The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #28992   Message #2684051
Posted By: PHJim
20-Jul-09 - 04:26 PM
Thread Name: Bouzouki - What brand is best?
Subject: RE: Bouzouki - What brand is best?
These instruments are new enough that the names seem to overlap.
While the names bouzouki and cittern are often used to describe modern flat backed instruments, I'd rather see a new term used. The bouzouki is a Greek bowl backed instrument with three or four double courses. This was introduced to Irish music by Sweeny's Men. When Sobell and others started making flat backed instruments, some people started calling them bouzoukis or Irish bouzoukis. Sobell took the name of a flat backed Renaissance instrument and called his instruments Citterns. Although most players don't tune their long necked instruments exactly an octave below a mandolin, shorter necked instruments are often called octave mandolins. I've also heard the names Octophone and blarge used to describe these low pitched mandothings.
Although I've never heard the exact scale length where an octave mandolin becomes an Irish bouzouki, some folks say it's the scale length that differentiates them. Others say that a bouzouki's bottom two courses are tuned in octaves. Does this mean that you can restring your bouzouki and it becomes an octave mandolin? I've heard people say that a citern is a low pitched mandothing with more than four course, usually 5 or 6 and a has 3 or 4 (usually four unless you're using a Greek bouzouki)
Although Grit Laskin doesn't make them any more, I liked his terminology. He called 'em all "long necked mandolins" no matter how long the scale or how many courses.