Today’s guide is all about helping you find the very best beginner banjos. When just starting out with a new instrument, you can find a lot of information to take in. So, I’m aiming to give you all the information you’ll need right here.

The banjo is a wonderful instrument with a rich and often misunderstood history. When you’re buying one, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost is the sound. Next, the build quality, and last but certainly not least, the price.

Quick Look: Best Beginner Banjos

#1 Best Beginner Banjo Overall: Deering Goodtime


My name’s Ryan Burns, and I’m a musician from Chicago, IL. I’ve been playing banjo and teaching lessons for about 10 years. I have BA in Music from the University of Illinois and was chosen to attend Bela Fleck’s Blue Ridge Banjo Camp in 2019. I’m excited to share my expertise with you!

What Is a Beginner Banjo?

First of all, let’s talk about what a banjo is. A banjo is an instrument with a taught membrane stretched over a wood, metal, or gourd frame. It has long neck with strings stretched across it. The banjo originated in Africa and was brought to the Americas. It’s now indelible to American music.

When looking for the best beginner banjo, you can’t just look at one type of banjo. Because of the versatility of the instrument, there are open back banjos (for clawhammer/old-time), resonator banjos (5-string for bluegrass), 6-string banjos, tenor banjos, ukulele banjos, and many more.

Best Banjos

Aside from the many styles of banjo, the best beginner banjos are affordable and easy to play, but still constructed well and can stand up to multiple uses. So, in the guide below, I’ll help you find the right balance between price and playability.

What’s the Difference Between Professional, Intermediate & Beginner Banjos?

The difference between professional, intermediate, and beginner banjos is mostly about price, the materials used, and who made and assembled the parts.

  • Beginner Banjos: Most beginner banjos are made from lower-cost materials in large factories outside of the US. Their sound may not be as polished as higher-end instruments, but they’re lighter and easier to carry.
  • Intermediate Banjos: An intermediate banjo starts to incorporate more solid wood and metal parts, adds a tone ring, and is usually assembled by hand from factory-made parts. These have the look and feel of a pro banjo with a bit of a lower cost.
  • Professional Banjos: A professional banjo features handmade parts painstakingly assembled to precise specifications. The materials used are solid, heavy, and precisely machined for a rich, penetrating sound. It will feel like a solid, cohesive instrument.

Types of Beginner Banjos

Bluegrass, folk, jazz, and Irish are just a few of the many types of music that incorporate the banjo. Because of this, there are several styles of beginner banjos you may want to consider buying.

Bluegrass (Resonator) Banjo

Banjos used for bluegrass have five strings and a wooden resonator attached to the back of the pot. They have a penetrating sound from steel strings that are struck with three finger picks on the right hand. This is the type of banjo most commonly associated with the instrument.

Clawhammer (Open Back) Banjo

Old-time musicians generally play in a clawhammer style (or sometimes 2-finger) and they use an open back banjo. These clawhammer banjos have a plunkier, rounder, earthier tone than a bluegrass banjo. They often use nylon strings played with bare fingers.

6 String Banjo

If you’re looking to get the twangy banjo sound but are already a guitar player, you may want to look at a 6-string banjo, which features a standard guitar neck attached to a banjo pot. They can be open or closed back.

Ukulele Banjo

Popular in the 1920s and making a resurgence now, ukulele banjos are a fun and easy 4-string instrument to learn before moving on to a full-size banjo. Because of this, they can be great for kids or first-time players.

Tenor/Plectrum Banjo

Tenor and plectrum banjos are most commonly used for ragtime or Irish music. Both styles have four steel strings and are played with a single pick or plectrum. Each has a different scale length.

Other Kinds of Banjos

There are several other niche kinds of banjo, including electric banjos, mandolin banjos, and travel banjos.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Beginner Banjo

When you’re out looking for a banjo, there are a lot of different factors to consider. Some of the most important you should look at are size, price, tone, materials, brand, and style.

A musician strumming his banjo


The size of a banjo is often determined by what style you’re meaning to play. Within each style, there are often different lengths and weights. If you want an authentic feel, look for standard size and heavier weight. For many beginners, though, a light and small instrument is convenient and comfortable.

The Overall Tone & Sound

The best beginner banjos should sound as close to a professional instrument as possible. The sound you’re looking for varies by style, but any banjo should have some twang, a percussive feel, and rich tones up and down the neck.


Everybody has a different budget when looking at a beginner banjo, but you usually want something inexpensive and also solid enough to last a while. Most beginner banjos are between $150 and $700, but can go up to $1000.


The best banjos out there are made from solid hardwoods and heavy hardware, often brass. This won’t always be possible or necessary for the best beginner banjos, but look for solid woods and well-made metal parts if you can.


The brand name on an instrument can often tell you the most about its quality and reliability, no matter the model or price. Try to avoid any brand that’s not known for quality instruments and steer toward well-known, reliable builders.


You can read more about these styles in the section above. This is often the first thing you want to consider when trying to pick a banjo, as different styles comprise very different instruments.

10 Best Beginner Banjos

Deering Goodtime

  • Parts & materials: Violin grade maple neck and rim, 11″ head, guitar style geared tuners
  • Weight: 4 lbs
  • Style: Open back
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Any beginner, clawhammer players

The Deering Goodtime Series is built in the same Deering factory as their main line of banjos, so you know that they’re built with the same quality and precision as all of their products. It’s great for clawhammer players who want an open back, and it still has enough punch for bluegrass players.

✅ Impeccably built
✅ Top-grade materials
✅ Good sound
✅ Light and easy to play
❌ No accessories
❌ A bit more expensive than comparable banjos

Why I Recommend It

This is the banjo I often recommend to my students because it’s so consistently well-built, reliable, and easy to play and maintain.


Gold Tone BG 150F

  • Parts & materials: Full-size maple neck and rim, mahogany resonator, rolled brass tone ring
  • Weight: 8 lbs
  • Style: Resonator
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Beginners who want great sound for the long term

The Gold Tone BG-150F from Gold Tone is an accessibly priced banjo with professional-grade features. Although it’s the most expensive banjo on this list, if you’re looking to play bluegrass banjo for the long term, this banjo should last you for many years.

✅ Punchy bluegrass sound
✅ Solidly built
✅ High-grade materials
✅ Great feel
❌ More expensive
❌ Heavy

Why I Recommend It

One of my students recently picked one up and it feels, looks, and sounds like a professional-grade banjo. It’s sold at a very affordable price, so I highly recommend it if you have the funds.



Recording King RKH-05

  • Parts & materials: Multi-ply rim, maple neck and resonator, plate flange
  • Weight: 5 lbs
  • Style: Resonator
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Bluegrass players

If you’re looking for a fun to play and great looking banjo that still plays great for a cheap price, the Recording King RKH-05 is a great choice.

✅ Excellent look
✅ Good build
✅ Sounds great
✅ Affordable
❌ No tone ring
❌ OK materials

Why I Recommend It

It has the look and feel of higher-end banjos for a very affordable price.



Washburn B8-K

  • Parts & materials: Mahogany resonator, chrome hardware
  • Weight: 3 lbs
  • Style: Resonator
  • What’s included: Banjo, gig bag, picks, pitch pipe, instructional book
  • Best for: Lots of accessories

To play the bluegrass banjo, you need to have quite a lot of accessories. The Washburn B8-K has many of the things you’ll need to get started. On top of that, it’s a solidly built banjo at a really great price.

✅ Lots of accessories
✅ Good sound
✅ Quality build
✅ Light
❌ Cheap materials
❌ Inconsistent setup

Why I Recommend It

This is a great banjo to get started with because it includes a lot of accessories. It’s a solid banjo at a great price.



Ibanez B200

  • Parts & materials: Basswood rim, mahogany neck and rim, Planetary tuners, rolled brass tone ring
  • Weight: 12.5 lbs
  • Style: Resonator
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Bluegrass beginners

This is another banjo that offers the look of a really fantastic bluegrass banjo plus a solid build with professional features at a very decent price. I’ve heard that the Ibanez B200 banjo can sometimes not come especially well set up, but once set up right, it sounds great.

✅ Brass tone ring
✅ Great looking inlays
✅ Good bluegrass sound
✅ Fun to play
❌ Heavier
❌ Unreliable setup

Why I Recommend It

Despite inconsistent setups, once set up properly, this is a high quality and great sounding banjo that’ll last you a long time without breaking the bank.



Gold Tone CC-100R

  • Parts & materials: Maple neck, rim, and resonator, rolled brass tone ring, guitar style tuners
  • Weight: 6.5 lbs
  • Style: Resonator
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Bluegrass beginners

Though the Gold Tone CC-100R lacks higher-end stylings, it has solid wood construction and a brass tone ring for a punchy bluegrass sound. It does have a nice looking blonde finish to the wood and is well constructed and set up.

✅ Great sound
✅ Good construction
✅ Solid materials
✅ Consistent setup
❌ Guitar tuners
❌ Simple styling

Why I Recommend It

This is a solid banjo that offers a very similar sound to the more expensive BG 150F, but at a more affordable price.



Deering Goodtime II

  • Parts & materials: Violin grade maple rim and neck, guitar style tuners
  • Weight: 6 lbs
  • Style: Resonator
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Beginner bluegrass players

Here’s another model from the fantastic Deering Goodtime II Series from Deering. With the quality and extremely solid build of other Goodtime models, this one features a resonator for a strong bluegrass sound.

✅ Beefy build
✅ Great setup and easy to play
✅ Good sound
✅ Nice blonde maple look
❌ Expensive for similar features
❌ No case

Why I Recommend It

If you want the reliability and great feel of a Deering bluegrass banjo at an affordable price, Goodtime banjos are always an excellent choice that are well-built every time.



Rogue Travel/Starter Banjo

  • Parts & materials: Vintage style head, guitar style tuners, 18 brackets
  • Weight: 4 lbs
  • Style: Open back
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Beginners on a budget, clawhammer players

If you’re looking for a sturdy, light, and extremely affordable banjo, the Rogue Travel/Starter Banjo is a great option. It doesn’t have many fancy features, but for an extremely affordable price you can get a solid, long lasting banjo.

✅ Very affordable
✅ Sturdy build
✅ Good sound
✅ Light
❌ Unreliable setup
❌ Bad materials

Why I Recommend It

Though this won’t win any awards for the sound or materials, it’s a good option for a banjo on a budget that’s built solidly and won’t let you down.



Rogue B30 Deluxe

  • Parts & materials: 30 brackets, Nato resonator and neck, geared chrome tuners
  • Weight: 8.2 lbs
  • Style: Resonator
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Bluegrass players on a budget

Similar to its open-back sibling, the B30 resonator banjo is a well-built banjo for a really affordable price. The Rogue B30 Deluxe is made from cheaper materials, but has a good banjo sound and plays well.

✅ Good sound
✅ Very affordable
✅ Good bluegrass feel
✅ Pretty solid
❌ Cheap materials
❌ No accessories

Why I Recommend It
For a bluegrass player on a very tight budget, the B30 is a really great option to use while you’re starting to pick at the banjo.



Recording King RKO-3S

  • Parts & materials: Maple neck, mahogany rim, guitar style tuners
  • Weight: 3 lbs
  • Style: Open back
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Beginner clawhammer players on a budget

Last but not least, the Recording King RKO-3S is a fantastic little open-back style banjo made by Recording King. RK makes great banjos across the price spectrum, so even without the fancier features of its higher-end cousins, this banjo sounds good and is built solidly.

✅ Well built
✅ Good plunky sound
✅ Light
✅ Easy to play
❌ Cheaper materials
❌ No accessories included

Why I Recommend It

If you want to play clawhammer banjo without breaking the bank, the RKO-3S is a great option from one of the best beginner banjo makers out there.



Best Beginner Banjo Brands

When purchasing a beginner banjo, one of the most important things to pay attention to is the brand of the banjo you’re looking to buy.

6-String Banjo

A reputable, established company that focuses on banjos and/or acoustic instruments is what you’re looking for.


Deering, founded in 1975 by Greg Deering in California, builds some of the best professional banjos. Its line of Goodtime banjos is great for beginners. They’ve grown into a big organization, but still have an incredible eye for detail and innovation.

Gold Tone

Gold Tone Music Group was founded in Florida in 1993 and makes some of the most popular banjos for beginner and intermediate players.

Recording King

Recording King, founded in 1930 by the Montgomery Ward company, sells great mid-level banjos and other instruments at affordable prices. Their intermediate banjos are a great bridge between budget banjos and professional instruments.

Beginner Banjo Aesthetics and Material

Most beginner banjos are built with lighter and less expensive materials than a professional banjo. If you can find solid woods and heavier metal parts, it’s a big plus.


Most quality banjos use maple or mahogany. For a more solid feel and sound, try to find a beginner banjo with these woods for the neck, rim, or resonator.


The finish on the wood of the banjo can be matte, glossy, or unfinished. None is inherently better than another, so it comes down to personal preference.


The wood on a banjo is usually stained to a natural brown, sometimes with tints of red, yellow, or tan. The metal parts can either be chrome or gold colored, but almost all beginner banjos will be chrome.

Buying New vs Used

If you have no experience with banjos, it’s often best to start out with a new instrument because you’ll know what you’re getting is from a reputable company. Used instruments can be great, and you can find some fantastic deals, but you’ll want to have an experienced player help you find what you want.

What’s in the Beginner Banjo Box?

Banjos often come with accessories included in the box. These might include a case, strap, tuner, picks, and capos along with many other things. Here’s a rundown of what some of these are used for.


Many banjos come with either a hardshell case or a gig bag, which is a soft fabric case for lighter travel.


When you play standing up, a banjo strap is essential, but many players play sitting down too. Often banjos come with one that clips onto the tension hooks on the side of the rim.


Electronic tuners are a convenient and essential way to get your banjo in tune, and many beginner instruments come with one included. But if yours doesn’t, don’t fret, because almost any phone is able to download a tuning app that you can use.


To get a proper bluegrass banjo sound, you need to play with fingerpicks and a thumb pick on your picking hand. Some banjos come with these included, and there are many low-cost options from Dunlop or National as well.


Almost all new banjos come with strings and a bridge included and already installed, and many also include a spare set for when they get too old or break.


Other extras that may be included or that you should consider buying are a capo, a metronome, a banjo stand (different from guitar stands), and cleaning cloths.

Beginner Banjo Brands to Avoid

Avoid ultra cheap banjos with unrecognizable brand names (Costzon, Mulucky). These are unreliable banjos all made in the same factories and stamped with different brand names and no quality control.

one of the best banjo

Frequently Asked Questions:

Here are some answers to commonly asked questions.

How Much Do Beginner Banjos Cost?

Beginner banjos can cost anywhere from $100 to around $1000, and most come in somewhere around the middle of that range. If you follow through the guide, you’ll find a great sounding banjo whatever your budget. If you’re sure you’ll stick with playing, don’t be afraid to look for something you’ll keep around for a while.

What Are the Best Beginner Banjos?

Deering Goodtime: Best Overall

The Deering Goodtime series are solid, American made banjos that feel great and sound very good for an affordable price. They’re reliable and built just as solidly as high-end Deering instruments.

Gold Tone BG 150F: Best for Beginners Long Term

Many beginner players already know that they want to stick with the banjo for the long term. If this sounds like you and you have the budget for it, buying a banjo that feels, looks, and sounds more professional will help your playing from the get go.

Washburn B8K: Best on a Budget

If you want a package with everything you need from day one, this banjo from Washburn is a great choice.

Where Are the Best Beginner Banjos Made?

Most beginner banjos are made in China or Southeast Asia, but some of the best are quality checked and assembled in the USA. Banjos from my favorite brand, Deering, are made 100% in the US.

What Is the Best Sounding Beginner Banjo?

The Gold Tone BG 150F is the best sounding beginner banjo. It has a good clear tone and a great punch. It’s a bit higher priced, but well worth it.

Where to Buy Beginner Banjos

There are a lot of ways to buy banjos nowadays. The biggest decision for anyone is between online or in-store shopping. Online offers convenience, low prices, and easy returns. On the other hand, shopping in person lets you play multiple instruments before buying, ask experts for advice, and meet others in the local music community.


Amazon has some of the best prices out there. With free two-day shipping, easy returns, and a huge selection of products, it’s hard to argue with shopping on Amazon for anything, and that includes banjos.

Online Music Retailers

Online retailers like,, or offer many of the perks of Amazon while also being dedicated to just music gear. Some added perks of these sites include more niche products, a selection of used instruments, and more comprehensive descriptions.

Your Local Music Store

If you’re lucky enough to have a local music store, they can be a great place to buy your banjo. By shopping there you can support small businesses, get expert advice, take lessons, and meet other people passionate about music in your area.

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In Conclusion

Banjo can be an intimidating instrument to pick up, but it doesn’t have to be. Now that you’ve read through this article, I hope you feel equipped to jump into the exciting world of banjo.

No matter your skill level or budget, there’s always a banjo for you that will sound, look, and feel great.

Please leave any comments, questions, or suggestions about your favorite beginner banjo below. Thanks!