If you are looking for something a bit different to the guitar or uke then a Bouzouki could be for you.
These beautiful fretted stringed instruments sound less jangly and tinny than a mando and are easier to play due to their size. They are also stunning instruments in their own right.
This is the only Bouzouki that I own although I do have several mandolins. Think of the Bouzouki as a bigger and deeper mando as it shares the same traditional bowl back and floating bridge arrangement ( making tuning and intonation interesting ). Like the bowl back mandolin, the Bouzouki is usually highly decorated in either mother of pearl or with curvy shaped pick guards.
The Bouzouki is a traditional Greek instrument that belongs to the lute family and can be found in a few varieties from 6 string to 8 string. The Gewa has 8 strings giving it a rich tone. These instruments are usually played with a small plectrum which is known as a "penna" but they can also be plucked and strummed. Although 6 string Bouzoukis are available, the most common instrument found today is the 8 string which has 4 double sets of strings much like the mandolin.
The first set of double strings are tuned to D. The second to A. The third set (featuring one thick wound string and one thinner ) are tuned to F. The fourth set of double strings (also comprising one thick wound string and one thin wire) are tuned to C. This is the traditional tuning although you can of course find and use alternatives just like the guitar.
The use of the octaves in tuning gives the Bouzouki and almost 12 string guitar sound which is very full and attractive. Unlike the 12 string guitar though, this will not wreck your fingers!
GUITAR VS BOUZOUKI:
I started out on guitars and then explored other stringed instruments which are easy to pick up if you have learnt to play on a guitar. Unlike the guitar, the body of a Bouzouki is convex and pear shaped, allowing for a distinctive sound. The neck of the bouzouki is much longer and thinner than that of a guitar which means that chord charges and plucking are fairly easy especially for those with smaller hands. If like me, you have a guitar playing background then the tuning of CFAD will be easy to adjust to and picking will become instinctive fairly fast.
THE GEWA BOUZOUKI:
The Gewa has geared machine heads which assist in keeping the tuning accurate, these are good quality and do not slip. Indeed your only tuning issues are likely to be in regards to intonation because the floating bridge arrangement can be challenging. Despite this, the intonation is easy enough to adjust with a floating bridge, you just move it slightly manually and test the intonation as you go until you get it correct. A bit of a faff but worth it for the lovely tone that this instrument possesses.
The main body of the instrument is beautifully crafted with a tight grain spruce top and a striped bowl back in walnut. The finish is high shine gloss and there are two faux tortoiseshell inlays for decoration and protection. The sound of the Gewa is deep and resonant and once set up the tuning stays true up and down the frets. The action is easy and reasonably low meaning that minimal pressure is needed to play and hold down chords. This is a very playable instrument and feels lovely to hold, especially if a guitar feels "clunky". This doesn't, the neck is delicate and scalable with ease.
The Gewa comes in an electro-acoustic version too although obviously this will cost more. Parts including machine heads, strings, bridges etc are easily available from the Gewa website and from other musical instrument stockists.
Decorative inlaid perloid pickguard (tortoiseshell coloured)
21 Part bowl back in walnut
Floating hardwood bridge (adjustable)
Chrome machine heads
The Gewa Greek Bouzouki is priced at around the £280 mark. I love mine, it sounds great and is very easy to pick up and play. If you love the sound of a 12 string guitar but find it a pig to play, then you will enjoy this.