Out of the four main Ukulele sizes, sometimes the Tenor is the odd man out. It normally has a slightly deeper and bigger sound than the traditional sopranos but it lacks the size that makes the baritone popular with guitar players.
We think this is crazy. The tenor tends to have the warmest tone of all the standard sizes. That and it’s perfect for solo performances as it projects so much better than the Soprano.
As a beginner or an artist looking for their first tenor ukulele, these are our recommendations that we know you’ll love!
The Best Beginner Tenor Ukuleles
With these four Ukuleles we have no doubt you’ll be able to find something to your liking.
We’ve gone into greater detail for each of our four choices below. We’ve also included links to the products so you can read reviews, check prices and availability, or see what else is out there!
#1. Kala KA-TG Tenor Ukulele
Our choice for the best beginner tenor ukulele is from Kala. The quality of the KA-TG is what we’d expect to see on a ukulele that was closer to twice this price.
We are really a fan of the combination of spruce top with full mahogany body and neck. It gives the instrument a slightly unique sound that really pops.
Lastly, the gloss finish on this instrument stands out in a crowd and puts a great finishing touch on this instrument. If the gloss isn’t your style then check out the KA-T, which is the stock version of this model!
#2. Luna Mahogany Series Tattoo Ukulele
The Tattoo Ukulele has everything you could want from a ukulele at this price range.
Start off with a full mahogany body and neck, a rosewood fretboard, finished off with Aquila strings and geared tuners. Nothing that really really stands out, right?
Luna has put a very traditional Hawaiian Tattoo design on this ukulele. While the size isn’t what you’d expect to see in Hawaii, the look and feel of this uke certainly would be at home.
#3. Oscar Schmidt OU2T Tenor Ukulele
Oscar Schmidt is often more associated with guitars and banjos, but don’t overlook this ukulele offering.
The full mahogany body on this tenor uke gives it a great big sound while the ebony head stock and bridge really give it a quality that is unexpected in a model that is normally under $100. You also have the option of either gold or chrome geared tuners, giving you a little bit of class or a bit of gleam, up to you.
Finally, if you want to upgrade this ukulele comes in several different versions of spalted wood for a reasonable price difference.
#4. Fender Nohea Tenor Ukulele
Just like Oscar Schmidt is often more associated with guitars than ukuleles, the same is definitely true with Fender guitars.
This ukulele is equipped with a full Koa body, mahogany neck and rosewood bridge. The Koa is a nice touch but nothing surprising there.
Then you look at the headstock. Fender stays true to it’s roots and equips this ukulele with a telecaster style head.
Traditional Koa ukulele body, very un-traditional head. We, for one, like it a lot.
How We Graded The Ukuleles
Any list of this type is going to be heavily scrutinized. We wanted to not only give you a selection of 4 different ukes but ones that had different benefits and price points. We hope that not only have we given everyone at least one option they’ll like at a price they can afford.
Not a fan of what we’ve shown you? That’s ok. Here is what we were looking for in each instrument and how we judged them.
You can’t have a great sounding instrument with really low quality materials used to make it. Generally speaking, you will find a fairly consistent growth in price compared to quality of the materials.
Cheap ukuleles are often made from plastic. These instruments, with very few exceptions, sound pretty horrible. These will very often have a muted, mumbled sound that lacks the crispness that you get with a wood.
Next up are the laminated woods. This may be the widest range of quality of all the variations so be careful and read plenty of reviews (or play the instrument itself) before purchasing. You’ll find several of the beginner tenor ukes we recommended fall under this category.
A good laminate is made up of mostly, if not completely, of the wood listed in the description. A good laminate will have a thin, solid piece of wood on top of an assortment of smaller chunks, pressed together.
Three of the four instruments here use a laminated mahogany body which is extremely common with instruments in this price/quality range. You will also see laminated spruce, maple and in better instruments Koa (a native Hawaiian wood).
Common Ukulele Woods
Cheap laminates will have a thin sheet of real wood over something that can only be compared to particle board. Stay away from these as they tend to sound as bad, if not worse than plastic!
Finally, you have solid wood. Some of the better instruments we recommend for beginners will have a solid top combined with a laminated body but you will rarely find a full solid body for under $350ish.
First thing is first. What are they made of?
Frankly, as a beginner, there is no reason for you to play any strings that aren’t some sort of nylon or synthetic. You can find some variations and as you get better you can experiment with real cat gut or metal wound strings.
To be able to get the best out of fancy strings, or even to be able to hear the difference, you will need to have developed your ear for the instrument, which only comes with time.
Luckily, (actually no luck was involved) all the instruments we chose for this list come strung with the very popular Aquila Nylgut.
If you have an instrument already, or find yourself needing a new set because you played the originals till they broke, check out our guide on great ukulele strings.
The first two categories, material and strings, directly effect the third category, sound.
If you’ve bought a poor plastic ukulele it’s likely that even a perfectly played chord will sound muffled, distorted and soft.
Likewise, if your strings need to be replaced, or somehow you found yourself with a uke strung with a steel string, you are likely to have to strum way to hard to get any action. In the case of metal strings, you may be hearing a very thin, tingy sound.
Either way. You won’t be getting good sound.
The thing we haven’t talked about that really effects sound is the quality of the construction. Each of the ukulele brands we’ve put on this list have a reputation for quality.
It is still possible to find yourself with a loose fret that causes a buzz, or a poorly mounted bridge. or even a tuner that won’t hold a string at the right tension.
With the companies, and instruments, we’ve chosen, it’s much less likely that you’ll run into these problems. Thus, we feel safe recommending online purchases with them.
Maybe the most important factor of all.
We know that most people don’t want to spend a huge sum of money on a new ukulele. They may not like playing it or grow bored of it after a while. Even more likely, they will struggle to put in the time and practice at the start and drop it because it’s too hard.
With that in mind, the most expensive ukulele that we added to this list runs in the neighborhood of $250 while the cheapest can be found under $100.
It would be easy for us to have recommended some instruments that cost $1000 and point at how great they are… or on the opposite side of the coin, cheap instruments that would only cost $20 but would sound horrible and not last.
These instruments are neither super expensive or extremely cheap. The best tenor ukulele also happens to be a great values for a beginner ukulele player.
There you have it! Our the best tenor ukulele list for 2017! If, after shopping around for the tenor size you decide you may like a baritone, soprano, or concert size better check out our full guide to the best beginner ukuleles!
Not looking to buy a ukulele? We have tons of other ukulele related resources for you as well!