There are mainly two types of Banjos in the market that are popularised by the professional players of the banjo. One is the Open-back banjo which was the original design of the banjo. The other ones are resonators which include one extra sound box enclosure.
What are the two types of banjos?
Open back banjos
Banjos which lack a resonator are called open-back banjos. Some of the banjo’s volume is lost with this kind of banjo because much of its sound is projected to the player & absorbed by the body of the player.
The open-back banjos do not include any back, meaning nothing can cover the sound chamber. Usually, the open-back banjos have strings that are positioned a little distantly from the fretboard. This is necessary for how it is played which is the clawhammer style, without fingerpicks.
The open-back banjos produce a soft and mellow sound. Since the chamber of sound rests against the players, a part of the sound gets absorbed into their clothing and bodies, lowering the banjo’s volume.
On open-back banjos, Clawhammer-style is preferred in the mountain and traditional music genres. Here the sound doesn’t need to have a competition with the other instrument’s volumes.
Resonator banjos include a wooden “bowl” that is mounted upon the sound chamber’s (the “pot”) back. It tries projecting the sound toward the audience. With an extra piece of food upon the back, resonator banjos weigh a little extra.
The Banjo resonators are quite simply the circular & slightly convex back portion of the banjos. It’s the part that resonates or projects the string’s sound when plucked. The inner hard surface of the resonator allows the instrument’s sound to get projected back to listeners.
In essence, resonators amplify the sound of the banjos. If you have ever seen a professional Bluegrass player playing the Banjo, you will notice that all of them use resonator banjos. For bluegrass players, resonator banjos are considered the preferred choice. The reason being the twangier and louder sound of the instrument. When the bluegrass style is picked with fingerpicks on the resonator banjos, they produce a bright sound.
In bluegrass, banjos tend to be lead instruments. As such, banjo players occasionally step forward & take a solo. To do this, the sound of the banjos needs to be louder than the other instruments. So, this is why the players must use resonator banjos while playing bluegrass with some other pickers.
The main purpose of resonators is to make the Banjos as loud as they can be. In addition to that, it helps to colour the banjo’s tone. These banjos are typically more expensive as compared to open-back banjos. Still, the resonator banjos can be considered as the better choice between the two types of banjos as it can provide more flexibility.
I own a music instruments shop. My go to instrument is a banjo. My business makes it easier for me to access the instruments from various brands and of various types. I will give my honest opinion here to help out others in choosing the right instrument for them.