The bouzouki belongs to a family of long neck lute instruments such as Saz, Tanbur and Bouzouk. The name “Bouzouki” is believed to derive from “Bozuk” which means “broken”, possibly referring to the alteration of the tuning of this instrument from the Anatolian/ Central Asian.
The bouzoukiis roots extend back to the long-necked lutes of ancient Persia and Byzantium. During the Byzantine period, the Bouzouki was known as Thampoura or the Tampoura The early bouzoukis had three courses (six strings in three pairs) and were generally tuned to D3A3D4.
Bouzouki in Greece.
The bouzouki was introduced in Greece when the ethnic Greeks fled to Greece during the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey after the 1919-1922 war in Asia Minor.
The refugees brought with them the music known as Smyrneika, which made use of the arabic lute (al ud or ‘outi’ as the Greeks called it). Soon the outi was replaced by the bouzouki and the Smyrneika style fused into the Rembetika.
3string and 6string The early bouzoukis were Trichordo, with three courses (six strings in three pairs) and were generally tuned to D3/D4 A3 D4. This tuning fits in well with the music of the Middle East, as an open chord is neither major nor minor, allowing great flexibility with the melody. 3string bouzoukis are still being made, and are very popular with aficionados of Rembetika. The 6 string did not offer many easy movements, but it was unbeatable when it came to the taximia (solos). The great late Yiannis Papaioannou, an early player of the 6 string bouzouki, is still considered the best all-time taxim player.
4string and 8string ((eight strings in four pairs)After the Second World War, Tetrachordo bouzoukis started to appear. It is believed that the first person who added a fourth string was Stefanakis while others believe that it was Anastasios Stathopoulos. The 4string was made popular by the late Manolis Chiotis who first introduced the instrument to the High Society and played in front of the then Monarch of Greece.
The Bouzouki is played with a small plectrum, otherwise known as the “penna”. As mentioned before the most common Bouzouki today is the eight (8) string Bouzouki that in essence consist of four (4) double sets of strings. The higher tuned strings starting from the bottom up are called “katini” and the lower tuned strings that are thicker and wound are called the “bourgana”. The sequence of tuning from the bottom up is as follows: The first set of double strings is tuned as the “RE” or “D” note. The second set of double strings, which are again identical, are tuned as the “LA” or “A” note. The third set of double strings which consist of one “kantini” and one Bourgana string are tuned as the “FA” or “F” note and the fourth set of double strings which also consist of one “kantini and one “bourgana” are tuned as the “DO” or “C” note.
On the other hand the six (6) string Bouzouki which is still used by many of the older players as well as some of the younger ones, which is ideal for the true “Rebetiko” sound are tuned in double sets from the bottom up as “RE” or “D”, “LA” or “A” for the second set and again “RE” or “D” for the third set.
A good Bouzouki player must be able to produce clean notes at a higher speed than other stringed instruments. It takes years of studying and countless hours of constant practicing on a daily basis. Once a player commits to playing the instrument he may not be able to slack off and ignore daily practice time, as this will result in a decline in his dexterity and agility. Keep in mind that regardless of how much one devotes to practicing, not everyone may be able to master the true sound and feel of a Bouzouki, as it is a reflection of the player