In this article, we’ll be taking a look at options for those of you who want a banjo, but can’t spend too much money on one. Before we get started, we should warn you that investing in a banjo for less than $300 can oftentimes be risky due to the low quality of the instruments. This isn’t the end of the world though, as there are in fact several options to look into.
The only caveat is that there’s only a handful of banjos in this price range that are truly worth the money. With that being said, this will be a short list, but we hope you find it helpful. Let’s dive in.
These are the best banjos for beginners on a budget:
1. Jameson 5-String Banjo
The best all-around banjo
The Jameson 5-String is one of the best banjos to learn on. It’s one of the best-sounding banjos within its price range and its favorable reviews have led it to be one of the most popular choices for beginners.
These banjos are incredibly well constructed. The body features a maple neck, mahogany closed back, 24 brackets, and a geared 5th tuning peg. They’re perfect for bluegrass and country with an incredibly bright and punchy sound, and because of how durable they are they make a great instrument to take out on the road. At every point of inspection, these banjos are perhaps the best value for the cost.
2. Rover RB-20
The best budget open-back
Rover’s RB-20 is one of the best banjos you can find for under $300. This open-back banjo is great for beginners as well as aspiring musicians on a budget.
The sound of this instrument is quite mellow, beckoning back to designs from the 40s and 50s. It’s quite versatile as well and can be used for clawhammer, 3-finger style, or even bluegrass. For beginners looking for a durable and flexible first banjo, the RB-20 is a stellar choice.
3. Ibanez B50
The best budget resonator
As far as entry-level banjos are concerned, the Ibanez B50 might be one of the best options for those of you looking for a decent resonator banjo for several reasons: namely, its sound, build, and playability.
Resting at $300, the B50 5-string is not all that different from its more expensive sibling, the B200. Its sound is slightly more muted, but it’s still able to project quite well. These banjos come completely set up once you make your purchase, although you may want to change the strings when you take it home. For its price point, however, you won’t be able to find much better.
4. Recording King RKO-3S
The best value for the money
If you’re looking for a cheap, beginner-friendly banjo there’re few banjos that sound better than the Recording King RKO-3S for the price. Modeled after the designs of earlier Harmony and Kay banjos from the 50s, these open-back banjos offer both a classic sound and historic design that’s hard to beat.
The RKO-3S is an incredible banjo considering its affordability. Priced at merely $200, these banjos suffer very little of the common side effects that other low-budget models on the market do. Both in terms of sound and durability, the RKO-3S delivers far beyond what one might come to expect from a cheap banjo.
Surprisingly, many people have said they prefer them to higher-end models from Deering or Gold Tone which is no small feat. Recording King struck gold with their Dirty 30’s line, and we can’t recommend them enough.
5. Rogue B30
A good cheap resonator
Rogue is decently well known for its selection of low-grade and low-budget instruments. Their B30 model, in particular, is an adequate choice for musicians looking for a cheap, reliable instrument to get started on.
As a general rule of thumb, the price of a banjo is dependent on the style and make of the instrument. 4-strings and open-back banjos tend to cost less than their 5-stringed, resonator counterparts. While this banjo is only priced at $250, there are honestly many better options to consider, such as the Recording King RKO-3S we spoke about earlier.
However, if you’re looking for a cheap banjo with a resonator, then the Rogue B30 is your best bet. Truthfully, we would recommend you either settle for an open-back or save up a bit for a higher-end model, but if you really can’t wait then the B30 will do you just fine.
6. Pyle PBJ60
The best banjo under $200
The last on our list, the Pyle PBJ60 stands as the best banjo to consider under $200. If you don’t have the option to buy something a little more expensive, look no further.
We already mentioned the bulk of things to note here while talking about the Rogue B30. That is to say that the Pyle sounds perfectly adequate for its price point. Honestly, these are great starter banjos for absolute beginners who aren’t willing to make any big investments yet.
The PBJ60 could make a totally awesome Christmas gift for your youngest at home, but not for someone more serious about their playing. It sounds great for $170, but with all things considered, that’s about the most we can say about it.
That just about sums everything up, and we hope you walk away from this article with a better understanding of what’s available to you. If you find yourself with any one of these banjos, then be assured you’ll be buying wisely. Of course, the most important thing when making these decisions is to buy the banjo that gives you the tone, look, and price that’s best for you. Nothing else matters here other than what’s best for you, so good luck and happy banjo playing!