Ohana Tenor Ukulele TK-35G Review

No need to stretch to outlandish reasons to buy a new ukulele for this one. I needed a tenor (and, no, a Fluke with a tenor neck doesn’t count) particularly for fingerpicking. The Ukulele Shop had a sale on the Ohana TK-35G and after watching Ken Middleton’s review of his tenor Ohana.

Sound: A lovely warm tone to it. The sound is plenty strong enough for single note playing. But when you’re strumming chords, the sound isn’t as sharp and defined as I’d like.

I’m not too sure how useful MP3 examples are once they’ve been through all the equipment, but here are some anyway.


Fingerpicking Test


Strumming Test


Sustain Test (open C string then A string 12th fret) using the Aquila strings it came with.

Construction: Solid mahogany body. Rosewood fretboard. Rosewood binding on body, soundhole and headstock. Chrome geared tuners (MGM lists them as friction tuners – unless there’s some funky mechanism in there, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case). Genuine bone nut and bridge (that’s how it’s listed but they seem quite plastic-y to me – and obviously to Ken too; he refers to them as being plastic in his review). It’s reasonably well put together but not perfect – more on that later.

Playability: Like Ken mentioned in his video, the action is very high. I wouldn’t say it’s ‘unplayably high’ though. I quite like the high action – it means a whole lot less fret buzz and cleaner fretting. But it does mean it’s not an easy instrument to play. I’m tempted to lower the action a little.

A gripe I have with it is the fret marker is at the ninth fret (guitar style) rather than the tenth fret (ukulele style). It has thrown me off on a number of occasions and I’m still not used to it. Looking at the Ohana ukuleles on eBay, it seems like TK-35G is the only model with this. Very annoying.

Intonation: I’ve got no complaints here. It’s playable all the way up the neck.


Intonation Test

Looks: It’s a pretty sexy ukulele. The mahogany and gloss finish look great. But, like most of the girls I go for, it’s pretty on the outside and a complete mess on the inside. There are splashes of glue all over the place and some splintering around the joints. It is the sort of slapdash stuff you’d expect from a Chinese made instrument, but it doesn’t worry me unduly.

Overall: I’m very pleased with it. It is my first choice fingerpicking uke. It was less than £150 for a solid tenor ukulele and a very sturdy case – I’m a happy bunny.

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30 Comments

  1. cardboardfrog February 18th, 2009 6:23 pm

    the singer in my uke band (videos soon to come) has an ohana and the neck is like BASS THICK! and i play bass and find it thick, how was the neck on this one?

  2. Ken Middleton February 18th, 2009 6:25 pm

    A fair review, I think. I too am very happy with my TK35G. The action on mine was REALLY high, but I lowered it at both the saddle and the not. It is now perhaps my most playable ukulele and the action height is comfortable for most styles of playing.

    I also changed the strings. I don’t like Aquilas on a thin-bodied, light-weight instrument. Neither do I think they work very well with mahogany (don’t really know why). I changed them for brown Worth strings which are just perfect in my opinion. Worths give this instrument a crystal clear tone when picked and a really lovely well-defined strumming tone.

    This is an instrument I want to keep. If I lost it tomorrow, I would buy another, exactly the same.

  3. zym February 18th, 2009 7:45 pm

    thanks Al

    I have the Ohana concert, and ive always been happy with it.

  4. Josh February 18th, 2009 10:48 pm

    Good review!
    I was thinking about buying an Ohana Tenor.

    Can i ask, what is ‘high action’ ?

  5. Gary February 19th, 2009 6:44 am

    Josh, a high action is string height measured above the 12th fret, 2-2.5mm is about right. 3mm & above is a bit high. Don’t take my word for it though, Al will have a better answer.
    Enjoy the Ohana. I would like the cedar/rosewood concert.
    I was going to mention the worth strings Al, Ken beat me to it. Try the CH tenor strings,a bit more on the brighter side.
    Love to All.
    Gary

  6. ronhale February 19th, 2009 9:33 am

    The action on my Ohana SKB – 35 Bell soprano is a tad higher than I prefer, too, but so what, still a very playable, nifty little thing. Love the shape; at first thought it might be a bit awkward to hold, but it fits me like a glove, much, much better than the figure 8 shape. My dots are on frets 5, 7, 10, & 12, but when I first picked up a uke about 6 months ago, I wondered (& still do) why not a marker on the 3rd fret as well? Once again, of course, not important, but you do get used to it on guitar, & would it really hurt to mark the 3rd fret too? The flea, of course, has dots just on frets 5, 7, & 12. Why not a bit more user-friendliness?

  7. cardboardfrog February 19th, 2009 11:22 am

    with the whole fret markers debate, has anyone else copnsidered how easy they are to install? you can buy fret markers off ebay, all you need is a drill and some resin, obs a goodun.

  8. MoUke February 19th, 2009 2:25 pm

    Mr. Woodshed – I really like the sound of the chord progression in the strumming example, but I’m too much of a musical dullard to figure it out. Can you help out the musically challenged and share the chords?

  9. Woodshed February 20th, 2009 7:21 am

    cbf: Obviously, it’s thicker than the concert neck I’m used to. But I don’t have any problems with it.

    Ken: I’m still really tempted to lower the action on mine but haven’t made the decision. Since it’s much easier to lower it than raise it again if I change my mind. And I’ll definitely be trying out some Worths on it.

    zym: Thanks.

    Gary: Sounds like a great answer to me. Thanks.

    ronhale: Can’t say I’ve ever had a problem with there not being a third fret marker. I seem to remember seeing stick-on ukulele fret markers for sale somewhere but I can’t seem to find them now.

    MoUke: The chord progression is Sister Kate.

  10. Sebastian February 20th, 2009 11:16 am

    Could someone tell me the name of the fingerpicking test’s song? :D
    I heard this one so many times at youtube and i want to learn it :)

  11. Woodshed February 21st, 2009 3:48 pm

    Sebastian: It’s Staten Island Slide by Craig Robertson. Dominator has tab for it.

  12. Sebastian February 23rd, 2009 2:02 pm

    Thank you so much :)

  13. Mcnilly November 30th, 2009 6:08 pm

    Soooo. . . after nearly 10 months, you’ve had a good chance to play it! Have any of your impressions changed on it?

  14. Woodshed November 30th, 2009 9:24 pm

    Mcnilly: I’m still very happy with it. I play it more than any other uke which is a very good sign.

  15. Mcnilly November 30th, 2009 9:27 pm

    Thats good to know! it looks so gorgeous! im already planning my next uke! which will be a tenor either this or a Kala solid acacia (the one with the drilled out headstock) but hopefully that will be a while away as i can’t afford to buy more ukes! there is more important things i need to address . . . its so tempting though. . .

  16. David Williams March 26th, 2010 9:43 pm

    I have just bought a Mahalo tenor uke. It is a great little uke and great value for money especially for a beginner like me. What strings would you recomend. I don’t know what has been fitted, but they sound a bit thin. Advice please.

    Dave Williams

  17. Woodshed March 30th, 2010 8:13 am

    David: I’d recommend Aquilas.

  18. Dane Mehl November 11th, 2010 6:41 am

    I also purchased this uke after watching Ken Middletons review. This truly is an amazing uke for the price (I even got it for 250$ on sale at the time)You really can’t find much of a better price for an all solid wood instrument in this price range. (It is factory made, this is the reason I assume)

    I’ve had this uke for about 2 years or so now, and have had no issues with it whatsoever. Visually it is very attractive and sound quality wise it is beautiful. I replaced the aquillas with fremont blacklines (flourocarbon) and it severely enhanced the tone differentiation. I can finger pick and it is very crisp, and clean. I can strum and get very nice chord tones. I can play it very very quietly with no issues. I can play flamenco style with no problems. I can even do slap on it with surprisingly nice results (if you like some slap)

    I believe you can really do anything with this uke, and it currently the only uke I play, and has been since I got it. I got mine from musicguymic (MGM as he is known) on ebay, and he does good jobs of action adjusting before he sends out ukes.

  19. Woodshed November 13th, 2010 11:06 am

    Dane: Completely agree with you. Very good instrument for the price. Thanks for sharing.

  20. john March 2nd, 2011 9:42 pm

    just got an ohana tk 35 uke.Good sound for strumming or finger picking.One problem is that the top string [a]seems to go out of tune on the higher frets.Anyone any suggestions?

  21. Ken March 2nd, 2011 9:56 pm

    John. Yes, it happens more often than people realise. It is the string that has stretched unevenly. It usually happens with the top string. Just happened on two of my ukes: my Howlett and my Kanile’a. Just change the string and don’t tug at it to get it to settle.

  22. john March 2nd, 2011 10:41 pm

    thanks Ken,appreciate the knowledge and keep up the good work

  23. Mario February 15th, 2012 4:39 pm

    He you all i am mario from Holland and i just ordered the Tenor Ohana Tk35 and i can’t waith to play with it.standard its with high g but i like the low g can anybody thell me how its sounds with( brown) Worth strings and low g , couple of months ago i by a Ortega lizard tenor i realy don’t like the sound off it, thats why the Ohana.
    Greetings Mario

  24. Ken February 15th, 2012 6:25 pm

    Mario. It sounds great with Worth brown (BT) or clear (CT). I use the clear strings. I don’t play very much low G, but I’m sure it will sound fine.

  25. Andrew April 5th, 2012 10:02 pm

    I’ve only been playing a few months, but I just bought one of these — my Ovation soprano uke got sick (developed a rattle) and is having some surgery under warranty, so I brought forward the purchase of a tenor so I’d still have an instrument. I went to the shop to look at a Kala arch top jazz uke but liked the Ohana a lot better.

    I would echo the reviews above. I didn’t research the instrument before I bought — its tone persuaded me in the shop. But on more extended playing at home I agree that the action is too high. The finish is good, though with minor blemishes noticeable on close inspection; intonation is good; the tone is lovely with lots of sustain and it really responds to picking. When I jam with friends I have to “compete” with amplified instruments, so I had a Belcat UK-300T pickup added at time of purchase. The Ohana sounds really sweet through that and the addition made no perceptible change to the acoustic tone, so a good move I think. I’ve also put a low G string on it. I really like the contrast with the re-entrant g on the soprano, but my wife reckons it makes this uke sound like a guitar…

    For the future I think I’ll have the action lowered and give Worth strings a try when the low G wears out. Which probably won’t take very long the amount of play it’s getting.

    Thank you for the tips!

  26. Woodshed April 6th, 2012 8:05 am

    Andrew: Thanks for the review! Glad you like it.

  27. Andrew April 20th, 2012 12:27 pm

    In follow up to my post above: I had the action lowered, which was a good move and made it much easier to play. Also fitted Worth strings, which to my ears improved the acoustic tone and they’re cheaper and easier on the fingers than the Aquilas. However when amplified the sound is muddier with a slightly boomy G string as compared to the Aquilas. So I’m a little conflicted. Suggestions welcomed.

  28. Ken April 20th, 2012 1:05 pm

    ANDREW: The amplified sound is much more to do with the pickup and amp than the instrument. When I fitted a Fishman system to a TK-35G I had to adjust the position of the pickup several times until it was balanced. To rectify the boomy bottom string, you might try rolling off the lower frequencies if your amp or preamp has that facility. As for muddiness – it is almost certainly the amp.

  29. Andrew April 28th, 2012 3:21 am

    Ken — Thank you for your time and advice. I took it back to the shop where I bought it and the luthier had another look at it. He adjusted the position of the pickup and fitted a new, slightly higher bridge as there was also some fret buzz with the fatter non-wound strings. The pickup is perfect now, no dominant string without having to adjust the pre-amp at all.

    As to the muddy amplification, you’re quite right. It seems Little Miss 4 had been playing with the mixer while I was changing the strings…

    So all in all I’m now very happy with my purchase. Which for anyone wanting to buy in New Zealand was from Toadstool Guitars in Tokoroa and I highly recommend them.

  30. Ken April 28th, 2012 8:56 am

    I am pleased you got it sorted, Andrew.

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