View Full Version : Zouk stringing question
I apologize if this has been asked before, but I went through all the old threads and couldn't find an answer.
I'm going to buy a zouk. I had a Trinity about 12 years ago, so I'm not a complete newcomer. But I have this nagging question about strings.
Every zouk I see for sale strings the lower two strings in octaves. However, unless my ears fail me (a distinct possibility after too many years on rock bass), Donal Lunny and many other Irish zouk players string the lower strings in courses; I don't hear any octave sound.
Am I just wrong? I know the primary difference between a zouk and OM is scale length, but are the octaves on G and D a "requirement" for zouks, as well? Do Lunny, Irvine, Finn and the rest play with the octaves?
Thanks for any help.
No, octave stringing is not a requirement. Greek bouzoukis traditionally string in octaves, but in Irish style, some do, most don't. I have a 25" zouk and I don't string in octaves, and no one I've met who plays Irish style CBOM strings in octaves.
No firm rule -- you can do either as you prefer. Unison stringing has certain advantages, mainly that you can play up the neck without getting the nasty interferences from the inevitable poor compensation of an octaves-strung bouzouki. Try both and stick with what you prefer. I prefer unisons, because on octave stringing, upstrokes sound very different from downstrokes and I couldn't cope with that.
Newtone bouzouki strings are useful for experimenting with that: they have ten strings in them, with two extra treble strings so that you can string up in octaves and in unison with the same set. Great for getting started until you've made up your mind on which tuning you want.
Count me as another who doesn't tune a zouk in octaves. #You can run into some huge intonation problems with octave courses up the neck. #I tune my zouk ADAD and use a capo at the 5th fret for G tunes and even (occasionally) the 7th fret for A, so I spend a fair amount of time well up the neck.
The problem is much less pronounced when you're playing melody than when you're playing chords. #For that reason, I do use octave courses in my short-scale octave mando, since I use that mainly for melody work (and almost always in the first position).
Here's a pretty good article about zouk tuning, including a technical explanation of the problem with octave courses:
Zouk Tuning (http://home.hccnet.nl/h.speek/bouzouki/stringing.html)
I thought as much...in fact, with my Trinity, I used a spare mandolin string I had lying around to change the low D from octave to unison. But, for lack of a string, the G remained in octave.
Given the fact that you've all confirmed my suspicions, and that most Irish players do not use the octaves, why is it that all of these zouks, even those specifically marketed as "Irish," come in octaves? As a result, if you want to play in courses, you have to get new strings, change the nut, etc. Seems like a lot more hassle than necessary.
I don't know why you are seeing instruments with octave stringing. I assume you are talking about Johnson, Trinity, etc. You don't have to spend too much more than that for a Mid-Mo, Kennaquahir, Freshwater, Moon, etc., and you can get those strung the way you want them. The default stringing I've seen on those makes and others like them is unison.
Well, for example, I note that the new Fender has octave stringing. As do the Trinity zouks (as you point out). And even the cheap stuff listed as "Irish bouzoukis" on eBay.
I'll definitely check out the models you mentioned.
And even the cheap stuff listed as "Irish bouzoukis" on eBay.
Some of that "cheap stuff" (e.g. the Troubadour and similar Romanian-made ones) are pretty good on that count: they have zero frets, which means you can change from octave to unisons without altering the nut. The Troubadour, for example, even ships with the spare strings needed to change the tuning, so it's a five minute job (plus five hours to get the rest of the setup corrected, but that's a different story).
I went through the same thing with my Sage #1. It came with unison G and D strings. I tried the octaves and at first really liked it, but eventually went back to unison. Has that more plunky, celtic sound, beefier. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif
Tim O'Brien actually does use octaves on his zouk; I also quickly dispensed with them after a short chat with Andy Irvine. Making the required nut slots a little bigger is a very easy job with a triangular needle file.