The bouzouki is a string instrument in the same family as the mandolin and lute. It is a mainstay of modern Greek music and was brought to Greece by immigrants fleeing Asia Minor after the 1919-1922 war. The Irish bouzouki is based on the Greek instrument, and has been popular in traditional Irish folk music since the 1960s. It’s a simple yet beautiful instrument. The flat fronted body is often inlaid with elaborate mother-of-pearl designs.
The instrument is played with a plectrum, a small flat tool used for plucking or strumming. A plectrum is similar to a guitar pick, and is held in the player’s hand. The bouzouki’s sharp metallic sound is reminiscent of a mandolin, but pitched a bit lower. There are two main types: trichordo, with three pairs of strings (known as courses), and tetrachordo, with four pairs of strings.
Related musical string instruments include baglamas (saz), Byzantine lyra, pandura, and tambouras.
More Bouzouki Facts
A person who performs on this string instrument is called a bouzoukist.
Notable bouzoukists include Andreas Karantinis, Ioannis Papaioannou, Michalis Terzis, Vasilis Tsitsanis, and Márkos Vamvakáris.
Greek Musician Playing Bouzouki
Listen to the Bouzouki
Solo by Andreas Karantinis
AKTINA’s Greek Music Journey featured Greek singer Melina Aslanidou with Andreas Karantinis on the bouzouki. The concert was held at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in Manhattan on June 6, 2013 in honor of AKTINA FM Radio’s 20th year anniversary.
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Arabic Kurdish Bouzouki
- Originally a folk instrument from the Eastern Mediterranean (Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria) that’s usually played solo
- Spruce Top, Cherry Wood Body, Hornbeam Neck and Fingerboard
- Bridge and upper-nut set up for 6 strings / 3 courses, 28 frets
- Body length is 15 inches, neck length 19 inches, body width 11 inches (all approximate)
- Mandolin tuning machines with 8 pegs
- Includes soft carrying case with shoulder strap
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