Octave and Bouzouki

  1. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    Please tell me if my understaning is correct. An OM and a bouzouki are essentially the same instrument, except that the OM is tuned like a mando and the bouzouki is tuned GDAD and the lower string pairs are an octave apart?
  2. sloanypal
    I think some people would say that a bouzouki is also usually a longer scale length. My Peterson level 3 was sold as a OM/bouzouki. Tim O'Brien calls his Giacomel a bouzouki even though it's a 21" scale length and tuned as an OM.
  3. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    Sloanpal, thank you. I just looked up the Trinity College TC375 bouzouki and the TC325 OM and your observation is quite on. The scale length of the OM is just 20 3/8" and the scale length of the bouzouki is 26 3/4". In all other respects they appear identical. I guess the OM could be tuned as a bouzouki and vice versa though.

    Another question. Is it a true statement that the bouzouki is Greek in orgin whereas the OM has its origin in Celtic music? And have they each just totally blurred the lines by now?
  4. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    As has been said, Martin, the bouzouki has a longer scale length and the lower two courses are strung in octaves rather than in unison. The tunings vary, G-D-A-E and G-D-A-D being the most common, I think. The bouzouki had indeed got Greek origins (remember the Antony Quinn film Zorba The Greek and the famous Zorba's Dance from that?) and has been absorbed into Celtic music for some time now - think back to bands like the Chieftains and others. The bouzouki tends to have a deeper and bigger body than the octave, but again variations exist; My own builds have 540mm or 520mm scale lengths and my mandolins tend to have 375mm scale. You pay your money and you take your choice. All the variations have an effect on the final sound of the instrument, as does choice of soundwoods, strings, etc.

    Another complication is the mandola - sometimes referred to as an octave mandola (?) and this is tuned like the viola, a 5th below standard mandolin tuning, so courses are C-G-D-A and in unison.

    We just love playing them all, and that is all that matters!
  5. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    Now you've thrown a mandola into the mix John. Doesn't being a fifth off the mando make it confusing when playing with someone else on mando or OM? How's that work?
  6. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    Indeed it does add to the confusion, Martin. It is a case of working out keys beforehand and just learning the tunes - I rarely play mandola tuning, but those who do tend to have that same flexibility that we all share to some extent when we use DADGAD on guitar or switch between mandolin, tenor banjo and guitar. No easy answer, I fear, other than practice, though of course all the patterns remain the same, as the intervals between the strings are still 5ths.
  7. Rob Zamites
    Rob Zamites
    Just wait until I get my cittern and waldzither - I'm really gonna confuse some people!
  8. Pasha Alden
    Pasha Alden
    Hi all thanks for this explanation. Good to know my mandola is a mandola, not an octave mandolin.

    Though I am told it can be tuned in octaves, that is with different length strings and adjustments to the truss rod?
  9. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    You are talking about having the 2 lower courses tuned in octaves, Pasha. The lenghts of the strings are not the factor but the thickness of the two you make an octave higher. Probably unusual on an octave to tune in octaves (that sounds really silly when I read it!) rather than unison GDAE, but I know a few bouzouki players who have the G and D pairs in octave tuning.
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