guitar to bouzouki conversin

guitar to bouzouki conversion

First of all, thank you for letting me be a part of this group. I have had some serious medical problems and can’t afford to purchase a bouzouki but I have some decent guitars and was considering converting a G series Takamine to an Irish bouzouki of sorts. The plan was to add two more machine heads and strings. use a narrowed nut and bridge saddle from a 12 string and a tail piece from a mandolin. bypass the bridge pegs completely to save the top from becoming an archtop. tune it half a step down for less stress on the neck. I always tune a half step low on most of my instruments anyway. can always capo up a fret. Any thoughts and would this be feasible?

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

I wonder if the break angle over the bridge saddle would be sufficient. Bridges on "arch top" instruments with tailpieces are normally higher above the soundboard than they are on "flat tops".

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

Sell one or two of your lots of guitars and buy a bouzouki. Save a lot of messing about. 😊

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

Seen it done twice. Both times to a (I think) 3/4 size Taylor. It took a lot of hole filling on the head and even more at the bridge end hole filling new holes, and bridge reinforcement. Both had what I felt was a neck about too wide.They both sounded very good. Still agree that it’s not a great idea, doable but not really satisfactory. I can recommend a good maker who made my octave mandolin and has made ‘zouks. I thought he way undercharged me for the quality. Not fancy but a great player. PM me and I’ll send you his information. I also saw a wonderful guitar from a Northern Ireland maker who may do ‘zouks too.

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

The thought kind of horrifies me. I don’t believe that you’d end up with a ‘true’ bouzouki, and you’d lose a good Takamine (cry). I agree with Alexander’s suggestion. Also, I suggest you check out ross faison’s recommendation. An even half good bouzouki is brilliant. I can’t see a bastardized guitar even touching it….

(Later Edit) … Ooops… I wasn’t intending to suggest that the guy that Ross was recommending makes ‘half-good bouzouki’s). Obviously Ross doesn’t think so. I just meant that even a Trinity College is decent. At least, in my opinion, much better than a bastardized guitar. I had one and I really loved it, but I gave it away, only cos I love my fiddle more.

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Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

"Seen it done twice. Both times to a (I think) 3/4 size Taylor." … I’m feeling a bit faint!

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Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

I’m taking all this in and I’m greatful for the suggestions. Had thought of a Hora just to get started but they look small bodied and thin. Finances are tight right now due to medical so I can’t get crazy money wise. Couldn’t bear to part with my guitars as they have traveled many miles and played a lot of songs with me. Haven’t checked out trinity yet.

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

I’m certain that which ever way you go you would always mourn your guitar string freak. I wouldn’t go for a Hora personally (you could be lucky but…), but as I said earlier Trinity College are not bad at all (IMO). The only thing is that you may need to get it set up properly if you get one directly from overseas. My advice is to just have patience and keep your eyes open.

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Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

Thank you Gobby. I might build one myself if nothing else. Just not much time. Still have to finish a couple of instrument builds that I have promised out. That’s on top of work and building a house by myself. Stretched myself a little thin.

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

"I might build one myself if nothing else. " ….. Good idea. There maybe even kits available.

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Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

No offense Gobby. Rick makes solid playable instruments without lot of adornment and shiny parts. He even made some custom additions at no extra cost to me, a sound port on the shoulder and about a half inch deeper body. Frankly I like it a lot more than I liked the Gold Tone someone loaned me for a few months. Heck, the extra depth wouldn’t fit in the gig bag he usually supplies so he found a trombone bag that works just fine. I’m thinking about asking him to make me a tenor guitar, but I just had an 8 key flute made and my disposable income sources are a little light at the moment. Know anybody who wants to buy an Ibanez Joe Pass model jazz guitar?

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

One more thing. Like Gobby said, whatever you get, have a luthier set it up for you. My local luthier made me a bone bridge and reset the nut. The maker Rick would have done that if I sent it to him but the local guy did a great job of it for less than the shipping (1500 miles).

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

Sorry to hear about your health troubles. I hope you are doing better now, and remain well for a long time.

I have heard a couple of pin bridge instruments converted to use tailpieces, and they ended up sounding like not much of anything—-quiet, but not in any nice way. Doing that may not avoid warping the instrument anyway since the top isn’t made to support much simple downforce nor the tail block etc. to handle the tension of mounting strings there. To avoid over stressing the top with eight strings, just choose string gauges so the the total tension of the eight strings is not too much more than the original six. There are string tension calculators scattered around the internet that can help you figure that out.

Frank Ford, a California luthier, details a guitar-to-octozouki conversion he did some years back which may be helpful to you if you persist in your plan: http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luthier/Technique/Guitar/Structural/8StConvert/8stconvert.html

It looks like a lot of work, and he didn’t even narrow the neck. I would have to agree with Ross that guitar necks are generally unsatisfactory being too wide and the wrong shape for instruments with four courses and tuned in wider intervals (I take about a XXXL in gloves).

Finally, the best case scenario might be that you get a bouzouki that sounds just like your guitar. Is that the kind of sound that draws you to the bouzouki?

Best of luck, whatever you decide.

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Ross Faison I was trying to figure out how to PM on here. I’m technologically impaired. LOL Anyway I appreciate all the input. I like the idea of the deeper body. I prefer my larger bodied guitars on my acoustics just more of a full sound. I was wondering if it would make that much more of a difference on a bouzouki since it doesn’t have as low of a voice. Any thoughts anyone.

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

Just find a low-end bouzouki to learn on. If and when you’ve decided the zouk is the instrument for you, you can save up for a better instrument and sell the old one to someone else to learn on. I had a Luna with the celtic-knot sound hole that was about $400. Perfectly adequate to learn on. Small neck, stayed in tune etc but sound wise, it lacked the fuller sound of a custom built instrument. I went for a Crump bouzouki in the long run and have never looked back. I started out on the Luna though and it served its purpose well.

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

Why not just take off the guitar strings and fit four strings in zouk tuning as the middle four. The instrument’s probably not going to sound much like a zouk anyway but that’ll give you the chance to practice and get the feel for the tuning.

I’d be inclined to use the middle four slots to keep the tension balanced.

You could add strings top and bottom if you like! Unison at the top and unison or octave at the bottom.


After all Bill Monroe as a youngster was only allowed to play with his elder brothers if he just had four strings on his mandolin!

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

An archtop has a fundamentally different design of front plate, so I wouldn’t try to convert a pin bridge to an archtop; it simply won’t work. You could replace the bridge and graft plate internally and redrill, and redo the headstock. Easiest course then would be to capo at 3/4 depending on scale length to get something actually in bouzouki size. I’ve got an old Vantage guitar here I was planning to do the same thing to but in cittern mode.

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Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

Yes the deeper body did make a difference. Not a throw ya against the ropes difference, not a guitar-esque difference, but enough to notice. Also I talked to my luthier friend who has worked on every one of my stringed instruments over the years and he said the internal structures of instruments with pins vs tailpieces just won’t work for a satisfactory conversion, he pretty much said the same thing Mark Anderson said. My OM was made by Rick Felkel at Elloree guitars in Monroe Lousiana, an unassuming man who makes journeyman instruments. He’s on-line with pictures. Some of his Mandolin body shapes are a bit, let’s say unusual, but the traditional shape is spot on. You’d have to pay a whole lot more to get a better one!

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

Before you do structural changes to an instrument that you could sell and then use the proceeds to buy a bouzouki…take your guitar strings, throw out the bass E and the b string. Then use the the remaining strings and place them in the four middle grooves on the nut as so…A D G e…then tune them to GDae (or GDad). Presto…you now have a tenor guitar or bouzouki to experiment upon and then you can decide if you can handle the transposition from guitar to zouk without destroying an instrument beyond repair. Good luck!

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

Hi string freak, you don’t say where in the world you are, but have you considered an 8-string Greek bouzouki? They can be had very cheaply sometimes - and the round back never stopped Alec Finn…

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

Thanks to everyone. My whereabouts are near Checotah Oklahoma. I tried get that in when I signed up. Must have done something wrong. Lots of good advice and suggestions. The Takamine has been saved. LOL I like keeping it around for my open G guitar anyway. Saves on broken strings. I will be patient and check all these options.

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My experience with most of the kits I’ve tried didn’t produce, what I consider to be a long term playable instrument. It has been almost 20 years since I last used a kit, so there may be some improvements, so I urge you to research whichever kit and make carefully. A lot of shortcuts and design changes are done so the average woodworker can do the build in their kitchen, with a minimum amount of tools.
When I decided to build my own, there were a lot of tools I had to acquire to seriously work out a design. I too have health issues, and they do interfere with the work. Currently, I’m beginning my 4th prototype. Which right now consists of assembling the woods I’ve chosen to use (walnut body & neck, spruce top). Good wood isn’t cheap, and on a retiree’s budget, I’m limited to how much I can buy at a time. Tool wise, I’m OK, but I can always use more clamps.
I’m sharing with you not to discourage, but to inform that there’s a lot more to designing and instrument than just glueing parts together. Every step has to be well planned out, because it’s difficult if not impossible to go back and change something, and ruining a costly piece of wood hurts.
I too would urge you not to modify an existing instrument, especially one that you value. I’d check for sale ads, garage sales, thrift stores and the like for a cheapo to modify. That way, you can see if your idea modifications will work, and you won’t be out a lot of shekels if it doesn’t.
Good luck, and feel free to ask questions.

Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

As it was me who first mentioned the possibility of kits I now hasten to say that I have absolutely no experience of them. I would heed Chuck’s words.

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Re: guitar to bouzouki conversin

The StewMac kits are pretty good, but they’re not cheap and they don’t do a bouzouki as far as I remember.
You have to follow the instructions very carefully (no shortcuts) and remember you are working with wood - one wrong cut….