Today, we are giving the Ukutune UKA1 Tenor Ukulele a run for its money. The affordable tenor ukulele combines real ash wood construction with a warm tone ideal for beginners, hobbyists, or just folks looking for a simple ukulele to strum on without breaking the bank. Today, we are taking a closer hands-on look at one of the brand’s more universal, mid-range tenor models to shed light on its entire lineup of options and to get a better idea of what the UKA1 Tenor has in store. Head below for everything.
Ukutune UKA1 Tenor Ukulele Review
The Ukutune UKA1 Tenor Ukulele falls into the tenor category — slightly larger than the 21- and 23-inch soprano and concert sizes but a little bit less hefty than the usually around 30-inch baritone ukuleles — and measures 26 inches in length with 18, nicely-spaced frets. While the Ukutune model in question today sits at the top end when it comes to fret count (most 26-inchers have between 15 and 20 frets splayed across the neck), the tenor class just happens to be what I would consider to be the best model for beginners or those just looking for a fun little instrument to have around the house — it’s not overly cumbersome but large enough to comfortably sit in your lap for a play session. Obviously, this will vary from player to player, but in my opinion, and after having some inexperienced friends compare the feel of my soprano with the Ukutune UKA1, the tenor seems to be the most natural-feeling in your lap.
While there are some options in this price range made of an entirely wood-like material or some kind of composite, Ukutune does employ an Ash wood build on the head, soundboard, back, and sides. This results in a warmer and nicer tone overall as well as a more rugged, natural look and feel than some of the plastic-like finishes you might find in the sub $150 category. This also leaves the blue paint job with an organic wood grain texture and look that makes the instrument feel like it’s hitting slightly above its pay grade (in that regard).
The fretboard and bridge are, however, made of an “engineered wood” material while the feel of the backside of the neck itself is slightly rough, without that hyper-smooth polished finish you will find on significantly more expensive ukuleles (and guitars). When I first slid my hand across the fretboard and subsequently the back of the neck, this was an immediate cause for concern, but after spending a short time jamming some chords, the rugged wood-like texture went from a slight concern to a non-issue quite quickly. In other words, it might feel a little bit rough to the touch at first, but once you get to playing, it won’t impede your movement across the neck much, if at all.
An ox bone saddle — the small thin piece the strings pass over at the top of the neck — is a nice touch that’s commonly used on far more expensive instruments, despite being a relatively affordable part to source, helps with note sustain, better overtones, and more. That, in combination with the asymmetrical bridge design (on the blue model pictured here, the green edition has a more traditional decorative bridge) and tortoise shell-like accent around the sound hole add a bit of functional style to the otherwise no-frills approach here.
One thing that can be cause for concern with any inexpensive ukulele (or stringed instrument) is how solid the tuning pegs are and how well the instrument can stay in tune. If it doesn’t stay in tune properly, it will ruin your day, be complete waste of hard earned cash, and quickly turn into a dust collector. After the usual initial tune-up and play, rinsed and repeated a few times over, I’m happy to report the Ukutune UKA1 Tenor Ukulele is just fine in this department holding standard ukulele tuning with no problem in our hands-on time with the instrument.
How does the Ukutune UKA1 Tenor Ukulele sound?
The sound of an instrument can be a tough thing to convey accurately and in a helpful manner. One thing I will say here, though, is that I was quite impressed in general with the Ukutune UKA1 Tenor Ukulele’s warm, and yet quite snappy or springy sound. In comparison with the significantly more expensive soprano ukulele I own, it seems to produce a more natural tone without sounding as stunted and twangy. Some close family members got a chance to hear the two side by side and seem to think the Ukutune tenor was a far more pleasing sound across the board. I, for one, might suggest a tenor ukulele will almost always sound better to the average listener simply due to the size. But that might be something to keep in mind when it comes to choosing between a more pricey and significantly smaller soprano or something like the affordable Ukutune UKA1 Tenor Ukulele.
Now, clearly the difference between a soprano and a tenor, as mentioned above, is a musical theory based one including the notes available across the fretboard and the frequencies they usually take care of in larger arrangements. So when it comes to a solo ukulele to learn or jam on around the house, the slightly easier to get your hands on and generally warmer tone of a tenor model will usually be the way to go for most folks.
The nyglut — a mixture of nylon and gut materials — strings are warm and easy on the hands for new players while the spacious 18-fret count will be a welcomed design choice for larger hands or folks used to guitar spacing as well.
For some folks, the blue and green colorways available on the Ukutune UKA1 Tenor Ukulele might also be a bit of a conversation starter sat amongst other more traditionally-designed pieces/instruments. On the other hand, those two color options will also be a sore spot for others, leading them to the rest of the Ukutune lineup for a more natural wood color, or another brand entirely.
The Ukutune UKA1 Tenor Ukulele will certainly leave something to be desired for professionals or those looking for an instrument that doubles as a piece of functional art. Having said that, Ukutune seemed to cut all the right corners here, leaving folks with a warm and highly-playable instrument that falls into a tolerable price range. You’ll certainly find some cheaper options out there, but Ukutune should certainly be part of the conversation if it’s just a casual, fun ukulele to have around the house or to encourage youngsters to learn to play.
The Ukutune UKA1 Tenor Ukulele goes for $139.99 and comes in the blue colorway you see here, as well as a similar green approach.
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