The 5-string banjo is actually a much easier string instrument than guitar for beginners to pick up, for a couple reasons. First, it uses lighter strings, making it easier to press down on the frets. And second, the most commonly used tuning is the Open-G tuning, where it plays a G chord when you’re holding down no frets at all! The C and D chords are easy to play too, and with those three chords alone, a beginner player can start making recognizable music within just a few minutes.
The 5-string banjo is the most common, but there are 4-string and 6-string variants , as well as different sizes — and it’s possible to buy electric banjos as well, which can be plugged into an amp for playing on stage, just like an electric guitar.
The mandolin is small and lightweight, making it easy for young players to physically play, and it can fit into just about every genre, including bluegrass, country, folk, rock, blues, jazz, Irish, renaissance, and world music. You’ve probably heard the mandolin in a lot more places than you realize! It can also play both rhythm and melody, so it’s a great instrument for playing solo or with others.
And like bass guitar — there aren’t nearly as many mandolin players out there as guitar players, which means it’ll always be easy for a good mandolin player to find a band.
The mandolin has eight strings, but they’re tuned in pairs (GG DD AA EE), so you can think of them as being tuned like a violin with only four strings, as compared to the guitar’s six strings tuned separately. This makes chord shapes easier to remember, but the sound when you get when you strum a mandolin is still full and colorful.
Our banjo and mandolin teacher, George Colyer, has spent entire life in the south, and he’s brilliant with these instruments. If you love the sound of bluegrass or Americana, start your lessons with him today!