Whether you’re looking to get into banjo playing or you’re ready to upgrade your instrument, having a rough idea of which brands are good and which aren’t can save you a tonne of time picking a banjo.
And with banjos, having been around for a couple of hundred years now, have a lot of amazing brands that have spent years perfecting their skills in making them.
In this post, we’re going to be taking a closer look at the history of some of these best banjo brands
Deering banjos are each a work of art, hand-built in California by the Deering family. Greg Deering fell in love with woodworking as a child and began this impressive company with his wife in 1975.
Today, the company is still family-run and passed on to their daughter. In their nearly 50 years of business, they’ve revolutionized banjo practices and become a trusted name for quality.
Among the many noteworthy Deering banjo players is the frontman of the famous folk band Mumford & Sons, Winston Marshall. Together, they’ve helped to donate banjos and popularize the plucky tunes unique to these stringed instruments.
One of their signature series is the Deering Goodtime, a lightweight option great for travel and beginners.
2. Gold Tone
A newer brand of banjos, Gold Tone, began in 1993 when Robyn and Wayne Rogers built their first banjo in Florida. Both were enthusiastic folk artists, so you know they understand and care deeply about the quality of their products.
One of their founding ideas was to provide quality instruments without crazy prices. Gold Tone sources its materials from partner factories in China and Korea. Other raw parts come from Canada, Australia, Africa, Indonesia, and Germany.
Gold Tone is one of the best brands of banjo because they go through such great international lengths to produce a prime instrument.
A popular option is the Gold Tone CC-100R Resonator, providing clear sound at an affordable price.
3. Oscar Schmidt
A well-established brand of banjos, Oscar Schmidt, began producing instruments in 1871. Their factories spread from Europe to New Jersey, and their string instruments started to make a significant impact in the countryside of America.
The banjos were cost-effective, and traveling salespeople brought them to regions where instruments were hard to get. Oscar Schmidt was a hallmark of country musicians.
Their first-rate banjos are still hand-inspected in the US and are well-known for their impressive sounds.
Out of their signature collection of banjos, many are great for beginners or professionals alike but one popular one is the Oscar Schmidt OB5 5 string banjo.
4. Recording King
Recording King has become one of the best brands of banjo, but the company initially began as a house manufacturer. This intense industry shift was for the best, as their instruments have been popular since the 1930s.
Their dedication to traditional manufacturing methods isn’t just for nostalgia, as their instruments provide old-time sound and a sturdy banjo that will last years.
Today, Recording King sticks to their roots by producing modern banjos that still follow its original vintage designs. If you take inspiration from classic folk and rock music, consider checking out some of their Dirty 30s collection.
Unlike many of the other banjo brands, Clareen isn’t American based. This family-run company began in 1979 in Ireland and has been a major European banjo manufacturer.
Clareen only focuses on banjos and mandolins, but tenor banjos are their specialty. Traditional to Irish music, tenor banjos provide quick and straightforward playing with four strings.
Their original banjo designs are ideal options, and they offer extensive customization. Clareen has a dedication to providing the best playing experience for each individual. For this reason, they also have a three-year warranty on their instruments and offer maintenance for life.
Steve Huber first started to love bluegrass music and banjos as a teenager. He decided to begin creating banjos after his love for the music led to an obsession with the specific sounds of prewar, classic banjos.
To him and many others, these flathead banjos had a more resonant and quicker sound. Through plenty of tinkering with design and metalwork, Huber achieved his goal. Soon, his banjos began to pick up in popularity.
Sixteen years into the business, Huber banjos have quickly gained recognition for their unique sound and reliance on traditional methods with modern materials. Among their stock, they also offer a fully customizable banjo option for anyone looking to create their one-of-a-kind sound.
Next, we have Nechville, which is an instrument brand that prides itself on creating innovations for banjos.
It all began in the 1980s when Tom Nechville was determined to find a way to adjust the head of the banjo evenly and quickly. Thus, the Nechville patented Heli-Mount was born.
A standard of Nechville banjos, the Heli-Mount operates similarly to a jar lid that presses down on the banjo head. It is easy to adjust and is only one of the essential alterations all of these banjos have.
New ways of thinking make Nechville one of the best banjo brands. They also have added an adjustable neck, a sleek wooden armrest, and compensated bridges.
Another family-owned company, Ome, has been an integral name in banjos since the 1960s. From bluegrass to jazz musicians, quality has always been the goal for Ome.
And that quality originates with the materials. Air-dried maple and mahogany are the base of their banjos, but custom options include walnut and rosewood. Patience is integral in creating these instruments, handmade in their shops.
Beautiful fingerboard options like mother-of-pearl inlays complement the woods, and custom metal fittings create sleek and powerful banjos. Every Ome banjo has a limited lifetime warranty and a hard travel case.
Fender has been an American music staple since the 40s, a name well-known for instruments that deliver superior sound and look.
Fender banjos are no different and simple yet essential banjos. The durable quality is sure to last you a long time playing, and its versatile five strings and slim neck make it able to produce a variety of musical styles.
Fender banjos are ideal for any player that wants a classic look and feel. They pride themselves in keeping in touch with the California roots of the company, taking style inspiration from traditional rock, folk, and country.
Ibanez is a Japanese music brand that distributes products worldwide. Hoshino Gakki began experimenting with instruments in the 1930s, and they became official in the 50s.
While some may associate the Ibanez name with guitars, others may know that Ibanez has roots in banjos. The company even collaborated with Earl Scruggs, the influential figure behind the bluegrass sound.
Ibanez banjos are well-made and have durable quality. Many of their banjos have intricate styles, with delicate inlays on the frets and artisanal detailing in the metal. Your banjo will be great to look at and listen to as you take it everywhere.
The best brands of banjos have a rich and varied history. Whether the brand’s base is in America, Japan, or Ireland, these companies have the same goal.
They aim to provide quality instruments, make musicians’ lives easy, and supply the tools for musical innovations.
Every banjo from these manufacturers will produce that unmistakable twang. You can feel confident playing a beautiful instrument for years to come.