Banjo For Beginners

The ultimate guide to banjo for beginners.

What to Look for When Buying a Banjo

There are a lot of things to look at when you buy your first banjo. This can be a time of great joy or sore disappointment, depending on whether you are satisfied. Remember, that is the ultimate goal. You are buying the banjo for your own enjoyment, not for anyone else. Buying a banjo is an investment, and if well taken care of, can easily last the rest of your life. That leads us into the first element:


Banjos are certainly on the rise, but they are not quite as mass produced as say, an acoustic guitar. That sadly means that banjos are a little more expensive to produce, and that is reflected in the price. I would say there are three tiers to banjos

Entry Level $200-500
Middle Level $500-1500
High Level $1500+

If you are unsure of whether the banjo is the instrument for you, there are some music stores that let you rent banjos. I would highly recommend this if you are on the fence. Renting is how I first started playing banjos, and it let me try it out before making a final decision. If you are sure you want to buy, set a price that you are comfortable paying before looking at the market, and adjust if needed. As I said earlier, buying a banjo is an investment, any money you spend at the front end will probably pay itself back with years of enjoyment. No one wants to practice on a bad sounding banjo, practicing on a high quality banjo can actually be lots of fun.


If possible, buy from a local bluegrass store. The price will be a little higher, but you will gain access to the local bluegrass community and support a local business. Also, if you have any questions, you know who to go to. If there are no local bluegrass stores, or the ones in your area don’t have the banjo you are looking for, try an online store like Janet Davis Music Store (, Elderly Instruments ( or ( These three are great resources and will make sure your instrument is properly set up before it leaves the store.

Keep in mind that a proper set up is incredibly important to a good sounding banjo, if the set up is bad, the banjo will sound bad. Unless you feel very confident in your own abilities, I would recommend buying from a store that sets up the banjo for you. I would avoid mainstream music stores (think Guitar Center, Musician’s Friend) as they generally don’t know how to properly set up banjos. Buying from one of those stores might leave you with a poorly sounding instrument that inhibits your desire to practice. The banjos in these stores are generally novelty items.

Buying used is also a pretty good option, but the question of set up comes into play. There are a lot of good deals over at Banjo Hangout (, just make sure that you have someone to set up the banjo for you. It can be very difficult for the novice.


There are a lot of beautiful banjo brands out there, and this is not a comprehensive list. These three brands all have banjos for sale under $500 and are dedicated banjo manufacturers. Other banjos will hit this price point (Fender, Morgan Monroe, Oscar Schmitt, Rover, Washburn) but either they don’t offer high end banjos, or they don’t have the reputation of the below three.

Deering Banjos (
Gold Tone (
Recording King (


Most three finger/Scruggs players play a resonator banjo, because the resonator compliments the sharp quickness of the style. Open back banjos are generally for clawhammer platers. Try playing both and seeing which you prefer.


Banjos, especially higher end ones, can be surprisingly heavy. If you have back problems or are of a slighter build, this might be something to take into account. Banjos can weigh up to 12 pounds, which can be a lot after a few hours.


This is all about the feel. If you are buying online, try to find a local store that sells a similar instrument and try it out. If you can’t get your hands on the same model, try finding something from the same brand. Most brands are fairly similar across the models they offer, so trying a different model from the same brand can be a good proxy for what other models would feel like. Note how the neck feels in your left hand, and how your right hand drapes over the head. If it feels good, go for it, if it doesn’t, it probably won’t later on.


This is the arbiter; the banjo’s primary purpose is to make beautiful sounds. If you can’t play the banjo in person, most manufacturers have sound clips on their website. Each banjo has its unique qualities, some are brighter, some are more mellow, some hold sustain, some are more clipped, some will sound great to you, others will not. Remember, the goal is to find a banjo that you enjoy.

Best of luck! If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment or shoot us an email.

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