Among different types of banjos, the tenor banjos are the ideal choice for anyone hoping to start playing an instrument without any past experience, which is the reason these banjos are also ideal for beginners.

Tenor banjos come with shorter lengths with thin necks, so unquestionably they are comfortable and easy to play. Their four strings make the banjo easier to control than a 6-string acoustic guitar that is harder to get your head around.

The best tenor banjos come with either 17 or 19 frets, which are used to play Celtic folk music, jazz, and popular music as a feature of a band.

Best Tenor Banjos on the Market – (At a Glance)

Top Tenor Banjos of 2021 – Reviews

Since you are searching for the best tenor banjo for Irish music, then you have landed on the right page.
Getting the ideal tenor banjo for precise types of music and sounds is very complicated. This is the reason why we have done all the research for you and came up with the top tenor banjos to consider before buying.

Rover RB-20T Resonator

Rover RB-20T is our choice for being the perfect Irish banjo and is supposed to make Irish music alive. How about we see why that is!

The features that make the Rover banjo amazing are, the conventional 11-inch composite rim, it is thin and its comfortable mahogany neck had a flexible truss rod, this tenor banjo includes the east Indian Rosewood fingerboard with M.O.P dot markers with whites binding. It comes with 24 brackets, guitar-style tuners with 14:1 radio gear, P-101 deluxe Vega-type armrest.

This instrument arrives in a paddle-shaped peg head, standard 26-inch scale length notched brass tension hoop with nickel plating. Lastly, p-115 no-knot rear ends, vintage-style white-bound mahogany resonator and nickel-plated 2 piece spines.

If we go into more detail of this banjo is that the tenor banjo: players of the four-string tenor banjo have a couple of choices that prove to be useful. The quick neck allows it to play effectively and the resonator helps in the creation of the volume of the ideal choice. Compared to the traditional banjos, the lightweight composite rim is useful in the advanced improvements.

Our overall decisions are that this banjo is without a doubt the best available for Irish music.

Pros

  • Great sound
  • Lightweight
  • Simple, functional hardware
  • Great for traveling

Cons

  • Action is a bit high
  • You might have to replace strings

Deering Goodtime 17-Fret Tenor Banjo: Musical Instruments

The Deering brand is considered as perhaps the best brand in the United States. Their 17-fret tenor banjo sound satisfies its status. It features a slim neck and its 17-fret configuration keeps things simple for beginner banjo players.

This American-made tenor banjo has some perfect features often found in expensive banjos. The three-ply maple edge and maple neck joined with the maple resonator give this instrument a beautiful, clear tone and eminent string to string note division. The slim four-string neck offers excellent playability and the all-geared tuning machines make tenor banjo tuning a breeze.

The Deering Goodtime 17-Fret Tenor Banjo is a great choice for any player hoping to play Irish/Celtic music, Dixieland jazz, or folk music. For experienced players, the quality of this banjo will keep their content for quite a while.

Pros

  • Has a great fame
  • Great value at this price point
  • All geared tuning pegs
  • Maple neck
  • 3 ply maple rim

Cons

  • No resonator option

Trinity River TRTB 1 4-String Tenor Banjo


Trinity River is an instrument manufacturer that is out of Texas, who doesn’t share that much information on social media. This 4 string tenor banjo comes with a resonator, rather than most tenors. Assuming you need a 4 string tuning or sound but with a huge projection and volume, this is the ideal banjo for you.

The nato wood resonator takes after a lower-quality mahogany version, but since it’s less thick, it ingests a greater amount of the instrument’s sound. It means the banjo doesn’t project too well, but the overall tone is still really decent. There is likewise a covered, plastic Remo head, which adds some additional depth to your tone.

This tenor banjo is an amazing choice if you are simply learning the banjo while you are on a tight budget. While it’s actually the tone doesn’t similarly coordinate with high-end banjos, for the money, this tenor banjo is quite decent.

At this price point, you should get a solid banjo with reasonable sound. But make sure you don’t need a 5 string since you will have to pay more for a decent one.

Related: 4 string vs 5 string banjo

Pros

  • It is a whopping 43 inches and 8 pounds
  • It has 18 brackets, a Remo’s head, open tuners It comes with a custom gig bag
  • The neck wood is mora & the resonator is nato

Cons

  • The sound might not satisfy you

Deering Goodtime 2 19Fret Tenor Banjo

Deering Goodtime banjos are simply that good that we included them again in our list If you lean toward playing Dixieland or jazz to Irish/Celtic music, the 19-fret design of the Goodtime instrument will be more as you would prefer than the 17-fret.

There might be an argument that we picked Deering 19-fret over the 17-fret version. We could have picked this one but we stayed with the other because of the availability on Amazon right now. It’s the price that mostly differs between the 19-fret and 17-fret.

Another big difference other than the additional two frets is the resonator that is included with this instrument which assists with projecting the sound. It is made of maple very much like the rim, neck, and headstock.

Pros

  • Maple resonator, rim, and neck
  • Deering goodtime quality
  • Made for Dixieland and traditional jazz musicians
  • A slender neck is comfortable for beginners

Cons

  • Expensive for a beginner, great for intermediates

Recording King RKT-05

The RTK-05 is built to play Celtic and folk styles of music and plays really well, on account of the tone woods. The rim and neck are manufactured using top-quality maple, which delivers that brilliant twang you would anticipate from a folk banjo.

Additionally, they also have included a rosewood fretboard to get a pleasant touch alongside all those bright highs. The neck also includes an adjustable truss rod to give you the option to adjust this thing to the specific tension you prefer.

The RTK-05 comes tuned C, G, D, A that also functions admirably in Celtic styles of playing and features a Remo Fiberskyn head, for a sound as near creature stow away as you can get. The Fiberskyn heads sound truly warm and full, and function admirably when used with clawhammer styles of playing. Bear in mind that they are a bit calmer than plastic models, so if you need something loud, this may not be the best tenor banjo for you.

Considering the playability, the neck is nice and slim, so you shouldn’t have any issue playing the banjo even if you are petite. There are 19 frets altogether in this tenor banjo, set apart by dark dot inlays.
To be honest, we would say the RTK-05 is a great choice for anyone looking to buy a top notch banjo to play folk and Celtic styles of music. This instrument sounds like Deering Good time’s premium choice so you might have the chance to save little money purchasing this tenor banjo instead.

Pros

  • Good for the price
  • A very attractive banjo with great sound
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • People find issues with terrible packaging

Gold Tone CC-Irish Tenor Cripple Creek Tenor Banjo

If you know about Gold Tone banjos, then you must know that the Cripple Creek is their entry-level setup. This line brags more than 7000 sales since its introduction 12 years prior.

Related: Goldtone banjo review

This 17-fret Irish tenor banjo actually sings while featuring a maple rim, neck, and resonator. These banjos are additionally set with low string movement that assists beginners with playing the instrument.

The maple headstock, brass tone ring, and dark binding on the neck along with the resonator make this one of our best looking tenor banjos. The resonator is likewise removable, offering you the choice to play this instrument open-backed if you would like.

Pros

  • Maple Rim and neck
  • Removable maple resonator
  • Attractive finish
  • Cripple Creek is a famous and most loved instrument line

Cons

  • Might be expensive for a beginner

Gold Tone CC-Tenor Cripple Creek Tenor Banjo (Four String, Maple)

Another sensational choice from the Cripple Creek setup of banjos from Gold Tone, this is our pick for the best 4 string banjo in the tenor options.

The maple neck, rim, and resonator can be found on this instrument with a dark binding that truly stands out in front of the audience.

Similar to the plectrum variant of this, the production line in Florida strings these banjos with a low activity, which is ideally suited for beginner players.

Pros

  • Maple neck, rim, and Resonator
  • Dual coordinator rods
  • 2-way flexible truss rod
  • Low string action
  • Proven line of banjos

Cons

  • Might be expensive for a beginner but great for intermediate players

Tenor Banjo – Anatomy & Tuning

The 4 string tenor banjos are known for their shorter scale length and less frets than a regular banjo. Tenor banjos come in either a 17 or a 19 fret model, with a scale length of around 21 inches.

The 17 fret tenor banjo is generally tuned G, D, A, E from thickest to thinnest string. When you hear jigs, reels, hornpipes, or polkas, then you are likely hearing an Irish tenor banjo!

The 19 fret tenor banjo is more normal than the 17 fret form and is practiced in traditional Dixieland, jazz and Jazz music. The Irish punk-ska band Dropkick Murphy’s have carried this instrument to the front line of famous music today as it features in quite a bit of their music!

Related: Plectrum vs tenor banjo

How to Identify Tenor Banjo?

Tenor banjos are 4 string banjos with shorter necks and come in two types, and they are the 17 frets, and the 19 frets. The name “tenor” steers clear of a lower pitch, for example, a vocalist who is a tenor or a tenor saxophone. Nobody knows where the name tenor came from, however, many trusts it was a mix-up in history as these kinds of banjos were played during the American tango craze of the early 20th century and were regularly called tango banjos. Later tango became tenor somewhere down the line.

Tenor banjos are used for traditional jazz or Irish music. They are usually played with a flat pick. In traditional jazz, often you play the banjo and in Irish music, you are actually playing single-note tunes.

The reason that makes tenor banjos especially fascinating is that they are traditionally tuned in the musical timespan. This is exactly similar to the string family in a symphony – violins, violas, and cellos except for the bass. There are two normal approaches to tune them and both using fifths.

Standard Tenor Tuning : C, G, D, A – which is similar as viola and cello.
Irish Tenor Tuning : G, D, A, E – similar as mandolin and violin.
Chicago tuning : D, G, B, E – similar to the initial four strings of a guitar.

A great thing about the tenor banjo is when it’s tuned in fifths, it’s the more extensive chord voicings (the notes of the chord are fanned out pop in pitch). It allows every note of the chord to be heard and delivers a clearer, fatter tone than when the notes of chords are nearer together. Another amazing thing the tuning of 5ths makes is smoothness across all strings when playing a scale, lick, or arpeggio.

Also, don’t forget to see our post on best plectrum banjo.

Can You Convert a 5 string Banjo to a Tenor Banjo?

Yes, it can be possible. If you neglect the drone string and tune the 4th alongside the 3rd string down to G and D sequentially, the 2nd down to A, and 1st up to E. However, since you can retune a 5 string this way it doesn’t indicate this is the best approach to go about learning the tenor banjo.

Probably the scale length of a regular 5-string banjo is a bit long to tune like a shorter 17 or 18 fret jazz tenor (C, D, A, E) with normal tenor strings. However, you can easily exclude the 5th string and tune it as a plectrum (C, G, B, D).

Final Verdict

After thorough consideration, we have listed the best tenor banjos of 2021 available in the market. It is upon you now, which one you find your best. The tenor banjos on this list aren’t the only fair choices for beginners, however, staying with this list will ensure you get a quality instrument that will be enjoyable to learn on!
Thank you for your interest in tenor banjos. We hope you found your next instrument on your banjo journey. Go ahead and reach out to us if you have any inquiries, remarks, or info about your favorite banjos.