In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: January 14, 2021
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The banjo ukulele or the ‘banjo uke’ and ‘banjolele’ as it’s more affectionately known as is a dynamic instrument that produces a unique sound. This marriage of two instruments produces the sounds of a banjo while maintaining the smaller look of a ukulele. It is a very easy and fun instrument to play, and we’ll show you a few different kinds below.
Our research spanned weeks and included almost 53 full hours of going over the different banjo ukuleles on the market. We’ve come across 37 models and will review eight of them in this article. We’ll outline what we loved about each one. We also have found that one in particular, the Oscar Schmidt OUB1 Banjolele, stood out for us. We’ve labeled it our Editor’s Choice because we absolutely love its polished design with the natural satin color and the amazing sound it produces as well as its accurate tuners. We’ve also picked out and highlighted seven of our other favorite banjoleles for you to take a look at.
In our deep dive of the best banjolele, we identified a number of the most important features. These include the type of banjolele it is, its color, how it was constructed and the materials used, the number of frets, and finally, the warranty policy of the instrument. You can find more information about the products in detailed reviews. Don’t forget to check our buying guide and FAQ sections that were designed to help you make the right choice. We hope you enjoy the products we’ve identified and wish you the best in your shopping for one of these fascinating instruments!
The Oscar Schmidt OUB1 Banjolele is a beautiful concert size banjolele that is great for beginner and intermediate players. It is made of fine mahogany wood around the back, sides, and neck area and sports 18 frets on the rosewood fretboard.
You’ll get some amazing sound from the Oscar Schmidt as it does a great job of combining the easiness of a ukulele playing style with the tones of a banjo. It comes in a natural satin color that is bright and visually appealing. The Remo head sits attached to the main body and is held in place by 12 aluminum brackets. The bound mahogany resonator and backplate is right underneath it and, depending on your sound preferences, can be removed if you don’t require the added resonance.
Perhaps, the only downside of this banjolele is that it, unfortunately, does not come with its own case. As for tuning, the Oscar Schmidt has an open gear tuning system, which should help you keep your strings in tune. With a limited lifetime warranty on this product, you should have the peace of mind playing it.
The BanjoUke SideKick is the only tenor banjolele on our list. Tenor banjoleles are tuned exactly the same way as concert types using the conventional G-C-E-A system but deliver more of a warm and rich sound. On the surface, however, you’ll notice right away that the tenor banjolele is larger and longer than the concert types, and that’s what you’ll see here with the BanjoUke SideKick.
In terms of composition, a lot of is the same as with concert banjoleles. Its neck is made of solid mahogany, while the fretboard is constructed of the standard rosewood and comes with 18 frets.
As for the design, there is a unique Polynesian tattoo that is etched onto the drum head that provides a nice aesthetic look. From many of the reviews we’ve read, a lot of people have commented that they love the extra details that come with this banjolele. Specifically, people are fond of a padded gig bag that allows them to transport this SideKick Banjolele safely. They also like that it comes with a strap, a tuning peg tightener, a neck adjuster, and an electronic tuner, albeit a few people say it doesn’t help to tune this model very well. The SideKick also comes equipped with the Aquila Super Nylgut strings. Owners made remarks about the less than stellar warranty as you’ll only have 30-days to return it. On top of that, its price (you can get this banjo ukulele for under 200 dollars only) is worth this instrument’s high quality.
It’s all about the aesthetic beauty with the Luna Banjolele 8-Inch Ulu Design as it is, perhaps, the most beautifully designed banjolele around. On top of its awesome appearance, it also produces fantastic sound. This concert style banjolele bursts with the amazing exterior in the intricate Hawaiian quilt pattern etched by laser inside the drum head. The mahogany resonator is visible through the clear drum head and has no effect on the sound quality too. In terms of the materials used to make this Luna Banjolele, it has a clear head and a maple body that is accentuated by the mahogany neck. We especially love the smooth, black-colored, walnut fretboard that contrasts the Hawaiian quilt pattern and has 18 frets on it. The strings on this banjo uke are nylon and are of decent quality, but they don’t tent do last long. A few owners of this banjo uke said that they went to a shop to have the strings switched out to the Aquila string. Players who are attracted to the design of this banjolele will be glad to know that you’ll most likely be playing this for a while as there is a limited lifetime warranty on this Luna Banjolele.
If you’re just starting out learning how to play the banjolele, look no further than our pick for the most beginner-friendly banjo uke, the Vangoa Concert Banjo Ukulele. We love this 4-string banjo uke because it comes with all the accessories beginners need, such as a tuner, extra Aquila Strings, strap, and picks. You don’t need to worry about ordering anything else – simply pick it up to start playing right away.
It has a very natural color and has a lovely sapele back, sides, and head that give it a clear projection and a crisp tone. The fretboard is made of walnut and features the standard 18 frets. Tip to tail, this concert banjo is 23 inches wide, and many customers love the distinct sound that is produced by this banjolele.
Unfortunately, it can take a bit of time to install the bridge to the instrument, since the manufacturer didn’t include the instructions.
On the other hand, people also say that the Vangoa Concert Banjo Ukulele is easy to grip, feels natural in their hands, and remark at how easy it is to tune their pegs and hold their tunes. As for the warranty, Vangoa offers a 1-year warranty period.
You might be thinking that something as light and compact as this banjolele is cheap and flimsy. You would be absolutely wrong because the Deering Goodtime Banjo Concert Scale Ukulele is anything but that.
In fact, this banjo uke is made of some of the best materials and produces an incredibly warm and balanced sound. The rim has a special 3-ply maple construction that goes along with its slender maple neck. Deering is one of the premier brands, and this banjolele features its own patented bridge and plate of supreme quality. We absolutely love the white-colored body and fingerboard, which has 17 frets.
The usage of the premium Aquila Super Nylgut Strings just enhances this already premium banjolele. Because it is a high-end concert uke, you will have to pay quite a bit for an instrument like this. You’ll have plenty of time to break it in and find any issues with this as Deering offers you a fantastic 6-year warranty on the Goodtime Banjo Ukulele.
The Gold Tone Banjolele-DLX has an excellent build quality and sturdy construction that also provides you with impressive sound, volume, and tone.
It boasts a maple wood construction that extends to the neck and bridge. The neck features a very slick ebony fretboard that comes with 18 frets, and the bridge cap is made of ebony as well. The increase in sound and tone comes from the one-piece flange and resonator. This banjo uke is chrome plated to help protect this banjolele from rust and to ensure better durability. It has a solid design and composition.
Owners of this Gold Tone have mentioned that tuning this Gold Tone is incredibly simple thanks to the Grover-style tuners. A lot of people have also mentioned that it’s easier for them to play for longer periods of time because of the armrest that comes with this banjolele. Although the price tag of this banjolele is very high, you get what you pay for. Lastly, as is more common in the higher-end banjo ukes, the Gold Tone comes with a 5-year warranty.
The Kmise Banjolele 4 String is the ideal option if you want a banjo ukulele under 100 dollars. This uke features a concert size, and it comes in a classy natural color. This 4-string banjo ukulele uses the traditional uke tuning of G-C-E-A.
As for its composition, the Kmise Banjolele is made of different materials, and you can tell that a lot of attention was paid to details of this banjolele. Its head is made of polyester and provides a perfect balance. It has a sapele wood body and back with a closed-back type that adds volume and edge, as well as a maple wood bridge, and frosted krisite head. The fretboard is made of walnut and comes with 18 frets. Owners of the Kmise have raved about how comfortable all the frets are, especially for learners of this instrument. The strings also make it easier to play as it comes with the premium Aquila Strings.
Customers also love the versatility of the Kmise as you can detach the back or play it with a traditional resonator style with both providing a unique sound. One thing that is not so great is the warranty as you’re only limited to 90-days.
We’ve seen a banjolele on the higher-priced end from Gold Tone and here is one at the lower-priced end. The Gold Tone Little Gem Banjo Ukulele is another concert type banjolele that offers several color options, and it will definitely give you fun time playing it. The one we’re reviewing has the distinct purple drum head, although you can also choose from blue, clear, and ruby red. Users mentioned that this model is not only great for beginners, but it’s also a nice banjo ukulele for kids as well. If your kids are looking to pick up playing the banjolele, they’d probably have a blast playing any one of the unique colors of this Gold Tone.
Like most concert ukes, it has a familiar banjolele size and a nice maple neck with an 8-inch see-through acrylic rim. It comes with sealed-tuners that look like the ones that are usually found on guitars. However, the construction of the instrument could be a bit sturdier. Still, you’ll get a gig bag with this banjolele as well as a shoulder strap. Moreover, with a 5-year warranty, that’s more than enough time to get some great playing time with this before wear and tear kicks in.
What we liked:
Fun for kids and beginner players to play
What could be better:
Lacks sturdy design
Things to Consider
As we’ve seen, there are some fantastic banjoleles out there that combine the best of both worlds. These four-stringed instruments sport banjo-type bodies or drum heads while the fretted necks adopt a more ukulele look. What’s unique about the banjoleles is that many of them have their own personalities and reflect aspects of cultures in their design through the usage of tattoos and intricate markings. There is really so much more to learn and know about this hybrid instrument, and we’ll now take you through the important information to help you make the right choice.
Things to consider before buying the best banjo ukulele
We’ve reviewed eight of the finest banjo ukes out there and have given you some qualities about each. But, there are still lots of other things you need to know about banjoleles. You have to decide which type of the banjo uke you prefer to play, what kind of materials you feel are comfortable, your preference for design, and other pertinent things like whether it comes with additional accessories. Sometimes, these considerations can be determining when it comes to buying your banjolele.
In our review of the eight best banjo ukuleles, we found them to be mostly concert banjoleles except for one tenor, the BanjoUke SideKick Tenor Banjolele. Generally, there is not a big difference between the concert and tenor banjolele types.
The first distinction you’ll notice right away is that the tenor is longer than the concert type. As such, its fretboard is noticeably bigger, which should make it slightly easier to play.
The longer size of the tenor also means that you’ll get more bass and volume than from the concert.
A tenor banjolele type is a good choice for novice learners or anyone that may have bigger fingers, or who just prefer the extra space. You’ll get better sound quality, and there’s more room for mistakes when playing it.
Like anything you buy, the materials used to create the product is a big factor in determining which one to buy. In an ideal world, you would want to find a banjolele that is made of the finest products at the lowest possible price. While that is not an easy task, we do see many similarities between the materials used to construct banjoleles.
Since banjoleles are a hybrid between the body of a banjo and the neck of a ukulele, the body itself very much resembles the wood construction of a banjo. Woods most commonly used in a banjolele construction include maple, rosewood, and mahogany. It is often accompanied by metal parts that help to add stability to the design. The heads are usually composed of polyester, sapele and some polyvinyl materials, while the fretboard can be made of rosewood and walnut.
What’s great about some of these banjoleles is that they have their own unique personality and style. Many of them come from paying homage to their roots, while others just tend to incorporate a more neutral and classy design. Whatever it is, you can see for yourself the range of designs and determine which one suits your style the best.
Among the ones we reviewed that displayed a creative flair, the Luna Banjolele 8 Inch Ulu Design just might be the best one. This banjo uke shows a beautiful Hawaiian quilt design whose inspiration draws all the way back to the early 1800’s! Another great example is the BanjoUke SideKick Tenor Banjolele. It features a lovely Polynesian tattoo – another tribute paid this time to French Polynesia, where the ukulele is frequently played.
The banjolele with the most out-of-the-box choices of colors is the Gold Tone Little Gem Banjo Ukulele. This model features gem colors such as purple, blue, clear, and ruby red. This model is great for children who want to learn to play the banjolele and want a design that will really stand out.
Number of frets
For those who don’t know, frets are the number of metal strips on a banjolele’s fretboard or neck. It is common for banjo ukulele to have 18 frets just as we can see with the Oscar Schmidt OUB1 Banjolele.
Having more frets, however, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good or better thing to have. It really comes down to which banjolele feels most comfortable in your hands. What we mean by this is that in the shorter (in length), concert-style banjoleles, the frets are closer together by virtue of their neck being shorter. For the longer, tenor style banjo ukes, the neck is longer, and thus, there is a bit more space between the frets.
Having more space between the frets gives players more space to finger their chords, therefore making the instrument more beginner-friendly.
However, having more space is not necessarily what players look for when buying a banjolele as many of them enjoy the shorter scale that a concert style one provides. As you can see, it really comes down to personal preference.
Nowadays, you can find different types of strings available on the market. The most popular are nylon strings or synthetic nylgut strings. One of the premier brands of quality strings is Aquila, and you know you have some solid strings if your banjolele comes with this brand. They produce the aforementioned nylgut strings, and many of the contemporary banjoleles come with them. Some perfect examples here are the Deering Goodtime Banjo Concert Scale Ukulele and the BanjoUke SideKick Tenor Banjolele.
Just like the strings on a guitar, you’ll need to fine-tune them until they’ve finished stretching.
Overall, the strings for banjoleles are strong, but like anything that has heavy wear and tear, strings are bound to break. Thus, it’s important to always have some spare ones at hand in case this happens.
As we’ve seen from the eight best banjo ukuleles, the warranties for each product vary greatly. Banjoleles like the Oscar Schmidt OUB1 Banjolele and Luna Banjolele 8 Inch Ulu Design offer amazing lifetime warranties while on the opposite end of the spectrum, some manufacturers only provide you with a 30-day warranty. While there are certain conditions that need to be met in order to take advantage of the lifetime warranty, having this feature in your back pocket is a definite advantage in the event that something happens down the road to your banjolele.
In terms of additional accessories, such as a tuner, gig bag, and tools you may need, some banjoleles come with them while the rest don’t.
Let’s start with a gig bag. This can be a good accessory to have because it’ll help you transport your banjolele to different places. These bags, however, are not all the same as some come with padding to protect your banjolele. That’s why we particularly like that the BanjoUke SideKick Tenor Banjolele comes with a padded gig bag.
As for electronic tuners, it’s great to have it to spend less time figuring out how to make your instrument sound properly.
Every banjo uke package is different, and they all include different accessories, so it’s always best to double-check to see what exactly you’re getting aside from a great banjo ukulele.
Much like with any products, you’re going to find a wide range of prices, and that’s no different with these banjoleles. You should determine how much you’re willing to spend on a banjolele. We’ve made it easier for you and created three categories of pricing to give you an idea of how much you can expect to spend in each category.
In the lower-tier of pricing for banjoleles, one can reasonably expect to pay under $125. In this category, you’ll find the Kmise Banjolele 4 String and the Vangoa Concert Banjo Ukulele. These banjoleles are great for new players and people that are hesitant to pay top dollar for a hobby they may or may not take up long-term.
The simple answer to this is both yes and no. Yes, because banjo ukuleles are constructed similar to that of banjos, there will be some similarities in the sounds that are produced in a banjolele. No, because we must not also forget that this instrument is a hybrid between a banjo and a ukulele, and thus, you’re going to get sounds that are familiar with a ukulele. Together, they produce a very unique, warm, and harmonious sound, and if you’re familiar with both instruments, you’ll definitely be able to hear the sounds of each of them rolled into the one glorious hybrid instrument.
This is a quite common question, and it’s an important one to be sure because you definitely don’t want to be playing your banjolele out of tune. The best answer to this is that it really varies. An ambiguous answer indeed, however, the best piece of advice is that you should always be tuning and re-tuning your banjo ukulele often. If you’re playing for an hour, we recommend tuning or at least checking your tune, every 30 minutes or so. If you’re an experienced player, it should not take you more than a minute to tune it by ear. If you’re an inexperienced player, it is a great idea to get a chromatic or electronic tuner to help you quickly identify which strings need to be tuned.
In terms of the strings on your banjolele, it is entirely up to you whether you want to replace them or not. Among the banjo ukuleles we reviewed, most of them use the Aquila Nylgut strings, which are of top quality strings on the market. So, if you were looking to replace those, it would be hard to find ones much better. Some of the banjoleles come with an extra set of strings as well if the original ones break. It also depends on the sound quality you’re looking to get with your banjolele, although we recommend that if you’re a beginner player, you just stick to the strings that come with your banjolele player and replace them later. If you’re on the more experienced side, you can choose to shop around for strings that you are more comfortable with in terms of the sound you want coming from your banjolele.
Finally, we can confirm that our Editor’s Choice, the Oscar Schmidt OUB1 Banjolele is a fantastic pick. This concert banjo uke comes in a beautiful satin natural color and is well constructed with that classic mahogany look on its neck, back, and sides. It produces a fantastic sound, and you’re getting a top-quality banjolele for a very fair price.
The second place goes to the BanjoUke SideKick Tenor Banjolele. We instantly fell in love with this instrument because of Polynesian tattoo etched onto the drum head as well as the fact that the manufacturer has thought about all of the extra details by including a padded gig bag, an electronic tuner, and other useful tools. The company really went above and beyond to ensure you have everything you need.
On the third place, we have the wonderful Luna Banjolele 8 Inch Ulu Design. It boasts beautiful design and perfect build quality. Moreover, the sound of this instrument is unique.