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How Do I Choose the Best Banjo Kit?

J. Finnegan
J. Finnegan

Choosing the best banjo kit depends highly on individualyour budget. Banjos range in cost from less than $200 US Dollars (USD) to more than $2,000 USD. Student banjo kits generally are at the lower end of the price range, and they usually are acceptable for beginners. Intermediate or advanced musicians should choose a banjo kit at the higher end of their personal budgets. To choose the best banjo kit, you should go to a music shop and try out a few banjos to get a feel for what you like and which features you want in a banjo.

Beginning banjo players should look for instruments that feel comfortable in their hands. A banjo's neck should be smooth and allow the hand to slide easily. The strings on the fretboard, or fingerboard, should be easy to press with the fingertips. The strings over the head, or the bowl-shaped section, should be easy to pluck and shouldn't feel too loose or too tight.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

A beginner might not be able to play notes but should be able to discern whether the instrument sounds like a proper banjo. An odd-sounding instrument should be put back in favor of a better-sounding one, or it should be taken to a technician to be properly set up. If buying from the Internet is the only option, then spend some time looking for online reviews of models and brands of banjo kits before purchasing one. Don't be put off by the country of manufacture, because many musical instruments, even high-end ones, are made in Asian countries such as China and Korea.

Other important items to look for in a good banjo kit are a banjo case, a set of finger picks, a shoulder strap, a tuner and possibly an instructional manual or digital versatile disc (DVD) if the kit is for beginners. An extra set of strings might come with the banjo kit or would be good to buy separately and keep on hand for emergencies. Cases can be soft or hard. Generally, the lower-end kits will come with a soft case, which offers a minimum amount of protection. Hard cases can be bought separately.

People who enjoy working with their hands might prefer a self-made banjo kit. These also vary greatly in price. The caliber of the end product depends on the quality of the materials and the builder's level of craftsmanship.

There are many types of banjos. Some are available only as special orders from custom builders. Others are rare but still are available from vintage instrument shops and specialty dealers. Banjos' scale length can vary considerably, with 13 inches (33 cm) being about the shortest and 32 inches (81 cm) being the longest. Some are open-backed, literally meaning that there is no cover on the back of the bowl-shaped part, and some are closed-backed and usually are called resonators.

Common string configurations are four- and five-string banjos. The five-string is the older version, and it actually has four-and-a-half strings. Four full-length strings go all the way to the head, and another string ends halfway up the fingerboard. There also six- and eight-string configurations as well as the very rare 12-string banjo.

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      Man playing a guitar