A LITTLE INFORMATION ABOUT BOUZOUKI
Greek people have been always using music and singing in order to express the different life situations as well as feelings such as happiness, sorrow, love and death. A leading part here is played by the musical instruments.
Bouzouki is one of the traditional instruments which until these days is mainly used in the Greek folk music. It belongs to the so called “tabura type” instruments with a long neck (maniki), and a small trough (a small scaphoid shaped main body). We see its appearance since the ancient Greek time by the name of pandura or trihordo. The evolution of this instrument (bouzouki and baglamas) to the Byzantine and metabyzantine time and up to date is evidenced from different philological studies.
The instrument was widely used in Greece from the Greeks of Asia Minor who came as refugees during 1922 and 1923. Bouzouki is the main instrument in the orchestra of the “rebetico” and folk music, playing also as a solistic instrument.
It consists of a trough with “dugies”, a cover with a hole ( for the sound), a long neck (maniki) with the upper part called “kefali” and the keys as well as steady tasta. The construction of the trough is made by the help of a wooden mould. On the upper part of the mould they put a triangle pillar (takos), made of linden or other soft wood. On this pillar (which will stay in the inside part of the trough, and will be used to fix the neck), the so called “dugies” are fixed. In order to curve the dugies to take the shape of the mould, they press them one by one and glue them together with a special press. The number of the dugies depends on the manufacturer. The construction of the trough is completed by putting around the side parts, and the “colanga” (where the dugies meet altogether).
The long neck is made from a one piece linden which is fixed on the pillar on the upper part of the trough. The adjustment or fitting must be perfect. The more perfect pillar and neck are fixed together the more compact and strong the instrument will be and it won’t twist or crack or have any distortions. The neck can also be made of different pieces of linden and other soft wood which are glued together. In this case the manufacturer doesn’t have to put any veneer on the top to avoid distortions.
Avoiding the distortion or twisting of the neck, and generally the instrument, is the main consideration of every conscientious manufacturer. The cover, a little curved, is usually made of pine. Two thin layers of wood make the cover. In order to put the two pieces together they put them on a mould and they fix them from the inside with three little arches of white wood.
The wooden pieces used for the construction of the instruments are left to dry very well for two or three years. The natural dryness leaves always some moisture to the wood and this, as we say, keeps the wood “alive”, while the artificial dryness causes the wood to “die”.
After they glue the cover, they decorated with a special technique with different shapes and designs, and with materials like ivory, precious wood, veneer or plastic. On the upper part of the neck, the “kefalari” is glued, opening 4 holes on each side to hold the 8 keys. An obtuse angle is formed between the neck and the “kefalari”,which helps the player to tune the instrument easier. Then the instrument is skimmed and polished. After polishing they put the last elements which are: the “pisinari” or string (chord) holder, the keys, the strings and 2 “kavalarides” a small and a larger one. The distance between the tasta on the long neck is the distance of a semitone. Bouzouki can either have 3 (trihordo) or 4 (tetrahordo) double strings. The strings of the trihordo are tuned in clear fifth and clear fourth. The strings of the tetrahordo are tuned in clear fourth, third and fourth.
The sound of the instrument is produced by the striking of the strings with the “pen” upwards and downwards. A good bouzouki player never holds on too tight on the “pen” and always plays keeping a ‘free’ wrist. The pitching of the sound depends on the player who can either play pianissimo or forte, soft or tougher, depending on the rest of the orchestra, the singer who accompanies, whether he plays indoors or outdoors etc.
Good players whom we call masters or bouzouki can change the sound depending on the kind of dance or song they are playing. These sound variations come from the way of the striking of the strings, the holding of the “pen”, the quick or soft striking, the tremble or stability of the left hand on the strings on the tasta etc. Depending on the circumstances the player “decorates” his melody. In this case a perfectly manufactured instrument can really make the difference and help the artist to make the most out of his talent and his expression.
A professional manufacturer will give all his attention and love to the construction of each one of the instruments, particularly on the expression, the style, the appearance of the bouzouki. He knows that bouzouki is a “live” instrument which keeps developing and improving in the hands of the artist player. The professional manufacturer gives the instrument this “magical” capability of improving constantly the sound, be easier on playing, be heard from far away, ‘speak’ better, have a clear bell sound etc. This is what makes instruments made by traditional good manufacturers so perfect in time. AND above all the professional will have in mind the player for whom he is preparing the instrument! He will take notice of his own personal way of expression and his aesthetics, so the outcome will be unique for the instrument owner! For he knows very well that there is a special relationship between the artist and his bouzouki, and that this is not only about a good musical instrument but about a way of expressing feelings of the soul.
Our workshop always keeping faith to tradition, takes in consideration all of the above and we have always had the best results according to the wish and the personality of the artist. The love and care we show to our work up until today has make all the artists playing with our instruments to be perfectly contempt with the results and feel that they work together with a great ally: their bouzouki.
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