Thursday, February 14, 2019

Meeting the Bouzouki

My James Jones octave mandolin and mandolin.
I started the day of Sunday, Nov. 12, helping to take down a parachute and ended it hanging out with friends, but the high point of the day was the music party at Joanne's house. Besides playing music, I encountered another type of Celtic mandolin, a bouzouki.
The parachute was part of the decorations for a World War II-theme fundraiser held by the Canal Fulton Heritage Society. We held the fundraiser Saturday evening at the Catholic social hall, and I returned Sunday to help undecorate.

Joanne Fox, a friend of Annette and Dennis, held the party on her enclosed back porch. She lives in a two-story brick colonial-style house near Canton, and she welcomed me to her gathering. Annette attended with Becky -- Dennis was in the Bahamas, allegedly on business -- and Tom brought, among other instruments, his James Jones bouzouki.I had never heard of such an instrument, and it fascinated me.
Tom explained that it was tuned like a mandolin but an octave lower, GDAE (Gdae' in Helmholtz notation), and it could play melody or chords, being close to the range of a guitar but possessing the scale structure of the mandolin. Most traditional Celtic music fits well on the violin, much of it written by fiddlers, and the mandolin, being tuned like the violin, naturally takes to the music too.
It was my first experience with the concept of a family of mandolins, and that night initiated a desire to acquire that type of instrument that only saw fruition in 2002. I hadn't bought a good mandolin yet, much less the octave model.
James Jones for years called his large mandolin a bouzouki but now calls it an octave mandolin, so bouzouki is the term Tom used that November night. The true bouzouki is a Greek instrument that a few Irish players adapted to traditional music in the 1960s when creative muses infusing rock music crossed over into Celtic bands. The name stuck, but the nomenclature of this large mandolin to this day varies by builder and player. I will cover more details later.
James's mandolins can be found at

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