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Acoustic Folk Music
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 A Dee MciLroy Gazouki

Tuning the bouzouki

Most Irish musicians use either GDAD or ADAD(low to high). Both tunings make it quite easy to play in the key of D; the first also allows for some easy chords in G, the second works better for A, but will give you a less full sound when playing in G.

A mandolin-like tuning, GDAE, but one octave lower, is also used, but requires long stretches for some chords, so it is most useful for either a short-scale instrument or a player with big hands. Most of these short-scale bouzoukis, especially if they use this mandolin-like tuning, are said to be octave-mandolas.

Most well-known bouzouki players, like my personal favorites Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine, use the GDAD tuning. So do I, so most of what you find in this bouzouki page is intended for use with that tuning.

The 3-course bouzouki is not common in Irish music. Notable exception is Alec Finn, best known for his work with De Dannan and Mary Bergin. He uses the traditional Greek tuning for this instrument, which works well for Irish music also - DAD. All chords given for GDAD tuning work for this tuning also.

Stringing a bouzouki.

One problem I've always had with sets of bouzouki strings is that they are way too light for my liking, no matter what brand. Maybe most string sets are targeted towards the Greek bouzouki, where the lowest strings are tuned a lot higher than on the Irish bouzouki.

When it comes to buying strings, there's a definite advantage in owning a Fylde,since they are fitted with a guitar-like pin bridge (even though I have seen a model - cittern - from them with the more conventional floating bridge + tailpiece arrangement. This was more expensive, but also louder.) This means you can use standard ball-end strings instead of the hard-to-get loop-end strings required for most tailpieces. What I used to do for my old Greek bouzouki (floating bridge, tailpiece for loop-end strings, 68cm scale) is to get 2 sets of strings for a plectrum banjo (tenor banjo works sometimes depending on the make, but most are too short), and string the thing in pairs. This worked fine, but I definitely prefer bronze-wound strings.

Use of octave strings.

The Greek bouzouki was commonly equipped with octave strings on the lowest 2 string pairs.

Some musicians will also do this - for various reasons, such as "it sparkles more with the octave strings" or "they only sell sets with octave strings" - on the instrument they use for playing Irish music. If you do this also, you may have noticed (if not, there's a chance that your fellow musicians have) that the instrument will sound out of tune if you play chords higher up the neck, say, above the 5th fret. The Greeks never had this problem, because they only move up the neck on the highest 2 strings, and these are tuned in pairs, so this works out OK. They use the lower 2 strings only for simple first position chords, and for droning.

Playing the bouzouki in GDAD tuning.

Chords for GDAD tuning.

This page has all the information that is specific to the G,DAd bouzouki tuning. This seems to be the most popular tuning, around Northern Ireland or at least Co Antrim

Double stop runs in GDAD tuning.

Also useful, but not always qualifying as real chords (or very funny ones, if you 'd care to analyze them), are so-called "double stop runs", progressions of 2 fretted strings moved up the neck, while the remaining strings remain open. Most often, and most effective, this is used if the 2 fretted strings form a 3rd interval, so the root of a chord and the 3rd note of the corresponding scale. But also a 5th interval or octave can be used as basis for a "double stop run". Some examples are presented below.

Double-stop run #1 for GDAD tuning.

Chord chart

This one is in the key of C, and is based on the 3rd interval between the 2nd and 3rd strings. The root is on the 2nd (A) string, while the 3rd is below the root on the D string.

Double-stop run #1a for GDAD tuning.

Like #1, this is in the key of C, but this one has the 3rd on the high D instead of the low D string.

Chord chart

Double-stop run #2 for GDAD tuning.

This one's in the key of D, but runs from G to G, and has it's root on the G string, and the 3rd on the A string.

Chord chart

Double-stop run #3 for GDAD tuning.

Quite similar to the last one, but this one's in the key of G. It's also based on octaves, except for the initial G chord, and the lead notes range from G, to G on the G string.

Chord chart

[Alternatively, the initial G chord can be played as 0 0 X 0, sticking closer to the octaves pattern. ]

Double-stop run #4 for GDAD tuning.

Chord chart

This one is notated as a descending sequence, but it can be used (as can all the others) both ways. It's in the key of G again, and makes use of the open G string as drone note. It's based on a 3rd interval, but with the 3rd below the root instead of above it - the root is played on the 2nd string, the 3rd (how appropriate) on the 3rd string.

Credit must go to Han Speek for the tuning information ~ why re-invent the wheel!

To open the document below you will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer.

Click to download Adobe Acrobat Reader   The Irish Bouzouki Chord Chart.                              


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