The banjo is among the most crucial instrumental aspects in American folk, Dixieland jazz, country, and bluegrass music. Mastering this instrument can provide lifelong fulfillment in addition to being quite fun to play. It’s not that difficult to produce its upbeat and expressive tones and a number of music genres benefit from the energy of the banjo’s percussive rhythms.
Over the years, various well-established artists have expanded the influence of the banjo into musical contexts such as fusion, jazz, and classical. What’s more, modern acts such as The Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons have reignited among the younger generation an interest in playing the banjo.
Here are some basics you should be familiar with.
How Much Should I Pay for a Banjo?
As is the case with nearly everything, what you pay for is what you get. On the one hand, you can buy generic, off-the-shelf, Asian-made basic banjos for roughly $150. On the other hand, you can get handmade special edition instruments with superior adornments and top-of-the-range materials that come with hefty price tags.
Within these extremes, you will find numerous fairly priced banjos that play very well and produce moderately satisfying tones. In fact, even the cheapest banjos play well enough to provide beginners on a tight budget with a noteworthy introduction to playing the instrument. For more on that, read this for beginner banjos.
The price at which you should get your banjo is pegged on your need for specific features, the music genre you want to specialize in, how committed you are to mastering the instrument, and of course your budget. To put it simply, choose the best banjo you can afford in order to enjoy the most ideal blend of sound, appearance, and playability.
You can certainly zero in on your choices by reading experts’ reviews along with reviews from other customers on well-known websites for reviewing such instruments.
How Do I Evaluate the Quality of a Banjo?
As a beginner, you can still make some pretty insightful judgments regarding banjos you are thinking about buying. Push down on individual strings along the fingerboard’s length to assess the action. Your fingers shouldn’t hurt when the strings touch the frets.
Strum each string individually and all the strings together to test the sound. It should be nice and rich. In addition to working easily, the tuners should have enclosed mechanisms. For 5-string banjos, most players prefer 5-string tuners to friction-based tuners, which are prone to dropping their tune. High-quality banjos typically feature a tone ring.
What Are My Options in Terms of Type?
The types of banjos you’ll find nowadays include four-, five-, and six-string banjos. You’ll also find twelve-string and fretless banjos, but those are uncommon. In general, the most popular type of banjo is the modern 5-string banjo, the present day version of Sweeney’s 5-string.
Most common banjo types have a resonator and there are also open-back versions. Open-back banjos have a mellow, subtle sound, whereas resonator banjos have a punchier, more audible sound.