The banjo is a particular stringed instrument of African origin, popularized thanks to African-American music, and later became one of the symbols of American country music. In fact it is difficult not to associate its sound with a “western” setting or with intimate atmospheres of “bluegrass” music.
As with other musical instruments, the banjo is also distinguished by type and production company, so sometimes it may not be easy to choose the right one. For this we have prepared a guide with reviews of the most popular models on the market: compare prices and features, maybe among these, there is what you are looking for.
Here we had listed out the best banjos that are listed below.
Buyer Guide to Choose the Best Banjos
Open Back or Sounding Board?
The main distinction that must be made when it comes to the banjo is that between open back instruments and those with a closed case. The former has the case open on the back of the instrument, this ensures that the sound does not propagate forward creating a limited resonance to a limited area.
In some ways an open back banjo can give a feeling of intimacy, given that you will play it mostly alone in moments of relaxation. On the contrary, a banjo with a soundbox will propagate the sound forward to a probable audience, which makes it ideal for live concerts.
In addition to this distinction, it must be specified that the banjo can be of different sizes, often depending on the number of keys. Its most common form is that of the 19-key tenor banjo, but in some models the number of strings can go up to five or even six, with as many as 22 keys.
To begin with it is advisable to buy a simple tenor banjo, then maybe after acquiring a good level of skill you can switch to a type with more strings or frets.
Guitarists who already have their hands trained on the six strings will be comfortable with a bigger banjo, perhaps to be played with the pick or fingerpicks.
Those with somewhat broad fingers may have some difficulty placing them between the strings of the narrow neck of a tenor banjo. For this reason, it may be a good idea to opt for a four-string banjo-bass.
Like any other tool, the banjo can also be found in models of different workmanship that vary according to the price. A good banjo made with fine wood will certainly cost more than one with lower quality materials that may be cheaper.
We recommend opting for an instrument made with materials that are perhaps not excellent but still of a respectable level. Even if you are a beginner it can be a good idea to move towards a medium quality banjo.
So it will last over time and if you are passionate about it you can continue playing it for a while instead of replacing it immediately. In our ranking below we list several banjos made with good materials.
How to Use a Banjo?
The banjo is a stringed musical instrument, its shape resembles that of a guitar but the sound is more similar to that of a mandolin. It has African origins, later it became a true symbol of American bluegrass and country music.
If you have just purchased this tool and do not know how to get started, take a look at this small guide, in which we will give you tips to proceed in the right way.
4 or 5 String Banjo
The banjo is an instrument used above all by fans of jazz and country music (and surroundings), on the market, it is possible to find three different types: from four, five and six strings.
It is, therefore, necessary to understand what type of instrument you have in your hands, also based on the number of strings. For beginners it would be better to start with a four-string banjo, because of its simplicity.
It is the most classic model, very popular between the twenties and thirties, and today it is associated mainly with Dixieland, Celtic music and jazz but, of course, it can also be used to play other genres. At the time, its potential lay in the higher pitches than the guitar, which allowed for better audibility.
The five-string banjo is the most popular, especially among bluegrass and folk players. The fifth string does not continue along the entire neck but stops at the central part, a peculiarity that gives the instrument the characteristic sound called “roll and bounce”.
The six-string banjo is the one preferred by professionals: more complicated to play, it offers a greater number of notes to be able to play.
The banjo can be played with the “fingerpicking” technique, that is, plucking (the strings) using nails. Using your nails after some time can cause pain and damage, it is therefore important to use fingerpicks or particular picks that line the fingertips.
Generally, these picks are in celluloid for the thumb and in nickel silver for the index and middle fingers. With this accessory scrolling along the strings is much simpler and the execution of the arpeggios more precise. In addition, the volume will be higher.
Tune the Banjo
As with other musical instruments, before you can make pleasant sounds with the banjo, you need to think about tuning. This may seem complicated at first, but you will see that after the first few times things will become natural.
To correctly tune the instrument, you need to turn the keys located at the end of the headstock and tighten or widen according to the tonality. To be sure to tune the right string, follow it with your hand along with the handle, until you get to the corresponding pin.
The Position of The Hands
After tuning the instrument, you need to think about placing your hands correctly. Place your right hand on the body of the banjo (i.e. the largest part) at the height of the bridge. The left hand should instead be placed on the handle, with the thumb placed on the back, while the other fingers will go on the keys.
The first few times it may all seem a bit difficult and tiring but, as you know, to become good musicians you need to persevere. The last suggestion is to study daily, with at least 30 minutes a day in a short time you can get excellent results.