The ukulele is among the most heartwarming musical instruments to fill your ears, especially with its melodic strums. People’s interest in the instrument has been significantly rising in the past few years for numerous reasons. Yet, the conflict of buying the right ukulele remains floating.
With the availability of different types of ukulele, you may find yourself feeling confused. We’ve rounded up the aspects you need to know before purchasing the right one for you.
While there are more types of ukuleles, in this article, we focus only on the concert and the tenor, two of the most demanded types of ukuleles.
The Short Answer:
Go for the tenor if vibrant tones sound more right to your ears, or pick up the concert if bright sounds are your cup of tea. Also, if you have large hands, consider buying the tenor as it accommodates larger hands better than the concert.
The Similarities Between Concert and Tenor Ukuleles
Some differences that set concert and tenor ukuleles apart. However, they also share some features that we think you should learn about before digging deeper into their distinct features.
The first indistinguishable feature between concert and tenor ukuleles is that they are both played the same way. They’re tuned to the same notes that you can easily switch between. Besides, they further share identical scales and chords.
These few characteristics can sometimes make it difficult for some people to tell them apart, especially for new beginners. They may even sound similar to the untrained ears.
The Differences Between Concert and Tenor Ukuleles
Now that you’ve learned about the common aspects between concert and tenor ukuleles, it’s time to analyse the differences, which should be sufficient to help you make your final decision and take your pick.
Size is the first noticeable difference between the concert and tenor. You can quickly tell which is bigger or smaller by merely looking at them. Both ukuleles differ 3 inches in size, with the tenor being the bigger size.
While there isn’t a standard size for each ukulele, the average size of tenors is usually 26 inches. You can also find some tenors that are either larger or smaller by an inch, depending on the manufacturer.
On the other hand, the average size of concerts is 23 inches, and, again, they vary a few inches depending on the manufacturer.
However, size on its own is not a sufficient determinant of which ukulele type to opt for.
2. Scale and Fretboard Lengths
The length of the fretboard and scale of the two ukuleles are another crucial factor to consider; they are both longer in tenors than concerts.
But what difference does that make? Well, in case you don’t know, the scale length starts at the beginning of the strings, known as the bridge saddle, and ends at the end of the fretboard, known as the nut.
This length affects the vibration of the string, determining its tension. In other words, the longer the scale length, the tighter the string will feel. Applying this rule to ukuleles, concerts have lower string tension than tenors due to their shorter scale length.
Moreover, the distance between the frets is determined by the length of the scale. Consequently, ukuleles with longer scale lengths have wider spaces between their frets, making it easier for the player to access the higher frets.
The spaces between fretboards on tenors are broader than those of concerts given their somewhat longer necks.
3. Sound and Tone
As mentioned, the size difference results in producing different sounds, due to the variation of the string tension, as well as the broader space of the instrument’s chamber. However, let us explain how different the sounds of tenors and concerts are.
Since tenors are of a larger construction than concerts, their sounds are of a higher volume. They produce more vibrant tones than concerts, making them a lot similar to guitars. On the other hand, concerts have brighter tones that are less vibrant than tenors.
Ukuleles are not considered loud instruments. However, the slightly bigger size of the tenor makes it sound louder. It can even be used in live performances more occasionally than the concert. But then again, a more dynamic sound doesn’t guarantee better quality.
The quality of sound depends on other factors, including the materials used for building the instrument. Many manufacturers produce ukuleles made of laminated wood. While it is not a terrible material, it still isn’t as good as solid wood.
While concerts are considered to be among the high-end types of ukuleles, tenors are a better option for highly skilled players. That’s because players with great experience can quickly distinguish the difference in the melodies of the single notes.
At that point, it is easy to tell that tenor ukuleles cost slightly more than concerts do. It’s quite logical since tenors have larger sizes. Consequently, they require more materials to be crafted. Aside from the size, the quality of construction plays a role in determining the instrument’s price.
While the difference in cost between tenors and concerts is relatively insignificant, it varies a lot if you consider going for a high-end brand rather than a regular one.
In conclusion, it is hard to tell whether tenors or concerts are better, because it is a matter of personal preference. They share a lot of characteristics that make them seem a lot alike to beginners.
If you’ve been a skilled player for many years, go for the tenor ukulele and enjoy the extra features that come with its bigger size. However, if you’re a novice, then start with a concert ukulele and enjoy the traditional bright sound of ukuleles that it offers.