Mandolin vs Banjo (Differences, History): Which is Easier?

The banjo vs mandolin has been a common thread amongst the people that are interested in learning either of the instruments. If you are keen to learn about the banjo and the mandolin and their features, this article is just for you. The mandolin and the banjo look different from each other, however, you might be amazed exactly how similar they are.

The overall structure of the banjo and the mandolin are unalike when it comes to specific shapes but they are usually quite alike, with a lot of the basic parts shared between the two, for example, the body and the neck, the tuning heads and the bridge, and the strings.

Difference Between Banjo and Mandolin

Banjo or Mandolin


One of the key differences between banjo and mandolin is the material that makes up the body of the instrument. A mandolin has a hollow wooden body which frequently has two ‘f’ shaped holes cut into it to allow sound to get out through the front of the instrument.

Modern mandolins will, most of the time, have a plastic triangular pickguard beneath the strings to protect the wood from wearing out and getting scratches. The banjo’s body is vastly different. It is built with a ring of wood, along with a tone ring inside, a piece of plastic like a drum head on the front, and a bowl-shaped resonator on the back.

The shapes of the bodies are typically different. The banjo’s body is circular and the mandolin’s body is more like a teardrop shape, making the two instruments non-identical from each other.


An obvious difference between the mandolin and the banjo is the number of strings that they have. A lot of the banjos nowadays have either four strings or five strings. The four-string instruments are usually tenor banjos or plectrum banjos however; the 5-string banjos are the most popular. On the flip side, the mandolin is an 8-string instrument and due to its 8 strings, it produces a unique sound.

This provides every one of the musical instruments a different sound from each other. It provides the banjo with the well-known twang sound but the mandolin sounds practically like a higher-pitched 12-string guitar. This is due to the reason that the strings of the mandolin are played in pairs and tuned in unison to each other.


The size is also one of the differences between the banjo and the mandolin. The standard banjo has a long neck and is comparable in length to a guitar. However, the mandolin is a smaller instrument and has a shorter neck and a size which is similar to a tenor violin rather than a guitar.  Both the banjo and the mandolin have various adaptations which come in but when it comes to standard sizing, there are very different.

The Banjo or Mandolin: Which One’s Easier to Learn?

Banjo vs Mandolin

Banjos vs mandolins have been a mainstream topic for entry-level players. Both the mandolin and the banjo are great at Bluegrass music and folk music. They make non-identical sounds, while the banjo makes a louder and brighter sound and the mandolin produces a broader sound.  Now, which one of these musical instruments is easier to learn?

It boils down to the style of music. A lot of people would tell you that both mandolin and banjo are genuinely easier to learn. So, is the learning mandolin easier than guitar? The short answer is, yes. It is since it has fewer strings and that makes the written music easier to read. 

The mandolin can be very basic and easy to learn in case you have a good teacher.  Like the mandolin, the banjo can be quite easy to master except for specific styles like bluegrass music. Bluegrass music can be hard to learn since it is mostly played quickly.

Now, is the banjo easier than guitar? In short, yes. One of the similarities between the banjo and the mandolin is that they both have fewer strings than a guitar.

The methods to adapting these two instruments are to get a decent instrument, find a great teacher, and ensure that you have chosen an instrument you will be excited to learn because learning anything is easy when you are enjoying the process. If you are still wondering about banjo vs mandolin and which one’s easier, both of these instruments are easy if you learn them properly.

Should You Get a Mandolin or a Banjo?

Picking a musical instrument to learn to play is difficult, however, choosing between banjo and mandolin is exceptionally troublesome as they are so firmly related. Both of them are great instruments that will provide you with fabulous sound.


The two instruments are versatile and can play different types of music such as folk, bluegrass, country, jazz, and so forth. The mandolin is most likely better at versatility for various kinds of music but the banjo isn’t a long way from it. So, if you are wondering about the versatility of the instruments, then don’t worry. Both the mandolin and the banjo will serve you perfectly.

Music Style

Before you purchase a banjo or mandolin you should decide on what kind of music you want to play. There are different types of music such as Bluegrass, folk, country music, etc. so knowing which type of music you prefer can influence your decision of which one to pick. It also depends on which type of sound do you prefer.


If you prefer a broader and richer sound, then you should go with a mandolin but if you prefer a louder and brighter sound then a banjo should suit you fine. However, if you have heard about the mandolin banjo, you might be asking whether you should get that.


That is up to your preference since the mandolin banjo does share some of the features of banjo and mandolin but keep in mind that they are hard to find whereas you will easily find various types of banjos and mandolins at affordable price ranges.


You can find banjos in the range of $200 to several thousand dollars. A good beginner banjo will cost around $500-$700. Mandolin prices are similar, possibly less expensive depending on the manufacturer.

There is not a perfect answer to the Mandolin and Banjo topic and whether one’s better than the other or not, but it depends on these three factors when choosing which one’s best for you. These factors are versatility, the type of style you want to play, and your budget. So keep this in mind when you’re purchasing any of the instruments.

The History of the Banjo & Mandolin

Now, before you choose between the mandolin or banjo, you may want to learn more about the instruments as they can help you decide which one is best for you. The origins of each instrument are most likely the best spot to begin. Nowadays, most banjo and mandolin players are aware of the history of these two instruments so learning more about them will also help you start a conversation with the experienced players.

The banjo was born in Africa, made by African slaves sometime in the past as the 1600s. They were initially made using gourds and animal skins and bamboo. One of the most popular minstrel performers was Joel Walker Sweeney.

His utilization of a five-string banjo made the variant famous. Modern-day banjos have either four or five strings for plucking whereas a six-string banjo is strummed in a similar way to the guitar. Due to its rich legacy among the African slaves and southern Americans, this instrument is significant in Bluegrass, country, folk music, and traditional African music.

The mandolin is part of a unique history though a lot of people believe that the mandolin is just a version of the banjo. It was well known in Italian towns, especially Naples, and it spread all through Europe. It was frequently used in baroque music, yet throughout the hundreds of years, it has been adopted by numerous other musical styles like the banjo, including Celtic and classical music. 

People tend to get bewildered about the debate of as both of the instruments are quite similar. But the differences among them can let you know which one’s for you. Apart from some differences between the banjo vs mandolin, these two instruments are both used together in certain types of music too, including bluegrass, country, and folk music.

Final Thoughts

The discussion between Banjo and Mandolin is often talked about between people who are interested in both of these instruments. Many people keep asking whether learning to play the banjo is difficult or is the mandolin is hard to learn but it depends on how you learn and whether you have a good teacher.

If you are looking for a contender in the Mandolin or Banjo battle, well, there is not a definite winner because both of the instruments are quite similar. If you want an instrument that makes a broad and rich sound, then purchase the mandolin, or if you want an instrument that provides louder sound then buy the banjo. If you want to buy a smaller instrument, then you can go with the mandolin.

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