Irish Bouzouki

About this Page:

The purpose of this page is to help you learn the Irish Bouzouki.

In Ireland, it is common to use octave mandolins, mandolas and Irish bouzoukis to accompany Irish traditional music. The Irish bouzouki is probably more common than the octave mandolin and mandola, but all of them can be used to accompany with chords, broken chords and counterpoint, or even to play tunes.

P1060322The versatility of these instruments is the result of their tuning. The octave mandolin, as its name suggests, it is similar to the mandolin, being tuned one octave lower (G, D, A, E). This form of tuning is ideal for melodic playing in Irish traditional music and can be seen in other melodic instruments too, such as the tenor banjo and fiddle. For accompaniment, however, the Irish bouzouki is ideal, and almost has the same tuning as the octave mandolin, except the top string is tuned down (G, D, A, D). This tuning almost has the same amount of scope for melodic playing as the standard G, D, A, E tuning, but it also allows for far more advanced and better-sounding accompaniment because the D, A, D strings sound great when they resonate in open playing either individually, in pairs or all together. This creates a pedal-note(s) effect (similar to the drones on the uilleann pipes), with more interesting movement in the bass strings and more beautiful chords with suspended notes.

Simply put, the G, D, A, D system produces nicer sounding chords and is easier and faster to play! All of the lessons on this page, therefore, are for the Irish bouzouki and use the G, D, A, D tuning system. Nevertheless students who have a Mandola (usually tuned CGDA) or an Octave Mandolin (usually tuned GDAE) can also benefit from the materials on this page, provided their instruments can be tuned to GDAD. This is particularly easy for octave mandolins to do, because it requires re-tuning just the top E string down to D – it takes five seconds! For mandolas, it is a little trickier and may require buying different strings and/or clever use of a capo.

The following handouts should prove useful when learning the Irish bouzouki (GDAD):