How to tune the Bouzouki
How to Tune

How to tune the Bouzouki

The bouzouki is a stringed instrument used in Greek folk music. It may have 3 or 4 sets of double strings (“choirs”). Regardless of the variety, the instrument can be tuned by ear or using a digital tuner.

Method 1 – Steps

Make sure you have the Greek version of the bouzouki. Before tuning the instrument, make sure that it is indeed a Greek and not an Irish version of the bouzouki. These instruments are usually tuned in different modes and patterns, so it is important to make sure that the correct fret is selected for the bouzouki.

    • The easiest way to determine the type of tool is by its shape. The back of the case of the Greek bouzouki is convex, the Irish one is flat.
    • Another difference between the instruments is the length of the scale. In the Greek bouzouki, it is longer – up to 680 mm, in the Irish – up to 530 mm.

Count the strings. The most traditional variety of the Greek bouzouki is with three groups of strings (two strings per group), giving a total of 6 strings. Another version of the instrument is with 4 choirs of 2 strings, with a total of 8 strings.

  • Six-string bouzouki are called three-chorus models. The eight-string bouzouki is also referred to as a four-chorus instrument .
  • Note that most Irish bouzouki have 4 strings, but they can also be 3 strings.
  • The modern 4-chorus bouzouki appeared in the 1950s, a three-choir version of the instrument known since ancient times.

Check which pegs are responsible for the strings. Determining which peg is attached to a group of strings should not be a problem, but before tuning the instrument it is better to check it so that the process goes as efficiently as possible.

    • Examine the bouzouki from the front. The knobs to your left are often responsible for the middle strings. The knob on the bottom right is most likely responsible for the lower strings, the remaining knob on the top right adjusts the tension of the upper strings. The location is subject to change, so the string bindings should be checked by yourself.
    • Both strings of the same choir are attached to the same peg. You will string both strings at the same time and tune to the same tone.

Decide on the line. Bouzouki with three choirs are usually tuned in the DAD pattern. An instrument with 4 choirs is traditionally tuned to CFAD. [3]

  • Soloists and some performers can tune an instrument with 3 choirs in a non-standard pattern, but only experienced musicians do this and only in rare cases.
  • Many modern players prefer DGBE tuning for 4-choir bouzouki, mainly due to the similarity of this tuning with guitar tuning.
  • When playing Irish music on an Irish or Greek bouzouki with 4 choirs, the instrument is tuned according to the GDAD or ADAD scheme. With this tuning, the instrument is easy to play in the key of D (D major).
  • If you have a short scale instrument or large hands, it is worth tuning the 4-choir bouzouki in the same way as a mandolin – according to the GDAE scheme. In this case, the system will be an octave lower than the original sound of the mandolin.

Hearing adjustment

Work with one choir at a time. You will have to tune each group of strings separately. Start with the bottom group.
  • Hold the bouzouki just as you would if you were playing it. You need to start tuning from the group of strings located at the bottom of the instrument when you hold the bouzouki in the same way as when playing it.
  • When you’ve finished tightening the bottom group of strings, move on to the one directly above it. Keep moving up, tuning one choir at a time, until you get to the top strings and tune them.

Get the right note. Play the correct note on a tuning fork, piano, or other stringed instrument. Listen to how the note sounds.

  • The bottom group of strings must be tuned to the correct note below “C” (C) in the middle octave.
    • For a 3-choir bouzouki, the correct note is re (D) down to (C) the middle octave (d’ or D 4 ).
    • For a 4-choir bouzouki, the correct note is C (C) down to (C) the middle octave (c’ or C 4 ).
  • The remaining strings must be tuned in the same octave as the lower string group.
Pull the string. Pinch the group of strings you are tuning and let them sound (leave them open). Listen to how the note sounds.
  • Play both strings in a group at the same time.
  • “Leave the strings open” means not to pinch any of the instrument’s frets when plucking. After hitting the strings, they will sound without additional effort.
Pull up the strings. Turn the corresponding peg to tighten the group of strings. Check the sound after each change in the tension of the strings until it matches the sound of the note played on the tuning fork.
  • If the sound is too low, tighten the strings by turning the peg clockwise.
  • If the note is too high, lower the string group by turning the peg counterclockwise.
  • You may need to play the correct note on the tuning fork several times during the tuning of the instrument. Try to keep the right sound “in your mind” for as long as possible, and hit the right note again if you’re not sure if the instrument is playing correctly and if you need to continue tuning.
Double check the result. After tuning all three (or four) groups of strings, play the open strings again to check the sound of each one.
  • For best results, recheck the sound of each group of strings individually. Play each note on the tuning fork, then play the note on the corresponding choir.
  • After tuning each string, pluck all three or four choirs together and listen to the sound. Everything should sound harmonious and natural.
  • When you have rechecked the work, the tool can be considered correctly configured.

Method 2 (Tuning with a digital tuner) – steps

Install the tuner. Most electronic tuners are already set to 440Hz, but if yours is not already tuned to this frequency, tune it before using it to tune the bouzouki.

  • The display will show “440 Hz” or “A = 440.”
  • Tuning methods vary for each tuner, so check your model’s manual to find out how to set the unit to the correct frequency. Usually you need to press the “Mode” or “Frequency” button on the device.
  • Set the frequency to 440 Hz. If frequency settings are specified by instrument, select “bouzouki” or “guitar”

Work with one group of strings at a time. Each group of strings must be tuned separately from the others. Start at the bottom and work your way up.

  • Hold the bouzouki in the same way as when playing the instrument.
  • Once you’ve tuned the bottom choir, move on to tuning the one just above your tuned one. Work your way up until you get to the top group of strings and tune them.

Set the tuner for each group of strings. If you do not have a “bouzouki” setting in the tuner, you may need to “manually” set the correct pitch on the tuner for each group of strings.

  • The exact method for setting the pitch may differ from tuner to tuner. To find out how this is done on your digital tuner, refer to the instructions provided by the device manufacturer. Usually the note can be changed by pressing a button labeled “Pitch” or similar.
  • The bottom group of strings should be tuned to a note under C (C) of the middle octave, which is the sound your tuner should initially be tuned to.
    • For a 3-choir bouzouki, the correct note is re (D) down to (C) the middle octave (d’ or D 4 ).
    • For a standard 4-choir bouzouki, the correct note is to (C) down to (C) the middle octave (c’ or C 4 ).
  • The remaining groups of strings must be tuned in the same octave as the lower choir.
Pull the strings of one group. Pinch both strings of the current choir at the same time. Listen to the sound and look at the tuner screen to appreciate the tuning.
  • The strings must be in the open position when checking the tuning. In other words, don’t pinch the strings on either fret of the instrument. The strings should vibrate without interference after being plucked.
Look at the display of the device. After striking the strings, take a look at the display and indicator lights on the digital tuner. The instrument should tell you when the instrument deviates from the given note and when it doesn’t.
  • If the choir is not sounding right, a red light will usually come on.
  • The tuner screen should display the note you just played. Depending on the type of digital tuner you have, the device may also indicate whether the note you play is higher or lower than the one you want.
  • When a string group is in tune, a green or blue indicator will usually light up.

Tighten the strings as needed. Adjust the sound of the current string group by turning the appropriate knob. Check the sound of the choir after each tuning.

  • Tighten the strings when the tone is too low by turning the peg clockwise.
  • Lower the strings if the tone is too high by turning the peg counterclockwise.
  • Extract the sound from the choir after each “stretch” and look at the digital tuner screen to evaluate the result. Continue tuning based on the tuner readings.
Recheck all string groups. After tuning all three or four strings of the instrument, check the sound of each one again.
  • You will have to test each group of strings one by one. Set the desired pitch on the tuner, pluck the open strings and see if the blue (green) light on the tuner lights up.
  • After tuning all the strings, swipe them and check the tuning “by ear”. Notes should sound together naturally.
  • This step completes the instrument setup process.

You will need

  • Tuning fork OR digital tuner.
How to Tune a Bouzouki @ JB Hi-Fi

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