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View Full Version : Help with choosing new tenor uke



tmanson
11-04-2013, 02:16 PM
I picked up my kids soprano uke this past summer and have been loving it. Looking to get a new tenor for myself with budget roughly $150 to $225. In general I like deeper, more melancholy tones than bright, plinky tones. Unfortunately, I have very little selection to actually try out within a few hours of me, so I'm doing my best to pick online. Just curious as to whether anyone has experience with any of these options:

Makai TK65
Oscar Schmidt OU6
Riptide EUT-5NS
Cordoba 20TM
Ohana TK20

Thanks a bunk. Happy uke-ing.
Tom

bunnyf
11-04-2013, 02:42 PM
Hey there tmanson! Have you considered a baritone, if you are looking for that deeper sound. To my ear, tenors don't sound hugely deeper. If I were putting it on a scale w 1 being a soprano and a guitar a 10' I'd say a concert is a 2.5, a tenor a 4, and a baritone a 7. I had a Bari first, then a soprano. I was looking for a tenor but was living in a remote area and the only music store near carried only one brand and one size(soprano). I was hoping the tenor would give me a mellow sound in a smaller package. To me though, I thought it actually is much closer in tone to a concert and pretty darn far away from a Bari. Even changing out the strings to dGBE, didn't do it. Still sweet, but just not as mellow as I was looking for. Good luck on your hunt. I haven't had any of those ukes, but I'm sure someone on UU can give some good advice.

Bao
11-04-2013, 03:05 PM
I would recommend a leho ukulele. Their bodies have longer sides and an arched back which makes it much louder and deeper than my lanikai uke.

Jim Hanks
11-04-2013, 03:48 PM
http://www.theukulelesite.com/best_selling_ukulele_under200
http://theukulelereview.com/9-tenors-under-200-video-review/

grahamdh
11-04-2013, 06:38 PM
I have a Cordoba concert (CM20) set up by HMS. It plays very well for a budget instrument, I can't imagine the tenor being any less reliable.

Tikiden
11-04-2013, 07:09 PM
The make/model could vary based on your budget, but I would try an all-solid Mahagony Tenor or Concert sized Uke. Laminated construction typically sounds less robust and not as pronounced as a nice solid wood constructed Uke.

kohanmike
11-04-2013, 07:56 PM
I got a Gretsch G9121 A.C.E. for $199 a couple months ago, it looks like it's up to $219 now. I think it's excellent, solid top, sounds great.

http://www.kohanmike.com/images/u3Gretsch.jpg

Tikiden
11-05-2013, 01:55 AM
As mentioed prior knowing that all-solid wood is the way to go, to give you a specific model, defintely give the Martin T1K consideration as well. It's top in craftsmanship and will retain it's value well if resale is a consideration down the road for you. Of course there are many other brands that may cost slight less (Ohana, Oscar Schmidt, Kala, Lanakai, etc...) offering all-solid wood construction choices in Mahagony, KOA, etc..., for slightly less cost. Again it goes back to your budget. Looking forward to hearing about what you select. Have fun!

Tikiden
11-05-2013, 02:05 AM
Photo of the Martin T1K: 60621


Here are couple of Video reviews:

http://youtu.be/5hOzzI1IDXY

http://youtu.be/vMRZNANdO8M

tmanson
11-05-2013, 03:28 AM
The make/model could vary based on your budget, but I would try an all-solid Mahagony Tenor or Concert sized Uke. Laminated construction typically sounds less robust and not as pronounced as a nice solid wood constructed Uke.

Do I really have to be careful about humidity and warpage with a solid wood uke?

hammer40
11-05-2013, 04:03 AM
Do I really have to be careful about humidity and warpage with a solid wood uke?

Yes, you do to a certain extent. Some environments are more difficult than others, and I don't know where you are located. It is pretty straight forward though, just keep something like an Oasis humidifier in your case, or a home made version of one.

sonomajazz
11-05-2013, 05:40 AM
Kamoa E-3T...best bang for the buck...solid spruce and maple for about $219-229.

It's my "go to" uke.

Flyinby
11-05-2013, 08:44 AM
I have to differ from most of the group here, although I think the links given to you by Jim Hanks are perfect for what you're trying to do. Solid wood/top ukes are great, of course, but there's a tradeoff to everything, and other things to consider. Since this will be your 'only' uke (unless you hijack you're daughters soprano), you may not want one you need to pamper, one you can take traveling without having to worry too much, one you don't have to rush into the humidity-controlled case (depending on your climate). If a laminate (either solid top or all laminate) uke is set up with good intonation, and is from a reliable manufacturer, you should have a good solid uke that lasts you a long time, and is pleasant to play. And if you drive through the desert with it in the back of the car, you won't be likely to get home to find cracks or warps, parted seams, etc.

Tenors are a good all-around size; as you start fingering notes and chords up the fretboard, adult-size fingers have an easier time...I notice even with concerts that at times it gets a bit cramped on the higher frets, and clear notes can suffer. Baritones...they're fine but traditionally tuned different and sound different than the other ukes, so unless you really want the large size and boomier bass, I'd stick with the tenor for now (you can always get a low G string or buy one that already has low G, if you prefer the linear tuning).

The Kalas, Islanders and others listed on that ukulele site page are all reliable instruments that will be intoned well, set up properly, backed up by the seller and the factory, and shouldn't have any surprises like warping or splitting as time goes by. That's a good set of attributes for a good solid first uke that you can enjoy playing. While you will get a million recommendations of everyone's favorite brand solid wood uke that may not cost a lot more, you may not enjoy the same benefits, and the next guy will have had the same uke and not liked it.

Or, you can order an all-solid, beautiful-looking tenor uke from a Vietnamese seller with good ebay feedback, and if it arrives intact, find it has buzzing frets, a split seam, cracks, and a month later discover you've got a twisted neck. But at least it's solid wood. There's plenty of time to venture into new woods and manufacturers after you get more involved, but a good solid, basic no-headache uke is a good way to start.

LifesShort
11-05-2013, 09:25 AM
Take a look at Koa Pili Koko (usually referred to as KPK) ukuleles. I have a tenor made from solid acacia and it has a wonderful tone. Don't let solid wood instruments scare you off. I don't do anything different for it than I would do for a laminate. Even during the winter time I just leave mine hanging on the wall. I you live in an area that is really dry in the winter, you would probably want to keep it in a case with a humidifier. Otherwise, just play it and enjoy it.

tmanson
11-05-2013, 03:41 PM
Take a look at Koa Pili Koko (usually referred to as KPK) ukuleles. I have a tenor made from solid acacia and it has a wonderful tone. Don't let solid wood instruments scare you off. I don't do anything different for it than I would do for a laminate. Even during the winter time I just leave mine hanging on the wall. I you live in an area that is really dry in the winter, you would probably want to keep it in a case with a humidifier. Otherwise, just play it and enjoy it.

That is reassuring. I live in the Northeast US where there's a lot of humidity change through the year, particularly some very dry winters inside and out. I had worried about spending more for a solid wood uke then having it not hold up well.

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. I appreciate the help.
Tom

Flyinby
11-05-2013, 07:19 PM
That is reassuring. I live in the Northeast US where there's a lot of humidity change through the year, particularly some very dry winters inside and out. I had worried about spending more for a solid wood uke then having it not hold up well.

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. I appreciate the help.
Tom

Cold and dry weather can be pretty tough on instruments...I'd at least try to be as careful as possible to keep it stored with a humidifier. I live in California near the coast, and our humidity is pretty safe, to where I don't have to worry about solid wood issues so much, but differing weather conditions might give you entirely different results with the same instrument.

The Chinese-made solid wood ukes can be very nice, but remember that unless the dealer is available and willing to back it up, you really have no recourse if it comes apart or warps. While I think some of the Kalas, for example, may be manufactured by Chinese factories, they are backed up by Kala's name, and if you buy from a reputable dealer, the dealer too. The same goes for Lanikai, Oscar Schmidt, and so on, who may have their ukes manufactured worldwide, but put their name and reputation behind them. Regarding one favorite brand or another, a web search can turn up both people who swear by a brand, and others with horror stories...twisted necks, bridges coming off, cracks, and with no manufacturer recourse you're at the mercy of the seller, so be sure to buy from a seller you can trust.

Either way, with your East-coast conditions, if you go for a solid wood uke I'd suggest being conscientious with a humidifier and storage, or if you want to take a chance, at least try to let it gradually acclimate over time, rather than just assuming you can leave it out.

ralphk
11-06-2013, 12:49 AM
With the exception of my Flea, my ukes are solid wood instruments and they don't get any extra special care. I do keep house a bit humidified in the winter when the heat is on and I have a meter for room humidity in the room too. I think the real key is not to shock the instrument with drastic changes in temperature and humidity. I recall someone mentioning having a good instrument crack when simply going from one side of the big island to the other. Don't shock them. And of course, no storage in the trunk of a car.

tmanson
11-06-2013, 05:01 PM
I got a Gretsch G9121 A.C.E. for $199 a couple months ago, it looks like it's up to $219 now. I think it's excellent, solid top, sounds great.

http://www.kohanmike.com/images/u3Gretsch.jpg


I love the sound of that Gretsch with a low G that I found on Youtube (Ukulele Jay). Does that G9121 have the wider, C-shaped neck that the G9120 has?

Also, what is the conventional wisdom on ukes with electronics? I could see the very occasional use for a pick-up for playing in church. But if they are just junky electronics that will not work in a few years, then perhaps I should avoid them. Simpler is better, maybe?

So far I find I am partial to that Gretsch 9121 and the Cordoba 20TM with electronics. Both just sound a little mellower to my ear. The Islander MT4 also caught my ear.

Thanks, as always, for your help.
Tom

tmanson
11-06-2013, 05:04 PM
I got a Gretsch G9121 A.C.E. for $199 a couple months ago, it looks like it's up to $219 now. I think it's excellent, solid top, sounds great.

http://www.kohanmike.com/images/u3Gretsch.jpg

I also should have asked if having the electronics alters the unplugged acoustic sound at all? In other words, would the standard Cordoba 20TM sound different than the electric version unplugged?

bborzell
11-06-2013, 05:33 PM
Most concerns about wood movement are expressed with respect to instruments drying out. I have had more than one custom builder mention their concern that most wood movement they have seen in their instruments has come from over humidifying rather than drying out. I have at least one warranty statement that specifically limits liability if it is clear that the instrument has been humidified to the extent that there is movement leading to structural issues.

kohanmike
11-06-2013, 08:56 PM
I find acoustic/electric to sound the same as non electric, the added hardware does not seem to make a difference to my ear. The Fishman Kula preamp system in my Gretsch seems to be very good, very natural sounding, but saying that, I've ordered and installed preamps direct from China for less than half price, that are actually the original OEM for many companies, and they sound just as good. I especially like having a tuner in the preamp.

tmanson
11-23-2013, 02:51 AM
I am getting close to pulling the trigger on my new tenor. I had narrowed it down to the Gretsch 9121 or the Ohana 20TKCE. I've added in the possibility of a Mainland as well since the all solid mohagany isn't much more than the other two and I can't find a single bad thing about them online. The best sounding uke to my ear online is Ukulele Jay's Gretsch....I love that lower, more mellow sound.....more like a folk instrument than a Hawaiin player. But maybe that has more to do with his stringing than the uke itself. The Gretsch I would likely get from Elderlys, the Ohana from Mims, and the Mainland from either Mainland or Uke Republic. Still a little concerned about all solid here in the north. Can I make a Mainland or Ohana sound like that Gretsch if I have the right strings?

teruterubouzu
11-23-2013, 03:04 AM
I got a Gretsch G9121 A.C.E. for $199 a couple months ago, it looks like it's up to $219 now. I think it's excellent, solid top, sounds great.

http://www.kohanmike.com/images/u3Gretsch.jpg

I was going to mention this Gretsch too. Got one of these for my boyfriend early this year. It's set up with a low G and sounds amazing. Definitely not plinky, and wonderful to play.

teruterubouzu
11-23-2013, 03:06 AM
I am getting close to pulling the trigger on my new tenor. I had narrowed it down to the Gretsch 9121 or the Ohana 20TKCE. I've added in the possibility of a Mainland as well since the all solid mohagany isn't much more than the other two and I can't find a single bad thing about them online. The best sounding uke to my ear online is Ukulele Jay's Gretsch....I love that lower, more mellow sound.....more like a folk instrument than a Hawaiin player. But maybe that has more to do with his stringing than the uke itself. The Gretsch I would likely get from Elderlys, the Ohana from Mims, and the Mainland from either Mainland or Uke Republic. Still a little concerned about all solid here in the north. Can I make a Mainland or Ohana sound like that Gretsch if I have the right strings?

I haven't tried low G on my Mainland cedar tenor yet, but it too is a great sounding uke.

I would think the mahogany would sound awesome with low G.

UkerDanno
11-23-2013, 03:51 AM
a deal on the gretsch...I personally would forego the electrics unless you're ready to perform. If you need electrics, they would probably install a better pickup for a reasonable price. And they will set-up with low G.

http://www.theukulelesite.com/gretsch-mahogany-tenor-g9120.html

they also have the Islander for a good price...