Start With a Tenor – Top 4 under 400!

New players that come into the store or visit us online can feel overwhelmed with options. Where to start?  One way is to first determine the size.

The smallest and original ukulele size is the soprano. Concert is slightly larger and loved by many, but the most popular choice, especially in the last few years has been the tenor. Why?  The dynamics! A full body and range, yet distinctly ukulele.

Some then wonder,”Will a tenor will be too big? Won’t the smaller size be easier or more comfortable?”.  The tenor size does have a 2 inch longer scale than concert and a 4 inch longer scale than soprano, but if you campare it with a guitar you’ll get some proportional perspective . In terms of ideal size for comfort, a tenor ukulele should fit anyone, teenager+.

With concert, and especially soprano, the strings are less taut when compared to a tenor. I’ve heard them described as “easier to press”. With a shorter scale, yet the  same G C E A tuning, soprano and concert scales naturally have less tension, but any ukulele with a proper setup will be easy to press. Also, the tension can help in some ways, like not bending chords out of tune. Beginner on a soprano can get a bit sour.

So say you’ve decided that tenor is the way to go. What to get? Perhaps you’re not even sure what your willing to spend, but do yourself a favor, spend over 100. If you truly can’t then there is a few decent options under $100, but as you go above you get SO much more.

The affordable 1-200 dollar range ukes just keeps getting better. This last batch of Kala KA-TEM’s and ST’s are better than ever! The new Gretsch G9120 is fantastic! The Luna Tattoo tenor sounds huge! And for a few more bucks you can get the Islander MT, still under $200 with  hard case and sweet tone! Great Deals as manufacturers step it up. This along with our quality control and final setup make this affordable range better than ever. BUT, just like the 1-200 dollar models take a significant step up, the next level (2-400) really does also. A more enjoyable and satisfying experience.

Now the quality doesn’t peak out there, but going beyond may not be justifiable, and if so, I understand. Compromise is no stranger to me. I’ll give an example..

I built our website (TheUkuleleSite) with pics and videos using a $600 camera and $500 mic. That is a bit of money, but in the photo/video world it’s extremely minimal, and for most pros it would be torturous. Now, like any dude, I wish I had the killer gear, but I got what was good enough because I wasn’t good enough. I’m just now seeing what I really need and like. Important factors were not even known before.

For those just starting out, a professional Hawaiian ukulele is a lifetime instrument and would give more than it’s moneys worth in joy. But..for less than half that price you can certainly get everything you need to experience this instrument and it’s potential. The internet has a slew of uke teachers, tabs, and inspiration from amazing players. All you need is a good uke. Below is four solid wood tenors that have been our best sellers, online and in-store for this last year. Take a listen and below in the comments box share your preference, experience, or inquiries.

Note: These were sampled with stock strings. Pono uses Koolau Mahana and Kala uses Aquila Nylgut.

The Pono AT is such a great ukulele! A favorite of mine. In fact, I admit to being happy for the customer whenever I see one sell online .  They are truly a wonderful choice.

The ASAC-T has been a huge hit since Kala introduced it a few years back. The slotted headstock,  solid Acacia, and wood bindings are beautiful! After our setup, this tenor is sweet!

Built just like an old Martin but with the Kamaka style tie bridge. Classic look and tone. This one has retro cool style, all solid wood construction, top and back binding, and after our setup plays like buttah! and WHAT it’s only 250!! Easy sell in store, the  Kala SMHT

Out of these four, this one has the greatest range. It was clipping the levels halfway through the strumming on but when you try it you just feel the vibration against your body. More resonant than ever, the Pono MT

If you have tried one or more of these models tell us what you experienced when you played them.

From these videos, what differences did you hear?

These are our best selling 4, but what models are tops for you?