How Do I Choose the Best 5-String Banjo?

Nick Mann
Nick Mann
Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

The 5-string banjo is a musical instrument that's often the centerpiece of bluegrass and folk music. For a beginner choosing his first banjo, there are several factors involved in the selection process. These include choosing between a new or used product, selecting the banjo material and the peg material, and finding an instrument that fits the musician's budget.

Probably the first thing to consider when looking for a 5-string banjo is whether to buy a new or used instrument. The main benefit of buying a used banjo is that sometimes substantial money can be saved. The disadvantage of buying used is that often one or more parts of the instrument will be warped. Nonetheless, buying used often works well for many beginners while getting a feel for the banjo. If this route it taken, it's advised to check out at least three or four different banjos before making a choice.

After deciding upon a new or used 5-string banjo, it's important to choose the material of the instrument. In general, there are three types of material to choose from. These include a heavy wood rim, regular wood rim or aluminum rim.

Heavy wood rims are the bulkiest type of banjo and are usually intended for more advanced musicians. Regular wood rims are smaller and most will produce a smooth sound. These are also one of the least expensive options which make them a good fit for beginners. Aluminum rims are known for producing a loud sound that often works well for fast paced bluegrass music.

The next factor to consider is what type of peg material to go with. Essentially there are two possibilities, which are guitar style and planetary pegs. For beginners, it's advisable to choose a 5-string banjo with planetary pegs. This is primarily due to the fact that these pegs are easier to tune and provide an appealing sound. They can be spotted because they face downward instead of outward like guitar pegs.

Additionally, price is an important consideration. It behooves most people to have a set budget in mind before looking for a 5-string banjo. Since prices can vary dramatically, knowing one's financial limit ahead of time is usually helpful.

This will make it easier to find a quality instrument without overspending. While some good deals can be found in music shops, it's often helpful to look online to find the best deals. Looking online also allows customers to read reviews from other musicians on each product, which helps weed out low quality banjos.

Discussion Comments


Someone who is a pro knows how to choose a banjo, but a beginner probably doesn't. The Goodtime Banjos by the Deering Company are great for beginners. They're affordable and have a nice sound. They also come with or without a resonator and some kits even come with a gig bag.

I mention the Deering because I have a friend who started playing banjo and he got a recommendation to buy a Deering. He said it's a great instrument and he loves playing it. He has a better banjo now, but he said he still takes his Goodtime instrument to jam sessions because it’s lightweight and easy to carry.

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