View Full Version : Adjusting to a tenor.

09-23-2013, 02:10 PM
I have been playing for about fifteen years and have been playing a concert size. I play reasonably well and have performed in public a few times. I have always wanted a Kamaka Tenor and began saving money in the last year and a half to purchase one.
I was in Hawaii for the month of July visiting my wife's family and took the plunge. I really love the instrument, it really is a work of art. We took the tour and Fred Kamaka is a real character, a really nice guy too!
I have had some difficulty adjusting to the size. My muscle memory is set for a concert size. I have been practicing as much as I can and am studying privately to improve my finger picking. I find that my left hand fatigues a lot quicker than when I play concert. Things are progressing but I didn't think there would be much of an adjustment period. I also find that my hands don't seem to know what to do on my concert size.
I am 57 and majored in music as a trumpet player so I wasn't trained as a string player. On trumpet some players can switch mouthpieces and play well on many different sizes or even double on trombone. I was never able to do that effectively.
Has anyone had a similar experience? Is my experience normal? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

09-23-2013, 02:26 PM
I came from playing guitar for 50 years when I took up the ukulele a few months, I bought a soprano, not knowing anything about sizes. It only took me a couple of weeks to realize that it was way too cramped for me, I had a hard time holding any of the tight cords. I then discovered sizes and realized tenor would be the best one for me, as is suggested for guitar players going to ukulele.

I quickly bought two within days of each other (and have a third on order), just as with guitars, the necks a slightly different and it does take me a little time to settle in, but not too long. I guess because all of my experience has been with guitars, I'm used to switching around without too much difficulty.

09-23-2013, 03:48 PM
The spacing is different, but I love my tenor and it lets my hand move more freely. Good luck adjusting, just keep playing.

09-24-2013, 12:42 PM
In my experience, adjusting to a tenor takes months. I've played mostly sopranos but I've also had a concert uke that I've been mostly playing the last two months and it's still a big jump from a concert to a tenor. The jump from soprano to concert is minimal with a few adjustments with the frets, but I must say that a tenor is a big jump from either soprano or concert.

However, I'd recommend NOT playing your concert uke (or soprano) for the next two or three months and only play tenor. Yeah, it's cold turkey but it'll work better. I know, I've done that myself and it works. 8-)


09-24-2013, 03:08 PM
Just keep playing. While I have not had this experience on Uke, I have had it between pianos, guitars, saxophones and other instruments. I find the easiest way to do things is only play a particular song on a particular instrument.

09-24-2013, 03:50 PM
On a practical note, the fret spacing on a tenor is about the same as a concert up the neck a few frets. Also the fret spacing on a tenor makes it easier to work around the middle (say the fifth fret) of the fret board, so you can go up and down as required. Maybe you can ask your teacher to help you find material and techniques so that you are playing say around fret 5 and 7 on your tenor, instead of in the first five frets. Then as you get better, you can move up or down the fretboard. If you can make four finger chords, you may be able to find all the chords you need around fret 5 and 7 instead of 0 and 2.
Find these chords around the 5th fret F A D Bb A7 E7 Dm B and around the 7th fret G Em C C7 Am etc.

09-24-2013, 03:57 PM
I go back and forth among ukes, mandolins, guitars and bass. While I agree that there is a muscle memory adjustment, I think that there is an even greater frame of mind adjustment. When I pick up a guitar and start to fingerpick after an extended period of tenor uke, my fingers seem to compete for fingerboard real estate, but I can overcome the apparent physical speed bumps by slowing down and concentrating on the task (and fingerboard) at hand.

09-24-2013, 04:16 PM
I played strictly soprano for 20 years before I got a tenor (and a concert 10 years after that). It took a little time to get used to the tenor, but not all that long. I never looked back, and have hardly used the sopranos since. I definitely don't remember having problem with left hand fatigue. I was a high school trumpeter -- that only shows itself now when I come up with arrangements for Chicago songs that incorporate the brass lines.

Big B
09-25-2013, 07:57 AM
My biggest issue going from concert to tenor is wanting a strap. I've always enjoyed concert size ukes, but like the OP I recently picked up a tenor. I've never felt the need to strap a concert uke, but after a short time of owning the tenor I'm on the hunt for strap pins...

09-25-2013, 01:53 PM
I am trying to configure some kind of strapping system. I have also been thinking about leaving the concert in the case for awhile.
I think the left hand fatigue is probably caused by trying to use it more like a classical guitar player does. I have also been involved with an African Drumming group for the last two weeks and have been playing djembe 2-3 hours a day. That may also be contributing to my fatigue, that will be coming to an end in a few days. I play djembe most every day but only for about 20 minutes. My hands have been tired and sore from all the extra playing.

I try to practice in short sessions as many times a day as I can. My background as a trumpeter taught me that was the best way for me to practice. Many well known trumpet players/teachers advocate that as way of building endurance and avoiding bad habits.
Mahalo for all your suggestions, I appreciate it.