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
- Is The Banjo or Banjolele Easier To Learn?
- Does a Banjolele Sound Like a Banjo?
- Some Final Thoughts
The Differences Between The Banjo and Banjolele
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.
- COMPLETE BANJO SET: Pyle brings you an all-in-one banjo set, everything you need to start playing. Comes w/ a gig bag, digital tuner, spare strings, 3 finger picks, cleaning cloth, detachable shoulder strap w/ hanger & wrench (to adjust the brackets)
- PROFESSIONAL FULL SIZE : 38.6” instrument features a tunable 5-string banjo with 24 brackets and 22 frets, equipped with a classic traditional style binding design. Features a coated and polished rich wood finish with chrome-plated hardware/accents
- HEAVY DUTY HARDWARE: This complete all-in-one standard acoustic banjo starter kit is equipped with a geared 5th string tuner and high quality remo drum head. It is handcrafted from sapele hardwood
- ADJUSTABLE TRUSS ROD: Features adjustable truss rod & pearl color tuner pegs w/ additional 5th geared tuner side-peg. Adjust the truss rod can balance the tension caused by strings/climate change, set up perfect string height to meet different needs
- ♪ Bright and Percussive Sound – The drumhead of Mulucky mini banjo is made of polyester that has great elasticity to respond quickly.
- ♪ Easy to Learn – The 28-inch banjo with 5 strings offers a distinctive sound that most players can easily grasp. And the chrome-plated closed tuning pegs are easy to tune and hold
- ♪ Beautiful Sound – 5 string banjo mini with geared 5th tuner brings the classic tones, 12 brackets ensure even head panel tension to fusion melodious percussion timbres by gently beating on the head
- ♪ Complete Beginner Kit – 1 x Pick-up, 1 x Strap, 1 x Ruler, 1 x Wrench, 1 x Cleaning Cloth, 3 x Picks, 3 x Finger Picks, 5 x Spare Strings
- ♫ The Kmise 5 string banjo uses a high-quality drumhead that can produce a pleasant sound. The player can beat the drumhead panel when plucking the string to come percussion with a beautiful melody
- ♫ The lacquered removable back cover makes the entire banjo more advanced and beautiful. Just open the gorgeous sapele back cover to get a cleaner sound; with the resonator the sound is fuller.
- ♫ This banjo has a polished chrome installed armrest to provide comfort while playing.The sturdy, padded nylon gig bag holds the instrument security, allowing you to take your beloved banjo with you on trips
- ♫ The okoume wood neck and sapele wood back combine to produce a beautiful and very distinct tone characteristic as well as looking great.
The banjolele is a combination of the banjo and the ukulele. It is also called the banjo uke or banjulele.
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.
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 Pick – This 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.
- 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.
- Kala ukuleles are played by some of the most renowned players around the world including: twenty one pilots, Vance Joy, dodie, EatMyUke, The Ukulele Teacher, and Zac Brown.
- 4 Sting Banjo Uke—Donner banjolele is a four-stringed musical instrument with a small banjo-type body and a fretted ukulele neck. Combining banjo’s distinctive tone with ukulele’s standard tuning of G-C-E-A and playing style.
- Quality Material Banjolele – the body of Donner banjo uke is made of sapele, enabling it to produce a mellow, and soft sound. Made by maple and hardwood, the bridge is hard enough to prevent the strings cut into the bridge.
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.
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.
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.
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.