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. It can be confusing for people who have not played an instrument yet when it comes to the topic of Mandolin Vs Banjo and which one’s easier to learn.

banjo vs mandolin

The banjo first came to America with the slaves and musicologists have since looked in West Africa for the predecessors of it. Most of the speculation has been focused on the ngoni and the xalam, two hide-covered stringed instruments from West Africa that look similar to the banjo.

What you may know about the banjo is that it delivers a bright and intensely sparkling sound that might be able to contend with a whole Dixieland band.

This is up to the drum head and the set of steel strings that replaces the wooden top panel found on an instrument such as a guitar. Resonator banjos have a closed back and create the loudest sound and largest projection whereas open back banjos produce milder sounds.

On the other hand, Mandolin is a small stringed instrument in the lute family. It evolved in the eighteenth century in Italy and Germany from the sixteenth-century mandora. The instrument’s modern structure and proportions were firmly influenced by the maker Pasquale Vinaccia of Naples.

The mandolin was found in Italy and it was initially intended for classical music, but it eventually turned into a folk instrument. Mandolins are used in Scottish folk music, traditional Irish, English folk music and also in Bluegrass. Bluegrass mandolin players regularly use an F-5-style and A-5-style mandolin.

These two stringed instruments are both incredible, while the mandolin provides a broad and rich sound and the banjo delivers a bright and sparkling sound.  In this article, we explain the differences between the two instruments and you can figure out which one you should buy.

Now without further ado, let’s jump into their differences and which one should you get.


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


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 instruments is easier to learn, banjo or mandolin?

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 style 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 it properly.

Mandolin vs Banjo

Mandolin Vs Banjo: The Differences


As we are talking about Mandolin Vs Banjo and which one you should choose, some key traits make these instruments different from each other. Despite how similar they are, here are the major differences between the mandolin and the banjo:


One of the key differences between the mandolin and the banjo 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 or five strings. Generally, the mandolin has eight strings. This provides every one of the 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 it 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.

Also, don’t forget to see our post on best mandolin for the money.


Should You Get a Mandolin or a Banjo?


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

Keep in mind, 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.

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 want to play 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.

Eventually, it boils down to the budget you have. 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 Mandolin Vs 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 instrument.

Banjo or mandolin

The History of the Banjo & Mandolin

The origins of each instrument are most likely the best spot to begin. The banjo was born in Africa, made by African slaves as some time in the past as the 1600s. They were initially made using gourds and animal skins and bamboo. The banjo is still used in African music today, and it’s used for some other melodic styles, for example, twang, country, and even rock and roll music.


Thomas Jefferson watched the presence of what he called the “Banjar” in the late 1700s. He learned that it came to America with the African slaves. The banjo turned into a well-known instrument among the slaves since it reminded them of their home, and even the European settlers started appreciating its music. 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 like the guitar. Due to its rich legacy among the African slaves and southern Americans, this instrument is significant in Bluegrass, country, folk along with 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. While the banjo is born in the Middle East and Africa, the mandolin is an image of Western civilization. It advanced from the lute in Italy during the 1300s. It was first perceived as a unique and distinctive instrument during the 1600s. It was well known in Italian towns, especially Naples, and it spread all through Europe.

Italian lutes were mainstream during the middle ages, and these lutes were formed into what we would now call a mandolin more than a few hundred years. 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 Mandolin Vs Banjo as both of the instruments are quite similar. But the differences among them can let you which one’s for you.

The banjo and the mandolin are both used together in certain types of music too, including bluegrass, country, and folk music.


Final Thoughts

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

Realizing the differences between the banjo and mandolin are critical when you are deciding which one to purchase and learn from. You can generally do both, pick one instrument first and once you have aced that one, move on to the following one. 

Both of these instruments provide amazing sounds and will give you a lot of fun memories as you keep progressing. If you are looking for a contender in the Mandolin Vs 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. However, there are some versions of the banjo that are small too.

You can decide according to what type of style you want to play and which one suits you best or you can buy both and learn one after another. Hope this article helped you to make your decision.