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Thread: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

  1. #1
    Registered User Tim N's Avatar
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    Default Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    I'm interested to hear the opinion of anyone who has played a short scale bouzouki for accompanying Irish session music. I AM talking bouzouki - tuned GDAD/E, and the particular kind I have in mind would be the Paul Hathway 590mm scale (a little over 23"). Recommended strings are 44 30 22 12 (with appropriate decimal points)
    I'm also talking about strumming chords, not playing tunes principally.
    I presently play a long scale bouzouki GDAD in Irish sessions, and am considering the option of transporting something a little shorter - as well as looking for an excuse to buy another Hathway instrument! (I already have a mandolin, which I love).
    I asked Paul Hathway about its suitability, and he said it should be fine with the recommended strings, although it doesn't have such a traditional bouzouki sound. So just wondering if others have found it to be satisfactory in this context .
    Thanks for any comments.
    "What's that funny guitar thing..?"

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    I know it doesn’t really matter what we call it buy wouldn’t that scale make it either an octave mandolin or octave mandola (the latter, I think, is the European name)? Sorry to butt in but I was just curious if there is any difference.
    Jim

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    Registered User McIrish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    I always think of Irish bouzoukis as flat top A style with an oval hole. An octave mandolin would be a carved top and slightly shorter scale. I have had a couple of both. They cover the same ground but the bouzouki is better for strumming and the octave mandolin is better on melodies, at least the ones I have. Going on tour Friday and I'm leaving the bouzouki at home and taking a 20" Weber octave mandolin instead. For what I'm doing, it may work better.

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    Registered User Tim N's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    The bouzouki is traditionally a long scale instrument, and the Irish (flat top and back) bouzouki is a relatively recent derivation from the Greek (and originally Turkish, I believe) bouzouki. In Irish music popularly tuned GDAD/E, it is of course effectively an octave mandolin, and you could say the same for the cello mandolin/mandocello which by some is tuned and played the same way (eg Steve Knightly of Show of Hands who was my initial inspiration).
    The mandola, as I understand is tuned differently - presumably CGDA (?), as a bass G string at it's short scale is too floppy, and the sound not so good. This was the reason for my initial question, as I have also in the past tried tenor guitar with GDAD, which was not very satisfactory.
    The short scale bouzouk in question is, however designed for such a tuning, and although I know and trust Paul Hathaway's instruments,as well as his opinion, I wouldn't have the chance to play it before hand as I live in Germany. That's why I'm interested in any experience that players might have had.

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    Registered User PT66's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    UClick image for larger version. 

Name:	58F03644-C936-4098-9BC8-0B1DAEDA0ED8.jpg 
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ID:	206472 my octave mandolin (GDAE) has a 21 3/4 inch scale. It is very lightly braced with light gauge strings. I think that gives it a more bouzouki sound.
    Dave Schneider

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    Registered User Lou Scuderi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    I play a 23" scale length Herb Taylor bouzouki (specifically this one) tuned GDAD with all unison strings in trad sessions all the time. Works great! As for not having a 'traditional bouzouki sound' it may not sound like a greek bouzouki, but it doesn't sound out of place. There's plenty of longer scale lengths and plenty of people playing 21" or 22" octave mandolins, but I find 23" to be a really good sweet spot. I'm using 1.194mm/0.813mm/0.559mm/0.380mm or 47/32/22/15 (as you say, with the appropriate decimal points) strings.
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    Plus a fiddle, a viola, a cello, another guitar, and (worryingly) three bagpipes.

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    Default Re: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    I played a 560mm (22") LeVoi instrument for a long time that I always knew as an octave mandola, before I'd discovered all the discourse about naming! I used GDAE unison tuning, occasionally GDAD. While it could be used for chordal accompaniment, I feel like a more melodic approach played to that instrument's strengths better, as it could be quite barky when strummed, rather than the chime of a lighter strung long scale instrument.

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  10. #8
    Registered User Tim N's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lou Scuderi View Post
    I play a 23" scale length Herb Taylor bouzouki (specifically this one) tuned GDAD with all unison strings in trad sessions all the time. Works great! As for not having a 'traditional bouzouki sound' it may not sound like a greek bouzouki, but it doesn't sound out of place. There's plenty of longer scale lengths and plenty of people playing 21" or 22" octave mandolins, but I find 23" to be a really good sweet spot. I'm using 1.194mm/0.813mm/0.559mm/0.380mm or 47/32/22/15 (as you say, with the appropriate decimal points) strings.
    Thanks, that's really helpful. I note the bass string on yours is somewhat heavier. I wonder, did you experiment with gauges or did it just come that way? Its certainly quite a looker!
    "What's that funny guitar thing..?"

  11. #9
    Registered User Tim N's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Beer View Post
    I played a 560mm (22") LeVoi instrument for a long time that I always knew as an octave mandola, before I'd discovered all the discourse about naming! I used GDAE unison tuning, occasionally GDAD. While it could be used for chordal accompaniment, I feel like a more melodic approach played to that instrument's strengths better, as it could be quite barky when strummed, rather than the chime of a lighter strung long scale instrument.
    Thanks. I wonder how much difference one inch makes? It could be significant. I guess GDAE is what you'd use for playing tunes as that's mandolin tuning.
    "What's that funny guitar thing..?"

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    Registered User urobouros's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    Punchlines aside, I find an inch makes a lot of difference both tonally and feel.
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  13. #11
    Registered User Tim N's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    Just to update, with the encouragement of these and other comments, I decided to order the aforementioned Hathway instrument, which arrived today. You don't want to know how much extra customs tax I had to pay to get it to Germany.....! Anyway, its a nice looking and sounding instrument: a cedar top, short scale bouzouki, compact, unpretentious, hand-made. Looks just like a larger version of my Hathway mandolin. Came with octave pair bass strings, but I changed that immediately with some heavier spare strings, and was much happier. Need to sort out some new strings - and a strap to stop it slipping away. Seems fine for strumming and picking chords, and and interesting different quality of sound from the long scale. I think it will be fine in the session, as people have said,hopefully finding its own dynamic niche, and not getting so tangled withe the instrument next doorClick image for larger version. 

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    "What's that funny guitar thing..?"

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    Default Re: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    Congrats on a gorgeous new instrument, regardless of what you call it !
    Chuck

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience of short scale bouzouki?

    Glad this worked out for you -- it's a lovely looking instrument.

    For what it's worth, I have a Mid-Missouri with 22.5" scale length (mahogany top and sides, a one-off custom built) which was sold as an "octave mandolin". In UK mandolin orchestra speak, it would be a "mandola" (or "octave mandola"), whereas some Irish/Scottish session musicians may call it a "short-scale bouzouki". I tune it in GDAE, which works just fine. GDAD would probably work fine as well.

    My Suzuki mandocello has almost exactly the same scale length but a much bigger body, and I tune that in CGDA. Completely different tone even on the three identical strings.

    Martin

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