Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Greetings yellow boarders.

I’ve recently started backing on a mandola lent to me by a certain notorious contributor to this site and I have to say i can see myself getting hopelessly hooked on it!! With this in mind i’m in the early stages of researching different makers. I’d eventually like to buy something that is of decent quality but not hugely expensive as this isn’t and probably never will be my main instrument.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers.

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Fine, text me and then ask everyone anyway!

I’ve got one made by Joe Gallacher from Albury, good sound, great throught a PA and joe’s a great guy to work with. price aint to bad either. He called it a bouzouki but it’s much more of the Mandola-ish size (four course though - none of this extra course bollox)

Jack Spira’s got a good reputaion, and I’ve played a couple of his that i’ve quite liked - don’t know how much they are though.

Graham McDonald from Canberra had quite a reputation as a maker for a while - players such as Jimmy Gregory, James Fagan and even Donal Lunny have been known to play one of his. Joe Ferguson from my band (notice - ‘MY’ band) plays one of his and it’s probably the best zouk I’ve ever played - though the sound is very mellow due to the fixed bridge. But I’ve played a LOT of his that havn’t been that good at all. He’s very hit and miss.

Davy Stuart (NZ) Makes nice zouks as well, but I’ve only had a really short play on one of his (I was too distracted by a kick@ss new guitar he’d just finished when I was staying with him last year) so i don’t really feel like i’m qualified to comment. I’ll ask Joe (whose had more of a go if i remember rightly) and report back.

These are all I can think of off hand around Oz, good to here your embracing the world of zouk-dom!

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Cheers SirNose. I of course meant no disrespect in asking here as well as asking your goodself. When you didn’t reply to my text I assumed maybe you were busy with YOUR band :). Gonna be down your way next week for a little while before Goulburn. Will ye be in the poet next friday?

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

I can vouch for Davy Stuart zouks/mandos - they’re fantastic.

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Aye, look forward to your fragrant company. and twas a grrand wee t’ingy that ye ask-ed of thine arcane lute enquires, ‘tis a far longer reply than one would communicate via tixt missuge.

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Wow i think that’s the first time my company has been described as fragrant :) Are you hitting on me? Aren’t you engaged?

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I have played a couple of Stuarts, and I like them OK. The ultimate (IMHO) is a Steven Owsley Smith, but I don’t think he’s taking orders at the moment (and you’d have a couple year wait even if he was… and they’re probably out of your price range…)

I have a Fletcher Brock that I really like a lot. And I have played several instruments from Herb Taylor that were not too expensive and good quality. (http://www.herbtaylor.com/instruments/bouzouki/)

It would help to know what your actual price range is… But in your neck of the woods, you might do best with a Stuart.

Pete

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Hmm, imo SOSmith is the only person making extremely high quality instruments who manages to get them to look really tacky, with fussy designs and cutaways and horns on that look like they’d be more at home on an electric rock guitar. I’m sure I’m the only person who thinks that tho’. Most people love his work.

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Dowsie who made the one i’ve got now?

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Read the sticker on it, duhbrain ;-)

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don’t bovver reading the sticker, it’s a hack instrument made by a hack maker from hack wood hacked from a hack forest in some hack country. and it’s really cheap too and the waiting list fro them is really short.

or is it? ;-)

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Well that’s funny, because I got the impression you liked it enough to use it to record an album with it and not mention that you didn’t actually own it ;-)

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that was not my fault!! I told’m to credit you and they left it off (good thing they did though coz it was only after that that i found out your real name wasn’t Mark Dow. he he.)

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I know. I called you "Ben Nose" for years, and people kept saying "Nose what?" and I couldn’t work out why.

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

dude, i nose everything. you should nose that by now.

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god, i’m so sorry, that is the lamest joke i’ve ever made…

SOOOOoooooooo, how ‘bout them mandolas then!?!?!

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

http://www.paulshippey.co.uk/ Not sure if you want an octave mandola or a ‘real’ (CGDA) mandola, Paul made a CGDA mandola for me and it’s amazing.

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Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Quick note for late in the evening since he’s a newbie to this:

It’s down to scale length, which is what I was saying the other day…

Mandolin = GDAE (same as fiddle)
Mandola = CGDA (same as viola)
Octave mandolin = GDAE (an octave down from the mandolin, but some people tune them like a zouk GDAD for chords like a short-necked zouk. Can’t remember SirNose’s "bouzouki", but from his description, it’s probably really an octave mandolin tuned in bouzouki tuning)
Mandocello = CGDA (octave below mandola - same as cello)
Mandobass = EADG (same as double bass - these are awesome - remind me to lend you a recording featuring all 4)

Some people (like c.g.) call octave mandolins "octave mandolas", because they’re lower in pitch from a mandolin. As far as I understand it, o.mandolin has been more commonly used in the States, and o.mandola in Europe. Anyway, they’re the same thing.

A bouzouki is basically an octave mandolin with a longer scale length, usually tuned GDAD or ADAD like Tony tunes his, or sometimes GDAE or ADAE etc for people who are more into picking tunes rather than strumming chords. Johnny Moynihan brought a proper Greek bouzouki back to Ireland and started using it for Irish music, and Alec Finn started using a 6-course one, tuned DAD. Then the design of the instrument changed to flatback, and they became more like long-necked versions of the mandos that already existed.

A cittern is the term Stefan Sobell revived to apply specifically to his 5-course octave mandolins (DGDAE or DGDAD) because he thought they were similar to a medieval instrument of the same name. Nowadays people use the term "cittern" in 2 main ways: either to refer to "any mando with 5 courses", or "any mando, whether it be a bouzouki or whatever".

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

So what you have isn’t really a 5-course bouzouki, it’s a 5-course mandola, with an extra low course. A 5-couse bouzouki would have a much longer neck, and would be tuned DGDAD or DGDGD or DGDAE or similar. (I want one of those!)

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

You people don’t believe in cheap .I would never spend this type of money for something I don’t know I would be good at or like.Are there any mass produced ones that have a good reputation(other than Trinity College)?

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Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

You’re right. I don’t believe in cheap when it comes to musical instruments. I’d rather have late in the evening play a good quality borrowed instrument for longer than see him buy a cheap piece of sh1t and try and battle with it. Late in the evening, my advice is to keep playing what you’ve got until you’re in a position to afford a decent one of your own. I don’t think the owner will mind as long as you keep turning up to sessions ;-)

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Weeeeelllll, my bouzouki is made by the notorious Mr Peter Daffy from Camperdown in Vic. He mainly does guitars, but also makes lovely zouks and mandolins etc. I’m saving up to buy a tenor uke from him…. hee hee
I’ll let you have a go when we get sick of cds in the car L.I.T.E….
As far as other oz makers, Ray Black in Geelong seems to sell his instruments very cheaply and may even have an alright second handy or two and I think there’s a guy around Maleny who makes various stringy things, but not sure of his name….
Good luck buddy and I’ll see ye next week….

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

That’s alright if you have access to a good one on loan.You would not however think of spending this type of money to learn an instrument,have you ever heard of someone beginning to learn fiddle on a Strad?My contention is that you would be ill advised to buy a Sobel or whatever just because you think you could get into this bouzouki lark.My experiencr with mandolins and particularly fiddles is that that there are some very keenly priced instruments coming out of the middle east that compare very favourably with hand made instruments I’m just asking does anybody have a good experience with some of these.I can tell you I have plaved £150 mandolins that play very nicely and compete well with £2000 ones.

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Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Check my details….Hard to find better….

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Thanks so much for all the feedback lads. Obviously i’m not looking at investing my life savings just yet (mainly because my life savings at this point pretty much adds up to this months rent!!!) but this is handy stuff to know while i’m looking around.
Dow- I’m sure I will have no choice but to keep bringing it to sessions, not the least because the owner :) and certain fiddle&box playing couples will kill me if i don’t!!! ("finally we sound like a real band!!!")
SirNose- I still think "real men do it with both ends" and " my shirt isn’t pink it’s off red" are my favourite comments you’ve dropped on this site :)
Nicstar- Crank it up buddy!!! Can’t wait to get down to ye olde melb town for more tunes and disco dancin’. I promised tommy last night i would take care of ye on the drive up and if by "take care" he means "have an 8 hour Cure party in the car" then i’m determined to keep my promise :)

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I have to admit, you’re fun to do road trips with, LITE. Those 2 hours we spent playing "what’s that 80’s song?" - that was a laugh.

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

And then you were gonna kill me at the end of the trip because I hadn’t told you that my radio actually worked and that we could have been listening to it for the whole trip. I think it was really good that we created our own entertainment though. Don’t you now, in retrospect??

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

HAHAHAHAHA!! Good times dowsie. See ye tonight.

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Dow
I thought the traditional bouzouki (from Greece etc.) was characteristic because of the octave pairing of strings in the bass section, and a cittern was with the "normal" pairing of same strings - and the "Irish" flat back "bouzouki" was really a cittern by any other name…a cistern :) for instance?
Late in the evening, if you ever get round my way you can have a play on my Thornbury. Quite a unique "bouzouki…so unique I don’t take it outdoors cause peoples like Dow laugh at it.
Have fun tonight and if you see that ‘kin harp player again tell him I didn’t send my regards :)

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Nah, some people string their flatbacks in octaves, too, so that’s not a defining feature. The "Irish" flatback bouzouki has basically evolved into the same thing as any flatback cittern. It’s just that usually a bouzouki has a longer neck than other citterns, and therefore more sustain than, say, a mandola, but this depends on the luthier too. Some bouzoukis, like James Fagan’s, are guitar-shaped, so you can’t even generalise and say "everything shaped like a teardrop…". If it’s got a flat back and metal strings strung in pairs, then it’s in the cittern family of instruments. After that, the differences all boil down to relative scale length, given that tuning isn’t even consistent among different players, e.g. Brian McDonagh plays a mandola, which is basically a small bouzouki, but he tunes it DAEA instead of the CGDA tuning they use in mando orchestras etc.

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

When I mentioned Alec Finn before, I meant 3-course, not 6-course.

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Dow, I think it’s interesting that you class these all as in the cittern ‘family’, as the only person i know of who perpetuates this term is stefan sobell, and he basically seems to be ‘re-badging’ modern instuments with an historical name to differentiate his short scale axes from his long scale ‘bouzoukis’… Everyone else in the luthier trade seems happy enough to use zouk or mando name derivatives.

If anything ALL these instruments should sit in the mandolin ‘family’ (including the greek bouzouki - I once sat in with the melbourne greek band Rebetiki when they gave a workshop about the history of the greek bouzouki, and they talked about how the italian round-backed mandolin bodies were used in the development of early (late 19th century) bouzoukis. come to think of it, the workshop was at the national a few years back, you may have been there…). Cittern to me seems like a very, er, eccentric name to apply to all cases.

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

You’d be surprised, SirNose. There’s a whole online community quite happy to use it as a generic term. Ever heard of the "cittern list", and all its members worldwide, and their "Citterns On Ice" CDs they put out a while back? I guess they must all be eccentrics :-/

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

"If anything ALL these instruments should sit in the mandolin ‘family’ (including the greek bouzouki"

Actually, strictly speaking, they’re all in the lute family. People use the term "cittern" like that, because historically the "mandos" were roundbacked instruments, and the "citterns" were flatbacked and strung with metal strings. I’m not for any particular terminology really. I think they’re all the same thing - just different sizes and different tunings.

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"stefan sobell, and he basically seems to be ‘re-badging’ modern instuments with an historical name to differentiate his short scale axes from his long scale ‘bouzoukis’."

It’s true what you say about re-badging modern instruments. But I can see why he used the term. His use of the term "cittern" is even more specific than most other people’s. It refers only to his 10-string octave mandolin, not the 10-string zouk or the 10-string mandola. I think he called it that for want of a better term. Anything with "octave mandolin" in it would have seemed a bit strange given that with 10 strings it wasn’t much like a mandolin anymore, so he used the historical term "cittern" because the renaissance ones reminded him of the one he’d made. The generic use of the term "cittern" is even more recent, as far as I understand it. People didn’t really know what a cittern specifically referred to, because it was being used for anything with 10 strings, and sometimes for large-bodied instruments with 8-strings that looked vaguely like they might not be zouks. So in the confusion, people started using it as a generic term. Hence the internet community that uses the term as a convenient term for anything vaguely zouk-like. Presumably "mando" was thought to be too "mandolin-centric" and not inclusive enough of bouzoukis? Maybe? Not sure…

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Another instrument that springs to mind is the Portuguese Guitar, or gitarra, or whatever it was - the funny looking thing Andy Irvine played. Those are descended from citterns. In fact there are a whole load of similar flatbacked, steel-stringed lutes all over Europe and Africa and the Middle East which are more "cittern-like" than anything else. I’m thinking of e.g. the North-African mandola, like the one played by Abdelli. Have you come across one of those before? Most of them have extra frets so you can play microtonal music. Yes, they call it a "mandola", but I would have thought it’d be a descendant of the European cittern rather than the roundback Neapolitan mandolin/mandola/mandocello family.

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

My understanding of the names used is not the same as that used by Dow, most of the names originated in the middle ages and show how instruments developed differently from the basic Lute/ Ud beginnings
The Spanish guitar became the modern guitar, the English guitar was also known as the cittern( ten strings in pairs ), the Portuguese guitar is still extant as the gitarra and the French guitar, I have seen pictures of, seemingly became extinct.
How the cittern reappears as the name of a ‘live ‘instrument we shall have to ask Stefan.

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

I thought Dave Richardson was the first to appropriate the name “cittern” for his 4-course octmando. Did Sobell build that one?

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I’m pretty sure that when Sobell built his first 5-course octave mandolin and was trying to think of a name for it, he came across similar instruments called citterns in a book, and went with that. Dave, I’m sure I asked him about all this stuff at his workshop when I had my mandola built, but that was back in ‘98, and my memory could well be misfiring.

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I think Sobell’s point was: if you’ve got an "English guitar" known as a "cittern", with 10 strings in pairs, and you make an instrument with 10 strings in pairs which is to all intents and purposes the same thing, then why bother changing the name? I saw an English guitar made by William Gibson in a music shop in London once, and it was beautiful. It was made a few hundred years earlier than Sobell’s citterns, but it seemed the same sort of idea to me. Didn’t look anything like a Greek bouzouki though.

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Wow I want one !
The ivory could be an issue for new ones though :-(

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They’re really sexy looking, aren’t they?

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Just to muddy the water a little more, I was familiar with a cittern from Elizabethan consort music before Johnny, Dave, Donal, Stefan, et al got involved and I’m sure it was a four-course instrument. It didn’t sound like the modern version, though. More like a cross between octave mando and lap dulcimer, but even more jangly. I liked it a lot.

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Yeah, I’ve come across pics of 4-course ones as well. Interesting to hear about what they sound like.

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I can see this is an old thread but just to add my two-pennorth, I play a Tobin bouzouki www.tobininstruments.co.uk and it’s a smasher. To look at it’s very plain and simple, the beauty’s in the clean design really. But the sound is perfect for me as it carries well in a session or folk club where people, believe it or not, are rude enough to actually talk while you’re playing! Seriously though, I’ve seen Manus Lunny playing his Tobin live and it certainly doesn’t get lost. But really I guess it comes down to what you can afford and what you like personally.

Re: Bouzouki/Mandola Makers

Have had a chance to play three gold tone zoukes
The first one had a caved top, played it anyway, gdad , But did not sound good to me
The second one, the same, not good sounding to me, it could have been that the bridge was not in the right place.
The third one, Greek tuning sounded very good, resonant, clear, strong bass. All of them seem to be poorly constructed, finished nicely but inside, not good craftsmanship.

I do have a concert hora, flatiron pancake zouke, that are great instruments. Good quality and sound.

I have gone to a few sessions where players were playing fylde and a sobell zoukes. It could have been that the players did not know what they had, or they did not like the tune they were playing, but I was not impressed with the sound they made.
So in my opinion the player determines the sound
My two cents