A tenor ukulele is larger than a soprano or concert uke, but it’s important to find the right one for your playing style. There are plenty of models out there that will be great to play with, but it especially helps to look at how well such an instrument is made before buying one. With this guide you'll easily find the best tenor ukulele to start jamming on!
If you'd like to skip to your best tenor ukulele options, take a look at our Tenor Ukulele Buying Table below:
Best Ukulele Type
Best Tenor Under $70
Best Tenor Under $100
Luna Mahogany (Editor's Choice)
Best Tenor Under $150
What are the Best Tenor Saddle Options?
The saddle on a tenor uke should be reviewed with care. The saddle is designed to hold the four strings on the instrument in place. When used properly, it will keep the strings tightly wound and under control.
The saddle must be properly raised for it to work right. A quality ukulele will have the strings raised to an appropriate height to make it easier for the instrument to work. The strings still have to be spaced evenly between one another for them to work properly as well.
The saddle should work just fine regardless of what tuning materials are being used at the top of the instrument. A saddle can be compatible with gear-based materials for tuning the ukulele, for instance. Friction-based models can especially be worthwhile when finding a good option to handle.
What About the Strings?
While a typical tenor ukulele will require four strings, not all strings are alike. Metal or nylon-wound strings are often used to create a full sound around the entire instrument. This is especially the case with the lower strings on the instrument.
Steel strings may also be used as they are a little more durable, but they should be used only by experts. If you're a novice player, be careful because you could damage your instrument if used incorrectly.
Gut strings are often used in some cases as well. These animal-based strings can last for a while although the sounds that they generate will not be as full. Still, they will create a light effect that can establish a traditional ukulele sound when used properly.
What Should I Look for in a Sound Hole?
The sound hole in the middle of the ukulele might seem like a minimal part of the instrument, but it can prove to be a critical part of the instrument. This is needed to keep the vibrations moving out of the instrument, so it can create the rich sound that the instrument is known for. The sound hole has to be trimmed evenly and made with a solid border to keep it fully functional and easy to play with.
What are the Best Tenor Ukulele Shapes?
There are three different shapes that ukuleles are typically found. First, there is the traditional guitar, or figure-8 design. This option has a traditional guitar look and has a curved part on the upper body near the end of the strings. This is an easier option to handle as it works with the same holding motion as what a typical guitar might have. Also, it allows for a little more control over the individual strings being used.
You can also find a pineapple, or boat paddle shape on a ukulele. These are not as common and are better suited for those who are a little more experienced. However, those who use these particular options will end up playing with something a little more unique. The strings are a little closer and can allow the user to create more complex notes off of the instruments. This is also good for those who have faster playing motions with the instrument.
The shape should still be one that you are willing to play along with. This should be something that is easy to hold and use to make it a little more functional and easier to work with as desired. This can especially give you a better experience while playing this fun and unique instrument.
What Kind of Wood Material?
The wood that is used in the construction of the ukulele must be checked. The best tenor ukulele options are often made with solid or laminated wood materials. The best models are typically made with solid woods. A solid wood offers a fuller tone and can develop rich tones when the wood ages.
A laminated wood material will keep its appearance for life as it has been made with several laminate layers all over to create a stronger look. However, the laminated material will also have to be checked carefully based on how well the wood is colored and how heavy it might be.
Either way, the sound on the uke will stay consistent for its entire life if it is made with a laminated material. This may not be popular among those who want to buy a ukulele and keep it for a long time as some people may want to get their sounds to change and really become full over time.
The wood can still be fragile no matter what type of material it is made out of. You have to make sure when getting your ukulele ready that you have a model that features a solid and strong material that will not wear out quickly. This is to ensure that you have an instrument that you know will last for a long time and will not be easily damaged.
Should I Review the Fretboard?
The fretboard must be checked carefully based on how well it is organized and what it has to offer. The fretboard is clearly important for when one is trying to get some great sounds to come out from the instrument, but at the same time the fretboard needs to be made with the right material so it can play well.
You can find a good fretboard made with rosewood to keep the sounds sturdy and consistent. You may also find ebony on a few high-end models. Ebony prepares a fuller sound from the instrument.
Regardless of what the fretboard is made out of, it needs plenty of fret markers. These are to help you see where you are playing while using the instrument. As appealing as the fretboard can be, you have to make sure the markers are carefully labeled and easy to follow. It also helps to see if the fret markers are made with appealing features. Not all markers are made with unique shapes but some decorative models tend to use these to make them more appealing to the average user.
Editors’s Choice for the Best Tenor Ukulele Models
Best Ukulele Under $70
Those who want to get into the world of ukulele playing will certainly enjoy the Kala MK-T. This is an entry level uke that features a rosewood fingerboard that will not break apart or wear out easily. The mahogany neck creates fuller tones as well.
The sound hole on the Kala is at a medium size to allow even the slightest strikes on the guitar to work well. This all comes with eighteen bass frets and uses a laminated body to keep the sound consistent throughout the entire lifespan of the product. This ensures that it is going to last for a longer time while being consistent for those learning to play the uke.
Best Tenor Under $100
The Luna Magohany Series Tattoo tenor ukulele is a mahogany model that creates deeper tones and works well with a better variety of frequencies. The mahogany in turn establishes a better and more detailed sound that is ideal for people looking to play well.
This comes with a shark-inspired design on the base with the triangular fret markets on the neck particularly blending in well with the rest of the design. A rosewood bridge is also included while the nineteen-inch scale is easy for people to hold. The guitar shape on the uke is especially comfortable and easy to hold while the sound hole does not have any bothersome obstructions in the way.
The tuners on this tenor uke are nickel. A few customers have recommended getting the tuners replaced in the future. The bundle packages also comes with Aquila strings installed for free!
Best Tenor Under $150
The Gretsch G9120 Tenor ukulele features a mahogany satin body with a laminated tone that will keep the sounds consistent and fresh during the product’s entire life. The fret markers on the Gretsch are clearly labeled all around the neck to help with creating some better sounds that are more unique and add to the quality of the uke.
The bone nut and saddle are made with natural components to create a more authentic sound on the ukulele. The notes on the instrument especially project rather well so it will be easier for better sounds to come out of this model.
The Runner Ups
We couldn't finish the article without mentioning a few other tenor ukes that are also well worth the purchase. Without going into a full review, some of our runner ups include the Oscar Schmidt OU9T, Lanikai LU-21T, and the Koaloha hand-crafted ukuleles.
With these four ukuleles, you'll easily find the best tenor ukulele to fall in love with. These options are great for the novice player, but can also suit the expert. Pretty soon you'll be jamming along with your new favorite uke in your hand. Enjoy!