Bouzouki

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Bouzouki is a Greek Musical Instrument. It comes in 2 forms: 8 stringed mainly and 6 six string. It became famous through music from Zorba the Greek and Never on a Sunday. The Irish Bouzouki is derived from the Greek version.

Bouzouki PictureThe Bouzouki is played with a small plectrum. In Greek its referred to as a ‘penna’. The instrument is used mainly for playing as a lead instrument or as a filler when a singer sings. Famous Greek Bouzouki music players are George Zambetas, Christos Nikolopoulos, Manolis Hiotis, Harry Lemonopoulos, Vamvakaris, Bournelis, Mitsakis, Vassilis Tsitsanis and more.The modern version has eight strings and is called Tetraxordo (four course/eight string) in Greek. Older versions had 6 strings. The name of the strings for the 8 string version are in  D (Re, highest), A (La), F (Fa) and C (Doh). When some 6 string players converted to 8 strings, they kept their old fingerings because they were used to it.


How to Play Bouzouki

1. Tuning your Bouzouki
Tuning your Bouzouki ImageFirst tune up your Bouzouki. Use a guitar tuner that change its pitch to suit the Bouzouki or a pitch fork. The 8 string bouzouki consists of 4 courses/8 strings. Each course is one treated as one string key. 8 strings tuning is like the first four strings of a guitar, however, the tuning has been transposed by one tone lower. The 8 string tuning is D = E, A = B, F= G and C= D. The guitar uses EBFD, from treble to bass. 

If you are using a six string bouzouki, then the first string is called a D (Re), the second is A (La) and the third is D (Re) again. The six string version uses a different chord system. 

2. Learn How to Play Chords

Play Bouzouki PictureThe easiest method to learn the chords is to buy a guitar book and apply the chords of the first four strings of the guitar to the bouzouki. Once you have learnt the basic major and minor chords, you need to work out what key a song is in. Using the first string (d), play each fret until you find the main chord. Once you discover it, then apply say a major or minor chord and hopefully you will find the key.

3. Plectrum Technique

Plectrum Technique PictureThe plectrum is very important and you need to get a medium ‘penna’ which is not to hard because the sound will jar and if its too thin, then the plectrum will snap after a while. A good way to judge if you are happy with the plectrum is when you hear that full traditional acoustic bouzouki. Most plectrum movement is up and down. It is highly advisable to buy some videos where you can watch players and learn their techniques.

4. Learning to Play Melody

Bouzouki Player PictureIf there is no one around to give you bouzouki lesson, you can either learn how to play lead guitar and apply your techniues to your bouzouki, or you can find a bouzouki teacher. It is highly advisable to record your teacher and play the parts slowly say on a walkman or computer so you can pick up the  notes. 

The basis of Greek Music are the scales. They are called Dromi (Roads). They have interesting names like Sambah, Rust, Hitskar, Ouzam etc.

5. Greek Rhythms

To master Greek Music, you need to understand the Rhythms. These include:

  • Kalamatiano (7/8) – count: 123, 12, 12

  • Zeimbeiko (9/8)

  • Syrto (2/4)

  • Hassapiko (2/4) – slow rthym like the start of Siko Horespse Syrtaki

  • Hassposerviko (2/4) – fast beat!

  • Tsifteteli (2/4)

  • and many more!

These rhythms are still in use today! Greek Music has even adapted Rock and Disco Rthythms within its modern music. Please note that songs like Zorba the Greek and Never on a Sunday are easier to learn because they use the common 4/4 beat.

5. Amplifier

If you want to perform I recommend the Fender Twin Reverb which has a great sound. Please note: check the values of your amp regularly so your sound remains crisp.

6. Maintaining your Bouzouki

Bouzouki CaseIf you live in a hot climate, make sure you keep the bouzouki away from intense heat because it can warp the neck and makes it harder to play. If you are not using the Bouzouki for a long period, then leave it un-tuned in your case. After performing always wipe the strings so they don’t get dirty / rust. Many times I have been lazy and the heavy strings on the top courses (C and F) loose their binding and it can hurt your skin.


Bouzouki Specifications:

Body shape: Like Lute
Top: Bent or flat
Back: Bowl
Bridge: Fixed or slightly movable.
Frets: Fixed chromatic
Strings: 6 or 8 (in pairs)
Courses: 3 or 4


Irish Bouzouki

Irish Bouzouki

The Irish bouzouki is a derivative of the Greek bouzouki and uses the newer tetraxordo Greek version.

The Irish Bouzouki was introduced into Irish Traditional Music in the late 1960s by Johnny Moynihan and popularised by Andy Irvine and later Dónal Lunny.


Baglamas Picture

Baglamas

Baglamas is mainly made with up of six strings. It is almost one third of the size of a bouzouki. It produces a fine almost whine sound, that used to give voice to the feelings of love, pain, social injustice or seldom happiness of medium or lower working class. Today it is used generally in folk songs.


Tzouras Picture

Tzouras

Tzouras is made with up of six strings. Size wise its sleeve and head are the same as the bouzouki’s  but the vessel is smaller, almost two times the size of a baglama’s vessel. The melody is usually played on the first and second strings, while the third string will usually provide a drone.


Did you know?

The lead singer of Trio Bel Canto had a 10 string version.


Bouzouki Music from Amazon.com

bouzoukiBouzouki Pioneer
Markos Vamvakaris
coverMarkos Vamvakaris
Markos Vamvakaris
coverBouzouki & Touberleki
Constandinou & Yev…
coverSongs from Greece
Bouzouki Ensemble
coverOrchestreca
Michalis Terzis
cover16 Succes Au Bouzouki
Various Artists
Golden Greek Bouzouki
George & Paul Stev…
Golden Greek Bouzouki
George & Paul Stev…
Holiday in Greece
Theo Chrissos & Bo…

Bouzouki Music from Amazon.co.uk

Songs From Greece
Bouzouki Ensemble
Best of Bouzouki
Theodorakis
Greece
Bouzouki & Sirtaki…
amazon.co.ukSongs of Greece
Bouzouki
amazon.co.ukMagic of the Greek Bouzouki
Michalis Terzis
amazon.co.ukMagic of the Greek Bouzouki
Michalis Terzis
This Is Greece, Vol. 4
Various Artists
Zorba’s Dance/Bouzouki MagicHoliday in Greece
Theo Chrissos & Bo…

Book from Amazon.co.uk:


Bouzouki Links

The following links are related to Greek Music.

Reference:

Please note: I play can play both 8 and 6 string bouzouki. The above information is based on my personal bouzouki Experience. I have written my own Greek Songs.

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