At first glance, you may not see huge differences between a concert and tenor ukulele. There really are a lot of similarities. First of all, the two instruments are tuned the same, g-C-E-A. This means that the chord shapes are the same, and you don’t have to learn any new fingerings when switching from one to the other. The techniques and style that you use to play the tenor ukulele can easily be transferred to the concert, or vice versa.
The differences between these two instruments may be small, but the more experienced you become in playing the bigger these differences will feel. We will start with the most obvious:
The tenor ukulele is slightly larger than the concert. In length, the distance is about three inches from head to toe of the instrument. The fretboard itself it about two inches longer on the tenor.
Because the neck and fretboard are longer, that means there are a greater number of notes to be played on the instrument. For players who are well versed in scales or picking singles note melodies, this difference can be significant.
The difference in size between the tenor and concert ukulele ultimately results in different tones. An instrument’s tone can be described as it’s sound, and the qualities of that sound that make it unique to that instrument. For example, the concert ukulele is often described as “bright” in comparison to the tenor.
Since the body of the tenor ukulele is larger, there is more space for sound to vibrate and exist in the instrument before it reaches our ears. As a result, the sound created by the tenor is often described as “warmer”. While the concert ukulele’s sound may be more easily heard due to it’s colorful brightness, the tenor may blend smoothly. The sound of a tenor ukulele is closer to that of the guitar than the concert is.
Another result of the differing sizes is the space between frets. Players with small hands may notice it is more comfortable to play the concert ukulele as the frets are spaced closer together. As the neck is longer and the spacing is larger with the tenor ukulele, a player with larger hands or one who is accustomed to the guitar may find it for natural for their fingers.
In general, the tenor ukulele costs slightly more than a concert. The reasons for this are logical. A larger instrument requires more material to produce. Additionally, tenor ukuleles are in less demand than concerts. They are slightly less popular, perhaps because their sound isn’t the traditional bright tone of the soprano or concert. Companies may be encouraged to sell it for more to make up for that difference in production costs.
Tenor vs. Concert
If you’re deciding between buying a tenor or concert ukulele, ask yourself these questions:
- What tone (sound) do I prefer out of the instrument I am playing? Do I prefer a “brighter” or “warmer” sound?
- If you enjoy the warmer sound, tenor is your winner! A brighter sound can be found with the concert ukulele.
- What size instrument would be more comfortable for my hands?
- If you have large hands, your best bet is to find a tenor ukulele.
- What style do I enjoy playing in?
- If you find yourself playing a lot of riffs all across the fretboard you may want a ukulele with more frets to traverse. On the contrary, if you prefer strumming and singing, maybe you are a leader of a ukulele ensemble, the concert uke may be your style.
Although these differences may seem big when laid out so clearly, don’t forget that you can achieve a world of musicality on any style of ukulele. We hope this article helped clear up the differences between concert and tenor ukuleles. Here’s to happy playing!