Which Bouzouki?

Which Bouzouki?

After quite a few years playing Octave Mandolin, I’ve decided to branch out and buy a Bouzouki… I’ve researched a lot of the popular, respected makers, looked at their sites/work when I could find them and I’ve narrowed it down a bit….

Problem is, as much as I would REALLY like to try out an instrument from each maker first, there’s just no way to do that from where I’m located — and who I know, etc.

So, I’m wondering what the differences are among bouzoukis from these makers:

Stefan Sobell, Davy Stuart, Peter Abnett & Phil Crump

I’m know they all make great instruments in their own right. But if anyone has had the chance to compare two or more of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are the differences in overall sound and "tonality", playability, craftsmanship …even price if you happen to know. Of course, the character of the sound is the most interesting point…

Thanks!

P.S. I know there’ve been similar threads on this before. I’ve read them, but they haven’t totally answered my questions. 😉

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Re: Which Bouzouki?

Dont forget Joe Foley! He’s too busy to have a website……….

Re: Which Bouzouki?

You would be waiting a long time for a Sobell. However check out Nigel Forster http://www.nkforsterguitars.com He used to work with Stefan and now makes fantastic instruments of his own design.

Re: Which Bouzouki?

Stefan Sobell has actually stopped taking orders for his mandolin family of instruments for a while as his waiting list was getting too long! Instead he will keep a note of your interest and let you know when he starts taking orders again.

Another maker to look at is Andy Tobin, who’s based in Herefordshire - http://www.tobininstruments.co.uk/

Re: Which Bouzouki?

Grack,

Used Sobell instruments do come up for sale from time to time, so if it’s what you’re after, there might be hope.

I play only mandolin, so I can only add that in person, in sessions, I’ve heard Crump instruments played a lot, and they sound really great. Ad since you’re more or less in his area, that might be the most satisfying way to go.

Good luck!

Re: Which Bouzouki?

You should also consider "Trillium" bouzouki which takes only about 9 months waiting. I am very happy with mine and I believe it has a superb sound. I graduated from a Flatiron OM that I loved, and still own.
WB

Re: Which Bouzouki?

Yeah, I forgot to put in that caveat… "assuming they’re all currently taking orders." Sounds like Sobell’s a no go for now.

>> "I’ve heard Crump instruments played a lot, and they sound really great. And since you’re more or less in his area, that might be the most satisfying way to go."

Yeah, I’d though about that too…Crump is in the same country at least…and the same state…6 hours away… 😉

Anyone have anything to say on "how" the instruments sounds? Soft/loud, dark/bright, thin/rich, etc, etc, etc….

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Re: Which Bouzouki?

I would second the suggestion to check out Nigel Forster’s instruments. I’ve played one of his guitars and I have to admit I prefer it to the Sobell I once had a very brief go on (a more refined bass end). His customer service is reputedly goes beyond the call of duty too.

Probably should add, sacrificing a bit of "name" in terms of buying a handbuilt instrument is usually worth it if you get the chance to play their output prior to it leaving the workshop. The 6 month, 18 month and 3 year check-ups are vital and it’s always best to go back to the maker for changes in this period than it is to get the local bloke to do it. Odd action shifts aren’t always the result of wood "settling in", there could be something more terminal - at least if you can drive the instrument back to the maker, if they’ve built it with a defect in it (and even the best makers do produce duds) they’ll usually replace it provided it hasn’t been tampered with

Re: Which Bouzouki?

this is my opinion ; i do not like sobell or forester type instruments at all played my fair share of them to be honest they sound way too big bass-ey and muddy, they really only lend themselves to thrashy guitary chords which is what most tune players do not want in accompaniment, the point of a bouzouki and one of the reasons why tune players generally like them more than guitars is that they are not dominant/loud and allow much more room for the tune players to express themselves in harmony, ornamentation and dynamics. you want a big guitar sound to play jazz chords and crap just buy a guitar. abnett and foley were mentioned- i would say are probably joint number one when it comes to irish bouzoukis. i like them because they still retain that tone from the original greek bouzoukis and they are pretty good for counterpoint etc.

Re: Which Bouzouki?

Just to add more confusion to the mix, I’ll add another name to the pot. Herb Taylor (http://herbtaylor.com) is a relative newcomer to the bouzouki game, but he has worked with a number of players including myself and Roger Landes to get some suggestions about his bouzoukis. He did a week-long display at this year’s Zoukfest, and his instruments generated a lot of interest. He sold several instruments at the festival, and generated a number of orders too.

He does both archtop and flat top models. I like both, although, I am leaning toward the sound of flat tops a bit more these days.

Herb does a number of unique things in his designs, including his neck mounts, which he originated the design. The necks on his instruments are easily adjusted and removed, without sacrificing sound quality in the least.

My next instrument new instrument purchase will be one of his mandolins. I would get a zouk from him as well, but I couldn’t be happier with my 10 string Fletcher Brock.

Anyway, you might give him a look. He is building some very nice stuff these days, and his prices are reasonable.

Pete

Re: Which Bouzouki?

Eejit - what??? Sobell guitars have rather overpowering bass ends, far better for fingerstyle guitar - certainly not good for playing chords on as they become unclear. I’d rather debate if you’ve ever played a "Forster style" guitar, there’s not many of them about yet and they’re different from the Sobells.

I still stand by my suggestion to find someone in who the instrument can be returned to in person. Consider also that an instrument made in the British Isles / Ireland with 65% humidity then lives in California is going to shrink (particularly if your humidity is below about 50%). Far better to get an instrument that starts life in a similar climate even if it doesn’t impress people as much. Most luthiers, if they think they’re going to get a commission, normally won’t tell you this till after you’ve bought it; most would flinch at the idea of lying through their teeth if asked about humidity directly though.

Re: Which Bouzouki?

Good point about humidity, Andy. Although, generally, it’s ok to take an instrument from a dry climate to a wetter one without too many problems, isn’t it?

The suggestion of getting it from someone that you can return it to in person is a good one as well.

Pete

Re: Which Bouzouki?

Eejit, how do you explain how Ciaran Curran can get such sweet sounding countermelodies and very "unthrashy" chords out of his Sobell, and how do you explain Andy Irvine’s sweet picked song accompaniments?

Maybe it’s that when they tried their Sobell’s, they could play.

Re: Which Bouzouki?

A rise in humidity isn’t always great, I moved from a centrally-heated house to a damp flat, and the bridges fell off both my ‘67 Guild and my ‘39 Martin guitars. Ouch !
Mind you, I do prefer a floating-bridge ‘zouk anyway.

Re: Which Bouzouki?

There all good weapons….
I have my Crump nearly two years now, and I rarely use my Foley because of it….
Great sound…..
Sobels are not for everyone……

Re: Which Bouzouki?

I have owned both a Sobell octave mandolin, and a Peter Abnett bouzouki. I realize there is a few inches in the length difference between these 2 instruments…but found the Abnett to be a much more pleasing tone for Irish music and my "Modal" style of playing. I am one of the few people who has sold their Sobells. but….as Seanie says….as beautiful as they are…Sobells are not for everyone. I continue to be very pleased with my "dished back" Abnett (a thing of beauty in it own right). Certainly worth consideration.
I have not played a Davy Stuart Bouzouki…but have one of his mandos…….if the quality of sound and workmanship in his bouzoukis are the similar…this would also be a decent choice.
Cheers
BB

Re: Which Bouzouki?

I’ve met two Sobell zouk/citterns and both had a lovely warm voice that was barely audible if any other intsrument was playing. One of the owners later told me he sold the Sobell because it couldn’t cut through a session.

Re: Which Bouzouki?

Blue Moon Bouzouki’s, made in China, really cheap, but like most things made ion China, excellent value. Unless you are playing with The Chieftains or someone and making loads of money. If so, Fylde are good instruments.

Re: Which Bouzouki?

I play a Joe Foley which I believe to be the nicest instrument that I have ever played. Two friends of mine recently purchased Heiner Dreizehenter(www.irish-bouzouki.de) bouzoukis from Germany, and I have to say that these are the business, they beat any Sobell, Crump, Andy Tobin etc hands down. I however still have a soft spot for Abnett bouzoukis, that was the first bouzouki sound that I ever heard( Donal Lunny) and still the sweetest tone to my ear. I would highly recommend Davy Stuart’s instruments too.

Re: Which Bouzouki?

I’ve an abnett,great sound…great personality,brillant tone…Heare Mick Broderick’s intrument whit Slide!

Re: Which Bouzouki?

I’ve tried a fair few but would agree for session playing you won’t do better than an abbnett clear sound that’s great at melodic playing and counter point . Maybe not so good if your a strummer . You might want to try a Buchanan for that!

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