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.
Table of Contents
- 12 Best 6-String Banjos
- #1 Best Overall – Luna Celtic 6-String Banjo
- #2 Best Value – Costzon 6-String
- #3 Best 6-String Banjo For Beginners – Jameson 6-String
- #4 Best Left Handed 6-String Banjo – Jameson Left-Handed Banjo
- #5 Best 6-String Open Back Banjo – Deering 6-String
- #6 Best 6-String Acoustic/Electric Banjo – Luna Moonbird 6-String Acoustic/Electric Banjo
- #7 Best Professional 6-String Banjo – Gold Tone EB-6
- #8 Best 6-String Banjo Under $400 – Dean Backwoods 6 String Banjo
- #9 Best 6-String Under $500 – Washburn Americana Series B6-A 6-string
- #10 Best 6-String Banjo Under $1,000 – Gold Tone GT-500
- #11 Lykos 6-String Banjo
- #12 Rogue 6-String Banjo
- Buying Guide – How To Choose a 6-String Banjo
- Best 6-String Banjo Brands
- Where To Buy 6-String Banjos
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. It’s set up 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 at times. The strings it arrives with are somewhat clunky, so you may want to upgrade those.
#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 new player, it has a 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 the picks and shoulder strap, leave something to be desired in quality.
The other danger with this banjo is that it is not packaged very well for transport, so if buying online, make sure your instrument doesn’t arrive banged up.
#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 than your average banjo. It’s 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, and truss rod readjusted in order to achieve maximum 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 a beginner to an 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 at its peak level.
#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 craftsmen 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 gives it the traditional twang and snap of a bluegrass banjo.
The design of this piece is clean but very simple, perhaps not as eye-catching as other options 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. Its chic, 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. It has 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 mid-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 can also be inconsistent. Some buyers report getting perfect models, while others found workmanship and construction issues with theirs.
These models are usually shipped in from China, and quality of the packaging is something to watch out for.
#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 can take some getting used to for newer players.
#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 give 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.
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 ease of 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.
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 more quickly than some of the other options on this list.
Buying Guide – How To Choose a 6-String Banjo
What Is a 6 String Banjo?
The modern six-string banjo is in many ways 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 otherwise.
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.
What Type of Music Can You Play With a 6-String Banjo?
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.
PRO TIP: Pick up a good song book that covers a variety of banjo playing styles. This banjo book covers both clawhammer and three-finger style arrangements.
Tuning a 6-String Banjo
The six-string banjo typically comes tuned in a guitar’s 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 this or similar changes done by a luthier, or other expert.
PRO TIP: Look for a tuner that works well specifically with the banjo, rather than a “multi-instrument” tuner that may not work so well with banjos. This banjo tuner fits that bill.
How Much Do 6-String Banjos Cost?
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 closer to $500, but prices vary widely.
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 around $800 to $1,000 and above.
Aesthetics & Build/Materials of 6-String Banjos
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 piece as it is a functional banjo, look at brands like Luna or similar, who create their models to be like works of art.
PRO TIP: Choose banjo strings from a trusted brand and you’ll notice the difference in quality. This set of banjitar strings fits the bill.
6-String Banjo Brands
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 is known and trusted by other players.
New vs. Used 6-String Banjos
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.
Accessories for the 6-String Banjo
Looking for extra accessories that come with your banjo is a great way to get the most value out of your money.
Take a deep look at what comes in the box and what doesn’t. Sometimes there is nothing included, but other banjos come with extra strings, a case/gig bag, picks, tuners, straps, etc.
PRO TIP: If you’re picking up a case separately, make sure you get one that fits a 6-string banjo (rather than just 5-string ones). This banjo case fits both sizes.
Best 6-String Banjo Brands
- Gold Tone
- Dean Backwoods
Where To Buy 6-String Banjos
- Guitar Center
- Musician’s Friend
- Local Store Retailers
What is a 6-string banjo?
A 6-string banjo is a musical instrument that has six strings and is played like a guitar. It is a hybrid instrument that combines the sound and feel of a banjo with the playability and tuning of a guitar.
How is a 6-string banjo different from a regular banjo?
What are the benefits of playing a 6-string banjo?
Playing a 6-string banjo can provide a unique and versatile sound that is different from a regular guitar. It is also easier to learn and play, making it a great option for beginners and intermediate players.
What types of music can be played on a 6-string banjo?
A 6-string banjo can be used to play a variety of music genres, including folk, country, bluegrass, and even rock and roll.
How do I choose the best 6-string banjo?
When choosing a 6-string banjo, you should consider factors such as the materials used, the sound quality, the playability, and the brand reputation. You should also consider your budget and playing level.
Do I need any special accessories to play a 6-string banjo?
In addition to the banjo itself, you may also need accessories such as a tuner, a strap, and picks. These accessories can help improve your playing experience and overall sound quality.
How do I maintain my 6-string banjo?
To maintain your 6-string banjo, you should regularly clean and polish the instrument, keep it in a safe and dry place, and have it professionally serviced if needed.
Can a 6-string banjo be used for live performances?
Yes, a 6-string banjo can be used for live performances, especially in smaller venues or acoustic settings. It can provide a unique and versatile sound that can add a new dimension to your live performances.
Where can I find more information about 6-string banjos?
You can find more information about 6-string banjos on music websites, online forums, and social media groups dedicated to banjo players. You can also consult with music instructors or visit a local music store to learn more.