The Tenor is King

Jerryc41

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I've done polls here in 2008, 2013, 2018, and 2020 asking about your preferred size uke. The most popular size has always been the Tenor. I have a pretty balanced collection, with tenors being the most numerous. KoAloha was the favorite K brand.

I watched Alex from The Southern Ukulele Store yesterday. He showed five reasonably priced tenors. He said that when he started his business, the soprano was the top seller. The concert later became the most popular. Now, tenor sales account for 70% of his business. He said the size is easier for beginners to use, and most professionals use the tenor, and people tend to imitate the pros.

When I switch from tenor to soprano - or smaller - during a jam, I have to concentrate on what I'm doing.
 
Here's my dilemma with the tenor. Early on in my ukulele journey I won a nice tenor at a uke festival. I had been playing mostly concert at that point, and the tenor felt like too much of a stretch for my fingers. I ended up selling the tenor to a friend. I've not been blessed with long, slim, or flexible fingers. Soprano felt too tight, and concert felt the most comfy. Fast forward to 2019 and I get a Cocobolo concert. Cocobolo concerts are 16 inch scale, in between a standard 15 inch scale concert and a 17 inch scale tenor. I love it. Extra space without too much stretch. Perfect. I still have my Moon Bird concert, and going back and forth between the two is easy.

Now I find myself wondering about giving a tenor another try. I play up the neck more these days, and do a lot of chord melody music. Those new 'Oli tenors on TUS are calling out to me. I see that most tenors are 17 inch scale, with some being 17.25 inch. The 'Oli are 16 15/16 inch which I know is really the same as 17, but at least not over 17. Do I spend a chunk of change on an experiment, or be happy with what I have???
 
I grew up playing a soprano ukulele. One day someone sat on it and it was destroyed (that was high school, 1970). Fast forward to 2022, I purchased a Romero Creations Grand Tenor in koa, then I bought another for my daughter in spalted mango. We love them!

~Bob
 
I played guitar for almost 50 years before I switched to ukulele in mid 2013. A few weeks before, I bought a uke for $60 only because it looked like my Fender Telecaster electric guitar, was going to be a wall hanger. Then I received an postcard from the Los Angeles Music Center announcing their summer play-along series, which I attended for guitar previously, but this time it was for ukulele. Hey, I thought, I have one, so I signed up.

I got online to learn the three basic cords they required, but as I practiced, I found my fingers to be very cramped. I found out about sizes, that mine was a soprano, so I went to Sam Ash in Hollywood and tested each size, with tenor being the one, which is all I play.
 
I was used to guitars and banjos, so my first uke was a tenor. I love that uke, but since I discovered the soprano, which isn't difficult at all to play. For me Sopranos are the future. Long live the king.
 
I play all three soprano, concert and tenor. Switching from one to another doesn't bother me that much. I played bass for many many years before ever touching a uke and I'm one of those bass players who likes really wide necks (I even have a 12 string that's a blast to play). I tend to play totally different types of music with the different sizes. For soprano I play a lot of tin pan alley music. With Tenor I play a lot of chord melody. I won't say how many ukes I have but I probably have an even number of all three. For me I would say that tenor and soprano are tied for my favorite.
 
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By a strange twist of fate, I have always had tenors. When I first got into ukuleles, I "did my own research" and you know what that means. It means I was full of crap. I excluded sopranos as toys and gravitated toward tenors.

I am not an overly big person with big paws, so maybe the tenor scale is making me stretch. But I don't know anything else so that's the natural feel for me.

I tend to play the entire fretboard but I don't know if the tenor's scale dictated that choice or if my choice made me get a tenor.
 
I started out with tenor because in the store they told me that's the size for guys. I still take my tenors to solo performance as one is six string and the other linear but at home and uke circle I only play re-entrant concert. I wonder how many other people just get pushed to the tenor by sales tactics and by other people's opinions. I don't think tenor is a useful size as an only uke for all purposes.
 
Fortunately, no matter how many people buy tenor ukuleles, my choice of concert is unaffected in all ways but one... there are less custom concerts to tempt me and my UAS.

Perhaps a way of thinking about this is like the choice of ice cream flavors... you can choose vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate and enjoy it without worrying about what other people like.
 
Fortunately, no matter how many people buy tenor ukuleles, my choice of concert is unaffected in all ways but one... there are less custom concerts to tempt me and my UAS.

Perhaps a way of thinking about this is like the choice of ice cream flavors... you can choose vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate and enjoy it without worrying about what other people like.
True.....the choices in concerts are not nearly as numerous as tenors. I'd love to see more 16 inch scale concert choices.
 
I've been playing ukes since the mid 2000s, and I've seen the same evolution happen that Alex from SUS describes. Many people love the culture and the ease of learning of the ukulele, but they also love a guitar-like sound: richness, brightness and sustain. I think for this reason, the larger sizes have taken over the top spot. In recent years, even baritones are growing in popularity - and they are as close as you can get to a guitar. Whatever works for people, I don't mind.

Personally, the soprano will always be THE ukulele for me but let a thousand flowers bloom, you know.

(I suppose a beneficial side effect is that prices for vintage Martin sopranos have come down from their incredibly inflated levels of the early 2010s)
 
Personally, the soprano will always be THE ukulele for me
I feel the same way. When I started playing quite a few years ago, I was advised by a good player I knew to get a tenor as "that is the one to get". Once I played a decent vintage soprano, I was immediately drawn to the classic uke sound. As Duckyl says, the larger sizes are more guitar like. I found the soprano size to have a much more unique character.
 
Yes I have more Tenors - there seems to be more options for tenors especially when it comes to playing around with different string gauges for alternate sounds.
 
I usually play a 17" scale soprano.
That is one of those funny aspects of how the instruments are named and characterized. Some believe that the scale length is the actual indicator of what size the instrument is and would argue that a 17" soprano is more a small body tenor due to the longer scale length. There seems to be no consensus among manufacturers. It can be enough to make your head spin.
 
I've done polls here in 2008, 2013, 2018, and 2020 asking about your preferred size uke. The most popular size has always been the Tenor. I have a pretty balanced collection, with tenors being the most numerous. KoAloha was the favorite K brand.

I watched Alex from The Southern Ukulele Store yesterday. He showed five reasonably priced tenors. He said that when he started his business, the soprano was the top seller. The concert later became the most popular. Now, tenor sales account for 70% of his business. He said the size is easier for beginners to use, and most professionals use the tenor, and people tend to imitate the pros.

When I switch from tenor to soprano - or smaller - during a jam, I have to concentrate on what I'm doing.
I was a tenor uke player from the beginning, then I bought a used Pono Concert ukulele (all solid mahogany) and it clicked. I had no problem with the Pono tenor.
 
I started on a soprano, then got a concert, then got a tenor. I have all sizes now but play the tenor the vast majority of the time. The extra scale length, more sustain, and not feeling as cramped higher up the fretboard is what does it for me. I also think playing a soprano with a strap seems ridiculous but find they can be a little finicky to hold for me if I’m really going at it higher up on the fretboard.

There are so many more tenor options which is nice. And as the OP said, almost every well-known uke player uses a tenor…maybe that’s subconsciously nudging me that way. I just remember trying to learn Zelda’s Lullaby from ocarina of time and it having a couple notes that went past the 12th fret…but being unable to play them on my soprano because those frets didn’t exist. I instantly wanted that extra range!
 
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