The 10 Best Tenor Ukuleles

If you’ve heard the rich timbre of a tenor ukulele, you’re probably thinking about giving this instrument a try – and you’re probably wondering which tenor ukuleles are best.

If you’re a guitarist and you’re trying to decide between a tenor and a baritone ukulele, you should know that both are good choices.

Quick Links: Our Top 5 Best Tenor Ukuleles

  1. Best Overall: Kanile’a ISL-T Premium Tenor Ukulele Hawaiian Island Koa
  2. Best Tenor Ukulele Under $1000: Romero Creations Tiny Tenor Koa Ukulele
  3. Best for Beginners: Ohana TK-70R Tenor Ukulele
  4. Best Premium Tenor UkuleleKanile’a Platinum Edition Solid Koa Pineapple Tenor
  5. Best Affordable Tenor Ukulele: Romero Creations RC-GT-K Grand Tenor Ukulele

The baritone plays just like the first four strings on a classical guitar, while the tenor plays like the first 4 strings with a capo at the 5th fret. Either way, the transition should be fairly easy although you might take a little time to get used to the smaller size.

Whoever you are and however you play, the good news is that tenor ukuleles are more popular than ever, and there are tons of models from which to choose.

The bad news is the same. So, how to weed the best tenor ukuleles out from those that aren’t really worth trying? Let’s get started.

Kanile’a ISL-T Premium Tenor Ukulele Hawaiian Island Koa “Gulfstream”

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Features:

  • Premium grade koa wood top, back, and sides
  • Abalone inlay depicting the Hawaiian islands
  • Solid mahogany neck
  • Ebony fingerboard, bridge, head plate, and bridge pins
  • Standard Kanile’a Crown headstock
  • Chrome Kanile’a open geard tuners
  • Black TUSQ nut and saddle
  • UV-cured high-gloss finish on body
  • Satin finish on neck

It’s one of the best tenor ukuleles we’ve seen in quite some time – and it’s definitely a splurge! Don’t miss the opportunity to take a look at this instrument, even if it’s not quite in your price range, because it really is a work of art.

Masterfully crafted of solid premium Hawaiian Koa wood (that’s the very best of the best!) this ukulele showcases stunning abalone shell inlays in the shape of the Hawaiian islands.

As expected, this solid koa tenor ukuele offers tons of resonance, volume, warmth, and brilliance. The sound is purely Hawaiian and nothing compares. It’s like diving into that warm, blue ocean, emerging, and wiggling your toes in the sugary soft sand – without ever leaving home.

On to the rest of the features: This ukulele is fitted with a solid mahogany neck that’s protected by a silky satin finish that feels just fantastic in your hands, with no stickiness and no tendency to pick up fingerprints (you all know what we’re talking about!)

The fingerboard, head plate, bridge, and bridge pins are made with solid ebony, and the nut and saddle are made with black TUSQ, which offers a combination of durability, outstanding performance, and an attractive appearance that complements the overall look of the instrument.

The body is protected by a UV-cured high-gloss finish that shows off every stunning inch of the wood and abalone. This is a stage-worthy instrument that you’ll want to show off – and it is built to last a lifetime!

A free Music Access Premium case is included, along with some other fantastic extras. Custom setup is available.

Romero Creations Tiny Tenor Koa Ukulele “Ghostrider”

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Features:

  • Handcrafted of solid koa wood
  • Ebony fingerboard and bridge
  • High-quality 16:1 geared tuners
  • Handmade ebony tuner buttons
  • Pepe Romero Ut2 Tenor Ukulele strings
  • Free case included

Compact size, big sound! That’s the first thing you need to know about the Tiny Tenor. Even though it’s got the same 17” scale length that makes the tenor ukulele such a versatile, easy instrument to play, its body is a narrow teardrop shape.

No worries, because Pepe Romero and Daniel Ho perfected this design so that it’s got ample projection and loads of sweetness. In addition, the unique shape provides easier access to all the frets, kind of like a cutaway does. Once you pick it up and start playing, you’ll find it’s difficult to stop!

Next, check out the materials. This instrument is made with solid Koa wood. The rosette is inlaid abalone, the bridge and fretboard are ebony, and the gloss finish shows off every feature to perfection. Romero Creations uses high-quality geared 16:1tuers, and the ebony tuner buttons are handcrafted.

This ukulele is fitted with Pepe Romero UT2 tenor ukulele strings tuned GCEA with a low G, and you get a free Professional Access Case to protect your investment.

We absolutely love these instruments and Terry tries to stock a few different ones in the Uke Like the Pros store. If this particular model is gone, a quick search ought to lead you to an alternative, like the Romero Creations RC-TT-K Koa ukulele “Thunderbolt.”

Ohana TK-70R Tenor Ukulele

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Features:

  • Solid spruce top
  • Rosewood back and sides
  • Abalone inlay rosette
  • Cream binding
  • Black and white purfling
  • Hardwood fretboard
  • Bone nut & saddle
  • Open geared tuners
  • Aquila strings

Looking for a combination of affordability and quality? Ohana has you covered. The TK-70R tenor ukulele offers plenty of warmth and projection thanks to its solid spruce top and its rosewood back and sides. The sound hole is adorned with an abalone inlay rosette, and the binding is in a pleasing cream tone with classic black and white purfling. It looks as pretty as it sounds!

If you’re a fan of traditional slotted headstocks, then you’ll probably like this uke. It’s fitted with open-geared tuners, and it comes complete with a nice set of Aquila strings. The fretboard is made of hardwood, and there are perloid dots at the 5th, 7th, 10th, and 12th frets. The nut and saddle are made with real bone, not cheap plastic as so many inexpensive ukuleles have these days.

A free Ohana gig bag is included.

Kanile’a 2019 Platinum Edition Solid Koa Pineapple Tenor “The Experience” #69 of “69 Dreams” – The LAST ONE!

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Features:

  • Master Grade Koa body
  • Radiused back
  • Ebony armrest
  • Black front binding
  • Curly Mango rosette with Black trim
  • Pineapple side sound port
  • Solid Mahogany neck

Here it is: The ultimate tenor ukulele and easily one of the best we’ve ever encountered.

“The Experience” #69 of 69 dreams is made with solid koa wood. It’s one of 69 pineapple tenor ukuleles that were handcrafted by Kanilea with an incredible playing experience in mind.

Numbered and signed by Kanile’a master builder and founder Joe Souza, it is made with master grade premium koa wood, which has so much color intensity, graining, flaming, and curl, it’s almost unbelievable. The rosette and fret markers are inlaid premium curly mango wood, which provides a touch of contrast while keeping the look natural.

A UV-cured high gloss finish protects the body while showing the koa wood to perfection, and a silk finish protects the neck while offering a comfortable feel in your hand.

Besides the front sound hole, this master-level ukulele offers a pineapple side sound port. The armrest is ebony, and so is the fretboard. The nut and saddle are made with black TUSQ, and the Gotoh Stealth Cosmo micro-tuners are black as well.

A free Super Deluxe Music Area Case is included to protect your investment.

Take a look even if you’re not in the market for a uke like this right now, because it’s the stuff dreams are made of!

Romero Creations RC-GT-K Grand Tenor Ukulele Koa “Tiger Shark”

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Features:

  • Designed by Pepe Romero
  • Handcrafted, all solid, Koa wood (Top, Sides, and Back)
  • Mahogany neck
  • Tenor scale length 17 Inches
  • Ebony fingerboard & bridge
  • 3 Inch Body Width
  • Romero Signature on Headstock
  • Setup with Low G
  • Pepe Romero Strings: UT2 Tenor Ukulele Set (Low G)
  • Free Pepe Romero setup and Professional Access case

Stunning in terms of sound and appearance! The Romero Creations grand tenor is named for its oversized body (three inches thick), which offers even more rich, full, sound than a standard tenor body. The scale is the same – a portable 17 inches that’s comfortable to play. The neck is a little bit wider than average, so you get a little more room to work – it’s a nice addition that you’ll really appreciate if you enjoy fingerstyle.

This tenor ukulele is handmade of solid koa wood, which is protected by a gorgeous high-gloss finish and accented with an abalone inlay that surrounds the sound hole. The fingerboard and bridge are ebony, and the Romero signature headstock is fitted with high-quality closed gear tuners.

Like other ukuleles in this series, the Romero Creations Grand Tenor ukulele is designed by Pepe Romero himself.

A free Pepe Romero setup is included, along with a free Professional Access case.

Ohana TK-39 Vintage Tenor Ukulele Solid Mahogany “Tinman”

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Features:

  • Premium solid mahogany top, back, and sides
  • Maple pendalouge
  • Maple binding
  • Mahogany neck and headstock
  • Black and white purfling
  • Vintage finish
  • Grover nickel geared tuners
  • Aquila strings
  • Bone nut & saddle

You’re not alone of you’ve always wanted a vintage ukulele, but had trouble finding one! Ohana solved the issue with its TK-39 tenor ukulele. It’s brand new, but it is modeled after the vintage Martin 3-M ukulele, which dates back to the 1920s. You get that incredible vintage sound, but none of the worries that come with playing a fragile antique instrument. Cool, right?

This ukulele is made with premium mahogany. Maple binding and details combine with multi-ply purfling in traditional black and white, and the rosette is also traditional black and white. Grover nickel geared tuners, a real bone saddle and nut, and pearloid double dot inlaid fret markers add to the look of this stunning instrument. A maple pendalouge adds to the vintage aesthetic and provides the perfect finishing touch.

In terms of sound, you get loads of projection, sweetness, and sunny brightness – exactly what you need to strum old-fashioned tunes and newer songs alike! Price-wise, this vintage-inspired ukulele is an absolute steal.

Be sure to watch Terry’s review of the TK-39 vintage tenor ukulele, as you’ll get a complete tour and an opportunity to hear this instrument being played!

Lohanu LU-T Tenor Ukulele

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We’re huge fans of Lohanu not just because they offer a lifetime warranty on their instruments and accessories, but also because they offer good quality and pretty amazing prices. the Lohanu LU-T tenor ukulele is one of the most popular tenor ukes on the market right now, and for good reason. This ukulele is simple but beautiful, with a sapele / mahogany top, sides, back, and neck, plus a rosewood fingerboard and bridge. The ABS bindings are handmade, and strap buttons are pre-installed.

These fantastic ukuleles feature chrome die cast tuning machines, and they feature arched backs so every note has plenty of sustain and volume.

The sound is incredible, warm and smooth. It’s not quite the same as a high-end uke, but amazing nevertheless. Aquila strings are part of the package, along with a strap, a basic gig bag, a tuner, and a few other nice extras.

It’s worth noting here that Lohanu had some quality control issues in the past but the warranty inspires quite a bit of confidence in the company’s willingness to stand behind its products. The most recent reviews are mostly glowing, and the price is definitely right.

 

Cordoba 15TM Tenor Ukulele

Cordoba 15TM Tenor Ukulele

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The Cordoba 15TM Tenor Ukulele features a mahogany top, back, and sides, which contribute to its rich, eloquent sound. The ivorioid binding offers a touch of pleasing contrast, and the abalone shell style rosette lends a bit of island-inspired style. The tuning machines are silver with pearl buttons, and premium Aquila strings are included.

Despite a surprisingly low price tag, this ukulele delivers lovely intonation, usually with minor adjustments to the setup.

It holds its tuning well once the strings have settled in, and it offers plenty of resonance. This might not be the perfect uke, but it’s definitely among the best in its class.

 

Kala KA-EBY-T Ebony Tenor Ukulele

Kala KA-EBY-T Ebony Tenor Ukulele

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If you’re looking for something different, you’re going to want to check out this amazing tenor uke from Kala. This is a gorgeous instrument with an ebony wood body and a walnut fingerboard.

The neck is mahogany for strength, and the headstock is mahogany. Simple white binding adds a touch of contrast in keeping with this instrument’s wonderfully earthy appearance.

In terms of sound, this ukulele offers rich resonance that will make you crave more.

There’s a touch of bright snappiness and sparkle mixed in with the mellow island sound, and it’s tons of fun for everything from jazz chords to fingerstyle. Most reviewers are astonished with this tenor uke’s performance, often comparing it to far pricier instruments.

 

Fender Montecito Tenor Ukulele

 

Fender Montecito Tenor Ukulele

 

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Fender fans, rejoice! The Fender Montecito tenor ukulele is sure to please, from its shapely telecaster-style headstock complete with vintage-style tuners to its genuine bone nut and saddle. This incredible uke will make you look twice, not just because it’s so pretty, but because of its solid koa top, koa wood back, and koa sides.

Did we say koa? Yes! The no-tie bridge is a nice touch, and the abalone binding and rosette lends an added bit of island distinction.

Aquila strings are included, but you’ll want to upgrade to a better bag if this is your choice.

This ukulele is easy on the eyes, but how does it sound? The genuine bone and saddle make for excellent intonation but that’s just the beginning.

Expect applause, because it offers ample sustain, plenty or richness and warmth, and enough projection to please audiences at your favorite acoustic venue. All things considered, this is probably the best tenor ukulele we’ve seen lately, particularly at this price point.

Sound

The sweet, rich sound of the tenor ukulele makes it unique, and it’s one reason so many people decide that this is a must-have instrument. When choosing a tenor ukulele, be sure that you love the way it sounds to your ears! You can find clips of all the most popular tenor ukes being played online, and many manufacturers provide demo videos. If you have access to a music store that carries ukuleles, you may be able to try some of your top candidates for yourself, and perhaps even support your local store by making your purchase there. If you don’t like the sound, move on to the next option!

Action / Setup

A ukulele’s setup matters more than you might expect. If the strings are set too low (i.e. low action) then you’re probably going to encounter some buzzing even though you won’t have to expend much effort to press the strings. If the action is set too high, you’ll find yourself wondering why the instrument is so hard to play. Good news: It’s possible to adjust the action, either on your own or with the help of a luthier (highly recommended if you’re new to ukuleles.)

Good strings matter too. Sometimes simply changing strings makes all the difference in the world in the way an instrument sounds. We’ve chosen options that come with quality strings, but you might prefer something different and find that you need a better set of strings once it arrives.

Bottom line? If you’re at all worried about the setup or the action, take your uke to a guitar shop and have them take a look at it. Most of the time, fixes are fast and easy.

Playability

What is playability? Just like it sounds, it’s the level of comfort you experience when playing the instrument. A playable instrument lets you relax and enjoy the music, while an un-playable one is a real pain to deal with. As you check reviews, it’s a good idea to see what people have to say about their overall experience with the instrument in question. If there are a lot of complaints about sharp frets, rough finishes, etc., then it’s probably best to move on to the next option on your shortlist.

Type of Materials Used

Materials used in building a ukulele contribute to its sound and overall quality as well as to its appearance and durability. Everyone loves the idea of playing a beautiful instrument, but what good is it if it sounds terrible?

Fine ukuleles are often made with solid wood such as Hawaiian Koa, but this is expensive so most mid-range suppliers rely on woods like acacia, walnut, maple, spruce, and mahogany.

Some mid-range tenor ukuleles have solid wood components, but most are made with laminates, which give the instrument a beautiful appearance and enhanced durability, but don’t improve with age like solid wood does. There’s a tradeoff either way.

Be sure to take other components into consideration as you choose your new tenor uke. You want good tuners, and you want to make sure that trim is of good quality.

Many of the less expensive ukuleles are very simply trimmed out as this cuts production cost. If a ukulele looks fancy and has a low price tag, you might want to do some extra digging to see if it’s really all that it’s cracked up to be.

We really want to stress the importance of taking the whole instrument into account and not worrying too much about laminates.

Expert players often dislike them but let’s face it, most of us have bills to pay and laminates have their advantages. For us, they’re not deal breakers at all, so long as tuners and other components are worthwhile. On the flip side, if a solid Koa wood ukulele is what you’re after, by all means, invest in one!

Overall Quality

Today’s mass-produced ukuleles are all over the map. Some are terrible, and reviewers will be quick to let others know it. Others are decent, and some are downright amazing. Many mid-range ukuleles can be enhanced with the addition of better strings and maybe a new nut.

We’ve invested hours into the process of weeding out the good from the bad to narrow down your choices and get you playing faster. If you’re into reading reviews, be sure to take your time and look for problems that seem to happen over and over again. Be leery of issues like split wood, warping, and misplaced frets.

These do happen from time to time due to quality control issues but when they do, the manufacturer ought to step up and take responsibility for the problem. Most reviewers who have their issues fixed will mention it – and those who have had a bad experience will be vocal about it as well.

You’re in luck if you have access to a local music store where you can try out ukuleles before buying. Unfortunately, these shops are few and far between so most of us have to make our purchases online. If you are lucky enough to have a shop that carries ukuleles in your area, do consider supporting them.

You’ll get a combination of good quality and service, and you’ll be supporting an important member of your community as well.

If you’re buying online and you’re not 100 percent convinced about quality, look to see if there’s a warranty or a money-back guarantee. This way, if you end up with a dud, you’ll at least be able to get your money back and start over.

Scale Length

Tenor ukuleles usually have a 17-inch scale length, with a little bit of variation between brands. Keep in  mind that the scale length isn’t the actual length of the instrument; instead, it’s the playable span of strings between the nut and the bridge.

Nut Width

Nut width refers to the width of the ukulele’s neck at the nut. This determines string spacing and how much room your fingers have on the fretboard. The wider the nut (about 1.5 inches is maximum for most ukuleles with the exception of wide neck models) the more room you have. Average ukulele nut width is about 1 3/8 inches or 35 to 36 millimeters. Most tenor ukuleles accommodate players of different sizes easily – it’s one more reason why this instrument is so popular!

Final Thoughts

Once it’s settled in, your new ukulele will bring you hours of enjoyment and help you stretch your musical horizons just a little bit further. Whether you’re new to the ukulele or an experienced instrumentalist, you’re certain to find that the best tenor ukulele is one that meets your unique needs and brings a smile to your face. Aloha, and happy strumming!

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