Looking for an interesting instrument to play? Consider the banjolele. It’s a cool little hybrid that mixes the very best features of the ukulele and banjo together, offering a distinctive sound that lends texture and color to musical ensembles of every conceivable type. Louder than the ukulele, but with its same downsized scale and tuning, the banjolele features a fretted neck, prominent tuning pegs, and synthetic or natural calfskin heads. It’s important to note that a banjolele’s bridge “floats” on its head, and is held in place by the tension of the strings.
You will have to put the bridge in position when the instrument arrives since it could puncture the head during shipping. Many models come with instructions for banjolele setup, plus there are video tutorials available that show how it’s done. Additionally, a luthier can do the job for you in a matter of minutes.
Our Top 10 Picks For 2017
Which is the best banjolele? In the interest of saving time and pointing you toward an enjoyable music-making experience, we’ve curated a list of ten of the best banjoleles. Presented in no particular order, complete with pros and cons, our banjolele reviews feature highlights from comments made by players new and experienced alike. Let’s get started!
Kmise 4 String Banjo Lele Ukulele
Made with beautiful Sapele wood and featuring a contrasting rosewood fingerboard, the Kmise 4 String Banjo Ukulele comes in a variety of appealing colors and finishes. At 23 inches long, this concert banjolele readily accommodates players with larger hands, and it offers a sweet, resonant sound with plenty of projection. Chrome-geared closed tuning pegs offer stability, and 18 frets make for confident playing. Pre-strung with Aquila strings for out-of-the package playing, it utilizes standard G-C-E-A ukulele tuning. If you’re familiar with the ukulele, you’ll have no trouble picking up and playing this fantastic banjolele as soon as it arrives.
- Beautiful appearance in terms of finish and features
- Great quality, especially for the affordable price
- Sapele wood contributes to a clean tone
- Includes top-quality banjolele strings from Aquila
- No instructions for bridge placement are included
TFW Banjolele Ukulele Banjo
A classic banjolele with a mahogany back and sides plus a rosewood bridge and fretboard, the TFW concert ukulele banjo offers a 15-inch scale and is 24 inches in length. Geared tuners keep strings taut once they’ve finished the normal stretching process, and the tone offers a pleasant sound with plenty of volume. Aquila strings complete the package.
- Easy setup thanks to included instructions
- Excellent projection, ideal for country, folk, and bluegrass as well as rockabilly
- Comfortable to hold and has a nice feel in-hand
- Action is a little high at the nut; sanding down remedies the issue
- No arm rest
Luna Ulu 8 Inch Concert Banjolele
Simply gorgeous! If looks are important to you, you’re probably going to fall in love with the Luna Ulu 8 Inch Concert Banjolele. Just like many of Luna’s ukuleles and guitars, this fantastic little banjo uke has plenty to offer in the style department. A clear drum head provides a view of a traditional Hawaiian Quilt motif etched into the inside of the back. Made with maple, mahogany, and rosewood, this instrument offers an appealing combination of beauty and durability. Chrome hardware and geared tuning machines impart utility.
- Clear and beautiful sound
- Solid choice for beginners
- Unique and attractive appearance
- Expert players may find the volume, tone, and resonance unimpressive
- Plastic tuners may be inferior to metal ones
Oscar Schmidt OUB1 Ukulele Satin
High-quality components including a Remo head, a mahogany resonator, and a stunning flame maple veneer headstock make this Oscar Schmidt banjolele a real standout. White binding adds a touch of contrast to the rosewood fingerboard, elevating the instrument’s appearance to even further heights. Concert-sized for easy playing, it features a closed back that provides an outstanding sound with plenty of resonance. Aquila strings are included.
- Outstanding banjo twang with plenty of mellow ukulele sound mixed in; excellent overall
- Amazing quality and playability, especially for the price; hard to find anything better outside a professional model that costs three times as much
- Great for dixie and bluegrass sounds, suitable for other genres, too
- Good customer service
- Action is a little high out of the box; some players prefer to have it adjusted
- Comes in one color only
Aklot 4 String Banjo Ukulele Uke Banjolele
With a clear banjo head that provides a view of a whimsical spider etched into its back, the Aklot 4 String Banjo Ukulele is crafted of maple wood, with a matching maple wood fingerboard. 18 frets make it easy to find the notes you’re looking for. This banjolele comes with some nice extras: A JOYO digital tuner and a protective carrying bag are included. Like many of the best banjoleles on the market, this one comes with high-quality Aquila strings already in place.
- It’s nice to get an entire package like this; no need to hunt for a good tuner or search for a bag that fits
- Cool, unusual artwork makes this banjolele unique
- Chrome geared tuners add value and keep strings taut once they’ve had a chance to break in
- Relatively new in the market
- Very popular design; often out of stock
Kala Ka-BJN BKC Concert Banjo Ukulele
While the Kala KA-BJN BKC concert banjo ukulele is priced higher than other instruments featured in this series of banjolele reviews, it has plenty to offer in terms of style, functionality, and sound. Perfect for the player who is ready to step into a better-quality instrument, it features a classic black stain finish that offsets the white Remo Weather King banjo head to absolute perfection. Bright sound, snappy tone, and excellent projection make it perfect for playing solo or with an ensemble: Even when you’re with a large group of other players, your music will be heard! A protective case is included.
- Very easy to use
- Back is removable; play with or without the back in place
- Excellent sound, high-quality components, sturdy construction, and easy playability
- Premium banjo in terms of price
- Would be nice if it came with a strap
Banjouke Side Kick Tenor Banjolele Ukulele
An ultra-stylish tenor banjolele which makes an outstanding addition to any player’s collection, the Banjolele SideKick tenor banjolele comes as a complete package, with a padded protective gig bag, tuner, and strap to help you get started. 18 frets span the rosewood fretboard, which is embellished with mother of pearl inlay, and Aquila Supernylgut strings make for outstanding playability right out of the box. The drumhead is of high impact polyvinyl, and is available with or without a Polynesian-inspired tattoo design. The drum is made with seven layers of birch.
- Pleasant sound with plenty of richness and volume
- Cool design and quality components
- Tenor fretboard is great for players with larger hands, easy to reach traditionally difficult chords such as C#m
- Difficult to tune
- Not cheap
Eddy Finn EF-CGBX-1 Cigar Box Ukulele
Looking for a cigar box ukulele? You’re probably going to like the Eddy Finn EF-CGBX-1. A concert ukulele with a spruce top, back, and sides, it features classic cigar box motif on its front, plus a contrasting rosewood bridge and fingerboard. A clear satin finish protects the artwork and completes the look, and a padded gig bag lets you travel with greater confidence.
- Rosewood bridge looks brilliant
- Sound holes in the cigar box create a cool, punchy banjolele sound that’s perfect for 1930s standards
- The uke is of great quality overall, and the bag is surprisingly good, better quality than expected
- Not as loud as traditional banjoleles
- The cigar box is a replica
Banjo Uke SideKick Tenor Banjolele Ukulele
A stylized, geometric head, friction tuners, and Aquila Supernylgut strings are just the beginning! The Banjo Uke SideKick Tenor Banjolele Ukulele offers a sweet, unique sound with plenty of punchy kick, and its high-impact polyvinyl head provides a nice Nashville-style twang. Large enough to accommodate players with big hands, this banjolele comes complete with a Naomi electronic tuner, a padded gig bag, and a fully adjustable shoulder strap, as well as tools for proper adjustment.
- Great fret body
- Full-bodied tone and a nice, rich sound
- Light weight and perfect for travel despite the larger size
- Plenty of banjo influence, lots of great plunking and twanging to add interest to your music
- A bit difficult to tune
- No color options
Eddy Finn Banjolele Series
With an adjustable coordinator rod, open-geared machine tuners, and a mahogany neck and rim, the Eddy Finn Banjolele Series EF-UB-1 banjolele features a mahogany neck and rim, white binding, and a contrasting rosewood fingerboard. A Remo head imparts quality and provides plenty of great banjo sound. This banjolele comes with a free lesson and a heavy padded gig bag.
- Affordable price, especially considering the extras that come with the instrument
- Sounds great after proper setup and is a lot of fun to play
- Very loud, great for outdoor venues and camping
- May be better with different strings; the existing ones are fun for fingerpicking though
- Some shipping problems have been reported
What to Look for When Buying a Banjolele Guitar?
Ready to pick up a banjolele and start playing? Know what to look for, and you’re far more likely to be satisfied with your purchase.
Just like ukuleles, banjoleles come in Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone sizes. Concert banjoleles are most popular; they offer a distinctive sound and are easy for most players to grasp. Kids and older players with small hands might appreciate the smaller soprano size, but will notice that the sound is a bit less rich than that of a larger instrument. If you’re of a larger stature, you’ll probably like the tenor or baritone size. Note that there are fewer of these from which to choose, but that those available tend to be of good quality.
Old or New?
If you’re in the market for a high-end banjolele, you might do very well by picking up a used instrument. Do test it out or insist on a skype session with the seller so that he or she can demonstrate playability for you, and be sure that you get some kind of guarantee in writing if you’re having it shipped, particularly if it is a custom instrument. If you’re looking for a good beginner to intermediate banjolele, or if you’d like to enjoy greater confidence and quality assurance, then you’re probably best off purchasing a new banjolele from a trusted seller. If you can find a local music shop that carries banjoleles, then you’ll really be in luck as you can try before you commit to making a purchase.
Whichever route you take, be sure to check warranty and return information. As we’ve seen from some unhappy reviewers, mishaps occasionally happen in manufacturing and shipping processes, just like with other products. It’s always a good idea to protect yourself.
Traditional banjolele strings were made of gut, but most contemporary banjoleles are outfitted with nylon strings. Many feature wound third strings. Note that just like ukuleles and other instruments with nylon strings, there is a settling-in period that begins when you first start to play your banjolele. You’ll need to tune it frequently until the strings finish stretching; this is normal, even though some reviewers note it as a negative aspect.
Good quality strings come with many of the banjoleles reviewed here; if your choice doesn’t include premium strings like Aquila, then you may want to replace them. And, because strings tend to break, it’s always a good idea to have an extra pair or two available so you can keep on playing even when the inevitable “snap!” happens.
We’d like to wish you all the best as you search for an instrument that meets your needs. The best banjolele for you is out there; whether you’re an interested beginner, an intermediate player who’s ready to step into a better instrument, or a serious musician with an entire collection to enjoy. Happy playing – and we wish you all the best in your Banjolele journey.