Best Tenor Ukulele Review – Top Rated Models in 2019 with Buying Guide
Our guide will help you find the best tenor ukulele out there. We even have some suggestions for you, if you don’t have enough time to read everything. After examining the market, we found that the Kala MK-T tenor ukulele is the one that you should pay attention to. It is made of solid wood and thus it has a strong construction and a great tone. The strings used offer a warm and pleasant sound and the instrument comes with everything you need to start playing immediately. You won’t always be able to find it for sale, and if that’s the case, try the Cordoba 15TM ukulele.
Our Top Choice
The construction of this model is solid and it will ensure that you can play the instrument a good while. The strings are also great and they provide the quality and resistance needed while being easy to play. Particularly useful for a beginner, this tenor ukulele comes with a tuner that can help in every situation. You get everything you need with this uke so you can start playing immediately.
The decorative grommets around the tuning pegs can get loose and when that happens they will rattle.
A great choice for beginners, this ukulele will help you get started and will ensure you can play it for a long time.
You can observe the quality craftsmanship that was put into this model. And that is most visible in the delicate details and the nice finishing. Because the only thing you pay for is the instrument itself, this is an insurance that all the manufacturer’s efforts went into making it a good ukulele. The fretboard is large enough and made of rosewood so bigger hands will make good use of it.
It doesn’t come with any accessories and you will have to buy them separately. It’s thus hard to play it as a beginner.
Although made of plywood, the attention put into this
This is one of the most beautiful ukuleles that we have seen and that is due to all the details on it, including the clouds that are printed on the instrument’s neck. It comes with everything you need to start playing and even the case and the strap are great-looking. The bridge and fingerboard are made of quality rosewood and that’s a sign that they are resistant to wear and tear.
Because it’s made of plywood, the tone of this ukulele sounds a bit dull sometimes, reminding you of toy instruments.
Playing such a beautiful instrument gives a lot of pleasure. The details on this ukulele are so well executed.
Highly Recommended Choices – Reviews & Comparison
Tenor ukuleles have become very popular because of how easy to play they are. And with increased popularity comes more diversity on the market. That is why we thought it’s important for you to have a basic knowledge of what are some of the products that do a good job as a tenor ukulele, and here they are.
Made of mahogany, this model carries the qualities that the Kala brand should provide. The design is an attractive one and, being made of solid wood, the ukulele should offer a robust and clear sound for years to come.
In terms of stringing, the company has made a good choice for this model. It uses the Aquila Nylgut strings for optimum sound. They are versatile and offer the right amount of volume.
Beginners will be pleased to hear that this ukulele comes with a tuner that’s easy to use as it provides a feedback through the means of an arrow that points you in the right direction.
The fingerboard has the benefit of being made of strong walnut wood. This gives it the resistance needed for intensive practicing routines. You also get a gig bag with this uke, as well as an instructional DVD on how to play it, a strap and a polishing cloth to keep it in good shape.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($99.99)
As a quality tenor uke, this one is a good choice for adult beginners. A typical Cordoba style, this uke looks great, the details are elegant, and you can see the craftsmanship put into it. The fretboard, measuring 17 inches, is well-suited for those with bigger hands and is made of strong rosewood.
Besides that, the model consists entirely of plywood mahogany, with a satin finish. This ukulele doesn’t come with all the accessories that others do, but, if you invest in it, the full price is directed into the quality of the instrument itself.
And that can be seen a good thing, as you can purchase all the others separately once you need them. This may surprise you, but this model is completely handmade and that means that enough attention has been given to the needed details.
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If you’re the type of player that likes the instruments being made of solid wood, you should know that this model is made of mahogany, so it fits your criteria. This wood gives it a nice tonality and a rich sound.
The strings are also of good quality and the company made the extra effort to include an additional set in the package, just in case some of them don’t last that much. The spruce top gives a special look to the uke, but also provides it with a good tone. For a comfortable playing feel, the bridge and fingerboard are made of quality rosewood.
You will also notice the nice finishing on the uke neck. And at the end of it, the chromed tuners offer a neat touch. The package also includes a strap, a case that seems sturdy and has a great design, and a clip-on ukulele tuner.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($65)
Experienced ukulele players will know that Martin can be recognized as a brand capable of making quality tenor ukuleles, and this model is no exception. What makes it different from others of its kind is the fact that it’s made entirely out of Hawaiian Koa wood. Of course, that gives it a special feel and helps it resemble original ukes.
Thus, in terms of construction, it’s a great model. And that means it’s also sturdy and capable of offering rich sounds that you will fall in love with. The volume that it can provide is also impressive.
The tuners don’t particularly shine in their quality, but they aren’t bad either. They do their job as expected. To make sure that the instrument lasts a good while, the manufacturers made the neck out of hardwood and added a Morado fingerboard on top of that.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($539)
Those that want to start playing the ukulele will benefit the most from this package. It offers not only the instrument itself but everything you need to start practicing. You will have an instructional DVD, an accurate tuner, the gig bag needed to carry everything with you and a polishing cloth to keep the uke in good shape.
Due to the solid wood construction, made of mahogany, this Kala tenor ukulele feels solidly built and has a nice-looking finish. The wood used gives the uke a specific feeling and a sound full of warmth. The Aquila Nylgut strings used are some of the greatest that you can find and they deliver the tone needed and the volume you would want.
The material of choice for the frets is a silver-nickel blend and they have been made like this to ensure a long-lasting playing life for the uke.
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If you’re looking for those Hawaiian tones, this is a good ukulele for you. The body is entirely made of Hawaiian Koa wood. Taking that into account, you know that it comes with a solid build. And the quality tone is one to last for years. Unfortunately, the wood is laminated and not solid.
The volume is one of the best features of this uke, as it’s loud enough to be heard by everybody in the room. D’Addario strings ensure a good volume and they’ don’t offer much resistance, meaning that they’re easy to play.
The tuners offer a special feel and they are finished in a gold color, which adds to the beautiful details of the uke. In terms of looks, it’s a charming model, if you like glossy finishes, however, it tends to get smudged too easily. If you’re a beginner you should know that the frets are a bit hard to play on.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($279.99)
Those that like figure 8 models will be pleased when seeing this uke live. It offers great looks accentuated by a print of abalone details. To make it even more beautiful, the builders have constructed it using mahogany wood.
Being made of solid wood, it’s sure that this Cordoba tenor ukulele will offer the quality sound that you would expect. The sound is warm and rich and it’s way better than the one offered by those models that sound like toys. Although not a particularly loud ukulele, this one is capable of delivering the right amount of sound needed.
The tuners are important when it comes to stringed instruments, and uke players can rest assured that these tuners are well balanced and they can keep the instrument tuned for a long while. The strings might not seem to be good enough but that is only because they need a little more time to be broken in well.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($209.99)
Fender is one of the most recognizable brands when it comes to instruments and its ukuleles are good quality too. On this model, you can see a piece of design used in Telecaster guitars, and that is the headstock. If you’re a purist uke lover you might not want that, but it’s a great thing for those looking for something else.
The square-box tuners are the ones that make the instrument keep a consistent sound. They’re tough enough and keep the ukulele in tune a good while. In terms of design, the uke also has its parts made of Koa and the top part is the most luxurious looking.
As a sign of high-quality build, the ukulele sounds nice from the first touches and the strings have a nice “ding” to them. Fortunately, the instrument doesn’t have a spot where, if you start picking, it sounds like a toy model.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($249.99)
Oscar Schmidt OU2TE-A-U
Although made of plywood, this Oscar Schmidt tenor ukulele is still capable of delivering quality sounds. The mahogany used in making it greatly helps with that. The tenor ukulele strings used here are Aquila and that represents quality in the domain. The satin finish helps give this instrument a good look.
In terms of sound, the highs are sparkling and accurate, while the lows feel warm. This is an instrument that does best in the hands of a beginner. The ukulele is handcrafted and the attention that the crafters have put into it can be observed.
The bridge is solid rosewood so you won’t have to worry that it cracks or gets marks on it and the tuners are chromed, giving an additional touch of flair to the overall look.
What’s really interesting about the model is the fact that it is an electric tenor ukulele and it thus offers a built-in equalizer. You can thus plug it in a tube amp and enjoy the result.
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Yearly Guide & Report
Historically, ukuleles have started with the soprano model. These are the smallest models and they are now ideal for kids. However, tenor ukuleles have later appeared and they are now known for having a deeper and more resonant sound. Their large fingerboard can accommodate bigger fingers easier. Check out what we think makes a good tenor ukulele.
The guitar, or figure 8 model, is the most common one that you can find in a tenor ukulele for sale. These ukuleles are so similar to guitars that inexperienced people don’t really know how to make the difference. The upper body of this figure is somewhat smaller than the lower part. More recent designs offer a cut into the body to allow for an easier access to the frets of the upper part. Check our other article on ukulele for beginners and advanced players if you want to see other good guitar-style models.
Pineapple is another shape that ukuleles can take. It is a Hawaiian innovation and given the rounded backside, the association is clear. The elements of design that make such a ukulele what it is, give it a special feel of authenticity.
If you search long enough, you might find a boat paddle-shaped ukulele. This is the least commonly used but it gives a distinct feeling to those that play it.
Plywood or solid wood
In general, if you are looking for a high-profile ukulele, one that can be used by professionals, you will find that most models are made using solid wood. A cheap tenor ukulele is usually one made of laminates and covered with visually attracting veneers. There are cases where a mix of solid wood and laminates are used.
If you want to build an affordable ukulele, you can make the body of plywood, while the top is made of solid tonewood such as cedar or spruce. This is somewhat of a middle option in terms of tone and quality.
Although they don’t have the sound quality of solid wood models, laminated models are, surprisingly, stronger and their material is less prone to being split or damaged. However, tenor ukulele reviews agree that, if you want an instrument to age well, you should take into consideration that ukuleles made of solid wood obtain a better, mellower sound, as time passes.
Types of tonewood
If you decide to get a solid-wood model, you should know that each kind of tonewood used has its influences on the ukulele and its sound. Probably one of the most common types of wood is the Koa. Its origins are in Hawaii and it is still used worldwide due to its beautiful patterns, the colors that it comes in and the balanced tone that it can offer.
Mahogany is another wood of choice. If you enjoy playing more instruments, you might know that this is a type of wood commonly used in other stringed instruments too. It has the capability of providing a darker and warmer tone to the ukulele. Because it’s quite sturdy, it’s often used in the ukulele necks.
Many manufacturers that produce guitars and ukuleles use the same wood for both of them, and most often the wood of choice is spruce. The dense grain of this wood offers a “zing” sound and bright tones with a lot of volumes.
There are many types of wood that producers use. Amongst these, you can also find cedar, redwood, rosewood or maple. Although they each have specific properties, the ukuleles that are made from them are more influenced by their creator’s capabilities than their material.
If your purpose is to play in live performances, you will surely need an electric ukulele model. You can also use such a ukulele to your advantage if you want to record yourself playing. Rather than having to set up a microphone to do all that, you just plug a ¼-inch output that leads to some monitor speakers and then you get jamming.
You can also send the signal to a speaker system or a recorder, as you wish. But if you have just started playing the instrument, you won’t need all of that. A simple ukulele is enough for practicing and learning.
If you’re interested in learning to play similar instruments, we also have a guide on how to choose a mandolin for beginners. And you can take it one step further and see what we have to say about getting the perfect banjo for beginners.
Frequently asked questions about tenor ukuleles
How to tune a tenor ukulele?
The most common tuning for the tenor ukulele is GCEA, or the C tuning, as it’s called. However, unlike the tuning in soprano models, the G note in this one can be an octave lower. So when tuning, start from the 4th string, the one that should provide the G note. Play it on the piano and then make the string sound like the piano.
You should then press the 5th fret of the G string and tune the next string down to the same sound. The result should be a C. Next, press the 4th fret on the C string and you get an E, which should be the sound of the next string. Finally, on the E string, press the 5th fret and you get the A note needed for the last string.
How big is a tenor ukulele?
The tenor is the most popular size lately and it usually measures 26 inches. This size makes it stray a bit away from the classic uke sound and thus a ukulele like this can sound like a guitar. The length of the scale of such a ukulele is almost 17 inches and that offers an extended bass range.
You can still get the classic ukulele sounds but you also have the possibility to reach some lower notes. That is why this type of ukulele is seen as a great choice for duets or trios, where you need the extra diversity.
Are tenor ukuleles tuned differently?
A tenor ukulele tuning can be the same as one for the concert ukulele, in a GCEA format. Most often players prefer to drop the G string one octave lower because that suits the instrument better in certain situations, due to the mellower sound. This requires adjusting your style of play, though.
Some people, mainly in Canada, prefer tuning this type of ukulele in a different way, the D6 tuning, which means ADF#B. This tuning was once very popular, and if you get your hand on some old music sheet, you can encounter it. You can check our guide on how to read ukulele tabs once you have tuned your instrument.
How to hold a tenor ukulele?
If you’re right-handed, you should hold the instrument’s body with your right hand and press it up against your chest. Hold the body of the instrument with your right arm and keep your elbow at a 90-degree angle.
However, because the tenor model is a bit larger, you can’t always do that so you might have to drop it a bit lower. After you have positioned it, place the thumb of your left hand on the back of its neck, and use the other fingers to wrap around it. Make sure to keep your elbow of your left arm away from your body and you’re ready to play.
What’s the difference between a tenor and soprano ukulele?
In terms of tuning, the soprano and the tenor variants are fortunately the same. However, you can get different tunings on the tenor ukulele. And that is mainly because the tenor ukulele is significantly larger than the small soprano. The difference is 26 inches to 21 to be more precise.
The sound is also a different one. Because the tenor is bigger, it provides a deeper sound, with more complex bass tones and a mellow feeling. It also tends to sound fuller and it can provide more sound volume. A tenor is also easier to be played by adults because the spaces between the frets are large enough.
Is a tenor ukulele good for a beginner?
There are several reasons why a tenor ukulele would be a good choice for a beginner. First of all, these ukes are really popular and that means that, once you have one, you will have the resources needed to start learning. Videos on the internet or music sheets are available in great numbers if you want to learn to play this instrument.
Furthermore, the fact that it slightly resembles the guitar gives the guitarists the opportunity to transition some of their skills and that makes it a good starter ukulele. Also, the fact that there is enough distance between the frets means that adults will have an easy time hitting the right chords.
What does a tenor ukulele sound like?
The advantage of a tenor ukulele is that it provides a fuller and warmer sound. Of course, that is not liked by everyone, especially the purists that love the original, stringy feel of the soprano uke. The tenor model also offers more versatility.
You can tune it in a standard way and play the songs that a soprano can play. But you can also drop down an octave and play some other songs. If the instrument is made of solid wood, the tone is a much more pronounced one and you will feel more bass, resonance, and volume in your instrument.