How To Choose A Good Banjo
In selecting the best banjo to buy, you not only need to look at banjo brands, but where and how they are made; the materials and craftsmanship that goes into the instrument. You will also want to choose a banjo supplier to buy from that has a reputation of good quality, has a good online reputation and top notch customer service. Of course, you also need to think about what you need in a banjo for your level or for the person you are buying a banjo for. Do you need all the features I list here? Not necessarily. Look for getting the most you can, consider your own requirements, at the best value that you can afford.
Here are some things we looked for in selecting an ideal well made banjo:
Open Back or Closed Backed Banjo?
A new player or someone giving a banjo as a gift might be confused as to whether a closed backed banjo (the backing is called a "resonator") is better than a opened backed banjo. Not usually, it depends on the brand as to whether they added any more bells and whistles or special finishes along with the resonator. Most banjo brands will have 2 types of the same banjo for sale, the open and closed versions. The closed back with a resonator just provides a louder sound, preferred by those who play to audiences where there is no amplification available. Bluegrass players tend to prefer the closed back banjo, as well. Open backed banjo players will often add a "pick up" to their banjo that is attached to an amplifier, to get a louder sound. Also, most, but not all, resonators can be removed as well. So, don't assume that a higher priced closed back banjo is of a higher quality than a cheaper open backed banjo. Look at the materials used, who makes it, customer reviews, and what kind of music you play. Check out our guide, read all the information, before you decide.
Note: Most stringed instruments ship with the bridge down (unattached), so there is no tension on the strings during transport (except Deering who ship read to play). You might need to set it up and tuning is usually done after you get your new instrument. It is not very difficult at all. (Here are instructional videos to help you set and tune your new banjo). However, if you don't feel up to it, and there is a instrument shop available near you, you might take it in to see if you have set it up properly, making sure you are getting the best sound your instrument can produce. It usually doesn't cost very much at all, and new players can learn a lot by talking to the professionals at their music store. They also might be a resource for groups of beginners who are learning together, that you can join.
Want to learn more about mandolins or ukuleles? See our other helpful buying guides:
Best Mandolin Buys
Ukulele Buying Guide