What do you get when you add a Banjo and a Ukulele together? A banjolele.
No, we’re not just making this up. A banjolele is basically an instrument with a banjo’s body and a ukulele’s neck. Call it what you want, it’s a darn fun instrument for most people.
Also, the neck and body are usually one piece so it creates a more solid experience (Literally).
As far as tuning a banjolele goes, a banjolele is also tuned to the key of GCEA like a Ukulele. I guess it makes sense since the neck (Fretboard part) is from a uke. Tuned like a ukulele but sounds like a banjo.
Why not right?
Did you know that a Banjolele is actually 80 years old or so? In fact, it was a British comedian in the early 1920s that went by the name George Formby that brought it to the mainstream.
TheFretWire Banjolele Starter Kit
Nothing like a good old starter kit to get you going when getting a new musical instrument.
Well, this is theFretWire’s Banjolele Starter Kit. theFretWire is basically the Yamaha or Fender of the banjo and ukulele world. So the quality and longevity of your banjolele shouldn’t be an issue at all.
This package comes with a case and a few other goodies to help you get started right away. Just make sure you tune it properly and then you’ll be off to becoming the next . . . Cleetus?
Overall, this beginner banjolele kit is very well liked by most so it may work out for you as well.
Kmise Concert Size Banjolele
One of our favorite brands when it comes to stringed instruments is Kmise. Why? Well, let’s just say that you don’t have to lose your shirt to buy their instruments. This banjo ukulele is a perfect example of that.
Love how they are making a name for themselves by just adding a lot of value to their musical instruments. Like in this case, this Banjolele comes with pretty much everything you need. Even a darn tuner. Which is absolutely sweet.
So as far as total value goes especially for the beginner banjolele enthusiasts, this one takes the cake and more. If you are looking for a nice quality banjolele, with a nice sound as well, a lot of users vouch for this. Some had a hard time tuning the strings but that may vary depending on who is doing it.
This banjolele by BanjoUke (Name of the brand) has a beautiful almost gothic design. It’s made of quality materials like rosewood, mahogany, polyvinyl and more. This banjolele comes with a whole bunch of accessories as well as a banjolele strap, bag, and a few other things.
Most love the sound but there have been some shipping issues. We suggest contacting the seller first to make sure everything will turn out okay. It comes with a video and instructions which makes it a great choice for beginners as well.
Oscar Schmidt Banjolele
Oscar Schmidt is like the Ferrari of small stringed instruments. Which means you get quality, and consistency throughout. This Banjolele fits that bill to the tee. It’s made of various quality materials like mahogany, aluminum, maple, and a few others to give you that perfect feel and sound. Most absolutely love the tone / sound of this banjolele and you just might too.
Kmise 23inch Banjolele
If you only care about a decent banjolele that looks good and works, this Kmise banjolele is for you. It’s not made from the most precious woods or anything fancy but this specific banjolele model has proven to be a workhorse. It’s sturdy (Heavier than your average banjolele) and another great choice for most beginners. Just like with all good things. there are a few negative things to this as well.
The ink on the design might fade out fast once you start using this banjolele on a regular basis. Hopefully, you care more about your craft than how your banjolele looks like.
Action is considered quite high but for intermediate and beginner players, it shouldn’t matter to most.
Kmise Maple Banjolele
Not sure if it’s a Canadian thing but we love everything Maple. That includes the body of this banjolele by almost. Yup, it’s another good choice for beginners trying to get in the banjolele game. You’ll get a nice loud sound out of this one too which is always appreciated.
For what you get, we can’t really complain about this banjole. Quality can always be improved but overall, it just may be the best choice for your first banjolele
If you are looking for a banjolele to give as a gift, here we have a pretty good candidate. Rally seems to be a company that is just getting started so unfortunately, you might run into some issues due to shipping or some fault in the product. However, people who got the banjolele and the entire package (It does come with a hard case), they just had good things to say about this one. We like giving new brands a chance that’s why this banjolele is featured here. Go with your gut as always.
Kala Banjo Ukulele
Kala is at it again and this time it’s a banjo ukulele (That’s long for Banjolele btw). It comes with a soft case and seems to be a great choice for most people. You can definitely play this out of the box. However, it wouldn’t hurt to let the strings stretch out properly so you can truly enjoy this instrument.
One of the good looking ones banjolele out there, this Kmise instrument is pretty decent. Unfortunately, some people have had weird experiences with it. Mainly about assembling it. Yeah, it’s not something you can play out of the box. If that’s not an issue and you don’t mind adding a little DIY action to it, then this one is for you.
Anatomy of a Banjolele
Similar to most stringed instruments with two key differences. The fretboard (The part that holds the strings) and unlike any stringed instrument out there (Except for the banjo), the body of a banjolele uses a banjo’s body.
Did you know that a banjo’s body is actually a drum? It’s basically a drum with strings on top which gives it it’s unique sound. It’s like a two piece of one piece wooden guitar. Pretty cool eh?
How to play the banjolele?
The banjolele is played just like a banjo. You simply hold it in your arms or if you prefer sitting, you can place it on your lap. It is tuned just like a ukelele (Bass uke or not) and is tuned like it as well. If you’ve played a guitar before, it’s is basically the same idea. The strings might feel a lot softer though especially if you’ve always played on an electric guitar.
What does a banjolele sound like?
A banjolele pretty much sounds like a banjo. The main reason is the sound comes from the body and since a banjo and a banjolele share the same body or drum as it’s referred to, the sound is almost the same. Using a different kind of strings may alter the overall sound slightly but not enough to really make a difference.
How do you tell the difference between a banjo and a banjolele?
For starters, a banjo is way bigger than a banjolele. Main reason is the neck of a banjo (Fretboard) is way longer than a banjolele’s. Which you may have guessed at this point, uses a ukulele’s neck and that is way smaller.
Another main difference is how they are tuned. A banjo is tuned like a banjo to a standard G, D, B, G, D tuning. There are other variations but for a typic 5 string banjo, the GDBGD works well. A banjolele, on the other hand, is tuned like a standard ukulele to GCEA.
How many strings does a banjolele have?
Well since a banjolele uses the same body as a banjo (A banjo’s drum head), it uses the same number of strings as well and that is four.
How to change banjolele strings?
This process is also quite similar to when stringing up a banjo. The only difference is you’ll only be replacing 4 strings instead of the typical 6. The first step to restringing your banjolele is removing the strings from the bridge and the tuning pegs on the headstock (Top of the banjolele).
One really good tip we can give you here is to make sure you only change one string at a time. This will avoid any confusion and help you tune the string to the proper note. This will help to maintain an even amount of tension across the bridge on the strings as well.
Now let’s start with installing the strings. Grab your new pack of strings, making sure that the tension of the string matches the size of the ukulele, thread one end of the string through the tie block and leave about three to four inches on the end.
Next step is to loop the end of the string under, then over and finally back through the loop you just created.
Now loop the string one more time, just to prevent slipping. Just make sure the end of the string is placed against the tie block to ensure that the knot rests on the edge.
Finally, take the other end of the string and thread it through the correct peg. At this point, give the string a little slack and start winding counterclockwise. As you wind the string, try to wrap the loose end of the string underneath the coil to prevent slipping. Wind the pegs counterclockwise for the G and C strings, wind clockwise for the E and A strings once you start feeling some tension on the strings.
The last step is to clip the ends of the strings so that you don’t get any buzzing and that’s how you change your strings on your banjolele. Pretty sweet eh?
Where to put the bridge on a banjolele
Since you are using a banjo’s body, you would put the bridge on a banjolele at the same place it goes on a banjo’s body. Did you know that most banjos and banjoleles are shipped without the bridge connected to them? They are included in the package but you just need to install them manually. Don’t worry, it’s super easy to install.
Why is this?
Most banjos that you would buy off the wall in a music store will already have the bridge in place. However, if you’re taking it fresh out of the box, chances are it might not already be installed.
As you may or may not know, banjo heads can be extremely time-consuming to replace so the good companies really go out of their way, to make sure that no damage happens to the head during the shipment to you.
So if you loosen the strings, lay the bridge flat and put it separately in the same box, the head will stay put during shipment. Makes sense don’t it?
Now let’s look at what tools you’ll need to set up your bridge. You basically just need a ruler that’s at least 18 inches long and a pencil.
First, we need to find the length and we do this by measuring from the front edge of the nut to the 12th fret location and on. Keep in mind, the scale length is usually double. So if your banjolele is a certain size, just double your measurement.
To locate where the bridge goes, now start by measuring at the 12th fret on the treble side. This is where the highest string is and mark it on the head using your pencil. Make sure the distance is the same as you measured earlier from the nut to the 12th fret.
Next, move the ruler to the base side and try to mark on the head exactly the point where that base side string will be and I’m going to make this mark 1/16 of an inch further back than the last mark.
Next, you want to stand the bridge up in that location and have the base side of it lie right where that mark is on the base side of the head. Same thing with the treble side so you want to make sure there’s enough slack on the strings to where there’s no possible way to dent or puncture this head when we stand that bridge up.
So if your strings are tight at this point, just loosen them up. Now start sliding the bridge back to that area on the head and stand it right up. Put the front edge right on those two points and then you can put your strings in the notches and line it up side to side.
Just make sure there is the same amount of distance on the bass side and the treble side. Now you’re ready to tune your guitar as well.
By the way, if your calculations are off, the biggest problem you could run into is the bridge being placed too far from the bottom of the fretboard or too close.
If the bridge is too far back, towards the tailpiece, then you tune it up. Once it gets up to pitch, the tension could cause the corners of the bridge to puncture the top of the hat (Top part of the bridge).
Other issues you can run into is if the bridge is not in the proper location, the intonation will be messed up. However, once the bridge is placed in the right place, your notes will be accurate.
Don’t worry though . . . if you followed the instructions so far, you should be set.