Can You Play Banjo if You Play Guitar?

Can you play banjo if you play guitar

If you know how to play guitar you are probably wondering if you will also be able to play the banjo. Or perhaps you are thinking of learning the guitar and you want to know if you will be able to play the banjo. So can you play banjo if you play guitar?

In this guide, we will go over the most common questions about learning the banjo if you know how to play guitar. We will also see which instrument is better to learn if you are a beginner.

Is banjo easy if you know guitar?

For most guitar players it will be easy to play banjo if you already have some experience playing guitar. There are obvious differences that you need to adapt to, but both are string instruments.

Besides the obvious visual differences and the fact that the banjo has 5 strings, it plays very similarly to a guitar. However, the tuning is completely different. A banjo uses open tunings, which means that you will need to retune your banjo every time you want to play a song in a different key.

The banjo also has less string tension than a guitar, which makes it easier. to press the strings. On a guitar, you will have to pressure the strings hard in order to play a chord or a single note. While on the banjo you will not need to use as much strength.

Is it hard to learn banjo if you play guitar?

It is not easy to pick up the banjo if you are a guitar player. However, if you are not used to playing with your fingers it can take a little more time to get used to the fingerstyle used to play the banjo.

Let’s look at some of the major differences between guitar and banjo.

Guitar vs banjo

Banjo and guitar are both string instruments and share some similarities in terms of how they are played. However, they also have some significant differences. 

For one, the banjo has a resonator, which gives it a louder, more distinctive sound. Additionally, the banjo’s strings are arranged in a different order than the guitar’s strings. 

Finally, the banjo is typically played with a thumb pick and two fingers, while the guitar is typically played with a pick or your fingers.

Banjo players and guitar players also have different techniques and skills that they use to play their instruments. 

While some skills may overlap, such as basic chords and strumming, the two instruments have different sounds. 

Here are the main differences between guitars and banjos:

  • Tuning
  • Strings
  • Body
  • Playing position
  • How the instrument is played
  • Sound
  • Versatility
  • Price


While the guitar standard tuning requires the player to use chord shapes to play chords, the banjo is much easier. Because it uses an open tuning and therefore strumming the banjo without pressing any notes will sound good. It is also easier to play chords on the banjo.


One of the main differences between a guitar and a banjo is the string tension on both instruments. Guitar strings have a lot of tension, which makes it difficult to press them to play a note. 

As opposed to the banjo, which does not require as much strength to press the strings and play.


One of the most significant differences in the body of each instrument. While the guitar has a body that comfortably sits on the player’s lap, the banjo can be a little uncomfortable to play.

Additionally, the banjo has a resonator which makes it sound completely different.


The positions to play the guitar and a banjo are slightly different. The reason is that the body of both instruments is very different, and it can be challenging to hold the banjo in your lap in a comfortable position.

How it is played

When it comes to playing there are also very striking differences. The guitar is usually played either with a pick or the fingers. The banjo is mostly played with the fingers. It is also common for banjo players to use fingerpicks, which is something more uncommon for guitar players.


The sound of both instruments is also very different. The banjo has a distinct twangy sound, especially due to its resonator. While the guitar has a more sharp and defined sound.

Thanks to the resonator, the banjo tends to be louder than most acoustic guitars, despite its smaller size.


The guitar is a lot more versatile than the banjo, which is the main reason why you should learn guitar first. There are only so many music genres that you can play on the banjo.


Finally, there is also a difference in price. Banjos tend to be cheaper, due to the materials used, and the size of the instrument. However, the difference in price should not determine whether you learn one or the other.

How long does it take to learn banjo if you know guitar?

If you already know how to play guitar it should not take you more than a few weeks to start playing the banjo. It is easy to get used to it, and the only major difference besides the tuning is the fact that it has fewer strings.

You will also need to adapt to the different tuning of the banjo, and you will need to use fingerstyle picking. If you are used to playing guitar only with a pick it can take a little more time to switch to a banjo.

Is it better to learn guitar or banjo first?

If you are a beginner it is always advisable to start by learning the guitar, because it is a more versatile instrument that will give a better foundation. Learning how to play the guitar will allow you to play other instruments like bass or even ukulele.

On the other hand, if you just learn the banjo it will be a lot more difficult to learn guitar later on.

It is a lot more difficult to play guitar, especially in the beginning. The main reason is that the tension on guitar strings is higher, which makes it more difficult to press the strings, and play chords, and notes. 

While on the banjo the tuning allows you to play a chord even without pressing any strings. Pressing the strings on the banjo is also easier because you do not need as much strength.

Is playing the banjo like playing the guitar?

Although there are some similarities between playing guitar and playing the banjo, they are both different instruments. To play the banjo you will need a good fingerstyle since it is mainly played with the hands.

Can you play banjo with a pick?

Yes, you can play the banjo with a regular pick, however, the sound will not be as good. Professional banjo players do use fingerpicks, and this allows them to play faster, and it gives the banjo a special tone.

Some of these fingerpicks are made of metal, which makes the banjo really ring.

The banjo is meant to be played with fingerstyle, so you will need to develop your fingerstyle technique. 

Is it hard to switch from banjo to guitar?

If you already know how to play guitar it will be fairly easy to play the banjo. However, you will need to know how to play with your fingers. You also need to learn a few banjo techniques like clawhammer, and frailing.

It is harder to switch from playing the banjo to the guitar than it is vice versa. This is because the banjo is a fretted instrument with a relatively small number of chords, while the guitar has a greater range of notes and chords due to its fretboard.

Is it easier to learn guitar or banjo?

Banjo is easier to learn than the guitar, and there are a few reasons that explain this:

  • The neck is narrower and only has 4 to 5 strings
  • Tuning
  • String tension

The neck is narrower and only has 4 to 5 strings

One of the reasons why learning banjo is easier is because the neck is narrower, which makes it easier to grab it. Banjos also have fewer strings, which typically are 4 or 5. A guitar has 6 strings, which adds another layer of complexity.


Another reason why the banjo tends to be easier to play than the guitar is that it uses an open tuning. This means that without even pressing any strings if you strum the banjo you are already playing one chord.

The traditional banjo tuning is in open G, and in a 5string banjo, it looks like this: GDGBD.

By contrast, in order to play a chord on a guitar, you will need to press the strings, and make complex chord shapes that take time to learn and master.

String tension

Lastly, one of the main reasons why banjo is a lot easier for beginners is that the strings have a lower tension than on a guitar. This makes it extremely easy to press the strings, and it won’t hurt your fingers as much.

Can you play guitar songs on the banjo?

While you might be able to play some guitar songs on the banjo, they will not sound similar at all. The banjo has a distinct twangy sound that is very different from a guitar sound.

For that reason even if you are able to play the same chords and melody, they will sound very different.


Guitar and banjo are very similar instruments, but with obvious differences. If you know how to play guitar, it will certainly be easy to learn how to play the banjo.

It might take you a few weeks to get used to it and to learn a few songs, but it should give you a whole new musical perspective. Here is a video to help you transition from guitar to banjo.

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