Are you a guitar player who wants to be able to recreate the old-time, rootsy twang of your grandfather plucking his banjo?
The six-string banjo, or banjitar, is the instrument for you.
Essentially a hybrid of the guitar and banjo, this versatile instrument has been around for over a hundred years.
In this article, you are going to learn about the top 6-string banjos on the market today.
12 Best 6-String Banjos
#1 Best Overall – Luna Celtic 6-String Banjo
This model is a great option for beginners who have prior experience with a guitar. Its setup with the 25-1/2″ scale of a guitar but has the traditional resonator of a banjo. This means that a guitar player should be able to use this without much instruction.
Designed for modern Celtic music, the Luna Celtic 6-String Banjo, has a beautiful, classic design, with a laser-etched trinity pattern on the back of the resonator.
The sound is bright, crisp, and twangy – perfect for a folksy tune. However, the lack of a tone ring and a narrow bridge can make the sound slightly shallow and thin. The strings it arrives with are somewhat clunky, and that can also worsen the sound.
#2 Best Value – Costzon 6-String
The Costzon 6-String is a great value-for-money option, while still offering a solid instrument. For the earner, it has clear fingerboard with sound dots to make finding the correct notes easier.
It comes with a premium Remo skin drumhead and is an incredibly versatile model. It has a resonator, but this can be removed if you prefer the open-back sound.
You can also adjust the sound manually or with a digital tuner to set it for playing blues, hillbilly music, and more.
On the downside, the cheaper price point means this banjo has several minor workmanship flaws. Some of the accessories, such as picks, and shoulder strap are of inferior quality.
The other danger with this banjo is that it is not packaged very well for transport, so if buying online, there is a chance your instrument may arrive damaged.
#3 Best 6-String Banjo For Beginners – Jameson 6-String
The Jameson 6-String is a great affordable option for beginners, providing quality workmanship at an affordable price.
It has a mahogany body, which makes its sound more sweet and mellow then your average banjo, perfect for Bluegrass tunes.
The aesthetically pleasing design comes with a Remo Weatherking drumhead, chrome plated armrest, and adjustable tailpiece.
On the negative side, this banjo will require setup to be played at its full potential, something that may be difficult for someone without experience.
Expect to get the bridge, neck, truss rod amongst others readjusted before you achieve quality sound from this instrument.
However, if this is set up properly, you will get a great sounding instrument at a bargain price.
#4 Best Left Handed 6-String Banjo – Jameson Left-Handed Banjo
This banjo is very similar to number three above, except that it is specifically strung and set up for a left-handed person.
If your left hand is more dominant, you will find this banjo far more comfortable and easier to play than the typical right-handed version.
Its price to quality ratio makes it a great option for anyone from beginner to expert banjo player. Elegantly designed in mahogany wood, this is an instrument that will both look and sound beautiful.
This banjo also comes in a package with a custom gig bag to make storing and transporting your banjo far easier.
Again, as with the Jameson model above, the main drawback to this banjo model is the amount of expertise needed to get this instrument working well.
#5 Best 6-String Open Back Banjo – Deering 6-String
While this model is a little pricier than some of the other options on this list, this extra cost is justified by the consistent high quality of Deering brand banjos.
Manufactured by craftsman in America, all Deering banjos have great workmanship and attention to detail.
This model has all the features of a guitar for ease of use, such as the guitar-style tuning and neck design, but the authentic sound of a banjo.
A violin grade maple rim with a frosted top head giving it the traditional twang and snap of a Bluegrass banjo.
However, the design of this piece is clean but very simple, perhaps not as eye-catching as other option on this list.
It also has a very loud, bright tone, which may mean you need to use it with a mute in some situations, especially if you prefer a banjo with a mellower twang.
#6 Best 6-String Acoustic/Electric Banjo – Luna Moonbird 6-String Acoustic/Electric Banjo
The Luna Moonbird banjo is a great mid-range instrument. It’s sheek, stain black frame and gorgeous moon bird print design make it one of the prettiest banjos on this list.
This model also has an electric as well as an acoustic option, especially useful if playing in a band.
However, using the electric output does alter the sound to be more guitar-like, instead of the traditional, higher-pitched banjo twang.
The Luna is tuned in typical guitar-style but the resonance and attack produced by the transparent head, make it a great cross-over instrument for a guitarist looking for that classic, bright banjo sound.
However, the action comes set quite high on this instrument, making it more difficult to play, especially for beginners. It is also not sold with a case, which must be purchased separately.
#7 Best Professional 6-String Banjo – Gold Tone EB-6
This Gold Tone model is another option that gives you extra functionality, working as both an acoustic and plug-in electric instrument.
As an acoustic version, it still has a full, loud banjo sound, and plugged in you can adjust the sound type and volume to suit whatever you want to play, with a stacked humbucking pick-up eliminating feedback problems.
A smooth, well-built instrument, the Gold Tone EB-6 has a stylish, glossy red-gold finish of natural maple wood. It comes with a custom gig-bag to protect the banjo from any damage. It offers you great value at a md-range price point.
However, if you’re a banjo purist, this may not be the instrument for you, as it strays from the traditional tone and resonance of the classical banjo.
#8 Best 6-String Banjo Under $400 – Dean Backwoods 6 String Banjo
This Dean banjo is a great mid-range, well priced instrument. Its lacquered mahogany finish and pretty inlay work make it an instrument worth displaying.
The Backwoods six string has a beautiful, bright clear tone and its playability is excellent. The design and added resonator make the sound strong and quite loud.
On the downside, the strings this instrument comes with make the sound muddier than a traditional banjo twang.
The set-up quality on these instruments is also inconsistent. Some buyers report getting perfect models, while other found workmanship and construction issue with theirs.
These models are usually shipped in from China, and quality of the packaging can be insufficient to protect them in transport.
#9 Best 6-String Under $500 – Washburn Americana Series B6-A 6-string
The Washburn Americana Series B6-A 6-string banjo is a superior quality instrument from a brand with a long history of building great banjos.
Its ebony tipped bridge gives great control and clear intonation, and an engraved gold armrest and authentic, distressed Remo head improves the instruments aesthetics and playability.
The mix of mahogany and maple woods on the instrument gives it a warm, full tone.
It generally arrives well set up, with great tone and action right out of the box.
However, this is an open backed instrument, and the lack of a resonator will diminish the depth of sound you can produce.
The edges of the frets are also quite sharp and could pose a danger to the player.
#10 Best 6-String Banjo Under $1,000 – Gold Tone GT-500
The Gold Tone GT-500 is a great quality instrument, its solid construction and deep pot, giving it a full, warm sound and great acoustic volume and sustain.
However, this also makes it a very heavy instrument at over ten pounds. If you intend to play this standing up, its important to have a very strong shoulder strap attached.
Referred to by Gold Tone as a ‘banjitar’, this model also compromises somewhat on the traditional banjo sound, with its lower bass notes lacking a banjos ‘twang’.
This model also has the option for both acoustic and electric playing, making it a great option for gig players. It’s a well-crafted, durable banjo, designed for great playability.
The Lykos 6-String Banjo is a very affordable 6 string banjo, and a good option for beginners who aren’t ready to commit to a more complex instrument. It is sturdy and well-made, with a sweet, mellow tone, offering great value for the price.
However, it is made of Sapele and metal alloy, instead of the typical maple and mahogany wood of most banjos, altering the sound it produces.
It may also need a lot of setup before it can be played, including adjusting the neck, tailpiece and tension rings. This can be difficult to accomplish effectively, especially for a beginner.
It also comes with plastic strings, which will not produce the same quality of sound as metal or nyglut ones – though these can be quite easily swapped over if you wish to.
The Rogue 6-String Banjo emphasises easy use and playability with its short scale length and jumbo frets. It’s a reasonably priced model with attention to detail that creates a great, clear overall sound.
However, this instrument does not have a tone ring, which means it lacks sustain and richness of sound.
However, if you also remove the resonator from this instrument, the sound of this banjo becomes even more ‘plunky’ and mellow, which some prefer for trying to emulate the pre-Bluegrass banjo sound.
It is another model that may require significant set-up before it is ready to play, so make sure you are prepared to do this if you purchase this instrument. It also tends to lose tune quite quickly.
Buying Guide – How To Choose a 6-string Banjo
What Is a 6 String Banjo?
The modern six-string banjo is almost a hybrid between a traditional banjo and a guitar. It was first created in the 19th Century but was less popular than the 4 or 5 string options.
It was more recently reinvented to help guitar players to experiment with a different sound, without them having to learn a new instrument.
It usually has a deeper, bass sound than other type of banjos, while retaining the traditional banjo tonality.
It’s strung like a guitar and will usually have a similar neck and even scale. However, it will have a banjo-style pot, resonator, and tone ring.
Sound/What Type of Music Can You Play?
A six-string banjo was traditionally used in early Blues and Jazz music, such as Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings.
With its modern resurgence, it is still used for these genres of music, as well as many others, such as rock, country, and classical music.
Its versatility (it can be either electric or acoustic) and its easy learning curve for guitar players, means it is found across a vast array of genres.
The six-string banjo typically comes tuned in a guitars standard style – E, A, D, G, B, and E. With serious setup, it is possible to alter the tuning to a standard banjo format, by removing a string and altering the remaining five.
Unless you have a lot of experience with banjos, and banjo tuning, it may be wise to get his, or similar changes done by a luthier, or other expert.
Like a traditional banjo, the six-string varies a lot in price, depending on the quality and features you need.
An affordable, entry level banjo can typically be purchased for between $100 to $250 dollars. A great, mid-range banjo will typically cost you anywhere between $250 and $500 dollars.
Anything beyond that will probably be a premium instrument, well suited to professional players. Top quality six-string banjos from well-reputed brands can cost up to around $1,000 at the outside.
Aesthetics & Build/Materials
Most six-string banjos have the typical banjo aesthetic, but with a different, guitar-style neck. They have a banjo’s round pot, rim, and resonator.
A good quality six-string will be made from woods like maple or mahogany – these are the two main types of timber that best produce the strong, resonant sound a banjo is known for.
All six-strings banjos are elegant, beautiful instruments, but if you want one that’s as much a display it as a functional banjo, look at brands like Luna or similar, who create their models to be like works of art.
Getting a well-known name brand will help you decide which banjo is right for you.
Just like everything else you buy, your best bet is to buy from a brand that you know and trust.
New vs. Used
Both new and used banjos make great instruments. Getting a used one – particularly from a careful owner – will usually mean a lot of the initial setup often need with banjos (especially cheaper models, or those purchased from overseas) will already be done for you.
However, with a new one, you can be more confident you are getting a pristine instrument, without the wear and tear a used one may have. You may also get extra accessories – such as a gig bag with the purchase of a new one.
Overall, the sound between a new or used banjo should not vary much, unless there is a significant fault with the instrument.
Looking for extra accessories that come with the banjo is great for getting the most value out of your money.
Take a deep look at what comes in the box and what is not. Sometimes there is nothing included but other banjos come with extra strings, case/gig bag, picks, tuners, strap, etc.
Best 6 String Banjo Brands
- Gold Tone
- Dean Backwoods
Where To Buy 6-String Banjos
- Guitar Center
- Musician’s Friend
- Local Store Retailers
FAQ – Frequently Asked Question
A six-string banjo is considered an easy crossover instrument between a guitar and banjo, and so most guitar players can use them like a guitar without needing to learn a new instrument.
However, there are slight differences – for instance, a six-string banjo should generally be played with the fingerpicking rather than strumming technique.
A six-string banjo is often referred to as a banjitar, guitjo or ganjo – as a hybrid between a traditional banjo and a guitar. However, just referring to it as a six-string banjo is just as common and accurate.
Generally, you cannot buy one for under about $100-$150. On the other end of the scale, a premium model can stretch up to $800-$1,000. A high quality, value-for-money model can easily be purchased for around $250-$400