Have you been wondering what the differences between a 4 string banjo and a 5 string banjo are? Perhaps, you’re about to start playing this unique and intriguing instrument and don’t know where to begin.
Which instrument is easier to learn, anyway? Not to worry! Once you understand a few key differences between these instruments, you can easily choose the right banjo for your needs.
All About Banjos
Beginner banjo players may be surprised to find out that there are many different types of banjos out there! Indeed, these instruments come in an array of styles, sizes, and setups.
Similar to guitars, basses, or fiddles, different instruments have evolved to meet the needs of various players. Banjos can often be classified in 4, 5, and 6 string categories.
If you are curious to learn more about the banjo instrument we recommend that you visit bestofbanjos.com. We have found that they provide great information and recommendations.
Now, let’s talk about these three types of banjos in-depth. That way, you can more easily determine which type of banjo will be easiest for you to play.
Is it easier to learn a 4 string banjo or a 5 string banjo?
The 4 String VS 5 String Banjo Difference
First off, we’ve got to go over the differences between 4 and 5 string banjos. Factors like playing style, sound, and musical genre, will be impacted heavily by the style of banjo you choose to play.
Both instruments are similar in their design, sound, and size. However, a 5 string banjo can be used to create bluegrass and old-timey music, while banjos with 4 strings are used in different genres.
Banjos with 5 strings are also commonly used for folk-style songs, country music, and the like. This is because a banjo with 5 strings will showcase a signature top string. This top string is shorter than the other strings and is used to create complex rhythms and melodies.
Banjos with 4 strings are missing the iconic top 5th string. In many cases, 4 string banjos are used to make Celtic music. Sometimes, 4 string banjos are also seen in the jazz genre.
• About 4-String Banjos
Even though these banjos only come with 4 strings, they can still make some great music! It’s important to understand that these banjos aren’t played like guitars. Although guitar-style (bass banjos) do exist, they’re a completely different type of instrument.
Essentially, 4 string banjos are built like ukuleles and played similarly. Obviously, they make an entirely different sound. So, if you play ukulele already, a banjo with 4 strings would be an easy transition.
Tenor banjos and plectrum banjos both have 4 strings. The tenor banjo is shorter in size than the plectrum banjo. The plectrum banjo is the same size as a standard banjo with 5-strings but will usually be played with a flat pick.
Both tenor and plectrum banjos make a bright and crisp sound and can be used for jazz, Dixie Land, and Celtic music. These banjos are great for beginners who want to play a unique instrument with an unforgettable sound but aren’t trying to fit into old-timey, folky, or bluegrass music genres. They are mildly easier to learn to play but won’t allow you to create signature 5 string rhythms.
• About 5-String Banjos
Banjos with 5 strings are the most popular instrument variant. They are the easiest to play if you want to create classic and unforgettable banjo melodies and rhythms. After all, these are the traditional and all-original banjos! Every banjo maker uses the 5-string build as their instrument standard.
The top 5th string is what will be plucked to create unparalleled rhythms and unique melodies. There are many different techniques used when playing banjos with 5-strings. Traditional, bluegrass, and clawhammer (frailing), to name a few. A rapid 3-finger (Scruggs) picking style can also be used to create old-fashioned sounding songs.
Some banjos with 5 strings have resonators, while others implement an open back design. Resonator banjos are ideal for bluegrass music and folk tunes. They may also be called closed back banjos. Open back banjos are lighter in weight and produce a quieter sound. Electric banjos with 5 strings are also available for playing on stage, recording music, or expanding sounds to accommodate large crowds.
Putting Everything Together
So there you have it! In summary, if you want to play jazz or Celtic tunes, a banjo with a 4 string setup is definitely worth considering. The classic and most popular version of banjo will have 5 strings.
Arguably, for iconic banjo tunes, an instrument with 5-strings will be the easiest to play. Then, 6 string banjos are available if you really want to kick things up a notch! However, 6 string banjos are more complex to learn if you don’t already play the guitar.
For beginner players who want to learn classic songs and create that signature rhythmic sound, a banjo with 5 strings is probably the best instrument to get. If you are looking for a place to start, try this beginner banjo guide.
Thanks for reading, and happy strumming!