Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

This thread follows on from MikeS thread about tunings for an octave mandola.

I’ve been toying with the idea of buying one of these instruments for some time now. However, I’m having problems selecting the one best suited for what I want to be able to do, which is have the potential to give meaty accompaniment with a reasonable bottom end (as well as light accompaniment of course!!!) and to be able to pick tunes without too much of a painful stretch (and string tension not too high). I had been thinking along the lines of a cittern, tuned CGDAE, or a 5-course short-scale length bouzouki tuned that way as well - my intention being to capo at the 7th fret for playing tunes. I’d use a Quickdraw capo - so either the headstock/nut would have to allow for the capo to be parked over it, or there’d have to be a zero fret with sufficient space for this. Failing this, I’d tune the whole instrument down a semitone, and treat the first fret as a zero-fret. What I don’t know, is which would be the best instrument to go for with respect to ease of playing tunes, in relation to scale length, string gauge and tension. Also, advice with respect to unison or octave string tuning of the lower courses would be useful.

Has anyone any advice, please?

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Woops…, I meant mandola/octave mandolin.

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

I just bought a mandola and it’s freakin’ great!!!!!!!!
I recomend the MANDOLA!!!!

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

If you want to do mostly tunes, but have the ability to accompany go for the Octave Mandola/Mandolin (whatever you want to call it). If you want to do back up mostly, go for the Zouk. A 5 course Cittern is best if it has a high string tuned to GADEA, that way the high B is easy to hit and the A string works well with most chords. There is really no point in a Low C string if you want to do back up a B works a lot better.

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Thanks unseen. The reason I was considering the low C, was because I was thinking about capo-ing at the 7th fret for playing tunes - really to ensure that the stretch wasn’t so big that it was uncomfortable.

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

On the same lines as the joke about the horse designed by a committee, I suggest you will end up with a camel. Just don’t get the hump !
IMNSHO the best tonal result is the ‘zouk with octave strings on the bottom two pairs, and if you want in for accompaniment there is nothing better. On the other hand a friend of mine has recently peurchased a guitar-bodied-‘zouk ( guizouki ) with unison bottom pairs and it’s massive as a strummed and accompaniment instrument.
If you have the opportunity to compare, side-by-side, ‘zouk, "octave" mandola, cittern, "tenor" mandola, I think you will find that the best toned instrument is the one with the longest strings, all other things being equal, but of course fast fingering for tunes is more energetic. With that last factor in mind obviously you are heading towards a mandola or cittern choice.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

The curse of the unedited response hit paragraph 2.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Yes the Zouk is the best toned, for back up. I think an Octave sounds better for tunes. That should be a D instead of a B for the low string making the tuing DGADE.

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

How about a slightly shorter than zouk-lengthed Cittern tuned GDADA. No stretch to get high B, and not too shabby for accompaniment. It would have to be slightly shorter than a zouk or the top A would snap all the time.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Well - and I’m embarrassed to admit this, really - I have a Fylde bouzouki and an Octave mandola. I love them both - but if I only had one, it would be (gulp) the mandola every time.

Personally, I don’t think it matters what you tune. GDAE seems best for tunes and I really like the open chording you can get with that. While the bouzouki is definitely the best for accompaniment, the Mandola doesn’t feel like too much of a compromise when chording.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Thanks for the advice lads. Next question - makers…..

I’m considering Oakwood, Fylde and Moon, as good quality makers, which aren’t going to break the bank completely - any comments?

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Haven’t tried a Moon (as it were…) but I found the Fylde Mandola has a rounder, sweeter tone than the Oakwood - which I found a wee bit thin. All personal preference of course. I have the touchstone octave.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

We have a Fylde & a Moon at our Thursday sessions Ron & they both seem to be very quiet instruments, although in truth we do have a rather noisy pub.

They both have a much smaller body than my Oakwood O. M. but I really don’t know if size is everything in this case?

The Moon has a more natural finish & feels like a better quality instrument but does feel very small, when one is used to a chunky Oakwood.

Someone above suggested that the Oakwood had a thin sound, but I must admit I like that quality in it.
I think it’s a bit like the difference between the Gibson Bluegrass Mandolin & the thinner Folky Mandolin.

I’d say if you were looking for a really warm, rich, full sound, you would probably stick to your Guitar!

Sorry - I’m not much help to you.

But did you check these old threads?:

https://thesession.org/discussions/7214/comments#comment154242

https://thesession.org/discussions/430/comments#comment5689

Perhaps you should have nipped over to ‘Celtic Connections’. There may have been examples of all three makes, & perhaps even some others, for you to try there.

Oh yeah MikeS:
"I recomend the MANDOLA!"
Well, I recommend Spellcheck! πŸ™‚
Sorry, couldn’t resist it!

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Mozes mi ga lagano na koljena Ptarmigan!

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

What I just wrote is a croatian insult,and I apologise.I’m young,and my temper is sometimes uncontrolable.Sorry,Ptarmigan!Friends?

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

This is where my knowledge is lost. Although I do notice lots of top players using Fydles.

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Oh! Sorry Mike, I completely misunderstood. I thought you were chatting me up in Latvian & I was about to suggest your place or mine! πŸ™‚

Oh drat, there’s ‘unseen’ at it now, too - needing spellcheck.
Come on ‘unseen’, you know perfecty well that the correct spelling is Fiddles, not Fydles

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

I really dont like the 5 course citterns.
I think 8 is more then enough strings….I’ve heard some of those instruments sound way too rattley and loud.

Mandola’s are great for the tunes, but zouki’s can be aswell.
The scale of the mando neck is better, but I capo alot on my bouzouki, so scale isnt really an issue.
enjoy!

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Svejedno mi ga mozes laganini…

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

That’s a croatian apology.Did I spell it rajt?

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Thanks again lads.

Stefan, that’s interesting re the scale length not being an issue for tunes on the bouzouki - what’s the string tension like though, and what’s the actual scale length and maker of your bouzouki? I must admit that I’d also be concerned with intonation issues if I had to capo high up the neck of a bouzouki (what fret do you capo at for playing tunes?) - but I guess that’s also dependant on how well made the instrument is made!

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Scale length is a matter of personal preference. It is said that longer scales ring more and have more sustain/overtones(which in my opinion sounds nicer with melody and accompaniment) whereas shorter scales are usually used for lazy melody players which have more of a punchy mandoliny sound.

"Yes the Zouk is the best toned, for back up. I think an Octave sounds better for tunes."… "DGADE"
Octave does not sound better for tunes, it is a matter of personal preferance, it sounds better if you want a thin banjoey sound. And i’m sure you ment GDAE and DGDAE as opposed to GADE?

26" is usually normal for standard bouzoukis and around 20-23" for Citterns/Octave Mandolins.

A 10 stringed zouk with an extra low course would need a longish scale length to sound good(around 25"). But a 10 stringer with an extra high course usually has a shorter scale, but who says it can’t have a longer scale? A 12 string with scale of say 23" or 24" would accomodate both feautures.

I’d say DGDAD for 10 string zouk, GDADA for 10 string cittern or DGDADA(or DADADA) for 12 string bizzern(sorry made that name up, Cittouki is another name hehe or just plain ol’ Mandocello). Overall I think you need DAD in there, you can do so much with that open chord.

Good makers are Peter Abnett, Davy Stuart, Sobell, Jack Spira, Phil Crump and many more.

I can’t really say what is best and who is the best maker as in the end it comes down to personal preference and what sound you are looking for. It’s good to be differant. I love 10 and 12 stringers you can do so much more than just 8 stringers, I love having a big range to play with. Btw, if you are going to use a capo, a zero fret is handy.

Good Luck,
Phil

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

The gauges I’d use if I had a 10 string would be. Some people prefer heavier but lighter stringing rings more in my opinon but as you want to be doing backup with a nice basey sound i’d suggest like 52,42,32,20,14,8.

Low D (.50)

G(.40)
D(.30)
A(.20)
D(.14)

High A(.8)

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

It’s not just makes, different models can give quite differrent results. The Fylde Touchstone Mandola for instance, gives much greater volume and tone (IMO) than the original teardrop shapes.

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

I wrote:
"Yes the Zouk is the best toned, for back up. I think an Octave sounds better for tunes."…
PJA wrote:
"Octave does not sound better for tunes, it is a matter of personal preferance, it sounds better if you want a thin banjoey sound. And i’m sure you ment GDAE and DGDAE as opposed to GADE?"

Notice how I say I THINK, you correct me and agree with me in one sentance.. I am a Banjo player what do you expect? It has more to do with the body depth than the scale lenght. Yes, I did mean GDAE.

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

There’s so much intellectual-sounding but inaccurate stuff on this thread it actually frightens me.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Now Dow, with making a statement like that, you really, really, have justify it.

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Typing too fast, I meant "have to"…..

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

I have a bouzouki because it was loaned to me. I have small fingers but I am managing with it. It has a big body, is loud and has a lot of bass. I would have gone for a mandola because it would be more manageable, but now I have the zouk I am converted and wouldn’t downsize for a wimpy mandola for anything. The zouk is made by David Lim from Manchester.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Hey Dow, where are you? You must enlighten me about what’s inaccurate in this thread.

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Hi Ron.
Dunno my scale etc.
For tunes in G i play D figure with capo on 5’th fret
for as - same with capo on 7.th

I dont play as much tunes though - rather the hammer ons an stuff you hear lunny and finn do

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

In answer to the original question, it depends on your musical preference and physical constraints. Also some bouzoukis sound different to others, the same goes for mandolas, citterns etc. Some of Joe Foley’s mandolas have a WICKED (as in great!!!) bass response because of the relatively large body and the warm woods used (cedar/rosewood being a particularly potent combination).

However as a guitarist with large hands and long fingers, I’m much more at home playing a longer scale instrument i.e. a bouzouki and I prefer the bouzouki sound for accompaniment, as I’m not really a melody player. A mandola is too small for me and playing a mandolin is even more challenging.

I would never recommend a bouzouki for melody unless a capo was used. Even then you are better off with a more obvious melody instrument and GDAE is really the only practical default choice for melody.

I am of course biased, but if you are based in Ireland and can wait a few months, you could do a lot worse than order your instrument from Joe Foley - he makes affordable high quality instruments and is always willing to fix up any post-purchase glitches. Having said that I have no experience of some of the other makers mentioned on this thread, except for Abnetts which are very ice but a lot "thinner" in tone than a good Foley. I know 3 excellent bouzouki players who treasure their Foleys more than their Abnetts (mind you one of these is Joe himself!!!(LOL)………

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Thanks again Stefan and everyone else.

Dow - I’m still awaiting you to qualify your "…intellectual-sounding but inaccurate stuff .." comment. Now, I always double-check things I obtain from the web, but to make a comment like yours, I think it’s only good manners with respect to the people who’ve contributed to this thread, for you to qualify it…..so please?

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

I mean that some of the posts are very well-written so you’d be inclined to believe it was well-researched, but the content is inaccurate, as in guesswork or just factually incorrect. I’m not being nasty, I’m just trying to help you, so you don’t go basing any important decisions on false information. Please don’t take it as a personal criticism or criticism of your thread - I think it’s wonderful that people are trying to help by posting their views, and you should take them all into account, but if I were you I’d e-mail a luthier and talk to them. They will explain everything you need to know. In the meantime, have a play on any instrument you can get your hands on until you find one you like the sound of.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Ok - thanks for clarifying that Dow. I’ve been speaking to some of the makers already - but it’s nice to get the views of others who’ve been playing these instruments for some time. At the end of the day, of course, it’ll mainly depend on my own likes/dislikes for any particular maker/instrument.

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

I wasn’t really even talking about likes and dislikes. I’m sure you’d be able to sift through this and decide for yourself what’s fact and what’s opinion. I’m talking about the practicalities of making an instrument that suits you. For example, some set-ups would simply be impossible for any luthier to pull off, regardless of how long they’ve been in the business or how famous they are or how talented they are, just because of the science of how instruments work. And yet people here are advising you to go out and buy this stuff. I don’t want you to go out and waste your money Ron P, that’s all. And if anyone thinks I’m a "tosser" because of that, well so be it.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Don’t worry Dow - I don’t intend parting with my hard-earned spondoolicks on an unsuitable white elephant of an instrument…πŸ™‚

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

ha - sorry DOW.
kind of

Re: Dow’s View

Dow

I read your post, said to myself "not worth a reply", then I thought - "how can this chap have the nerve to subtly put down people who are trying to help out?".

For the record, I have reviewed the advice I gave, and would stand over it 100%, it is based obviously on my own experience, but I think it was worth imparting.

Dow, your advice is to talk to a luthier - sure, luthiers understand the mechanics of MAKING, but many don’t necessarily PLAY the instruments they make to any great standard. Ron P’s original post has a lot to do with choosing the right TYPE of instrument, and the +s and -s of playing certain styles on each type.

I wouldn’t go exclusively to a luthier with these questions, I’d want to hear from established players as to the pros and cons of each.

So Dow, you are quite correct in your own case at least. I wouldn’t recommend your advice, even though it was well-written.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Yeah, don’t take my advice, go ahead and buy an instrument that’s scientifically impossible to make, on the advice of someone you’ve never met and who may or may not be able to play (how do you know if the people on this thread are "established" or been playing 5 minutes?). As for choosing the right type of instrument, go for the sound everyone else likes, not the one that you like, that makes heaps of sense.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Ok look, I give up, take everyone’s advice but mine. It’s all good, bye.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Well, oh my goodness - who would think this thread would end up in a stooshie! I have to admit, to being surprised at the way it’s taken a sneaky wee turn at the end. However, I’d like to thank all of you for your contributions!

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Och Ron, I see you’ve finally been outed as a trouble maker! Tsk Tsk! How dare you ask for advice on a discussion page! πŸ™‚

Although, to be fair to Dow, I did once get a private E-mail from someone here who had read some piece of advice I’d given & he said that made him decide to go out & buy a particular instrument……………………Now that was scary!

I’m sure Ron, like most folk here, has enough wit to take what we all say with a bucket of salt - i.e. interesting, but not gospel.
I’m also convinced he will be thinking very carefully, & exploring all possibilities himself, before finally making his own decision.

Of course, another possibility is that this thread has all been a marketing ploy & maybe Stefan Sobell has given Ron a wad of notes, or offered him a new instrument, if he would stir up some interest in these jangly stringy thingys on this site? Well this is the slack period, isn’t it?

Come on Ron, the games up - confess! πŸ™‚





I jest of course, for I’m sure young S S has enough orders to see him busy till the end of the millennium!

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Ptar, I reckon asking for advice on this forum is one of the best ways to start a war. Just got to find the right contentious subject first…….

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Just to give this thread yet another sneaky turn, I’ve been thinking about this thread today, and come to the conclusion that I’m unhappy with the way I’ve behaved and am very sorry for my confrontational remarks. I’ve been making a mountain out of a molehill. Even if I did think there were inaccuracies or inconsistencies, I should have either let it go or made my point in a different way. Unfortunately you’ve been on the wrong end of my incredibly bad mood this week. The adjectives that best describe me at the moment are: irritable, tetchy, depressed, anxious, angry, short-tempered, confrontational, childish, arrogant, nitpicky, pedantic, miserable, touchy, spiteful, antisocial, aggressive, impatient, moody, snappy, stubborn, foul-mouthed, dogmatic, rude and lastly, yes stefanpaz, tosser, oh no that’s a noun. Tosserish then πŸ™‚ So in other words not nice to be around. I know I’m not usually like this. I don’t feel as though this is me. If you promise to ignore me then I promise I’ll try and keep my gob shut until I sort my head out! On a positive note, at least you’re not my cousin, who got an even worse dose of my sharp tongue yesterday. She wrote to me complaining that I hadn’t e-mailed her early enough to tell her that my uncle from another branch of the family had died. So instead of simply apologising, I saw red and wrote a really horrible e-mail, telling her that her guilt trip tactics wouldn’t wash with me and don’t be such a selfish me-me-me moo, etc, so now I’ve got to pick up the pieces of all that and apologise so that she doesn’t decide never to speak to me again. ::Sigh::

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Donough, if that’s the case, let’s just pray that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad & George W don’t become members! πŸ™‚

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Does someone need a hug? I think someone needs a hug.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Well done Dow (I’m refering to the latest post hereπŸ™‚).

IMHO a major factor that has fanned the flame wars on many discussion groups I lurk on, is the inability or unwillingness of most participants to assess their own posts. This can be particularly difficult when the poster still agrees with their original basic point, but perhaps regrets the manner in which it was expressed.

Pint of beer for Dow !- Chris

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

(I hit send to soon). Hope things get bettre for you soon, Dow.

- Chris

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

I agree. Online conduct (unfortunately) works differently than face-to-face and it’s all too easy to stick to your guns or ignore people or whatever. If this had been in the pub I’d have probably said "oops, sorry about what I said 5 minutes ago, it was meaningless drivel" ages ago and it would have come to nothing. Unfortunately I’m the sort of person who allows my mood to come through in my posts - you know that right? And I post here almost every day, so I’m up and down and all over the place the whole time. I’m a right moody bastard. One minute I’ll be drunk and talking about how great the tunes were last night and how I love everyone, then the next minute I’ll be making an a$$ of myself and lashing out at someone because my boss gave me a hard time at work* or whatever. That doesn’t excuse my comments though, of course.

*He did today, by the way, because I turned up late and in a sullen and uncooperative mood, but he’s used to me now. Now, my boss, he makes me look positively serene with his temper tantrums πŸ™‚

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Hi Dick, I’ve just received a brown envelope from St. So πŸ˜‰

Dow, best wishes to you - I second Chris’s "Pint for Dow" comment.

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

A brown envelope eh Ron? O K, that, no doubt, either contains a big fat cheque or one of Stefan’s new line in ‘Blow Up Mandolas’ - & no I don’t mean one of those dastardly ‘Suicide Mandolas’!

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Don’t go there Dick!!!

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Bouzoukis all the way!!!!

Re: Dow, you are the man!!

Hi Dow

I’ve read your subsequent posts. Hats off to you for having the cojones to rescind some of your earlier comments, and apologies if I had overreacted earlier. As Clint Eastwood famously said, "opinions are like aΒ£$holes, everyone has one!!"

Just a thought for all though, we should all have respect for those who give freely of their experience with no ulterior motive but to share their (we hope!!!) wisdom with others.

I know when I started with the bouzouki I could have done with more and better advice - A D A E tuning was not for me but it took me a long time to figure that one out for myself!!

Trouble is, on the subject of this thread, there is no "best" solution, really it depends on the preferences of Ron P!!

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

I couldn’t get past question 1. I got confused!

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

"Trouble is, on the subject of this thread, there is no "best" solution, really it depends on the preferences of Ron P!!"

Aye lysaghtm, you’re quite correct there, but it’s still a worthwhile thing to ask for opinions from people on the subject, as there may well be a number of things which I may not otherwise have thought about. So, I’m thinking….

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

And, thanks again to all who’ve given their advice here.

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Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

Make it a cittern if you haven’t splashed out yet - IMHO, not being a strings person, I think it’s the nicest sounding of all these instruments.

Re: Which to play - bouzouki, cittern, or octave mandola?

I am resurrecting this thread because it is a good one.

Can I ask Nicholas what scale length cittern did you have in mind, and if so, what sort of construction, and woods would you use to create your perfect cittern?