Christmas 2012 was fast approaching, it was in November that I had really made up my mind to buy a tenor ukulele. I just didn’t know which brand to buy. I tried a great many ukuleles, of many brands, sizes, prices – my god, they can be expensive! - and levels of quality. I received much advice, both helpful and ill-informed, from honest but ukulele-ignorant guitar specialists to the “just buy the thing” type of vendor.
I played ‘em all. I played ‘em all again, and again. Eventually I found one which just felt right: it seemed to ‘belong’ to me, even before I had seriously considered it as a viable contender.
I bought the Tanglewood Union Series TU4 Tenor.
Even with the so-called horrible black strings, which I had to constantly retune in the store (note: always carry your own electronic uke tuner – it impresses the hell out of in-store musos), it sounded and played better than every other uke of any size, and of any price, that I trialled in many stores.
And the sound!
The tone is sweet and true, the action just right for me. I played a few favourite ‘twingles’ and strums and I noted the store personnel looking up from their own playing to see what instrument was sounding so melodiously. I know this to be true as one came over to me to examine the instrument. He looked at it as if he’d never actually heard a ukulele being played properly before nor make anything but an ineffectual strum. We chatted a bit and he told me its price.
The store price was $160, very cheap for a tenor uke. The nearest competitor was $240, and its tone was dead, it was not even a real contender.
The TU4′s overall size is a little smaller than most other tenor ukes but its neck length is the same. I could stretch my fingers to cover from first to sixth frets with clear sounding on each fretted string.
The vendor also informed me that it came with a hard case.
I was hooked. I knew I had some Christmas money coming (I prefer to receive money for Christmas so I can buy exactly what I want) so I deferred payment but put the instrument on hold for two weeks.
Searching online for similar deals and comparable prices – you can bargain sometimes and get lower prices, I found an extraordinary deal and went back to the shop armed with cash (always better to pay in cash – you might get a discount) and print outs from various online offers.
I showed all the deals except one, my trump card, and the manager, standing beside my sales assistant, agreed to meet the best price I could show him. My trump card was duly laid on the counter, $120 offered by the online version of very store I was standing in.
Needless to say the deal was made and I had obtained my longed for tenor ukulele.
The facts that its full price was at least AU$100 cheaper than its nearest comparable (sound quality/ease of play) uke, that I received a $40 discount and that it came with a hard-case are icing on the cake – with candles.
1. It is very light (see CONs), however, it has a very solid construction.
2. Easy to finger – I have large hands.
3. A sweet, clear tone.
4. Very inexpensive.
5. Includes a hard case.
1. It’s amazingly light for a tenor uke, 469g, you feel you might crush it if you clasp it too tightly. I also own an Eleuke Peanut MP3 solid body soprano 557g and a KeAloha UK40 soprano 410g. **see pic below** The lightness was disconcerting and made me feel something may have been left out of the construction. However on investigating other Tanglewood products -guitars etc – I found the lightness is normal.
2. Tanglewood Ukes seems to have a negative reputation. Almost all the musician salesmen I approached turned their noses up when I mentioned the Tanglewood range, as though it were a substandard instrument.
3. Black strings. I haven’t replaced mine yet but I will fairly soon. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with them exactly, but there’s something not quite ‘right’ about them either – the feel is just not there.
I have played and learnt on this uke more than any other. It suits me. My uke playing skills improved massively with this ukulele. I love playing it.
I am now on the lookout for a baritone, a concert, and a bass uke to complete my initial collection – although I may hold off on the bass uke, and I am not considering a banjolele.