Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Banjo Types- Open Back or Not?

Hi, I wonder if anyone could help please? I’m looking to buy a new banjo. I’m relatively new to playing and have a Stagg banjo with a resonator. I picked up an open back banjo in a music store and loved the sound of it.
My question is, what’s the difference? When buying a new banjo, what would you suggest for someone who is looking to upgrade in order to accelerate their development?

I am from and live in the UK, so the selection here is not great, so will probably have to buy online without a proper test drive of the banjo.



Hello; Five string banjos play the same whether they are open back or resonator types, so there’s no difference there. Old time clawhammer style is usually played on an open back and 3 finger Scruggs style is usually played on a resonator, but you can play either style on either banjo. I play 3 finger Scruggs style, but I have both types; I like the quieter, more mellow tone of the open back for playing at home and the resonator for playing with other musicians in an acoustic setting. The resonator has a much louder, brighter tone which is good for bluegrass. I bring my banjo to work with me (I work away from home for a week at a time) and the resonator would be too loud.

I guess if you were only going to have one banjo, it should be a resonator because you can remove the resonator if you want.

I really like the Deering Goodtime banjos, they are very high quality for the price and are widely available.

Good luck and welcome; Steve


Pretty much what Steve said. Open back banjos are quieter and have a different tone, preferred by clawhammer and old time players. Resonators are louder and have a more typical bluegrass tone. If you play mostly Scruggs style (or if you play with others a lot) a resonator would be better. There are a few UK based members here @Jono and @Lee_G who might be within driving distance and could help possibly. What is your approximate budget?

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Also, Stagg banjos don’t have very good tone, so if you get a better resonator you might like it even better!


Hi Phillp

Just sent you a PM with my number so give me a call for a chat

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One other thing to consider, the open backs weigh less. The neck on my Goodtime was heavy and forced me to hold it up while trying to play at the same time. I added the resonator kit to it so it is more balanced. So be sure to pay attention to the balance if you get a chance to play both.