Learning Bouzouki

Learning to play the trichord bouzouki? Here are some recommendations.

If you’re a total beginner, I recommend highly the three-volume method course written by Vangelis Trigas, one of Greece’s foremost bouzouki players. You may order it directly from his website. It’s a remarkably professional and thorough course of instruction – and once you reach volume three, you can really tackle the taximia. This set has everything you need to progress from beginner to intermediate and beyond. I know of no other method series – made specifically for trichord bouzouki – which is so thorough or effective.

If you play already, go here: Iraklis Kalogeropoulos. 29 excellent rebetika songs and counting (as of 8/12/14).

If you live in NYC, contact George Vlesmas: he’s a very talented bouzouki player, Juilliard graduate and nice guy. He can teach you not only early-style rebetika, but any other form of Greek music you might want to learn.

For songs:

Interested in learning some of the best rebetika instrumentals? Then check out this series, from Vangelis Trigas (included: To Minore tou Teke, Arap Zeibekiko, Solo Serviko tou Tsitsani, Atelioto, Horos Politikos, Trikalino Zeibekiko, Politiko Hasapiko, Serviko Smyrneiko, Glenti kai Horos, To Perasma, Ta Orea tou Tsitsani, and Aivaliotiko). To the best of my knowledge, these songs are not transcribed anywhere else.

Want to learn a bunch of Tsitsanis, Markos, Papaioannou, Mitsakis, Skarvelis, Hadjichristos, Toundas, Tsaous, Papazoglou, and Delias (and others)? Then check out these collections – Folk Composers and Collections of Composers – again from Vangelis Trigas. If you want to know which songs are contained in individual volumes, simply contact Vangeli and he will give you this information. This is sort of a master collection – he has transcribed hundreds of songs here and the transcriptions are based on the first, original recordings.

Want some Smyrneïka? Then check out this five volume collection (no tabs) from Fagotto Books: vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3, vol. 4, and vol. 5. A sixth volume is in the works.

20 Rembetika Tragoudia in 2 vols (here and here). Full tablature with recordings of the songs. Lots of Tsitsanis on these.

Smyrneika and Peiraiotika Rembetika, 1922-40Musical notation (no tabs) for early rebetika (some 200 songs). The book also contains a lengthy discussion of the makam system (in Greek). There’s a caveat, but you should buy it anyway.

Markos Vamvakaris, Ta Tragoudia Mou. No tablature, but the notation is excellent: the fingering and strings are noted. 20 songs.

12 Greek Folk Songs. A collection of 12 songs, with full tablature, and recordings of the songs (though the recordings are computer generated). Plus, it includes tabs for second bouzouki, baglama, voice, and guitar. The author also offers some free tablature here.

Guitar for rembetika in 2 vols (here and here). Full tablature, but no recordings. Still, this is an excellent collection. Here’s one of the master’s of guitar rebetika today, Dimitris Mystakidis, playing Stin Ipoga (In the Basement).

If you want to learn the Roads, check out this website, which will provide you with the basics. If you really want to learn the roads, listen to a lot of rebetika and find a good teacher. Or, listen to a lot of rebetika and get this book:

H. Payiatis, Laikoi Dromoi. It contains a fuller explanation of the roads.

For more, see Fagotto Books and Nakas.

Perhaps you’re in Greece? Perhaps you’d like to take some music lessons? Check out the Music Village on Mt. Pelio and Ross Daly’s seminars on Crete.

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