View Full Version : Zouk/OM capoing

Dec-13-2004, 5:06pm
There was a thread over in the "Information" section related to mandola capoing. Last night I saw a pair of guitarists in concert including Robin Bullock, who also did 2 or 3 pieces things playing a large-bodied Celtic bouzouki capoed at the 7th fret - thus giving the intrument basically a mandola pitch. It was quite a nice sound. I was wondering how extensivley OM players here capo their instruments, and whereabouts on the neck are favorite capoing positions?

Martin Jonas
Dec-13-2004, 5:38pm
I like doing that on the bouzouki. Mandola pitch would be 5th fret (CGDA), but I find the capo on the 7th fret (DAEB) more useful for Scottish and Irish fiddle tunes (as, evidently, does Robin Bullock). Very few of those tunes ever go down below D, and so DAEB allows me to play these tunes an octave down from mandolin pitch, but with the same fingering and fairly similar stretches. In addition, there's the high B string which gets used fairly frequently. My bouzouki has a 26" scale, so there's plenty of neck and 7th fret capo gives me a very comfortable stretch for melody playing.

Using the capo in that position does change sound tone completely, though. As you would expect, it sounds more like a mandola and less like a bouzouki. Sometimes I play fiddle tunes with the capo and sometimes I play the same tunes at the same pitch one string up without the capo (but with seriously long stretches). Completely different tone. I can't say one is better than the other -- just different and sometimes one way seems more right than the other. It just adds to the flexibility of the bouzouki.

None of the above is meant to imply that I'm any good with the thing. I basically play mandolin and am just having fun exploring the additional options of the bouzouki.


Dec-14-2004, 9:55am
I've been using the capo on the 2nd fret for the purpose of shortening the scale as I'm learning new tunes (especially melodies)... get the feel for the tune and fingerings, and then let the capo go and work on the stretch...

I haven't gotten around to figuring out how to use the capo for transposing yet...

Dec-14-2004, 10:06am
Me too.

I work the tune now in 5 th fret and after without capo.

It's easier to work the tune.

The sound change because you lost sustain with a capo up the neck, but it can be useful to change the colour of the instrument.

Tim o'brin on his very good DVD use 2 songs with capo in 2nd.

You know it's like the guitar ! A stringed instrument http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Dec-16-2004, 8:03am
I never capo

Michael Wolf
Dec-16-2004, 8:52am
I used to capo at fifth fret on my bouzouki with good tone. In fact I liked the tone a bit more then in open position, but not that useful for celtic. When I started to play some klezmer and also swedish tunes, I dicovered that CGDA is very usefull for this and ended up to play these tunes permanently in CGDA.
But I found the seventh fret (for DAEA/B) to high for constant use.
Now I don't have a bouzouki nomore, but a mandola. So I have CGDA/G and DAEA/B at 2nd fret. I play GDAE on mando and tenorguitar and don't capo them.

All the Best

Dec-16-2004, 10:22am
I watched the great Alec Finn (ex De Dannan) one of the pioneers of the Irish bouzouki play a show in Ennis, Co. Clare recently. He used a capo constantly and simply moved it along the frets, depending on what key the tune was beng played in. Incidentally, for some of the time - presumably for tunes he didn't know, the key was called to him by the 'box' player (Derek Hickey).

It was a treat to see such a genuinely 'great' and extremely well known player not only use capo without embarrassment, but also be unashamed of having the keys told to him! it certainly gave me a lot of encouragement, and I told him so, later.


steve V. johnson
Dec-16-2004, 1:16pm
Ahoy, Adare! <G> I've been away from the forums for quite a while...

Was Alec Finn playing his six-string (three-course) bouzouki? He's one of the few zoukists out there who still prefer the Greek-style instrument(s). I have been told that he plays in ADA or DAD tuning when he plays those...

Capo-ing is fun, but when guitar players do ti (I confess to guitaring...) it keeps them playing one set of chord shapes in the various keys, and often, I find, keeps them from learning to play in other keys. Most of the zoukists local to me don't capo much, with the exception of doing it for timbral effect, usually in ballads or if there is another zouk/OM player in a session.

I aspire to use a capo for effect, aside from matching the key, but I am not that good at thinking that way... Say... capo-ing at the seventh fret and playing a tune in Eminor. I'd like to be fluent in the timbral variations that can be had that way, esp. when playing with a guitar (or guitars) and other plucked strings.

For the moment, I'm stuck using Chubb capos, tho I have, and love, the Quick-Draw ones, which I found to be pretty popular in Ireland. My Crump has a volute on the back of the neck at the headstock that won't let me store the Quick Draw capo on or above the nut, and my beloved Santa Cruz OM PW guitar is the same. I've spoken with Phil Crump, and if I can ever get out to California it would take just a short time for him to re-shape and refinish the neck of the (fabulous) B-II zouk so that I could use the Quick Draw capo with it.

Oh, and ASteve, I'm no Alec Finn, but you may recall that fiddler TJ Hull calls out keys to me, on the fly and as he chooses the tunes, and I am free of embarrassment as well. <GGG> Come to think of it, it's not uncommon for the best fiddlers here in the midst of Amurrica to call out the key of the next tune as they choose it. I like that...!!



Dec-16-2004, 2:14pm
Ahoy, Adare! #<G> #I've been away from the forums for quite a while...

Was Alec Finn playing his six-string (three-course) bouzouki? #He's one of the few zoukists out there who still prefer the Greek-style instrument(s). #I have been told that he plays in ADA or DAD tuning when he plays those...
Ahoy Stv

And away from my e-mail box, too it would seem!

Yes, Alec was playing a three course Greek style bouzouki. I asked him about why this was, and he told me it was mainly 'habit'. There had only been that style of instrument around when he started playing it, and he stuck with it. He did tell me though that he does have an Irish style zouk, and I'm fairly certain he mentioned the hallowed name of Steven Owsley Smith!

He had tuned the three course zouk to DAD and tunes his 4 course one to GDAD. At that time I was using the GDAE tuning, and quickly changed it. I also bought a slim capo that stays at the top of my zouk and slides up and down as required!

Good to hear from you again!


Martin Jonas
Dec-16-2004, 4:17pm
I use a Chubb banjo capo, which works well enough once it's properly on, but unfortunately the rubber pad is only very slightly wider than the spread of the strings, so I have to put it in place very carefully to get clean pressure on all eight strings. So, no stunt capoing for me in the middle of the song, like David Rawlings does on his guitar.


Dec-17-2004, 4:28am
Alec does indeed use a Greek bouzouki, his current one, which he has had for about 10 years now, was made by Victor Dekavallas in Thessaloniki in the North of Greece. It’s tuned DAD, as that was the tuning on the first one Alec played. This first one was brought back from Greece by a pal who mad a trip to Greece and Alec asked him to bring back a laouto, the large lute like instrument common in Crete, or “onion shaped” as he told the friend. The guy misinterpreted quite what he was looking for and came back with the bouzouki instead.

Alec also has a Dio Dinos guitar bouzouki, a bigger bodied instrument with 6 strings, and this is tuned ADA, a lower tuning. http://www.diodinos.com/Finnletter_pic.htm

Alec has always used a sliding capo of some sort, elastic banjo ones in the past, and now the Quickdraw ones, which Elderly now stock. Most of the time he plays with Irish traditional melodeon players/and fiddlers who are playing half a tone up, so his concert D or A is actually capoed at the first fret, making it E flat or B flat, the pitch of the melodeon. Frankie Gavin has always had his fiddle (a Kurt Gurter, if my memory serves me well) tuned up half a tone. It's also easier for him not to slide the capo over the nut every time the key is in D or A.

Incidentally, Alec also uses Appalachian dulcimer plectrums, made by Herdim, triangular ones with a different gauge available at each corner. The work beautifully with lightly strung greek instruments. http://www.riverlark.com/dulcimeracc/

Steve McGrail is currently writing an article on Alec for publication in the Living Tradition magazine soon. http://www.folkmusic.net/htmfiles/navset3.htm

I myself always have a capo around, especially when playing with singers, and I will happily capo any of my instruments, though probably never the mandolin, in order to change the sound or play in a different, potentially awkward key on the long necked Greek bouzoukis I have as well.

Trust this is of interest to you.

Dec-17-2004, 4:41am
oh, and I forgot to mention that he does have a Steve Smith 6 string bouzouki, a beauty, which he has had on the marketplace for sale, if anyone is interested.

Dec-17-2004, 11:05am

Frankie Gavin's fiddle is, indeed, a Gurter. Frankie showed it to me himself!

By the way, your CD with Alec is excellent. It was my regular Sunday morning relaxation music for several weeks, when it was first released. And, it sells very well in my shop in Co. Limerick.

Shanna Quay (http://www.shannaquay.com)

Steve Power

Dec-20-2004, 4:10am
Ah, how kind, Steve, thanks a lot for that. Does this mean the good folk of Limerick are finally getting into playing strathspeys and 2/4 pipe marches at last? Is this the end of the reel and jig in sessions?
Have a good Christmas!

steve V. johnson
Dec-20-2004, 11:14am
LOL!! I doubt that we'll see the end of reels and jigs, at least in Adare, anyway!

On Adare Steve's warm recommendations, I have come to enjoy your CD as well, Kevin, thanks!

Oh, and I got boggled on my capo, it's a Kyser (quite a machine, esp. compared to the Quick Draws) not a Chubb.

I have a deposit in with Mr "hallowed" Smith, and I'm waiting for my number to come up and considering what to order from him. A mando has been very prominent in my imagination, but I had the chance to play Lawrence Washington's 23" SOS zouk last week (for almost an hour! Hoy hoy!!) and just love it. Oh, and (on topic again) I did use the Kyser capo on that one in the session, and it was lovely.


p.s. to AdareSteve, I have a long email to you in process, awaiting a break in holiday madness to complete and send.

Dec-21-2004, 10:59am
Delighted you like the cd - Alec's playing is wonderful. Someone ought to document this great master visually.

You could go up to Oranmore and see his 6 string Steve Smith bouzouki to whet your appetite. It's very nice indeed.