Kmise 4-String Banjolele Review

This revival has brought back a fun, unique instrument that can be used to play a variety of musical styles. The beauty of an instrument is finding one you love and adapting your favorite songs to the tone of the instrument itself.

That’s before you start writing your own songs and playing them on the instruments.

Kmise 4 String Banjo Ukulele Uke Concert 23 Inch Size Sapele With Bag Tuner

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Specifications

  • Remo Head
  • Closed chrome tuners
  • Drum size 8.46 inches
  • Length 23.03 inches
  • Sapele mahogany
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Tuner included
  • Zippered bag

First Impressions of the Kmise 4-String Banjolele

The Kmise 4-String Banjolele is constructed from quality tone woods that will bring a rich sound to your music. It’s a beautiful-looking instrument that sounds even better than it looks.

It doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. When you first strum the strings of this instrument (after tuning, of course), you’ll be blown away by the sound it produces.

After some time learning the chords, the next people blown away by the sound will by your appreciative audience.

As a banjo ukulele, it has a unique sound. While it leans towards the banjo side of sound, it is a blend of sounds that will be something nobody else in your circle has heard before.

As a musician, you likely want to do something different than all your friends. It’ll help you in a group or a band if you can do something aside from strumming a guitar like everyone else.

Required Setup

When you receive any instrument in a box from the manufacturer, you’re going to need to make some adjustments like fixing the bridge. If the company left the bridge in place with tightened strings, you’d end up with a broken instrument when you lifted it out of the box.

While we’d normally recommend that you take this untuned banjolele to a professional to tune for you, this instrument comes with a tuner.

You can easily learn to tune the banjolele yourself. Once you’ve learned to tune an instrument, you won’t have to rely on anyone else to tune any of your instruments.

The bridge is easily slipped under the strings. Turn it sideways then flip it upright once it’s under the strings. Each string will be cradled in one of the grooves.

You might have to loosen the strings to get the bridge under it, but then you can tighten them to hold the bridge.

Here is a selection of popular banjoleles that we recommend to anyone looking to take up the hobby!

Instrument Materials

The instrument’s fretboard is made from a material that is traditionally used for these parts of stringed instruments. That material is rosewood.

Kmise 4 String Banjo Ukulele Uke Concert 23 Inch Size Sapele With Bag Tuner

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Gold Tone Little Gem Ukes 4-String Ukulele Right, Blue Lg-S

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Tfw Banjolele Starter Kit – With Case And Accessories

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Luna 8″ Banjolele With Ulu Design, Tobacco Burst

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The rest of the banjolele is made from a wood that isn’t as common, which is Sapele mahogany. It’s a hardwood that is used to replace mahogany in some cases.

It’s originally from tropical Africa, and has an interlocked, wavy pattern that resembles the mahogany that many instrument creators use in their production.

Along with being a great tone wood, it’s a material that is very durable and resists decay. That’s important in an instrument since you want it to last for years.

You could easily pass this down to your children after you’re done with it, or when you’ve moved on to a more expensive instrument.

Remo Head for the Banjolele

When you purchase a banjolele, you can expect it to have a head stretched across a rim. This part of the instrument is what resembles a banjo.

It’s also where the resonator is attached if the banjolele comes with one. They usually do. The Remo head on this Kmise Banjolele measures 8.46 inches.

Resonator or Open Back

The Kmise Banjolele has a resonator to increase the volume of the sound produced with this instrument. The resonator is normally used to increase the volume and project the sound forward towards the listener.

There isn’t really another reason to have a resonator. Some people like having the extra volume while others would rather not have one. Most resonators can be removed quite easily to change the sound.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the banjolele tuned?
The tuning is G-C-E-A.

How much does the instrument weigh?
The banjolele is incredibly lightweight. It weighs 3.84 pounds.

Is there anything else included with the banjolele?
The instrument comes with a tuner as well as a zippered bag for carrying the instrument.

Conclusion

This banjolele from Kmise is a beautiful instrument that melds the best parts of the banjo and ukulele to create a unique instrument that you’ll thoroughly enjoy playing with friends or your band.

Once you learn to make music on this instrument, everyone will want to see you perform with it. It’s also lightweight enough to be taken everywhere you might want to go.

We Review the 5 Best Travel or Parlor Banjos for Players on the Go

review best travel parlor banjos for players

Parlor banjos ended up with that name because they were meant to be played inside people’s homes. This was at a time when there were no radios or television.

Families often played instruments and sang to entertain each other.

The travel banjo is also a great instrument for children who want to learn to play. Their little hands and arms don’t have to struggle with a big fret.

Hohner ATB40M A+ Travel Parlor Banjo

This beautiful banjo has a Fiberskyn head that will make it feel as if you’re learning on an instrument that was around in the day when parlor banjos got their name.

It’s a great first instrument for children who are learning. Along with the retro head, the banjo has a lovely satin mahogany finish offset by shiny chrome bits.

Features

  • 19.8-inch scale
  • 11-inch Fiberskyn head
  • Padded gig bag with pocket
  • Lightweight
  • Compact

We love that this banjo comes with it’s own padded gig bag. It’s one that has two straps, so it can be carried like a backpack. The banjo is light and compact for traveling, too.

You can toss this banjo into its bag, slip your arms into the straps, and carry this through the woods to your campsite quite easily.


Gold Tone CC-Mini Cripple Creek Banjo

While many banjos are lovely to look at, this banjo has a unique style and color unlike the others.

Like the company name suggests, it’s a gold tone color that is flashy and cool. You’ll feel like a rock star plucking on this banjo in front of friends or relatives.

Features

  • Geared 5th-string tuner
  • Vega armrest
  • Adjustable truss rod
  • Gig bag included

This open-back banjo is light as air, and you can use the included bag to bring this banjo with you everywhere. If you want a travel banjo that can be taken out into the woods to play around a campfire, this is perfect.

It does equally well as a banjo that you can take on your next plane trip on vacation.


SAGA SS-10P Travel Banjo

This parlor banjo is detailed with beautiful inlays that are mother of pearl. The wood is maple with a deep, rich finish. The adjustable truss rod ensures that you can make adjustments as you see fit.

Features

  • Short scale 17-fret
  • Geared 5th-string tuner
  • Mother of Pearl details

The SS-10P is a banjo that is designed for open C tuning. With a change of strings, though, you can tune it to open G if you like. This is a terrific banjo for travel or beginners.

With the lovely design and slim profile, this instrument is perfect when you want to take a hike through the woods to your campsite without breaking your back.


Savannah Travel Banjo

The scale of this lightweight banjo is 19-3/4 inches. It’s made from beautiful woods that are known for their tone. The maple rim, mahogany neck, and the rosewood fretboard are great features of this travel banjo.

Features

  • Beautiful tone wood
  • Lightweight
  • 24 brackets

This parlor banjo weighs about 8 pounds, which makes it a great weight and size for traveling. You can easily bring this banjo on a plane if you wanted to enjoy your music while on vacation.

Many semi-professional musicians find that a smaller banjo makes more sense on the road, too.


Trinity River Drifter-Series Banjo

If you have a love for banjos, you’ll want to bring yours with you everywhere you go.

From vacation to camping trips to jam sessions at a friend’s house, this banjo will travel very well. It comes with a deluxe padded bag, too.

Features

  • Remo head
  • 19 frets
  • Lightweight
  • ¾ size
  • Deluxe gig bag

This banjo is a perfect size and weight for a child who wants to learn the banjo.

Anyone who has never played the banjo before will enjoy the fact that it’s not a bulky, hard-to-hold instrument.

We had to place the Drifter on our list of the top 5 travel banjos because it’s beautiful and easy to carry.


Whether you call it a travel banjo or a parlor banjo, it’s got to be a lightweight instrument that is shorter than traditional banjos.

The slimmer profile and light design make it simple to bring this banjo with you everywhere.

These banjos are fantastic for showing off as you play for friends and family.

They’ll love watching you play your travel banjo at family gatherings or on vacations.

If you are just starting out, here are some great banjos for beginners to try!

Gold Tone 5-String Banjo Cc-100Rw

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Deering Goodtime 17-Fret Tenor 4-String Banjo

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Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo 24 Bracket With Closed Solid Back And Geared 5Th Tuner

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We Review 5 of the Best 6-String Banjos Under $1000

We’re reviewing the top 5 6-string banjos under $1000 on the market today. These are stunningly beautiful instruments that give players a sound that rivals some of the more expensive banjos out there. You don’t have to spend thousands to get an incredible instrument.

If you want to transition from a guitar to a banjo without having to learn to play a new instrument, these 6-string banjos are perfect. They are tuned like a guitar, but have that rich, twang that’s characteristic of banjos.

Martin Smith 6-String Banjo

This is a banjo that’s on the low end in the terms of price, but it’s high in quality construction. The banjo is approximately $200, which is a great price for a beginner who has never picked up an instrument before.

Specifications

  • Stunning mahogany construction
  • Two-way truss rod
  • Remo head
  • Carrying case
  • Extra strings

Along with a quality instrument, you’ll get a gig bag and extra strings with this affordable banjo. Martin Smith is a company that manufactures a line of banjos that are constructed with an eye towards lasting quality. This banjo has a resonator that can be removed for versatility in your instrument.


Gretsch G9460 Dixie 6 Guitar Banjo

This 6-string banjo is on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of price. It’s a few hundred less than the $1000 limit of this list. It’s a vintage looking banjo that looks like a banjo from the 1950s. It’s made entirely from a beautiful blonde maple with a semi-gloss finish.

Specifications

  • Remo Fiberskyn head
  • Resonator
  • Dual coordinating rods

Most banjos in this price range are great instruments that look very similar. You’re getting good construction with a white drum and some possible inlays on the fret for those instruments. On this Gretsch, you’re getting the Remo Fiberskyn on this head that looks like the calfskin musicians used on old-time banjos back in the day.


Gold Tone AC-6+ 6-String Banjo

This is a middle-of-the-road banjo only when it comes to price. It’s about $500 for this banjo with the incredibly beautiful finish. It has a resonator with 24 brackets. It comes with a magnetic pickup and a gig case, so when you’re ready to take your music on the road, this banjo can be a part of that.

Specifications

  • Two-way adjustable truss rod
  • Geared tuners
  • Magnetic pickup
  • Maple neck
  • Gig bag

This 6-string banjo is made of a variety of woods including a maple bridge and neck, a lovely rosewood fretboard, and composite for the resonator. The wood is finished with a smooth satin that brings out the grain of each piece of wood.


Jameson 6-String Banjo Guitar

This is another banjo that is a good choice for beginners. It’s easy to learn because it’s tuned like a guitar, and it’s reasonably priced around $200. If you’re looking for a true beginner instrument that is easy to play, this is a good choice. It’s from a company that makes a wide range of instruments for all level of player.

Specifications

  • Diecast enclosed tuners
  • Maple, rosewood and mahogany construction
  • 24 brackets and adjustable hinged tailpiece

This banjo is tuned like a guitar, so you can easily transition between the banjo and the guitar without a huge learning curve. The banjo itself is quite gorgeous with a finish that allows the beauty of the wood to shine through.


Dean Guitars Backwood 6-String Banjo with Pickup

While others on this list are a traditional style and color, this one is sleek and almost dangerous looking. It’s a black chrome with pearl inlays and a matte-finish resonator that is unlike other banjos that your friends may have. This banjo is around the mid-way point in terms of price. It’s approximately $400.

Specifications

  • Mahogany neck
  • Rosewood Fingerboard
  • Pearl dot inlays
  • Die-cast tuners

This guitar-tuned banjo has a 25 1/2” scale length, an 11” Remo head, and die-cast tuners. This banjo is pretty lightweight, too. You’ll be able to take this banjo with you anywhere you want to practice or play for family and friends. It doesn’t come with a case, but it’s easy to purchase one if you want to take this banjo on the road.


The 6-string banjos on this list are under $1000, which is a terrific price for a beginner banjo, but it’s also a good price for a banjo that can carry you into professional amateur musician status. You don’t have to toss any of these banjos aside for a more expensive one anytime in the near future.

There are some beautiful banjos on this list that will help you transition from guitar to banjo quite easily. Especially if you want to play some songs that lend themselves to the banjo, but you don’t want to spend months learning a new instrument.

Is Banjo Easier or Harder than Guitar?

If you’ve never even touched a banjo or guitar, it’s likely both are going to seem rather hard to play, at first, but that’s to be expected.  Unless, you’re a phenom, and we all know true phenoms are rare.

Genetics

First off, you need to realize that everyone has different shapes / sizes of hands, and different amounts of strength in our hands, wrists, and fingers.

Also, each of us has a different level of coordination, and dexterity when it comes to their hands and finger movements.

Not only that, we all have different capabilities for figuring out the music itself.  We all hear music differently, and it’s harder to play something where we can’t understand the sounds we’re making related to pitch, tone, and volume.

Some people just hold a guitar or banjo for the first time, and it’s like a duck in a pond.  Almost like they’ve played the instrument before in a past life.

Here’s a picture of a young Jimi Hendrix, holding a guitar when he was in the army.  Although most people know how good Jimi eventually got at guitar in his lifetime, there’s no telling how he felt about guitar when he first picked one up.  For all we know, maybe it took him a while to get the hang of it.

Or what about legendary banjo player Earl Scruggs.  Here he is as a kid, holding a banjo, and looking oddly at ease holding it for such a young child.

Banjo Vs. Guitar – Which Is Easier?

Ok, so obviously your genetics are going to play a part.  Aside from that, we have to examine the instruments themselves.

Banjo

Let’s start with the banjo.  The type of banjo you pick up will make a difference in the ease of learning.  While a guitar typically has 6 strings, a banjo might have 4, 5, or 6 strings, depending on the style of music you want to learn.

Suddenly, you’re faced with three options, rather than one.  This raises the question: “What style of banjo do I want to buy if I’m just starting out?”  I’ll assume you’re looking for the easiest one to play on as well.

Well, overall, your choice of banjo does depend on the type of music you’re interested in learning, whether it be old time banjo music played in a clawhammer style, or three-finger picked banjo style found in bluegrass music.

Separating Style from Instrument, and Instrument From Song

Keep in mind, the style of playing is a separate matter from the type of banjo, and the songs you’ll be wanting to learn.

For instance, you could be learning an easy song, on a banjo that’s harder to play (for reasons I’ll get into), and in a style that’s very hard for you to play.

Or, conversely, you could be playing a difficult song on a very easy playing banjo, in a chosen style that’s easier for you.

All that might sound confusing, but the point is, some banjos are just easier to play.  To know why, we first must look at the different kinds of banjos you can get.

Here’s a video by banjo player Jim Pankey, that can help you decide what type of banjo you might want to get, as a beginner player or someone who’s never played before.

Resonator Vs. Open Back Banjo

Now, if you happened to watch the above video, you would have heard Jim talking about two types of banjos – resonator banjos and open-back banjos.

He talks about the fact not only do both banjos look different, but they feel different to play and they also sound different when heard.

In the end, Jim recommends a resonator banjo due to its overall versatility as a good first banjo to buy.  Yes, it does look good, and it sounds good, but you’re probably still wondering: is it easier to play than the open back style of banjo?

On top of that, are either of them easier to play than your average guitar?

If you ask me, the style of banjo isn’t going to determine how easy it is to play as much as the playing style you’re going to have to learn.

I’m not here to give you a lesson in how to play the banjo, but I will at least point out that there were two main styles of playing banjo, both of which Jim played in the video, and they are the clawhammer style, and the 3-pick style.

Clawhammer Vs. Three Pick Style of Playing Banjo

Between clawhammer technique and 3-pick style, you might imagine one is easier than the other, but it’s hard to say without a doubt that one style is easier than the other.  Again, it depends on you, the size of your hands, how much dexterity you have, etc.

This all comes back to what I mentioned earlier about everyone having different coordination, and hand strength and sizes.  For some, wearing the finger picks to play the banjo will not only sound better, but be more logical and simpler to execute.

On the other hand, some might argue that clawhammer style is easier because you’re more free to play how you want, without having picks attached to your fingers.

Basically, you’re either going to enjoy playing with the picks on your fingers, or not enjoy it.

When it comes to these two playing styles, only YOU know which one you like better and perhaps find easier.  You’ll just have to try both playing techniques, and see what you think.  Same goes for the type of banjo you choose.  Go to the store, try a few out, and see what feels most comfortable.

Now, you might say, “Sir, you’re avoiding the question.  Which type of banjo is the easiest to play?  Stop claiming it’s only subjective and talking in circles.”

To that I say, “I am feeling the pressure here, and I will do my best to provide more information”.

Tfw Banjolele Starter Kit – With Case And Accessories

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Banjo Ukulele 4 String Banjos Lele Ukelele Uke Concert 23 Inch Size (Type 4)

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5 String Resonator Banjo With 24 Brackets | Closed Back And Geared 5Th Tuner

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Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo 24 Bracket With Closed Solid Back And Geared 5Th Tuner

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Gold Tone 5-String Banjo Cc-100Rw

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Banjo Neck Width

Banjos, depending on the type and number of strings, all have slightly different sized necks, in terms of length and width.  But it’s width I’m more concerned about here, because that generally determines how much space there is between each string.

For those who don’t know, the “neck” of a banjo (or guitar) is the long skinny part that the strings run along that connects the top of the instrument (the head) to the bottom (the body).

Generally, the more strings the banjo has, the wider the neck, although, at the same time, that’s not necessarily true in every case.

Sometimes the neck can be quite narrow on a banjo, and, although there might be more strings present, they can be pushed much closer together.

For me, personally, I find that if the neck is narrower on a banjo (or guitar), on one hand it’s easier to play chords (ie. hold down strings across the whole width of the neck), because the strings are closer together.

Here is a video from Guitar Compass with a teacher playing easy chords on a banjo with a fairly narrow neck.

As you can see, it’s easy for his hand to reach across the neck of the banjo, whereas guitars typically have much wider necks than banjos and are therefore harder to reach across to make a chord, especially a barre chord.

Check out this chart below showing chords on a 4-string banjo.

Now check out this chart showing chords on a guitar.

As you may notice, the guitar chords are done across 6 strings, whereas on the 4-string banjo, it looks (and is, if you ask me) a lot easier.  Not only is it physically easier, in my opinion, but it’s also mentally easier to remember because there are less strings.

Even on a 6-string banjo, the neck is going to be skinnier than your average acoustic guitar, and I think that makes it a little easier to play.

Banjo Tuning

Banjos score another point in this section for ease of use, because your standard 5-stringer banjo is tuned to open G. That means when you strum down the strings without holding anything, you’re playing the G chord.

With a few minor finger adjustments, you can learn two more chords to start playing many familiar tunes within minutes.

Here’s Tony Trischka from ArtistWorks strumming a banjo in open G (bluegrass tuning), and also showing some other simple chords (C, D7) you can play almost right away.

With guitars, if you play the strings all open, you get an E minor 11th, which is some crazy jazz chord that no one uses, but is still pretty cool.

Banjo Action

If you don’t know the term “action”, as it relates to stringed instruments, we’ll let Deering Banjos, a well-known banjo company, explain the concept to you:

“Action is the distance/clearance between the bottom of the string and the top of the fret. Action height can be a matter of personal preference to some degree.  At Deering, we set the action at 1/8” at the 22nd fret; any lower and you might get buzzing/vibrating of the string against the fret as you play. Many professional players prefer their action at ¼” clearance. If you pick hard, this action height might work best for you to provide enough space for string vibrations. Hammer-ons and pull offs are clearer with higher action. The coordinator rod on the inside of the pot/rim of the banjo is used to adjust the action of the banjo neck. The coordinator rod also serves to firmly anchor the neck to the rim, making a stable unit.”

For guitars, I use 3/32 inches on the bass side and 1/16 inches on the treble side, which is slightly lower action than Deering mentions with their banjos.  In any case, I’m not what you’d call an expert on setting the action of guitars and / or banjos, but I personally, in general, like a lower action, because it’s easier to hold the strings down with your fingers.  I’ve played on instruments where the action is what I’d consider high, and it becomes too hard to play.

Since there isn’t really a universal standard for action on guitars or banjos that I know of, I can’t really say which one is easier, I just know that I like the action a bit lower for ease of playing.

Banjo String Gauges

When it comes to string gauges, I’m talking about string thickness.

Generally speaking, there’s light gauge, medium gauge, and heavy gauge strings for banjo.  This goes for guitar as well.

The gauge of the strings affects the sound, and it is up to the player which thickness they want to use on their banjo.

The thicker strings, much the same as with a guitar, are tougher to bend, and the lighter / thinner gauge strings are often so thin that some people complain that they’re cutting into their fingers.  That’s why I typically use medium gauge strings on either guitar or banjo.

Here’s a video showing the different sound that comes from the different thicknesses of strings on a banjo.  You’ll need to listen closely, as hearing the difference between each type of string is subtle.

One last note here about strings, is that you can string a banjo or a guitar yourself, but it’s not easy when you’re starting out.  Still, it can be done by you, and you don’t need a specialist to do it.

There are other things like fixing a warped neck, or other repairs, that an expert can and should do.  But changing and replacing the strings is something you can learn, without too much trouble.


Guitar

Guitars, for the most part, are 6-stringed instruments that are noticeably larger than banjos, body-wise, and have wider necks.  They also sound a lot different.

I say “for the most part”, because there are also 12-string guitars, which are essentially guitars with double the number of strings, and yet the strings on a 12-stringer are grouped like so:

The vast majority of players play 6-stringers, though.

Acoustic vs. Electric Guitar

There are two main types of guitar – acoustic and electric.  It’s important to note that acoustic and electric guitars don’t function in the same way, and they don’t sound the same either.

Generally speaking, one is a hollow body (acoustic) and one is a solid body (electric).

One thing that is the same about acoustic and electric guitars is that they are strung the same way.  This means that they both have six strings, and that those strings are in the same order from top to bottom, thickest to thinnest (EADGBe).

What this also means is that whatever you can play on an acoustic, in terms of riffs or chords, is going to be the same fingering on an electric.  So, in that sense, they aren’t too different.

In terms of which guitar is easier to play, we have to take a closer look at how each is set up.

Acoustic Vs. Electric Guitar Strings

Acoustic and electric guitars each use different string materials, giving them a different sound, and a different playability as well.

Electric guitar strings are made from materials with magnetic properties, like steel, chromium, and nickel.  They don’t need to resonate acoustically because their sound is amplified electrically, though an amp.

Acoustic guitar strings do need to be more resonant, because the sound of your playing resonates through the body of the guitar by way of the sound hole, and then projects back out acoustically into the room.

When you’re at the music store, acoustic strings and electric strings are in their own little sections, and they’re usually clearly labelled as either one or the other.

There is no pack of strings that just says “guitar strings”.  They list all of the qualities of the strings, and, if nothing else, you can tell which guitar the strings are for by the materials that they are made of.

Action Rant, Part 2

In my experience, I have found that electric guitars are a little easier to play, due to the action being lower.

I mentioned this earlier, that I like a lower action, because even that fraction of an inch lower can make a difference in how hard you have to push down to play the string or strings.

When you’re just starting out, one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from students is that the strings hurt your fingers, and this has a lot to do with finger strength (which can be built up with practice) and also the material of the strings and the thick or thinness of the strings slicing into your finger pads.

I’m not exaggerating either, I’ve had one or two younger students literally shed tears over how much their fingers hurt after trying to practice their playing!

Acoustic guitars, since the strings do need to resonate more, have that higher action (strings are higher off of the fretboard / neck), and that makes it harder to push the strings down than on an electric.

I’ve been playing for 25 years now, and I still don’t really enjoy stringed instruments where the action is higher than normal, and sometimes it can be.

I’ll also share this story – my first guitar was an old acoustic that was laying around the house, and the action was twice as high as it should have been because the neck was warped.  As such, I just thought I was extra terrible at playing that instrument, and it lead me to believe that all acoustic guitars were like that and I almost quit.

One more thing about the fingering of guitars and banjos has to do with fingernails, but still relates to the action.  If your fingernails on your fretting hand (not your strumming / picking hand) are too long, it might cause you problems and make things harder than they have to be.

This is because your fingernails can get in the way of your fingers pushing down the strings all the way to the fretboard.  I’ve had students who can’t push down the strings for this reason, because they have really long fingernails, and yet they refuse to cut them.  That’s a no-win situation!

So, chew your nails, kids!

My point is, if you’re new to either banjo or guitar, at least take a look at the action of it so that you a) understand the concept, and b) can begin to judge how appropriate the action is on the instrument you have.  You can have the action lowered if you take the instrument in.

Fingernails, Continued

On the other hand, if you have longer fingernails on your strumming hand, this can be helpful when it comes to both picking and strumming.

Some super famous guitar players are known for picking their strings with their fingers, and you can basically use longer fingernails as separate picks.

This works with banjos too, as banjos are a more pick-centric instrument.  Fingerpicking for bluegrass, especially, is a main feature of the music.  Banjos, in general, are all about flying fingers and pickin’ and grinnin’.

Here’s a video with famous guitar fingerpicker, Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler, showing some of his finger style playing.

Styles of Guitar Playing

If you ask me, there seems to be more versatility with guitars, because there are more playing techniques and simply more styles of guitars out there.  Guitars lend themselves to more styles of music as well.

I think that this makes guitars easier to learn, because you can approach them from so many different angles and strumming and picking styles.  There’s fingerpicking, alternate picking, sweep picking, gypsy rhythms, and tapping.  Plus many others!  Or you can just make up your own style completely, and no one seems to mind.

For instance, if you want to play punk rock guitar, you just need to learn a few basic power chords.

Here’s the Germs playing their song Manimal from the documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization.  Keep an eye on that guitar player, Pat Smear (now in Foo Fighters).  The playing style here is simple but effective, and the idea is that anyone can really do it.

Then again, this kind of music might make you want to jump off a bridge.  Fair enough!  You might be interested in something a little more mellow and pleasant-sounding.  Why not try to learn some bossa nova?

Back to the point of what’s easy vs. what’s not easy, different guitar styles of playing are going to be harder than others.  Bashing out a simple rock song might be easier for you than playing The Girl From Ipanema, but if you want to play in that style, you’ll hunker down and learn it eventually.

Using a Guitar Pick

We have yet to mention the wonderful world of guitar picks.  Because beginners are always hurting their fingers on both hands (fretting hand and strumming / picking hand), using a guitar pick does make some things easier because now you won’t have to pick or strum with your hand, which can hurt when you’re just starting out.  You just use the pick instead!

Guitar picks come in different shapes, sizes, and thicknesses.  Like guitar strings, they range from super thick to super thin.  The one you choose will depend on your preference.

The rabbit hole runs pretty deep with guitar picks, in terms of variety and reasons to choose one over another.

Some have special grips, tips, glow-in-the-dark, special designs, some are aerodynamic, and some will actually go out and get you coffee and bring it back.  Imagine that!

At then end of the day, some guitar players use picks, some don’t.  Once again, you’ll have to try them out to see if you like using them at all.  Keep in mind, some guitar players never use a pick, unless forced to at gunpoint.

Lindsey Buckingham don’t use no pick!

What’s Easier, Guitar or Banjo? – Recap

It takes a long time to master an instrument. The ease with which you learn the instrument will depend on the style of music you want to learn.

The guitar has more notes and finger athletics to master than the banjo. This will make it harder to learn the banjo than the guitar for some people. The banjo has fewer strings, which can make it a bit easier to play.

If you’re just starting out and the action is too high on either instrument, that’ll make it harder.  If the strings are too thin, they might cut into your tender, un-calloused fingers.  If the strings are too think, they’re harder to pin down and harder to bend.

You’ll probably have a voice in your head complaining as you begin to learn, but just go easy on yourself.

Overall, the ease of learning really depends on whether you’ve had any experience with a stringed instrument, if you have a good teacher, and the style of music you are trying to learn.

The determination and persistence of the student matters to how easily he or she learns an instrument, too. Many people put down the guitar after a few months if they haven’t learned it properly.

A banjo player who practices for a few months can really enjoy the playing and won’t quit until they’ve enjoyed playing their favoirite songs.

Conclusion

Learning a new instrument can be hard.  Once you’re as old as me (I’m 204), you’ll realize that there are no shortcuts in life and that there’s really no such thing as having it easy all the time.

That said, if you consider everything I’ve talked about here today, you can make more informed decisions when it comes to learning either the guitar or the banjo.  Good luck, and tell me how it goes in the comments and if I missed anything!

Jameson 5-String Banjo Review

The 5-String Jameson Banjo with a closed back is a quality banjo that comes from a company that loves to provide customers with affordable musical instruments. This 5 string is a classic instrument that looks incredibly expensive. It’s made from some of the best, quality materials and has a sheen that will make you want to admire the banjo instead of playing it.

Jameson Guitars 5-String Banjo 24 Bracket With Closed Solid Back And Geared 5Th Tuner

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Specifications

  • 3-ply maple rim
  • Mahogany resonator
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Nickel-plated armrest
  • Geared 5th tuner

First Impressions

This beauty of a banjo has the traditional 5 strings that are the essence of what people expect when they purchase or play a banjo. The closed back is made of rich, deep mahogany that makes this a showpiece as well as a playing instrument. You’d expect to pay hundreds of dollars for a banjo this stunning, but it’s actually very reasonably priced. It’s part of what makes Jameson/Davison Guitar such an amazing company for musical instruments. Even the beginning or starter instruments are built with care, precision, and pride.

R. W. Jameson Guitar Co

The company believes in making musical instruments accessible for anyone who wants to learn to play. Whether you have a passion for music or just a passing curiosity, Jameson wants you to be able to find an instrument that fits your needs. They have a range of affordable instruments from starter ones to those that professionals would love to play.

Required Setup Out of the Box

New players don’t often understand that the banjo will arrive with loose connections. The bridge will have to be adjusted and the strings will need to be tuned. Some manufacturers will send their instruments fully deconstructed and will make the customer put the instrument together. The only assembly required for the banjo from Jameson is the bridge adjustment for the most part. If the company were to leave the strings tight and the bridge in place, you’d end up with broken strings during the shipping process. If you don’t know how to tune it yourself, don’t be afraid to spend a little money and have a professional tune it for you.

Banjo Materials

There’s a maple bridge and a 7-ply maple neck on this 5-string banjo. The shell and resonator are made out of a beautiful mahogany wood with a delicious high-gloss look. The brackets and armrest are a chrome that really shines next to the glossed wood. If you wanted to hang this on the wall in plain view as a decoration, nobody would blame you at all.

Closed Back with 24 Brackets

The resonator on the back is meant to thrust the sound of the banjo forward. It gives the instrument a bigger sound than if it were to be played without the back. In some instruments, the resonator can’t be taken off the banjo. This banjo’s resonator has 4 thumbscrews on the back that allow it to be removed from the banjo to give it more variety than other 5-string banjos. You could easily remove the resonator and replace it to get the distinct sound you want with each song played.

Geared 5th Tuner

Inexpensive 5 string banjos will often have a friction tuner. This is what really shows the Jameson 5-String Banjo as superior to the competitors in the same price range. The inexpensive banjos from others will have a friction tuner, which relies on pressure to hold the tune. The geared 5th tuner has a peg that won’t slip and cause the 5th string to lose its tune. The 5th tuner is much like what you’d expect of a tuner on a more expensive banjo or guitar.

Includes Banjo Chord Chart

The banjo comes with a chord chart, so you can get started with your banjo immediately. It’s the chords that you need to learn to play in G tuning for your banjo. It’s another way that Jameson cares about its customers. It wants you to successfully learn how to play the banjo, so you’ll have the best time learning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a spot on this banjo to attach a strap?
There are two spots where you can attach the straps that will allow you to wear this instrument while playing.

Where do I find information about the manufacturer’s warranty?
You can go to mdwsupport.com to register your new purchase and learn what kind of warranty you’ll get with the banjo.

How wide are the nuts on the banjo?
The Jameson 5-String Banjo has a 1.25” nut.

Is this good enough to play for events?
This is a lightweight banjo that has a stunning sound. The volume and tone are perfect for events with an audience.

This Jameson 5-String Banjo is a reasonably price instrument with a beautiful sound to match its stunning look. You might even be tempted to keep this on the wall instead of playing it, but that would be a mistake. It’s even better when you’re ready to play it. It needs minimal setup out of the box and comes with a chord chart, so you can get started right away.