This was originally posted on the Deering banjo website, but we decided it'd be good to show here as well in order to help people learn how to buy a banjo.

Of all the questions we receive about banjos, this has to be one of the most common. We will keep this explanation very short but if you have any further questions, send them to us and we’ll answer all of your questions.

So, by popular demand, here is our answer.

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So you have narrowed down your search for a banjo by figuring out you want a:

  1. 5-string banjo (vs. a 4 string or 6 string)
  2. Resonator (as oppose to an openback)
  3. Bell bronze tone ring (not all banjos have tone rings and there are many types)

Now you need to figure out what neck wood you want on your banjo.  The two most popular are mahogany or maple.


Maple is a very hard and dense wood. This wood when used on the neck of your banjo will give the instrument a very bright tone. This is generally the preferred neck wood/tone for traditional bluegrass banjoists.  This is most likely due to the fact that Earl Scruggs, the king of bluegrass banjo, played a maple banjo and had a very bright tone.


Mahogany is a much less dense wood than maple.  When used as the neck wood on your banjo it will give the instrument a much warmer tone than maple.  Some feel it is a sweeter tone. Bela Fleck plays a mahogany banjo and gets a very warm tone from his banjo. J.D. Crowe also played a mahogany banjo and was able to get a more bluesy tone.

Some banjos come in either wood. One is the Deering Sierra banjo. This banjo is traditionally a mahogany banjo, but now you can get a Deering Sierra Maple banjo as well.

We are proud to announce that we are now selling Collings guitars.  If you are not familiar with these guitars, we feel these are some of the best guitars that have ever been made. You will be amazed with the tone, playability, and fit and finish on these guitars.

Last week we made a trip out to Austin, Texas to visit Collings Guitars and learn as much as we can about their build process.  We were really struck with how much care each and every instrument gets.  What also struck us was how everyone on the team there truly had a passion and pride for the instrument they were building. Read More

Sad news came in last Friday, October 23rd when we heard that the banjo icon Bill Keith had passed after a battle with cancer.  Bill was one of the true innovators of the banjo, perfecting the Melodic Style of playing which allowed him to play fiddle tunes (and much more) note for note.

I was lucky enough to get to know Bill from the time I spent living in Woodstock, New York after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Bill lived just up the road and I would often go up to his house to learn as much as I could about the banjo and music.

I have decided to remember him by sharing with everyone one of the lessons I took with him back then.


GRAMMY Award-winning banjo player Alison Brown is out with her new album “The Song of the Banjo.” She’s a Harvard alumna, and spent years working in finance before she gave all that up to pursue her love of the banjo.

Listen to the interview now!

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As most of us know, standard tuning for a 5-string banjo is an open G tuning (G,D,G,B,D).  Open G tuning means that if we strum all the strings without fretting any of them, we will be playing a G chord.  Open G is a great tuning, but there are many other ways you can tune your banjo as well.  By tuning it differently, you can get a completely different tone out of your banjo.  It also can make it easier to play certain songs in different keys.

One of the most common and one of my favorite alternate tunings is called Double C Tuning (G,C,G,C,D).  This tuning is used very often in old time music.  The sound of this tuning gives your banjo a lower voice since we are lowering the lowest pitched string (the 4th string) from a D to a C.  It also gives your banjo a hauntingly drone tone because of the two strings that are tuned to C.

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We love ProPik fingerpicks when we are playing 3-finger style banjo.  The biggest reason is the double wrap really allows the pick to be sized perfectly for your finger which in turn makes it very comfortable.  Standard single wrap fingerpicks tend to crimp and cut into your finger when you try to resize it. Read More
As a banjo teacher for over 20 years, I’ve heard it all from students who come back lesson after lesson without touching their instrument.  Here are some of the most sorry excuses... Read More
For every banjo shipped, we are beginning to record an original banjo tune on your new banjo before it ships. Take a listen to some that we have done here... Read More

Learning to play the banjo these days is easier than ever.  With the popularity of the banjo and acoustic music growing at a record pace, there are more tools to learn with as well as other musicians to play with.

Here are some great ways to learn:

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