Best Tenor Ukulele

Buying an instrument is like buying a new house or a new car. While a ukulele is not as expensive as a house or car, it is still an investment you don’t want to take lightly.  Especially if you plan on spending over $1,000.

You should therefore take the time to do a bit of research before you spend any money.

The goal is twofold. Not only do you want an instrument that best suits your needs, but you also want one that fits your budget. Finding one that meets these two criteria, however, can prove to be somewhat of a challenge.

A challenge we hope to make a little easier with this guide. In it you will find 9 of the best tenor ukuleles currently on the market.

No matter what your budget, or skill level, you are sure to find a tenor ukulele on this list that meets your needs.

Besides reviewing the top 9 tenor ukuleles on the market, we will also share a few tips that will help you decide if the ukulele is right for you, as well as give you advice on how much you can expect to spend on this type of instrument.

What about the best tenor ukulele brands you ask? Well we will cover that too.

What Is a Tenor Ukulele?

If you already play the ukulele you know there are four different sizes for you to choose from. The soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.

In terms of overall body size, the tenor ukulele is the third largest of the four. It is also the largest standard ukulele that uses traditional ukulele tuning.

The baritone is the only type of ukulele that is tuned like a guitar.

Due to the size and acoustic properties of the tenor ukulele, the sound it produces is very full. The tenor ukulele is also able to cover more frequencies than both the soprano and concert ukulele.

Because of the lower frequencies produced by the tenor ukulele, it is often compared to the classical guitar.

Because the tenor ukulele is able to produce such a full sound, more and more musicians are starting to prefer it over other instruments.

Best Tenor Ukulele

Its thicker sound makes it the perfect instrument for solo performances. And thanks to its longer neck, you will have more frets to play around with.

The size of the tenor ukulele doesn’t just affect its sound, it also makes it more comfortable to play than the smaller soprano ukulele.

The tenor ukulele is usually around 26 inches long. Compare that to the soprano ukulele which is usually 21 inches long, and you can see there is quite a bit of extra space.

This extra space makes playing the instrument a lot easier.

Now that you have a better understanding of what the tenor ukulele is all about, let’s dive in and review some of the top models currently being sold.

The Best Tenor Ukulele - The Top 9 Reviewed

Now let’s get down to business and review some of the best tenor ukuleles. Please know we only considered the highest rated tenor ukuleles for this list:

  1. Donner DUT-3
  2. Kala 3KOA-TG Elite
  3. Kala KA-15T
  4. Kala KA-KTGE-C
  5. Fender Montecito
  6. Oscar Schmidt OU28T
  7. Martin T1K
  8. Makanu Professional
  9. Kala KA-SMHT

We used consumer reviews and our own research to compile this list. These are unbiased reviews designed to help you pick the best possible ukulele.

Up first on the list is the Donner DUT-3, which just so happens to be one of the cheapest tenor ukuleles you can purchase.

It comes in three different sizes so you can choose which one will work best for you. If you want the richest tenor sound, which most people do, opt for the 26 inch model.

If you are looking for the best value for the money, the DUT-3 fits the bill. The sound can’t compare to what you would get with a more expensive model, but it is decent enough to get the job done.

It is the perfect ukulele for a beginner who is on a tight budget.

While the DUT-3 won’t last a lifetime, nor is it equipped to be played on a stage, it is still a great option for a complete beginner.

Pros

  • The inlay design on the fretboard gives you that Hawaii look and feel.
  • Comes with spare strings, a case, a strap, and a tuner.
  • Features chrome tuning pegs similar to the ones you would see on a classical guitar.
  • The tuning pegs make it easy to keep your ukulele tuned.
  • Sides and backs made using mahogany.
  • The rosewood fingerboard is very comfortable.

Cons

  • The included strap is not the best quality. It will probably be best to invest in a better one.
  • The strings are not the best quality. They may work for beginners, but if you are a serious performer, you will need to invest in better quality strings.

If you have read any of our other guides, you will know we are big fans of the Kala brand. This model, however, is a little different than some of the others.

The Kala 3KOA-TG Elite is part of the Kala Elite product line. This line was designed for professional musicians and those who have a little extra money to spend.

With a price tag of just under $1,500, the 3KOA-TG Elite is one of the most expensive tenor ukuleles on the market.

With such a high price tag, you can believe this ukulele comes with some pretty impressive features.

When it comes to sound and looks, the 3KOA-TG Elite is as close to flawless as it gets. The sound is like nothing you have ever heard before.

If you are a musician that tours a lot, you will absolutely love the 3KOA-TG Elite.

Pros

  • Made using premium grade Koa sourced straight from Hawaii.
  • Has a beautiful Honduran mahogany neck.
  • Comes with Kala strings made using fluorocarbon.
  • Fingerboard inlays made from mother of pearl.
  • Great craftsmanship.
  • Comes with a hardshell case.

Cons

  • Very expensive. Not everyone can handle the price tag.

If you know anything about the Kala brand, you know they have a wide range of products. This particular ukulele is one of their best reviewed products in their ukulele range.

If you are looking for something right around the $200 mark, the KA-15T is a great option. It comes as a kit meaning you will get a few accessories to help you get started.

Finding a good ukulele at this price is not very common. We put this one in the category of best bang for your buck.

The way this ukulele feels when you are playing it will make you feel like you are playing the most expensive ukulele on the market.

Pros

  • Stays in tune for a long time thanks to geared tuning pegs.
  • Comes with a digital tuner that is super easy to use.
  • Made using Mahogany wood.
  • Has a walnut fingerboard.
  • Comes with a gig bag for easy storing.

Cons

  • The decorative finish may cause buzzing around the tuning pegs.

As you can see, we have a bit of a Kala theme going on here. And for good reason. Kala really does produce some of the best tenor ukuleles.

The cool thing about the KA-KTGE-C is the fact it is acoustic electric. This means you can play it through a PA system just like you would an electric guitar.

The KA-KTGE-C is the type of ukulele that can offer you something you can’t get with other ukuleles.

The cutaway design, and ability to be amplified make it very appealing to guitarists looking to transition to the ukulele.

Pros

  • Features a cutaway neck which makes it super easy to play close to the body.
  • Made mostly out of Hawaiian Koa, the wood used to make the original ukulele.
  • Has a bright tone that’s great for solo play.
  • Has a built-in tuner making it super easy to keep your ukulele in tune.
  • Low action designed so people can easily transition from guitar to ukulele.
  • Comes with a one year warranty.

Cons

  • The one big issue with this ukulele is with the strings. They are of poor quality and will need to be replaced.

Yes, the world famous guitar brand Fender also makes ukuleles. Over the years their brand has expanded and they now offer a variety of stringed instruments.

With such a big brand name it's not surprising that Fender came out with the Montecito tenor ukulele.

It is a good quality ukulele that would be considered in the mid range price range.

Pros

  • Made out of Koa wood, which is the traditional wood used to create ukuleles in Hawaii.
  • Features a Fender telecaster style headstock which gives it that rock and roll feel.
  • Wood quality gives it a beautiful tone.
  • Has that one of a kind Fender design.
  • Available in multiple colors.
  • Has a no-tie bridge which makes it super easy to change the strings.
  • Has a solid top giving it a resonant tone.

Cons

  • Users have complained about it going out of tune fairly often.

There was no way we could make a list of the best tenor ukuleles and leave out the Oscar Schmidt OU28T.

This is an eight string ukulele which means there are two strings close together in four different slots.

Because you have eight strings, each tuned to a different octave, you will be able to play some pretty complex chords with the OU28T.

As with all ukuleles, there are some positives and negatives that come with it. When you think about it, the eight string ukulele is similar to the 12 string guitar, which by the way is extremely popular.

For some, the OU28T is a little too out there for them. Which is totally okay. But once you hear it, we believe you will change your mind.

The sound it produces is out of this world. Yes, it is a little tough for beginners to catch on to. But once you get it, you will love it.

Pros

  • Produces a very rich sound.
  • You are able to cover more octaves due to the extra strings.
  • Mahogany body gives it a lovely resonance.
  • You can choose either a rosewood fretboard or engineered wood fretboard.
  • Great craftsmanship.

Cons

  • Can be a bit difficult for beginners to play.
  • Doesn’t come with any accessories.
  • The tension from the strings can be an issue for the bridge.

Martin is another well known brand that creates some of the best guitars in the world. When it comes to acoustic guitars they are literally in a league of their own.

However, what most people don’t know is, for the last 100 years, they have also been creating ukuleles.

The Martin T1K is one of their best models. It is made using Koa wood, which, as you know by now, is the best wood to use if you are trying to get that classic Hawaiian sound.

Anytime you buy an instrument created by the Martin brand, you will be very impressed with what you hear.

The intonation and the build make it one of the best sounding tenor ukuleles on the market.

Pros

  • Built using only the highest quality wood.
  • Great workmanship.
  • Produces a very rich, and lovely tone.
  • Finished using satin lacquer.
  • Comes with a gig bag.

Cons

  • No strap buttons meaning you won’t be able to stand up and play.
  • Included gig bag is not the best quality.

The main reason we included the Makanu Professional on this list is because of its price. If you are on a budget this is the best tenor ukulele you can get.

As a matter of fact, it is probably one of the cheapest ukuleles currently on the market. And guess what? Despite its price, it still gets rave reviews.

When buying this ukulele be sure to keep your expectations in check.

While the tone and playability are considered decent, they are not on the same level as a Fender or Martin.

But, if you are someone in need of an inexpensive tenor ukulele, this could very well be a good option for you.

Pros

  • Comes in multiple colors and designs.
  • Features a super comfortable rosewood fretboard.
  • Made using Mahogany wood.
  • Has amazing audio qualities.
  • Put together by hand which is very rare these days.
  • Comes with a branded gig bag.

Cons

  • Strings are of poor quality.
  • Can get out of tune fairly quickly.

Okay, this is the last Kala on this list. We promise!

The Kala KA-SMHT is a mid range ukulele you can get for around $300. And as you would expect with any Kala instrument, the KA-SMHT has a classic design, and a quality build.

The KA-SMHT, however, is made out of Mahogany which gives it some different sound qualities. It actually has a sound that is more like a classical guitar.

The KA-SMHT shows how different model ukuleles can produce a completely different tone. The tone you get with Mahogany wood is completely different than the tone you get with Koa wood.

While both sounds are great, if you are looking for a more mellow sound, the KA-SMHT is your best option.

Pros

  • Great tone.
  • Great for solo players.
  • Smaller than some of the other tenor ukuleles.
  • Great for those with larger hands.
  • Constructed using Mahogany wood.
  • Has a walnut fingerboard.
  • Can be dropped into low G tuning for an amazing sound.

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a carrying case.
  • Some users have complained about the tone of the strings being too sharp.

Who Is The Tenor Ukulele Best Suited For?

Players with larger hands tend to love the tenor ukulele. This is because the larger size gives them a more comfortable feel when they hold the instrument.

Solo players also love it because it gives them the ability to cover more frequencies. When you are able to cover more frequencies the sound you can produce is truly out of this world.

For the most part, the type of ukulele you choose will depend on the sound you prefer. If you prefer a deeper, more mellow tone, then the tenor ukulele is a great instrument for you to play.

Is The Tenor Ukulele a Good Option For Beginners?

When it comes to playing the ukulele, the soprano, concert, and tenor are all played the exact same way.

Because of this, it is perfectly okay for a complete beginner to start with the tenor ukulele. In fact, due to the longer fretboard, you will have more room to move around and learn the instrument.

It is actually not that uncommon for beginners to opt for the tenor ukulele over the other types.

The one big downside is price. The tenor ukulele tends to be a little more expensive than the other types. This is mainly due to the different materials used when creating it.

If price is a concern, opt for an entry level soprano ukulele instead of the tenor.

If you start out on the tenor ukulele, and later wish to switch to the soprano or concert, please know there will be a period of adjustment due to the smaller size of the fretboard on the latter.

The period of adjustment isn’t anything to be too worried about. Most people are able to transition with no problems.

What Are The Best Ukulele Brands?

When it comes to the ukulele, there is no shortage of brilliant brands. Many of which have Hawaiian sounding names due to the fact the first ukulele was created on the island of Hawaii.

There is basically a split between older brands and newer brands. For example, Fender and Martin would be considered old school brands because they have been around for such a long time.

Most know them for their guitars. But they are both some of the top manufacturers of ukuleles.

On the other hand you have the newer brands such as Donner, Kala, Luna, Mahala, and Pono. These are your traditional high end brands that offer starter kits as well as a host of mid range products.

Many of their kits will include plectrums, tuners, cases, strings, and many other items to help you get started.

How Much Should You Spend on a Tenor Ukulele?

Everyone is different and will approach purchasing an instrument a little different. Not only do we all have different budgetary needs, but we also have different desires for what we want in an instrument.

However, no matter what your budgetary needs, there are a few general rules as to how much you should spend on a ukulele.

If you are a beginner, opt for a tenor ukulele kit. You can get one for less than $100 and it will come with everything you need to start your journey to become a ukulele player.

Some of the ukuleles we reviewed above are actually ukulele kits. Check them out to see what all they have to offer.

If you are on a tight budget, you can find a decent ukulele for around $60. While it won’t be ideal for playing large gigs, it will be great for someone just starting out.

If you already have a little experience playing the ukulele, and you want to go to the next level, look for models that are between $100-$300.

These are known as mid-range ukuleles and they are a step above the beginner ukuleles. While their tone isn’t on the level of the more elite models, it is decent enough if you are playing paid gigs.

After the mid-range models you have the elite models. The elite models will cost around $500. These models are built incredibly well and look beautiful.

As far as tonal qualities go, the elite models are the best of the best.

When you are just starting out there is no need to invest in an elite model. However, as you get better, and if you want to take your skills to the next level, you will eventually need to upgrade to a better model.

So to answer the question, “how much should you spend on a tenor ukulele?”, the answer is it depends.

It depends on what your budget is as well as where you are in your journey. Are you looking to play the ukulele as just a hobby, or are you looking at it as something more serious?

Answering these questions will help you decide which ukulele you should invest in.

Final Thoughts

So, now you know the best tenor ukuleles on the market. And as you can tell by the 9 we reviewed, there is a huge variety of instruments that fall into the tenor ukulele category.

In order to choose the best one for your situation, you must take the time to educate yourself on what products are available. You must also consider your own unique needs.

What exactly are you looking for? Are you looking for a model you can test out to see if you like playing the ukulele? Or are you looking for something you can take on tour with a band?

There are suitable products for each of these situations. You should be able to find one in the list above.

Based on some of the information shared in this guide, it should be easy to see why so many people are starting to fall in love with the tenor ukulele.

The key is making sure you find the right model for your needs. Because when you have the right model, playing the ukulele can be a ton of fun.

Choosing the right model can also be the difference in you sticking with it, or just giving up after a few weeks.

Before you make your decision, make sure you consider all the pros and cons. Once you have that hashed out, picking the right tenor ukulele should be a breeze.

Well that’s all for this guide. As usual, we hope you enjoyed it and learned a little bit about what makes a great tenor ukulele.

If you enjoyed it, please share it on your favorite social media platforms.

Happy strumming!

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