While you might come upon banjos in the under $200-300 range, chances are you have hesitated to buy them, especially if you want an instrument that will last you long. While there are quite a lot of beginner-friendly instruments that will not break the bank, they usually lack in either construction quality, hardware, or sound. So if you are on the market for a quality instrument you should give Gold Tone CC-100R Cripple Creek Banjo with Resonator a try. This is a more mid-prices instrument but it could be the best banjo for beginners and intermediates.
The CC-100R features a maple body and neck as well as a multi-ply maple rim. The ovangkol fingerboard with snowflake inlays is smooth and playable. The flat bar tension hoop, gold-tone engraved armrest along with 13″ maple resonator really takes this banjo from a beginner instrument to a much higher quality that can be enjoyed by intermediate banjo players as well. The neck is a little bit chunkier than usual, which might be a nice thing for many. It also allows for better spacing between strings.
So if you are someone with bulkier fingers, this model has got you covered. A bit thicker neck does not allow this banjo to be heavy in any way. Great playability along with lightweight construction makes this one of the best instruments for beginners if you can afford the $500, of course. One thing to mention about this banjo is that the coloring of the wood and detailed construction do not really show in a picture. With a natural gloss finish and beautiful wood, there is so much more beauty to this instrument that can be seen on the screen. So unless you are buying in a store, you are missing out.
What you get in terms of hardware with this model is a maple bridge with an ebony cap, a straight-line tailpiece, and a brass tone ring. Apart from that, the CC-100R has a two-way adjustable truss rod that will come in handy for adjusting the neck alignment. The sealed guitar-style tuners are easy to tune and keep the strings in tune pretty well. Of course, you have to take into account the break-in period during which time you will have to tune a bit more often BUT that is a very common issue for new string instruments. It is also a great thing that the tuners are not installed with screws. So if you decide to switch to other tuners, like planetary, you won’t have to struggle with them. The bone nut is also an amazing addition and shows why this beginner banjo is a bit more expensive than other entry-level models. Bone is probably one of the best and most favored materials that are rarely used even with more expensive models. The action is low enough for beginners to not have any discomfort.
Gold Tone Cripple Creek Banjo Sound
Gold Tone really went out of its way to craft a beautiful, solid banjo that would deliver on sound. The sweet, crisp tone that this model offers is amazing for bluegrass and many other styles. The resonator allows for a bigger volume that is usually unavailable with open-back banjos. And, since this model is geared towards beginners, it is important to mention the amazing playability that the construction of the CC-100T offers. While it is important to have clear sound and great volume, unless you are comfortable with the instrument, there is no way, especially for a beginner, to enjoy the process. Thankfully, this model does not have that issue.
I know that when you are looking for a product the budget is the number one factor in decision making. But I also know that if you buy banjo that costs under $200 you will, sooner than later, have to make a lot of adjustments and finally buy a higher quality model (if you decide to proceed with playing banjos). So, although the Gold Tone CC-100R Cripple Creek Banjo with Resonator costs more than the usual beginner instruments, it also performs better, has much nicer volume and sound, and of course, will last you a lot longer. And while it is not marketed towards intermediate players, I would say that the specifications and overall performance of this model make it a great option for them too.