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The Best Banjos for Any Musician

On the left, a man leans against a wooden wall and plays the banjo. On the right, a man is sitting on his couch and frets a note on the banjo.

Similar to the guitar, the banjo is a fretted string instrument that’s usually played in American music genres like country, bluegrass, and folk. Metallic strings provide the delicate, twangy sound that the genre is known for, heard either in its bright riffs or its percussive tempos. Whether you are a seasoned banjo-ist, a transitioning instrument player, or a beginner, we have you covered with four of the best banjos you can buy.

What to Look for in a Banjo

Here are some recommended considerations to consider before buying a banjo:

  • Price: While the instrument’s price level doesn’t completely dictate its quality, it does play a big role. A more expensive banjo simply signals higher quality materials, care, and craftsmanship. A low-end banjo doesn’t necessarily mean a bad banjo, but be wary of the price, especially if the quality is one of your biggest considerations.
  • Type: There are a ton of banjo variations on the market, with differences in everything from the number of strings to the size of the banjo. Traditionally, 5-string banjos are commonly used for most genres of music that include a banjo. A tenor banjo is like a miniature banjo and is usually played with a flat pick. For young banjo players or those with short fingers, the tenor type is recommended if you need a smaller size.
  • Build: For acoustic instruments, in particular, the materials and overall craftsmanship in their construction is an important factor that can determine their sound and resonance. Banjos can also vary in construction, from the size of the neck to the type of tuning pegs used. High-quality banjos typically feature necks made from one solid piece of wood, making them durable and long-lasting. Laminated necks are more affordable but might not last through many practices and performances.

Best for Beginners: ADM 5-String 24 Bracket Banjo

A man wearing a black hat and shirt leans against a wooden wall and plays the banjo.

While no one banjo is significantly easier to play, if you have never played the instrument before, this is the ideal option for you. This banjo set conveniently includes a variety of accessories that you most likely won’t have, like a tuner, strap, picks, extra strings, and more. These basic accessories are incredibly helpful to begin your banjo-playing journey. The banjo’s fingerboard is made with sturdy mahogany that prevents warping and provides a pleasant-looking finish. The instrument also features a maple wood bridge stable enough for fast fingerpicking, 24 brackets, and a high-quality Remo drum head for a clear, bright sound. Additionally, the back of the banjo can be detached, transforming the mellow sound of the resonator banjo into the bright sound of an open-back banjo.

Best Design: Pyle 5-String Geared Tunable Banjo

A man leans against a fence and strums the banjo.

This instrument was created to look as good as it sounds. The banjo is built with a mahogany neck, a rosewood fingerboard, and a maple wood bridge to showcase beautiful woodwork and grain. The quality sound coming from the 22-fret instrument is complemented by the look of the wood’s high-gloss, polished finish, and chrome-plated hardware. The white jade tuner key pegs contrast the dark wood of the banjo neck and base to make an eye-catching instrument made for stage lights. While this is a budget instrument, the banjo is able to deliver the tones you are looking for in all types of music genres.

Best Design

Best High-End Banjo: Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo

An upright 5-string banjo with a light-colored maple neck.

In terms of quality and sound, not many can outclass a Deering banjo. Its manufacturer is one of the most well-established banjo brands out there, and this Goodtime banjo certainly won’t disappoint. The open-back banjo features a slender neck profile, three-ply maple rim, an adjustable action, and satin finish. At only four pounds, this lightweight banjo is great for band tours, camping, or beachside music sessions.

Best High-End Banjo

Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo

This banjo boasts high-quality sound, excellent materials, and an elegant finish.

Best Tenor Banjo: Vangoa 5 String Banjo

A young girl strums a tenor banjo.

Tenor banjos are smaller than their 5-string counterparts and are perfect for traveling musicians that need a more compact banjo. This one from Vangoa is a 26-inch banjo with a mahogany body and Alice steel strings that provide a punchy tone. It also features 12 chrome-plated brackets that allow for percussive timbres to be delivered. The banjo allows for adjustable action but is pre-set with a 3-millimeter action at the twelfth fret. The banjo also includes a variety of accessories, like a tuner, bag, strap, and extra strings and picks.

Jonah Chin Jonah Chin
Jonah Chin is a freelance writer for LifeSavvy where he's able to openly share his thorough product considerations, critiques, and recommendations for you to benefit from. When he's away from the keyboard, he enjoys competing in sports like wrestling and playing instruments like the guitar. Read Full Bio »
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