The bouzouki (Greek: μπουζούκι pronounced [buˈzuki]; plural: μπουζούκια), is a musical instrument with Greek origin in the lute family. A mainstay of modern Greek music, the front of the body is flat and is usually heavily inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The instrument is played with a plectrum and has a sharp metallic sound, reminiscent of a mandolin but pitched lower. There are two main types of bouzouki. The three-course with three pairs of strings (known as courses) and the four-course having four pairs of strings.
Bouzouki in Turkish means "broken (from Turkish: bozuk), not functioning, modified." Here it is used in order to specify the size of the instrument, because of its modified (not proper) nature. It might be concluded, therefore, that the bouzouki has been named after the jargon of the Greek tamboura named saz, by the Greeks living in Turkey. An alternative popular etymology maintains that the word bouzouki was used because different tunings are required for the instrument to play in different musical scales known Dromoi in Greek or Maqam. ;"Around the turn of the century in Athens and Piraeus musicians adapted the saz to their needs, replacing the tied frets with metal frets like those of mandolins and guitars , and in the process abandoning the 1/4 tone system for the Western tempered tuned chromatic scale. By the 20's they had further changed the construction from solid carved saz bodies to mandolin-like bowl backs and had also added machine pegs, and settled on D A D as the tuning of the paired courses, the lowest pair including high octave double. The instrument was played with Greek guitars and a miniature version of itself tuned an octave higher. These instruments both are kind of transformation of ancient Greek Pandoura , the larger version called bouzouki and the diminutive baglamas.
The origin of Bouzouki as a descendant of ancient Greek and eastern instruments, locates in ancient Greece, where there had been an instrument known as the pandura or pandourion, also called the "trichordo" because it had three strings; it was the first fretted instrument known, forerunner of the various families of lutes worldwide. The source of our knowledge about this instrument is the Mantineia marble (4th century BC), now exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, depicting the mythical contest between Apollo and Marsyas, where a pandura is being played by a muse seated on a rock. The three-string, also known by the Hellenized name of Pandoura, refers primarily by lexicographers Pollux (2nd century AD) Hesychios , the Athenian and Nicomachus and Shown in clay figurines of 330-200 BC in the hands of women.
From Byzantine times it was called pandouras and then tambouras (Elizabeth Jeffreys, John Haldon, Robin Cormack, The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies, Oxford University Press, 2008, p928. Cf. Nikos Maliaras, Byzantina mousika organa, EPN 1023, ISΒN 978-960-7554-44-4). On display in the National Historical Museum of Greece is the tambouras of a hero of the Greek revolution of 1821, General Makriyiannis.
the tambouras of Yannis Makriyannis exposed in the National Historical Museum, Athens
Other sizes have developed and include the Greek instrumental Tzouras ,smaller in size than the standard.
The early bouzoukia were mostly three-string (trichordo), with three courses (six strings in three pairs) and were tuned in different ways, as to the scale one wanted to play.
At the end of the 1950s, four-course (Tetrachordo) bouzoukia started to gain popularity. The four-course bouzouki was made popular by Manolis Chiotis who also used a tuning akin to standard guitar tuning, which made it easier for guitarists to play bouzouki, even as it angered purists. The first recording was made in 1958.
The Irish bouzouki, with four courses, a flatter back, and differently tuned from the Greek bouzouki, is a more recent development, dating back to the 1960s.The Irish bouzouki became popular around the same time, with four pairs of strings and a flatter back.