I have been researching and writing about good buys on stringed instruments for some time now, and I know that you can't do much better than these 5 string banjos (see below) that are real bargains at under $300. I regularly review them to make sure they maintain their level of customer service and quality from the customers themselves and 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 models begin at around $400 and that's a bit steep for a lot of people, especially for a beginner, or if you are giving one as a gift. These quality banjo's are less expensive (often less than half the cost) of the Deering, Gold Tones and Fenders, for example, but they are excellent choices. You can read more about these below on this page. Another even lower price banjo, that you might want to check out is a Pyle 5 String. It's a budget entry level instrument, no doubt, and the price reflects that, but people have been happy with it considering it's lower cost. It also has an adjustable truss rod, which is awesome in a lower priced model.
What Are The Best Banjos For Beginners?
Great Banjos On A Budget in 2023
Best Banjo Bundle in 2023
The Vangoa model is comparable to the Jameson in features we recommend, especially for the beginner. Its bundle price is perfect if you are just getting started. I would not hesitate to recommend this one....check out the price and read the reviews here.
The Best Selling Banjos For Beginners
I highly recommend the Vangoa 5 string closed back banjo and the Jameson Guitars 5-String 24 bracket closed back banjo with a geared 5th tuner. These have been the top selling banjos on Amazon for a while now, and the reviewers consistently give them a very good rating...notably for the incredibly low cost, solid construction, sound, and nice finish. The prices on these are in a great starter range. The Jameson for example, is currently under $160 as I write this. Click on either link for the current Amazon price and availability. I know from experience they are both well worth the cost, which is really pretty amazing.
I recently read one reviewer of the Vangoa brand who said something to the effect of it being 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 definitely 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, in my opinion you definitely should consider a well-made import, especially for someone just beginning to learn how to play. What you really need to look for is the banjos value, the quality and features vs the price. If you look at it that way, this is a very good choice, especially if you don't want to or can't afford to spend a lot more. It's been a top seller for years, and has maintained its high customer satisfaction rating, both in manufacturing quality, appearance and customer service.
Want to learn more about mandolins or ukuleles? See our other helpful buying guides:
Best Mandolin Buys and Ukulele Buying Guide
Oscar Schmidt Banjos
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 new 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 beautiful rich looking finish, these are comparable to others at twice the price. I would seriously consider their bundle, if you need the accessories. Don't over look the Special (OB5SP) either. This is a classic beautiful banjo and at less than $300. I can't find anything comparable.
Important Reminder: If you are getting your first banjo, or giving one as a gift, be sure and get a few necessary accessories. Don't forget to buy a learning book, 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. For those who know how to string a banjo, or have someone who can do it for you, I often recommend restringing with higher quality strings to ease the pressure on the fingertips for new players. Expect some pain at first as you get calluses, but not so much that you stop playing! Cheap strings with too high a bridge are real learning stoppers for newbies.
Let me ask if this is has been you: You just heard a great 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 again, you gave yourself the same excuses you always do that prevent you from beginning to play the banjo, like: “A banjo costs too much” or “I don’t even know how to read music”. It’s easy to stop yourself from taking that first step, isn’t it? The fact is, you can enjoy playing this classic stringed instrument at any level; even when you begin to learn your first banjo finger rolls, practicing them along with a song you are listening to. Don’t put off taking that first step any longer!
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