4-String vs 5-String Banjo: Which is Right for You? A Detailed Comparison

Even a slight change in the size of a string in a banjo can produce a different tune. And the number of strings brings a lot of variation in the tone and style of the banjo. Read more to understand a 4 string vs 5 string banjo.

What is the difference between a 4 String vs 5 String Banjo?

What is the difference between a 4 string and 5 string banjo?

The main difference between a 4-string and a 5-string banjo is the fifth string which is called a “thumb string” or a “drone string”. This string is comparatively shorter than the other strings and it starts from the fifth fret.

If you are eager to play Irish music, traditional jazz or Dixieland jazz, a 4-string banjo would assist you in a better way. It is played with a guitar pick. It is also available with a long neck that is suitable to compose a melody tune. And the small size 4-string banjos are banjo Ukuleles that are played just like a standard Ukulele.

If you wish to play standard bluegrass, folk or clawhammer, you can opt for a 5-string banjo. There are variations available in 5 string banjo itself. For instance, if you need to play clawhammer, a 5-string banjo without a resonator is required. And for folk music, longer length banjos are preferred as it produces a low tone than the standard one. You can also play jazz and country music with this 4 String vs 5 String Banjo.

Which is better for beginners? A 4 or 5 string Banjo?

What is the difference between a 4 string and 5 string banjo?

Before choosing the number of strings, decide the genre that you wish to play. The most common 5-string banjo would be a better option for a beginner. It does not cause much trouble. You have a string for each finger which would make you feel easier to play than that of a 4-string banjo. You can play popular country and folk music with this banjo.

As a beginner, you require a tutor to teach you the techniques of a banjo. In the first place, banjo teachers are a bit hard to find but if you are lucky enough to get a teacher, the chances are more for him/ her to be a 5-string banjo player. There are tutorial DVDs, books, and even YouTube videos to help you out.

Whereas, on the other side, 4-string banjos are not as popular as 5-string banjos. If you choose the genre of a 4-string banjo, you can surely go ahead in taking efforts to learn what you love.


1. Should I get a 4 or 5 string banjo?  

Choosing the number of strings in a banjo ultimately depends upon the genre you wish to play. If you don’t have any idea about picking a genre, try playing few instruments and seek the help of professionals to guide you. Choose the one that you feel comfortable with. Enjoy playing the banjo!