View Full Version : bouzouki (6 or 8), tzoura, or Saz baglama

Jun-07-2004, 2:49am
Hi all!

Lately I am thinking about buying a new greek instrument. This is going to be an 8-string bouzouki, a 6 string bouzouki, or a 6-string tzoura.

My prime interest in greek music are rembetiko and folk music, but I also like laiko and more recent greek popular music.

I would really like to have an instrument with a largar scale length than mandolin and baglama.

The most logical choice perhaps to go with the 8-string bouzouki. However, I don't like the prospects of learnig a new tuning.

I was wonderning whether the prototypical bouzouki sound (i.e. that from laiko) is due to the tuning of the bouzouki, or could that sound also be achieved with the 6-string bouzouki?

I like rembetiko very much for its oriental influences. This got me thinking about buying a saz baglama (the bouzouki sized turkish saz).

could anyone comment in these questions?

personal preferences?

anything? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

thanks! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Jun-07-2004, 6:59am
Oh, dear... #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif #A HUGE subject, by any standard.

[QUOTE]"I was wonderning whether the prototypical bouzouki sound (i.e. that from laiko) is due to the tuning of the bouzouki, or could that sound also be achieved with the 6-string bouzouki?"

Well, first of all, the prototypical bouzouki sound (sticking to the true meaning of the word "prototype", as referring to what was there when the instrument was first developed —in the case of the Greek bouzouki, the 1920's and '30's) well, IS the sound of the 6-string instrument. That is the true voice of the pre-war rebetiko.

The sound of the POST-war laiko, while most popular in Greece and best known abroad, is no longer prototypical but rather a "classicized" style, full of stylized mannerisms, reminiscent of the rebetiko.

The real issue for me, then, is somewhat different from the one you post as a philosophical dilemma: #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif #It is not primarily that the sound, ANY given sound, cannot be attained with either tuning; au contraire, it is that the virtuosic, post-WWII style, necessitates the 8-string, CFAD tuning. The actual repertoire calls for continuous, across-the-strings playing, guitar-like, totally unlike of the up-and-down-the-highest-string (with droning, open lower ones) of the old, prototypical bouzouki-playing style of the rebetiko.

To put in in plainer English: The issue is not, as you put it, that you cannot get the sound of the laiko from a 6-stringer, but that the laiko repertoire will not be playable (with reasonable comfort) without the CFAD tuning.

And finally, by way of advice you may (or may not) wish to follow: Choose the repertoire you want to play: pre-war rebetiko OR post-war laiko? (Here I must say I'm a bit confused about your taste: If you like the "oriental" flavor, as you write, that is far more charecteristic of the PRE-war style, as many rebetes were Greek refugees from Asia Minor, than of the POST-war laiko) But, all in all, the decision on repertoire will immediately yield the right answer regarding the instrument and its tuning.

Best of luck with this.

Jun-07-2004, 8:30am
Hi Viktor,

of course you are right about the prototypical term. I considered using the term cliché, but I was afraid that it would hold a negative connotation. but it was the laiko sound I meant.

I am aware that rebetiko and laiko are vastly different styles. I like them both, but for different reasons, the reason for rembetika being it's oriental influences.

Do you (or anyone else) have any experience with the differences between tzouras and 6-string bouzoukis?

And how about that Saz baglama option?

I went to Zeibebiko somewhat more than a month ago (a piece by the (new-zealand) Greek composer John Psathas, en there was Christos Hatzis who was playing a saz on one part. That sounded very appropriate, and it should give you the option to play Turkish musik as well.

(delving into these instruments sure is exciting!http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif)

Jun-07-2004, 8:44am
Oh, yes, it sure IS exciting! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

The tzouras (and this is, again, only my personal bias) is a curious instrument, as the small size of the bowl is disproportionate to the long scale; the result is a thin, twangy, saz-like sound. If one wants a truly "authentic" #tzoura sound, one should probably consider one with a carved bowl, i.e. carved out of ONE piece of wood and not staved, like the mandolin's.

This Greek instrument is as close a relative of the Turkish saz as possible; both descendants probably of the Persian tar. The only critical difference —and a great one!— is that the Turkish instrument has movable, nylon (earlier: gut) frets, located at UNeven temperament, i.e. not the "Western", equal temperament we are familiar with.

So, the question becomes quantitative, and as such, vague: Exactly how oriental is oriental enough for you? #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif #The saz, with its movable frets in uneven temperament is just perfect for, of course... Turkish music— as the oud, with its fretless fingerboard, is perfect for Arabic music. Once you cross into southeast Europe, the even temperament is immediately fixed by means of fixed, metal frets. In the process, one "degree of orientalism" is naturally lost.

If one opts for an instrument with a deep, staved bowl (such as the mandolin's), said instrument looses the meditative, oriental twang of the saz and gains the sweet roundness of the mandolin-family; another degree to the West. And so on: Only you can answer the "how much is enough" question. As I concluded above, it really boils down to what music you want to play.

Or, better yet, if you are not totally sure... you can get one of each!!! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

Jun-07-2004, 10:44am
well I can say from my own two week bazouki experience....

I have a eight string. #I can figure out vamvaraki and tsitsani licks, but I can tell if I had the same tuning as them, it would come quicker.... you know sometimes you can figure out a melody or a riff just by simply knowing what positions or what chords the composer or performer uses,,, so when you go eight string, you lose the advantage of "seeing" your melodies... does that make sense?

--I have to learn songs 100% by ear...the saz style lost to some extent...but I also have more accessiblity to diminished runs? relative /mj and minor are very close hand positions? the tuning makes sense... I am glad I went with the 8 string personally as I am back into the swing of playing guitar and I am writing my own psuedo rebetiko ...there are chord voicings I hear in the albums that I do not voice the same.

I do plan on picking up a 6 string one day...

Jun-08-2004, 7:03am
Jeff's point is a valid and practical one:

Especially if you have any guitar-background, the CFAD tuning of the 8-stringer will come automatically. Ironically (I hope not hypocritically #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif ), the guitar was MY first instrument —well, the first one I actually studied— and still I never got perfectly comfortable with the tuning, with that funky third in there... Oh, well; my problem, not yours.

A good and relatively inexpensive 8-stringer is also easier to find; the pool of choices is certainly larger: more luthiers, more models, more price-levels, more options, etc. Not to mention that 99% of the pedagogical materials you can find are addressed exclusively (if also regrettably, I think) to the 8-stringer and CFAD...

I would only warn you against the Tourist Trap Deluxe model: #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif #Tons and tons of inlays, poor craftsmanship, junky materials, no tone. But that belongs to a later stage of this thread; once you have made up your mind on the kind of instrument you want, I can easily e-mail you 20-some names, phone numbers, addresses for the purpose of the bouzouki-hunt. As always, however: I am no dealer myself. Caveat emptor.

Jun-08-2004, 8:41am
I would only warn you against the Tourist Trap Deluxe model: #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif #Tons and tons of inlays, poor craftsmanship, junky materials, no tone.

But that belongs to a later stage of this thread
yes, lets talk about money,

how much should I expect to pay for a decent 8 string bouzouki?

Of course this all depends on what you would call decent. As an example I can give that I find my Sakis baglama decent to good. It is good because (quite simply) it sounds good. It is decent to fair because the finishing touches are reallt sloppy (spilt glues, rough sanding, not to careful inlays etc.)

But since I don't give much for these finishing touches (at least in euro's ;)) I would grade this for me as decent to good.

Equally, (if you know) what should I expect to pay for a decent tzoura or a decent Saz?

(suffering from severe cases of aquisition syndrome now http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif)

Jun-08-2004, 11:02am
the christos guy vic sent me a link on earlier charged $250 for a baglama. it looked pretty nice.???

Jun-08-2004, 11:14am
Well... (starting from Sakis, one of whose instruments you already have, so you can use it as a benchmark):

I only have a 2001 catalogue of Mátsikas; back then, his bouzoukis ran from 200-odd to 1,200-odd euro. Obviously, one ought to factor in all the price-hikes that must have taken place in the past 3 years.

The strength of the Mátsikas shop is that they are the only true mass-producer, and therefore can beat just about anyone price-wise. Even then, however, I think —or rather know— that you can get significantly better craftsmanship for the same price, therefore a lower price/quality ratio: I am speaking, for example, of Pavlos Kevorkian, one of whose mandolins I own: "striped" walnut bowl, as per the thread in the Classical section. Have you seen that?

My opinion —and it is only that— is that an instrument, ANY instrument you buy, will become a part of you, a part of your life for many, many years. And while I would be the last one to advocate for luxury, I would still recommend that you get a LOW-end instrument from a HIGH-end builder: A well-built (but unadorned) bouzouki from Christos Spourdalakis or Karolos Tsakirian will run over 1,000 euro, i.e. around the range of a heavily decorated instrument of Mátsikas. On the other hand, I would argue that your inner self will thank you for having spent the money on a better built, better sounding instrument.

Then there is Zozef's shop, with an equally impressive line of models; his simpler, "Nightingale" series is in good repute. Also, Zozef builds a truss-rod into ALL his models, from the cheapest to the most expensive. I'd give them a look, too. For a bit of history: The company's founder, Zozef Terzivassian, virtually INVENTED the 8-stringer!

So far I have stuck with luthiers in Athens and Pireus, as that is my own turf. But, since you will presumably be buying from a distance, it matters not to you whether the luthier is, for example, in Thessaloniki. I would therefore check out Dekavallas, Paraskevas, et al luthiers of northern Greece; good guys, good instruments.

I hope I have been impartial; I don't work for any of these folks. All of them have strengths, be it in pricing (e.g. Mátsikas), attention to detail (e.g. Tsakirian), impeccable set-up (e.g. Kevorkian), precision of craftsmanship (e.g. Spourdalakis), quality of materials (e.g. Paraskevas), "technological" advances (e.g. Zozef), overall aesthetic beauty (e.g. Dekavallas), and so on...

A tzouras would be somewhat less expensive; 200-700 euro as per Mátsikas 2001 catalogue. If you want a Turkish saz, and while such instruments are built by "ethnic specialist" luthiers in Greece, you should probably look around for a better, broader idea of what is available.

Bob A
Jun-11-2004, 1:22pm
Don't neglect Ebay. I was fortunate enough to get a baglama from about 1960, with rosewood bowl and light decoration, for about $75 including shipping. It was languishing 'way down with the cheapo mandolins, and was in fact labelled a mandolin by the seller. $15 worth of repairs has left me with a wonderful little instrument, with an amazing treble, and excellent intonation nearly to the 24th fret.

Look in odd places - lutes, mandolins, etc. Half the time the seller doesn't know what he has. Luck favors the patient in this kind of search.

Asking for "personal preferences - anything" opens the door for my seconding Victor's advice regarding low-end instruments from makers of note. And let me put in a plug for Kevorkian, one of whose mandolins I now own thanks to Victor. It is a wonderful player, and has opened my eyes to serious consideration of new instruments.

Jun-17-2004, 11:34am
Thanks for the replies. I've been delving into saz music for the past week, and that really favours the saz as of now. Next week I'm going to try some instruents. I'm looking very much forward to that. I'll keep you informed http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif