Tenor ukuleles are the biggest of the three main sizes of ukulele. Soprano, concert, and tenor are the traditional sizes of ukuleles. If you are looking for a model with a bigger size for comfortable playing even if you have big hands, a tenor ukulele might be the best option. In this article, we’re exploring the best tenor ukuleles as well as discussing some of the benefits of this size. Is a tenor the best ukulele size for your needs?
Table of Contents
- 1 In a hurry? Here are our top picks..
- 2 How is a Tenor Ukulele Different from Soprano and Concert?
- 3 Is a Tenor Ukulele good for beginners?
- 4 Tenor Ukulele Tuning
- 5 Tenor Ukulele Materials
- 6 Best Tenor Ukulele Reviews
- 6.1 1. Official Kala Learn to Play Ukulele Tenor Starter Kit – Best Overall
- 6.2 2. Lohanu Tenor Ukulele – Best Electric Acoustic Tenor Ukulele
- 6.3 3. Caramel 26-inch Professional Tenor Ukulele – Best Value Tenor Ukulele
- 6.4 4. Martin T1K Koa Tenor Ukulele Natural – Best High-End Tenor Ukulele
- 6.5 5. Tenor Ukulele Mahogany 26 inch Ukelele by Kmise – Budget Option
- 7 Conclusion
In a hurry? Here are our top picks..
How is a Tenor Ukulele Different from Soprano and Concert?
Tenor ukuleles have more in common with other sizes than they have differences. Basically, the length is the key difference. The tenor ukulele is usually 26 inches in length. Other ukuleles are made to be a bit shorter, soprano models are around 21 inches, concert ukuleles are usually around 23 inches.
The body and neck of the instruments are larger in a tenor ukulele. The fretboard of the instrument may be easier to navigate for people with bigger hands. There’s a little bit more space in a tenor uke than there would be in the other sizes. You can play both melodies and chords a little easier, especially if you have a larger build.
These instruments aren’t made specifically for big hands. Anyone can play the best tenor ukuleles. The thinking behind the way the instrument is made is more to do with tone. The extra size can help with projection and give a tenor ukulele a slightly different sound to the other models. The mids are a bit fuller and easier to hear, and the instrument can be a bit louder due to the larger soundhole.
Is a Tenor Ukulele good for beginners?
There is no specific best size for ukuleles. Instead, it is about matching up your needs with the instrument itself.
As we’ve already mentioned, people with larger hands might find that a tenor ukulele can be a good choice for them. The size of the uke means that it won’t be awkward to make chord shapes or move around the fretboard for bigger fingers.
As they are all tuned the same, soprano, tenor and concert ukuleles are all pretty interchangeable in terms of the way they are played. Though you might have to adjust to the new body and neck size, you will not have to change the way you play chords if you switch between them.
It’s a personal choice to make based on the size you want, but there are no real disadvantages to tenor ukes. If you decide that one of the best tenor ukuleles is a suitable choice for you, you can always move onto playing the other sizes at some point in the future.
Tenor Ukulele Tuning
This is definitely something to keep in mind when you are in the market for a ukulele. The tuning can be different if you buy an unusual ukulele, a larger size or a guitalele. A tenor uke is the largest of the traditional sizes that has the traditional tuning for a uke. Standard tuning is gCEA (the lower case ‘g’ means it is higher in pitch than the ‘C’ below).
There are other tunings that some uke players will enjoy experimenting with. Tenor ukuleles can be tuned differently, but by default, they tend to be tuned to the gCEA tuning. This is the same as concert and soprano ukes.
Learning songs in the traditional tuning means you don’t have to worry about whether your ukulele is going to be different from other models. You can pick up any other ukulele in the same size or different sizes and be able to play it straight away due to the fact that the tuning is universal among ukes. The sound will vary, but only because of the build of the ukulele. Larger bodies project more, for instance.
Tenor Ukulele Materials
Tenor ukes, like all other varieties of ukulele, are made from a variety of different materials. The wood used to make the back and sides, body and neck and the “bone” material used for the nut and saddle might all be different. It can seem confusing to a newbie if you aren’t sure what all of these different woods and materials do to the best tenor ukuleles and their sound.
The materials the ukulele is made out of is just one aspect of a detailed recipe that goes into making your instrument. Some materials are more common than others, and solid wood varieties are normally used to give a firm platform for your instrument, but also to impact the tone of your ukuleles.
A traditional wood used is solid Koa, this is a Hawaiian wood that means the uke sound is more traditional when made out of this type of material. Mahogany tenor ukulele designs are also pretty common. The instrument may have a solid mahogany top, but also feature other materials such as a walnut fingerboard. Mahogany is a very popular wood due to its sound projection, and also the fact that it allows a uke to be made to last. A mahogany body is sturdy and long-lasting.
Tenor ukuleles don’t have a specific “best” material. Like all the other varieties of uke, it is a case of finding the right combination to give a tone and design that resonates with the user (pun intended).
Best Tenor Ukulele Reviews
1. Official Kala Learn to Play Ukulele Tenor Starter Kit – Best Overall
When looking for a good quality uke, you are likely to find a lot of Kala options advertised, they’re a prolific brand and have made one of the best tenor ukulele starter kits, perfect for beginners to get started as it comes with a bag and some learning resources. The instrument is good enough for more advanced ukulele players, too.
The Kala brand tends to mean excellent build quality and a signature ukulele sound, and this model is no different. Plus, it has inexperienced players in mind as it comes with plenty to get you started. The instrument itself has quite a professional feel to it, and this is no cheap and flimsy starter tenor uke.
This is a great choice for one of the best ukuleles if you are just looking for a simple but quality ukulele with access to a beginner network. You can access lessons made by the Kala brand and there’s a booklet included to start you off. The projection comes from a solid mahogany body, good for beginners and intermediate ukulele players alike.
2. Lohanu Tenor Ukulele – Best Electric Acoustic Tenor Ukulele
A quick look at this brilliant option from Lohanu will probably give you some idea of the quality of the uke. It’s a beautiful looking tenor model, but the looks alone aren’t a reason to recommend the Lohanu. It has plenty of quality, and a pickup and electronics system so that you can amplify this tenor uke with ease, and plug it into PA systems if you are playing live.
The solid wood finish is actually Spalted Maple back and sides, which gives it that beautiful speckled look, but it also provides an excellent tonewood with a clear and loud sound. This wood is combined with a high-quality, well-built nut and saddle, too.
It also has an arched back that means it is made to have a slightly better projection when playing as an acoustic model. If you’re looking for a ukulele best for playing live, the Lohano could be a good option. Naturally, the 26-inch size also lends itself to larger hands.
All-in-all, this uke is made to be a professional model. It’s a bit more expensive than some of the others but with the electrics included this is to be expected, and there’s no denying that this is one of the best tenor ukuleles, especially if you are going to be playing it live a lot. All those accessories that come with it are a real bonus, too. This is a viable option for both beginners and pro performers.
3. Caramel 26-inch Professional Tenor Ukulele – Best Value Tenor Ukulele
Tenor ukes can be a bit more expensive than some of the other options, naturally, it takes more material to make a quality tenor uke. They cost more when being made, so they are, of course, a bit more expensive than soprano and concert ukuleles to buy. If you still want quality mahogany build quality but don’t want to spend a huge amount, this option from Caramel is a fantastic mahogany tenor ukulele.
Even though the cost of this uke is low, it still has plenty of quality features and it even comes with plenty of accessories. For beginners especially, this is helpful, and to find such an affordable uke which comes with a gig bag and tuner is a bonus.
If you are on a budget and want to find a good, solid mahogany ukulele then it is hard to argue with this option from the Caramel brand. They have some brilliant ukes with sound quality that is above and beyond the price tag.
4. Martin T1K Koa Tenor Ukulele Natural – Best High-End Tenor Ukulele
It wouldn’t be right for a list of the best tenor ukuleles not to include a uke made by Martin. The brand has made brilliant ukuleles over the past 100 years, and if you are looking for elite sound and stunning build quality then the Martin T1K is hard to argue with.
Though the Martin brand is probably best known for guitars these days, their ukuleles are top quality, and this is one of the best tenor options you can buy. If you’re a beginner or looking for something on a budget, then you might want to look away. However, if you are all about finding quality and a professional sound, this uke has you covered. The solid Koa wood design makes it an ideal choice for anyone looking for a traditional sound. While a mahogany tenor uke might give a cheaper price tag, the traditional sound comes from this tonewood.
Martin has a reputation as one of the top brands in the world for a reason. They have made ukuleles of all sizes, but the Martin T1K is a great example of a tenor ukulele with solid wood (koa) and you can truly feel the value of this model while you are playing.
As well as a beautiful sound, it has been professionally finished and has a truly professional feel. If you are looking to get a cheap tenor ukulele then this is a model to swerve, but if the best sound is your priority then the extra money could be worth it for the Martin quality.
5. Tenor Ukulele Mahogany 26 inch Ukelele by Kmise – Budget Option
If you are looking for the best tenor ukuleles on a budget then you might be surprised to see just how much quality you can get for your money with the Kmise option. Kmise is a budget brand that actually have a pretty good range, with a sound that would suggest a more expensive ukulele. They have all the mainstream sizes and even a tenor guitar model and a guitalele. The range has some good reviews, as people tend to be surprised by what they get from the ukes.
While we don’t want to overestimate the Kmise, it isn’t as high quality as a Martin ukulele, for instance, it is a great beginner guitar. Also, the manufacturers have included a lot of different accessories to help you to get started with your ukulele. These accessories would cost money otherwise, so they further add to the Kmise value.
The quality mahogany finish of this instrument may not match up to some of the koa models, but it does give a good sound and more than you would expect if you are an absolute beginner. To find a good model for this cost is impressive, but the fact that it comes with extra accessories is a bonus, too.
If you are in the market for pure quality from your ukulele and you aren’t too worried about the price tag, the Martin T1K Koa Ukulele could be the option for you. It has a fantastic and traditional sound provided by the koa tonewood. This is a professional instrument that you will probably never outgrow, even if you become a world-class ukulele player.
For beginners and intermediate players, we recommend the Kala Learn to Play Ukulele Starter Kit. It has accessories for beginners and can still do the job when you progress to an intermediate player. The Koa brand is fantastic and their community resources are great for those just getting started with their instrument. This model is good value for money. A good ukulele that can support you even as you grow as a musician.
The price, tonewood, build quality and sound can vary hugely between these models. Though it is hard to recommend one specific model for everyone, doing a little research to get the right instrument for your own specific needs is definitely worth taking the time to do. All of the ukuleles reviewed above have plenty to option, depending on what level of musicianship you find yourself at.