat, and the tone ring.

Having at least this basic understanding of the anatomy of a banjo will help to make it easier for you to understand what you are reading about when you start to learn more about the banjos. The more you know about the instrument, such as whether you might want a maple rim or a hide banjo head, makes it easier for you to find the best banjo for your needs.

Tips for Learning How to Play the Banjo

You love that sound of the banjo, and you want to learn how to play sooner rather than later. Fortunately, you will find that like a guitar, there are plenty of ways that you can learn the banjo online and offline. While it might be more difficult to find a banjo instructor in person than it would be a guitar teacher, it’s not impossible. It will depend on where you are located.

However, don’t think that you need to find in-person instruction or even an online instructor who provides live lessons to learn the banjo. Just like a guitar, there are many videos on YouTube, where you will be able to learn just about everything you need to know about the banjo. You can learn more about the various parts and features, such as the tone ring, resonators, open backs, and more. You can also learn how to play from the very basics through to advanced lessons.

You may also want to consider getting some books that are available on learning to play the banjo. Some of the banjo brands above also have some instructions available that will come with the banjo. Regardless of your skill level right now, there are plenty of places to learn how to play the banjo. Whether you want to fingerpick or play with a pick or plectrum, banjo lessons will help to get you up to speed.

While there is certainly going to be a learning curve with your banjo, there is a learning curve with all instruments. Do not let it stop you from learning how to play this great instrument. As with most types of instrument training, you will learn and progress quickly when you first start, and then you will start to slow down your progression as you are perfecting your skills.

When the learning slows and you are having trouble learning new banjo techniques, just stick with it. You will be able to learn the various styles and even come up with a playing style of your own that works for the type of music you are creating.

Understanding Banjo Tunings

Once you start to understand the basics of playing the banjo, you will want to learn a bit more about the tuning styles and options that are available. One of the most popular and common types of tunings is known as Scruggs tuning. This is a very common tuning option and is what many people are thinking about when they think of the way a banjo sounds. It’s very common to use when playing bluegrass music.

This type of banjo tuning will generally employ standard open G banjo running, which will be written as gDGBD. The lowercase “g” represents the fifth string, which is the shortest string on a banjo. You can use this tuning to play like a banjo player in a bluegrass band, and it can work for just about any bluegrass standard. Even if you have to play a song in a different key, you can keep the tuning and just use a capo. There are, of course, alternative tuning options that can be used, as well, to help with minor keys.

You can also find some “old-time tunings” that you might want to try. Two of the most common include Double C and G Modal. The tuning for Double C is gCGCD, while the tuning for G Modal is gDGCD.

When you are first learning, it’s best to stick with just the basics. Get the banjo into standard tuning so it sounds like a banjo and learn how to play. Once you have a solid understanding of the basics, and you want to try out some other things, you can start to experiment with other tunings.

What Should You Look for When Buying a Banjo?

When you are considering buying a banjo, there are many things that you will want to consider. First, think about the number of strings that you will want. 5-string banjos are some of the best options. They are a common choice, and you will be able to find a lot of songs and learning tools that will help you to learn this type of banjo. However, there are other options out there if you want more or fewer strings.

In addition, you will want to consider whether you want to have a resonator on your banjo or if you want an open back. The open back options tend to be cheaper than the resonator banjos. However, they might not have the sound that you want. Take some time to listen to an open back and a resonator to see which one you feel will be the best for your needs.

Consider some of the other features of the banjos that are on your shortlist. Look at the features that mean the most to you whether it is the aesthetics of the banjo, the banjo head, whether it has a satin finish on the back, the tone, etc. Take the time to find the option that you really like.

Other Banjo Accessories You Might Need

When you are buying a banjo, you often want to do more than just get a banjo. Whether you have a resonator banjo or an open back banjo, you need to have all of the right accessories. Some of the options discussed above come with a few of these accessories, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, you might want to have some of your own accessories that you prefer. Let’s look at some of the different types of banjo accessories and why you might need to have them.

First, you need to make sure that you are able to keep your banjo protected. The best way to do this is to have a high-quality case or gig bag. You will be able to store your banjo in the case when you are not using it. The case can help to keep the banjo clean and dust-free, and it can prevent it from getting dings and scratches.

When you have a hard case for the banjo, it also helps to protect it from greater damage, such as falling or having something fall onto it. A soft gig bag may not provide the protection you need, so consider getting a hard case. You will find that the hard cases are a good option for travel, as well.

You should also get a digital tuner. There are many different types of high-quality tuners from which you can choose. They are able to work with many different types of instruments, of course, not just banjos. There are digital tuners that can clip right onto the stock of the banjo, as well as tuners that you can use in close proximity to the banjo. Many prefer digital tuners, but you will want to find the option that works best for you.

To change up the tuning of your banjo quickly and easily – and without actually touching the tuning pegs – you can simply use a capo. When you are choosing a capo, make sure that it was made specifically for banjos. You might also want to have some additional plectrums for the banjo, a thumb pick or two, and perhaps some finger picks. You should also have a couple of extra sets of strings just in case you have one break when you are playing.

The banjo can be played sitting down or standing up depending on the persona and the style. Regardless of how you play, you might want to consider investing in a banjo strap, which can help to keep your instrument safe while you are playing.

These are some of the important accessories that you might want to consider for your banjo. You want the instrument to have a lot of function and you want to keep it safe. The right accessories will help.

How to Take Proper Care of a Banjo

Taking care of and properly maintaining your banjo tends to be easy to do. You will want to examine your strings regularly and clean them. There are string cleaners that you can use, which will help to prolong the life of your banjo strings. However, when the time comes and the strings are looking worse for wear, make sure that you change them. This will help to ensure that you have a good sound.

You should also make sure that you wipe down the body of the banjo, including the neck, the head, the headstock, and the tuners. Always make sure that you are following the manufacturer’s guidelines for caring for the instrument, as some types of cleaning products might cause damage to certain finishes or woods.

Finally, you will want to make sure that you are keeping your banjo safe. Store it properly and keep it in a gig bag. Ideally, you will have a hard case, that will provide the banjo with even more protection.

Find Your Banjo Today

Now that you have had the time to look over some of the very best options for banjos today, it’s time that you started to narrow your choices. Which of the options above seems like the best choice for your needs? Take the time to consider these options and find the perfect banjo for yourself today. Whether you are just starting to learn how to play, you are buying another banjo, or you are buying a gift for someone special, there is a choice that’s right for you.

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Aiden Jones
Aiden Jones
Music is in my blood, I decided to create this Roaming Sound to talk about the all things music. Welcome! Learn more about me here