View Full Version : Bouzouki to Uke?

Uncle Sheepy
05-25-2011, 01:01 AM
Hello Folks,

I have an old flatback Bouzouki that is a pretty nice instrument.
Cedar top/Rosewood back and sides.
It really struggled to cope with steel strings (even when stripped down to single instead of double).
So, basically I had written it off as a wall hanger but wondered if it would be suitable as a uke conversion.
If so what sort of strings would I be looking at? (it's about a 21" 7/8ths scale length)

05-25-2011, 03:15 AM
Although the terms are somewhat fluid, with a scale length of less than 22", what you have would more generally be referred to as an octave mandolin, not a bouzouki. (Bouzoukis are usually--but not always--in the 26+" range.)

If you're looking to convert it to nylon strings, I can't imagine it will sound good at all--it's built and braced for double sets of steel strings--but I guess a baritone set would be the closest approximation. (Baritone scale length is usually around 19".)

If you could deal with the steel strings but didn't like the mandolin tuning, you could try this experiment:

A mando/octave mando is tuned GDAE. Tune the D strings down one whole step to C. Switch the A and E strings. Viola! It's now tuned GCEA! Of course the E strings are an octave higher than they should be, and of course the G strings are low G. Gives you some interesting chord inversions. I recently tried it on a regular mandolin. A fun experiment, though the thin neck makes some chords really hard to play.

If, on the other hand, you like the mando tuning, sell your octave mando and get a real bouzouki. With the longer scale length, the strings are thinner, which makes them much easier on the fingers. I have a Greek bouzouki, which is tuned one full step below baritone uke tuning, and it's a breeze to strum. I just can't get used to holding it due to the bowl back. A flat-backed 'zouk tuned like a Greek 'zouk would be ideal.

05-25-2011, 03:41 AM
If nylon strings would work at all, tough to imagine anything but Aquilas, but I'd ask Southcoast ukes for a definitive answer.

Uncle Sheepy
05-25-2011, 04:19 AM
I would agree on the aquila strings.
The bracing is pretty light and I would be thinking of thinning the top a bit.