Traditional Tenor Ukulele

The tenor ukulele started to appear in the late 1920’s.  By this time ukuleles were being made by the thousand in both Hawaiian and mainland USA factories.  Perhaps the “bigger is better “ notion was part of this and perhaps also the increased sustain and low end response of the concert uke was catching on and players wanted to take it a step further.   At any rate, with its 17” (432mm) scale and larger body, here was a ukulele which could support a low G string in the GCEA tuning.  This may have made more logical sense to guitarists as well.   
As the factory era was well and truly established in the mid twenties, most concert and tenor ukuleles show the typical characteristics of factory assembly.  They are much too heavily built.  What I have done with my instruments is take them back in the direction of the original  Portugese / Hawaiian instruments.  They are lightly built but strong in the right places and sensitive in the right places.  They have sophisticated but simple soundboard bracing, which is tap tuned and optimised for each individual instrument.
The original configuration of the tenor ukulele, like the concert and soprano, was with the 12th fret at the body join.  This put the bridge nicely in the middle of the lower bout, an arrangement which suits gut or nylon string guitar family instruments best.  For this reason, my standard “traditional” vintage tenor ukuleles are configured this way.  The sound is strong and balanced.

As steel string guitars evolved in the 1930s to 14 fret necks for easier high note access, the ukulele followed that trend shortly after. This did little for the sound, but became the standard configuration.  Ukulele virtuoso soloists tend to use these 14 fret  tenors, often with cutaways, as their instrument of choice. 

Vintage Tenor Ukulele

Black Acacia with satin lacquer finish and supremo binding/inlay.

Vintage Tenor Ukulele

Black acacia with 12 fret neck and golden Kusmi seedlac finish.

Vintage Tenor Ukulele

12 fret neck, Satin Box soundboard, black acacia back and sides.

14 Fret Tenor Ukulele