2 Shades of Grey

Songs from the soundtrack of your life

Mandolin and Bazouki. A bit of a challenge for a guitarist?

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I bought this Italian mandolin a couple of years ago from a friend who’d inherited it. I’ve only just got round to cleaning it up and restringing it.

It is a beautiful traditional bowl-back one made by Gennaro Maglioni in Naples. It looks like a pine top but not sure of the wood that has been used on  the back.

I’m also not sure how old it is but I would say at least 50 years old.

The attention to detail is fantastic. I love the way the fretboard ends in that swirl and if you look carefully at the detail just below it you can actually see someone playing a mandolin.

At the end of the neck there is a decorative feature and even on the back you find detailed engraving.

The tracery continues around the edge of the instrument binding.

It came in a rather battered shaped wooden case which I’ve not yet got round to repairing.

It has 4 pairs of strings tuned in unison 5th intervals the same as as a violin i.e. G – D – A – E from low to high.

It’s not that big but the round back makes it a challenge to hold. But perfect for serenading at a wedding feast!

The Bazouki is also a handful. This belongs to a Ukrainian friend of mine who asked me to tune it for him.

I think it still had the original strings so a good clean-up before restringing it was called for!

The body has a pine top but a fibre glass and wood rounded bowl-shaped back which makes it tricky to hold.

There is a fancy pattern sealed on the top of the instrument.

There are 6-string and 8-string variants. This is an 8 string Greek-style bazouki.

It’s tuned like the top four strings of a guitar except a whole note lower i.e. C – F – A – D from low to high.

This makes it easy for a guitarist to play familiar shapes.

The bottom two pairs of strings are tuned an octave apart and the top two pairs in unison.

So effectively this is the same tuning as a twelve-string guitar’s top four strings.

Is that where the idea of 12 string guitars came rom in the mid-sixties? Or was there a Mexican influence as well?

I’ve not tried getting my he’d around the violin tuning on the mandolin but the Bazouki turning is straight-forward and a bit easier than my ukele – although if you can transpose in your head it’s not a problem.

Author: mikethepsych

He says he's a psychologist but aren't we all?

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