Banjo vs. Banjolele (Which One Is Best For You?)

Pro Music Vault Home Comparisons Banjo Comparisons Banjo vs. Banjolele (Which One Is Best For You?)

This banjo and banjolele comparison describes the history of each instrument, a description of each, pricing, similarities and differences, and which one is easier to learn.

The main difference between the banjo and the banjolele is that the banjolele is a combination of the banjo and the ukulele.

Let’s dive deeper into the details.

Table of Contents

The Differences Between The Banjo and Banjolele

Banjo

The banjo originated in Africa, where it was used extensively for folk music. Due to the slave trade in America in the seventeenth century, the instrument was introduced to the continent.

The banjo is a fairly large instrument, with a long neck and drum-like body.

There are usually five strings on a banjo, and plucking the strings is what creates music. The drum-like body amplifies the sounds.

The banjo is often available in a resonator style, with a closed back containing a resonator to amplify the sound.

PMV Top Pick – If you want to fully protect your banjo, don’t go with a cheap case. This hard-shell option offers maximum protection at a reasonable price.

Musicians who want a cheaper banjo can opt for an open back banjo, which does not have a resonator. Due to this, the sound produced is not as loud.

Most resonator-type banjos can be converted into open back banjos, and vice versa.

The price of a banjo varies greatly depending on the quality of the banjo. There are inexpensive banjos for beginners, available for a few hundred dollars or less, while high-quality banjos used by professional musicians can cost thousands of dollars.

Bestseller No. 1
ADM Banjo 5 String Full Size Banjoes Set, Remo Drum Geared 5th Tuner Beginner Banjo Kit with Resonator Open or Closed Back, Gift Package, Free Lessons Starter Accessories for Adult Teenager,Large Size
  • ♫【HIGH-QUALITY REMO DRUM HEAD】Selected banjo panel will produce a sweet tone, ensuring clarity sound. Proper bridge setting can stay stable when fast fingerpicking
  • ♫【SUPERIOR MATERIAL】Black walnut fingerboard and bridge, sturdy and stable, make the sound more layered. Sapele sides and back have beautiful wood grain, hard and not liable to warp or corrode, making the banjo durable
  • ♫【ECONOMICAL KIT WITH FREE LESSONS】Our pack is constucted with bag, digital tuner(battery not included), strap, strings, picks, hanger and clearing cloth. You can get these accessories which is suited to beginner one-off at a cost-effective price. Meanwhile, you will also enjoy extra one-month lesson by contactng us when the item arrive
  • ♫【GEARED 5TH TUNER】It is important for both tuning and playability, bringing you the classic tones and perfect for country, folk, bluegrass and even some modern rock. And it is an important upgrade over the common friction tuner
Bestseller No. 2
Costzon 5-String Banjo 24 Bracket with Geared 5th Tuner and Mid-range Closed Handle, Beginner Kit with 420D Oxford Cloth Bag, One Strap, Wiper, 3 Picks
  • 🪕【Solid and Durable Plywood Frame】: The panel is wood, and the back and side is Sapele Wood, and the fingerboard is made of Ma qiao Rosewood, which are solid and resistant to corrosion. The durable plywood frame is of high quality that has a long service time.
  • 🪕【With Geared 5th Tuner】: Our 5 string banjo brings you the classic tones and it is perfect for country, folk, bluegrass and even some modern rock. It features additional 5th geared tuner side-peg which is important upgrade over the common friction tuner.
  • 🪕【24 Adjustable Brackets and Remo Drum】: There is 24 consolidation brackets around the drum which is adjustable to make the sound meet the design requirements. It is needed to adjust the drum for several times in order to make a sound.
  • 🪕【Mid-Range Closed Handle and Steel Wire】: Mid-range closed handle is suitable for various ranges of people to hold and control. And the strings are made of mid-range steel wire which is solid but flexible to pluck, contributing to long service time and easy operation.
Bestseller No. 3
Vangoa 5 String Banjo 26 Inch, MINI Travel Banjo, Banjo Beginner Kit with Remo Head, Open Back & Closed Solid Back with beginner Kit, Comfortable Carrying Bag
  • ✔PORTABLE SIZE- 26-inch tenor banjo is perfect for music trips. It is light-weighted for taking out for parties, classes, etc. Mini banjo is easy to start which is quite suited for beginners and budget-friendly
  • ✔GREAT SOUND- Superior mahogany body has a solid, warm tone. Quality Alice steel strings deliver a more punchy sound. 12 durable chrome-plated brackets ensure even head panel tension to fusion melodious percussion timbres by gently beating on the head
  • ✔PERFECT ACTION- 3mm action at the 12th fret, is pretty comfortable to press down. Adjust the truss rod can better balance the tension caused by strings or climate change, set up perfect string height to meet different needs
  • ✔DURABLE MATERIAL- Mahogany body with beautiful wood grain is hard and not liable to warp or corrode, making the banjo durable. Anti-corrosion chrome-plated pegs stand the test of time and 15:1 ratios gear keeps the strings in tune

Banjolele

The banjolele is a combination of the banjo and the ukulele. It is also called the banjo uke or banjulele.

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The banjolele was first used by musicians in the 1900’s , and George Formby made the musical instrument extremely popular in the 1930’s. In general, though, the banjolele is not used as often by musicians, compared to the banjo.

The ukulele, meanwhile, is a musical instrument which originated in Portugal and later became popular in Hawaii. The ukulele is similar to a small guitar in design, with a short neck and fret for tuning.

The sound produced by a ukulele is fairly soft. With that being the case, the banjo and ukulele make a nice combination in the banjolele, which has the short neck of the ukulele along with the drum of the banjo, so that the sound produced will be loud enough.

Compared to a full size banjo, the banjolele will be smaller in size, since the neck is shorter. In turn, it will usually be lighter and less expensive than a banjo of similar quality.

Many musicians are performing at different locations regularly, especially when touring. They have to carry their instruments with them, and also carry them on stage, so some musicians prefer to use the banjolele since it is smaller in size. This lets them easily carry the instrument while performing.

PMV Top Pick – A good hard case will protect your banjolele from those bumps and bruises while you’re lugging it around. This one is a solid option from a well-known ukulele brand.

Many children want to learn to play a musical instrument, and parents who are looking for a light weight instrument might prefer the banjolele since it is easier for children to carry.

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Since both the banjo and banjolele have a head, strings, and bridge, the sound produced by both of the musical instruments will be louder than musical instruments which do not have a resonator.

However, the tone of the music created will differ, and this depends on the design of the specific musical instrument.

Of course, musicians will have to tune whichever instrument they choose, adjusting the instrument and checking if the tone is suitable for the music which they are creating.

PMV Top PickThis multi-instrument tuner is a best seller that should do the trick for both banjos and banjoleles.

The banjo will usually have metal strings, while the banjolele typically has nylon strings. This also affects the music quality.

PMV Top Pick – When it comes to strings, trust these bestselling sets for both the banjolele and banjo.

Bestseller No. 1
Kmise, 4, Banjolele Banjo Ukulele Concert Size 23 Inch, with Bag Tuner Strap Strings (Pickup Picks Ruler Wrench Bridge)
  • 1. The drum head of Kmise banjolele made of polyester with great elasticity has a quick response. Equipped with superior Aquila String from Italy and high quality closed geared tuners, this banjolele can not only produce a bright and percussive tone but also be in an accurate intonation and stay in tune well.
  • 2. Compared with other banjoleles, Kmise banjolele with action 3mm at the 12th fret is very comfortable for beginners to learn because players do not need to press too hard with such a low action. Preset with truss rod inside the neck, players can adjust the action with the wrench as needed. Smooth fretboard and neat fret wires also offer comfortable touch and protect hands from being scratched.
Bestseller No. 2
Banjo Ukulele, AKLOT Concert 23 inch Remo Drumhead Open Back Maple Body 15:1 Advanced Tuner with Two Way Truss Rod Gig Bag Tuner String Strap Picks
  • 【Open Back Design】This banjo ukulele is AKLOT first banjolele, opened back with deep rim pump the sound forward toward your audience, which makes the banjo sounds bright.
  • 【Remo Fiberskyn Drumhead】This banjolele has a warm, round tone and described as “plunky” or with an Appalachian mountain kind of sound.
Bestseller No. 3
Kmise Banjolele Banjo Ukulele Concert Size 23 Inch with Bag Tuner Strap Strings Pickup Picks Ruler Wrench Bridge
  • The drum head of Kmise banjolele made of polyester with great elasticity has a quick response. Equipped with superior Aquila String from Italy and high quality closed geared tuners, this banjolele can not only produce a bright and percussive tone but also be in an accurate intonation and stay in tune well.
  • Compared with other banjoleles, Kmise banjolele with action 3mm at the 12th fret is very comfortable for beginners to learn because players do not need to press too hard with such a low action. Preset with truss rod inside the neck, players can adjust the action with the wrench as needed. Smooth fretboard and neat fret wires also offer comfortable touch and protect hands from being scratched.

Is The Banjo or Banjolele Easier To Learn?

The time required to learn to play the banjo or banjolele depends on the prior experience of the musician.

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Musicians who have some experience in playing the ukulele will find it easy to play the banjolele, since it is very similar.

The time taken to learn to play the banjo or any other musical instrument with strings will greatly vary depending on the aptitude of the person who is playing the instrument.

PMV Top Pick – You can’t go wrong with the Hal Leonard brand – this instructional book will get you on the right track for learning the banjo.

Learn about the banjo and guitar.

Does a Banjolele Sound Like a Banjo?

It definitely sounds similar. One of the things you should know is that the banjolele is essentially a ukulele shaped instrument with the sound of a banjo. Obviously it’s not exactly the same sound as a banjo, but it is a great, inexpensive option to get a banjo-type sound.

Some Final Thoughts

The banjo is a popular instrument in North America, and a musician can choose from a wide variety of suppliers. The banjolele, on the other hand, is less popular. Hence there are relatively fewer companies selling banjoleles.

The banjo’s popularity is in part due to its wide usage for bluegrass and many other types of music.

However in some cases, a musician might find the banjolele to be perfect for their use case. Many musicians who have not used a banjolele would like to know what the instrument is all about, and what the advantages and disadvantages of using the musical instrument are. We hope you now have a more complete idea of what makes the banjolele a unique instrument.

FAQs

What is the Difference Between a Banjo and a Banjolele?

A banjo and a banjolele are similar in appearance but differ in key aspects like size, sound, and construction. A banjo typically has a larger body and a round open-back or resonator. A banjolele, on the other hand, is generally smaller and has a body more similar to that of a ukulele. The sound of a banjo is often described as bright and twangy, while a banjolele has a warmer, mellower tone.

How Many Strings Do Banjos and Banjoleles Typically Have?

A traditional banjo usually has 4 or 5 strings, with the 5-string banjo being the most common for bluegrass and folk music. A banjolele typically has 4 strings, which are tuned similarly to a ukulele.

Why Do Banjos and Banjoleles Sound Different?

The sound differences arise from their construction and the materials used. Banjos often have a drum-like head made from animal skin or synthetic material that contributes to its brighter sound. Banjoleles, with their smaller, wooden bodies, produce a sound that is more contained and warmer.

What Type of Music is Each Instrument Best Suited For?

Banjos are often used in genres like bluegrass, country, and folk. Banjoleles are more commonly found in Hawaiian music and can also be adapted for jazz and pop.

Can You Use Banjo Chords on a Banjolele?

While the tuning and chord structures are different, some chord shapes may be transferable. However, because the tuning is usually different, playing the same chord shape on both instruments will likely produce different chords.

How Does the Size and Weight Compare Between a Banjo and a Banjolele?

Banjos are generally larger and heavier, often measuring over 38 inches in length and weighing more than 10 pounds. Banjoleles are much smaller and lighter, making them more portable and easier to manage, especially for younger or smaller players.

Which is Easier to Learn: Banjo or Banjolele?

Both have their learning curves, but many find the banjolele easier initially due to its smaller size and simpler chord structures. Banjos, with more strings and often more complex picking patterns, might take longer to master.

What is the Price Range for Banjos and Banjoleles?

Banjos can range from $200 for a basic beginner model to over $3,000 for professional-grade instruments. Banjoleles are generally less expensive, with prices ranging from $100 to $1,000.

Where Can You Buy a Quality Banjo or Banjolele?

Both instruments can be purchased from music stores, online retailers, and specialized shops that focus on stringed instruments. Always check for customer reviews or expert recommendations before making a purchase.

What are the Top Brands for Banjos and Banjoleles?

For banjos, some top brands are Gibson, Deering, and Gold Tone. For banjoleles, brands like Luna, Kala, and Oscar Schmidt are often recommended.

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