What's A Good Beginner Banjo?
So, you just heard a great country or bluegrass band play one of your favorite tunes and for the umpteenth time you said to yourself, “I wish I could play the banjo!”. And, for the umpteenth time you gave yourself some of the same excuses you always trot out that prevents you from getting started. “A banjo costs too much” or “I don’t even know how to read music”, or “It’s probably too difficult for me”. It’s easy to stop yourself from taking that first step, isn’t it? The fact is, you can play and enjoy it at any level, even when you begin to learn your first finger rolls, practicing them along with a tune you are listening to. Don’t put off taking that first step off any longer! I have put together this website to help you from the beginning..learning what a good banjo consists of, some current good buys on reasonably priced models to get your started and some basic instructions so you can start playing your new banjo right away.
I have been researching and writing about good buys on quality banjo's (and other stringed instruments) for some time now. I know that you can't do much better than these 5 string banjos that are real bargains. I think they are by far the best buy for someone just beginning to learn to play, or for someone on a budget. Sure, the Deering Goodtime series are probably the best, but their starter banjos begin at around $400 and that's a bit steep for a lot of people, especially for a beginner, or for giving one as as a gift. I highly recommend these other quality banjo's that are much cheaper (less than half the cost) but are comparable to banjos worth a heck of lot more: The Oscar Schmidt OB5, OB4, and the popular Jameson 5 String Closed Backed banjo. You can read more about these below on this page.
Another good starter banjo, at a lower price, that you might want to go with a Pyle 5 String. It's a beginner, no doubt, and the price reflects that, but people have been happy with it considering it's low cost.
Important Reminder: If you are getting your first banjo, or givng one as a gift, be sure and get a few necessary accessories. Don't forget to buy a tuner, strap, picks, and protective case when getting a new banjo, especially if you are a beginner! Here are my tips on what you will need starting out. You can also direct them to this site for helpful links and videos on tuning, lessons, etc.
The Best Selling Beginner Banjo
The Jameson 5 String Closed Back Banjo
I recently read one reviewer of this banjo brand who said something to the effect of it beging just a cheap import knock off, and that a serious player should buy something else, and then he or she mentioned a very costly banjo. Well, I have to take issue with that on several points. Number one, it's definately NOT poorly made, just the opposite. Is it an import? Yes, but there are few that are not; even the big name brand banjos, (except Deering) at least have their parts made outside of the US. Think of this, you spend hundreds of dollars for your mobile phone that is made in Asia. So as long as a banjo (or anything else) is of good quality, I don't see how it being an import automatically makes it a bad instrument. And, of course, if you are on a tight budget and can't afford $1,000 or more for a banjo, it's just plain ignorant to ignore a well made import, especially for someone just beginning to learn how to play. What you need to look for is value; the quality and features vs the price. If you look at it that way, this is a very good choice, if you don't want to, or can't afford hundreds of dollars more. It's been a top seller for years, and has maintained it's high customer satisfaction rating, both in manufacturing quality, appearance and customer service. It also comes in a 6 string model. Read more about the 6 string banjo here.
The Oscar Schmidt line of banjos carry a Lifetime Warranty from a long time (1800's) American stringed instrument maker. They are now selling the OB series through Amazon and have lowered their prices, which now puts them among my top choices for beginning banjo players. If you are on a tighter budget and looking for a better banjo with good quality sound and a rich looking finish, these are comparable to banjos at twice their price. I would seriously consider their bundle, if you need the accessories.
Note: Someone gave the OB3 a bad review simply because the description on Amazon was not correct, not because of any quality issues with the banjo itself. I think that for the price, it's a very good open back starter banjo and you should not overlook it if you want a quality light weight banjo that costs less than the Deering Goodtime model.
Want to learn more about mandolins or ukuleles? See our other helpful buying guides:
Best Mandolin Buys
Ukulele Buying Guide
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