6 Best Beginner Banjos 2020

If your favorite iTunes list or YouTube channel has some Earl Scruggs, Bill Keith, Wade Ward and Don Reno, then you might just be a fan of banjo music. You know who you are.

If your ears enjoy listening to the sound of the banjo but your fingers are itching to play one, then you’ll need to do a bit of research before you choose one.

Below, we help you find the best beginner banjo by comparing and contrasting the top picks for a novice. We help you get informed before you buy, so keep reading and arm yourself with banjo knowledge!

Consider This for Beginner Banjos

As you hunt for the right banjo, here are a few things to consider:

  • Music Type. Do you plan to play bluegrass or Dixieland tunes?
    • Dixieland, Irish Music. For more lively tunes, a four-string banjo is an excellent choice.

There are three types:

      • 17-Fret Tenor Banjos
      • 19-Fret Tenor Banjos
      • Plectrum Banjos
    • Bluegrass, Country, Gospel, Jazz, Folk, Classical, Rock. A five-string banjo is standard for any of these types of music, and unless you have very specific musical intentions (such as the Dixieland or Irish Music), then a five string is the way to go.

Our list below contains five-string banjos, which are recommended for beginners.

  • Dominant Hand. This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but make sure you consider which hand you prefer to play with before you buy a banjo.

You’ll find left-handed and right-handed banjos, so make sure you know which one you’re buying before you plunk your money down!

6 Best Banjos for Beginners Table

PictureName# of stringsPriceRating (1-5)
# of strings
Rating (1-5)
1. Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo5$$$$4.8
2. 5-String Banjo 24 Bracket with Closed Solid Back and Geared 5th Tuner By Jameson Guitars5$4.7
3. Epiphone MB-100 Banjo, Vintage Satin Brown, Chrome Hardware5$$$4.3
4. PYLE-PRO PBJ60 5 String Banjo with Chrome Plated Hardware5$$4.3
5. Oscar Schmidt OB5 Gloss Mahogany 5-String Banjo5$$$4.0
6. Washburn Banjo Starter Kit (Gig bag, Strap, Picks, Pitch Pipe)5$$$3.8

Banjo Wood

The wood used for the neck of the banjo varies, and each one will offer a unique tone ring and the response.

  • Mahogany. This will offer a gentle, warm sound as you play and give you a slower response.
  • Maple. With a maple neck, you’ll have a crisp, sharp sound. You can play either very soft or very loud.
  • Walnut. While this isn’t as popular as mahogany or maple, it seems to have an in-between sound, if you will: brighter than mahogany and warmer than maple.

Open Back vs. Closed Back

The classic banjo had an open back, which quite literally means that the back side is not covered. These are more popular for old-time music or string band music where the banjo volume doesn’t need to be as loud.

Closed back banjos, as the name implies, have a covered back side are used more for bluegrass music. They have a resonator and flange which project the sound out toward the audience, making the sound louder.

Top 3 Best Beginner Banjo Reviews

1. Deering Goodtime Banjo

While the Deering Goodtime Banjo is rather pricy, you will be entering the world of banjo playing with a bang.

This 22-fret maple neck banjo will give you a crisp, sharp sound as you play. The frets are precise, which ensures the correct intonation over the fingerboard, and the slim neck makes it comfortable for anyone to hold.

This is the banjo that experienced players wish they would have purchased as their first banjo, so if you’d like to save yourself the regret, invest now for a lifetime of quality music!

2. Jameson 5-String Geared 5th Tuner Banjo

This Jameson closed back banjo for right-handed players features a slim neck and a powerful sound quality.

It has a mahogany resonator with 7-ply maple and mahogany shell, a geared fifth tuner, 24 brackets and an adjustable hinged tailpiece.

Ideal in quality and price for your first banjo purchase. A solid bluegrass banjo with removable resonator so you can play a little clawhammer or frailing style!

If you don’t have the funds for our top choice, then this is the next best beginner banjo.

3. Epiphone MB-100 Banjo

Epiphone makes another great entry-level closed back banjo for those just starting out. Unlike the first two, this is an open back banjo that offers you excellent sound for any old-time tunes.

The body is mahogany with a rosewood fretboard, and while it does offer a nice, warm sound, it may require a bit of fine-tuning right out the box.

If you’re a beginner, have an experienced friend or teacher help you to adjust everything. This is a mid-level banjo that you can start out with, but as you gain experience, you’ll definitely want to upgrade to something from a higher quality scale.

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