Irish Bouzouki

About this Page:

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

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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 the octave mandolin is a result of its tuning. 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 instruments too, such as the tenor banjo and fiddle. I prefer, however, to the Irish bouzouki tuning (G, D, A, D). The reasons are slightly technically (and include personal taste), but in short the G, D, A, D tuning allows me almost the same amount of scope for melodic playing as the more standard G, D, A, E tuning, but it also allows for far more advanced and better-sounding accompaniment. Additionally, the D, A, D strings sound great together in open playing (mimicking the drones on the uilleann pipes), which permits more interesting movement in the bass strings and more beautiful chords with suspended notes. Simply put, I believe the G, D, A, D system produces nicer sounding chords and is easier and faster to play! All of the lessons on my website for the Irish bouzouki use the G, D, A, D tuning system.

It should be noted that all the handouts, video tutorials and advice given on this website regarding the Irish bouzouki can, of course, be applied to any instrument that uses the same tuning I am using. So if you have an octave mandolin, mandola, mandolin, or cittern you can also learn from the materials on this website as long as you tune your instrument to G, D, A, D. So, every time I use the phrase ‘Irish Bouzouki’, just substitute it for whatever instrument you are learning!

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