Why do people who thrash the Bouzouki, not just stick to the Guitar instead? Surely there's a good argument for keeping the style of playing of those two instruments completely separate?


Let's face it, if there's a Guitar & a Bouzouki in the same session, what is the point in them both thrashing away?


Here's an example of the way many folks think the Bouzouki should be played in Irish Music.


Now isn't that really tasty & a far cry from the metal thrashing so many Bouzoukis get in sessions.

The Bouzouki has a unique voice, but I think so many of its finer qualities are completely lost, when it is just treated like an 8 string chord machine or Guitar.


In contrast, here's Donal Lunny, with a much more heavy handed approach to the instrument.

In this case, for me at least, I find the treatment of the Bouzouki far, far too heavy handed & instead of providing the subtle backing for the Fiddle that the Bouzouki could so easily have done, it is actually competing for attention, is far too strong & dominant & sadly detracts from the overall sound of the whole piece.


That whole jangly wall of sound, could have been just as easily have been provided by a thrashing chord player, using a Guitar.


So, how many people here actually make the effort to really play the Bouzouki in a lovely melodic style, like Alec above?


Also, does anyone else here agree with me that it is just a little sad, that so many people today, treat the Bouzouki like a thrash box?




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I agree, though it's hard for any mere mortal to play "intricate" accompaniment on bouzouki, or bodhrán for that matter in fast tunes. I liked Mats Lindgren's style of playing when we both played with Ivy Leaf. It is also from that band i draw my conclusion that it's hard to play with finesse at 100 mph :)

That said, i agree with you that many bouzouki owners treat them like fancy guitars with a slightly different voice than the guitar which is a pity.

Lars, here's another class act on the Bouzouki: Fintan McManus.

In this first one, he manages to nip along quite nicely & easily keep up with these Polkas.

In this one you hear some really tasty playing, along with Hornpipes.

Pity about the dancing Skeleton in this one clickity clanking in the background! :-(

In this one, you can't really hear him for the vamping keyboard! :-(


Yes that is classy playing indeed. I think we agree very close to 100% on the matter :)

Dick, at the risk of being a clay pigeon, I'll stick my neck out  here.

As a guitar player of many years, newcomer to the bouzouki (3 years), and an avid listener I would say that either tool should be used appropriately for the situation.

Certain sessions prefer no backing at all and that's fine. Others like to hear sympathetic chords or simple melodic backing. Some sessions like to drive it on which is a departure from the traditional into a fusion of styles.

Personally I'm comfortable in any of these situations as a musician. I love to just listen sometmes. In a tight session its great to keep it subtle on the backing  and in some live gigs it's great to drive with rhythm and harmonising chords but arranged in sympathy with the melodies.

The thing about opinions is that everyone has their own. I love what both Lunnys do but I'm also a big fan of Alec Finn and Mick Conneely who plays a similar style to Alec. Arty McGlynn and Mark Kelly are right up there for me also in the guitar world.

By the same token, I've heard melodic players over the years who "horse out" the tunes without any feeling. All speed and no bounce. It doesn't inspire any more than bad backing...

But when you get to that session where the tunes are driven from the phrasing, each tune telling a "story", and not played as a string of notes and the backers really know where the tunes are going and back them appropriately, it lifts the session into a different plane altogether.

It's a big world and each to their own.

But I'll take the liberty of paraphrasing your last comment and say that NO instrument showed be treated like a "thrash box". That's definitely not music.

Slán tamall,


I believe all the comments posted here (so far) are valid, and I'm in agreement with you all. I've been in small sessions (3-4 players, myself included) and larger sessions (13+ players). When I first started playing ITM, I was guilty of "wanting to be heard". But being a musician for 45+ years, I quickly realized that I needed to find "the balance of the group". There have been sessions where "playing and wanting to be heard" was the goal of almost all the members (especially, for some reason, those out of tune!!!). Subtle playing was something out of their reach (melodic as well as accompaniment as well as percussive). I think what Mick says holds true: appropriate playing makes a finer blend of music. Thrashing,...whether by guitar or bouzouki,....or bones, spoons, bodhran,...or even melodic instruments,......is "not music" (just ego and a self centered state of mind). Cheers,


P.S.: Thanks, Dick, for the aural references to make your point. Also, I love "Mr. O'Connor", both the Jack Daly/Alec Finn version and the DADGAD Finger picking 2 guitars available after the Daly/Finn performance.

I agree with most of what you're saying as well.  However, like Michael, I came to the bouzouki almost 2 years ago from the guitar (23yrs), and I believe that both styles have their place....it all depends on the type and number of instruments that show up at the session.  

In my folk/trad band our line up consists of banjo, flute, guitar, bass, & whatever I'm playing.  I used to play guitar when our set was mostly ballads & drinking songs(before we began incorporating more tunes), but we already have a guitar player, so now I'm playing either mandolin, zouk or bodhran.  When our guitarist sits out or plays bodhran, I tend to play more strumming, like Lunny, but if the guitar is in the mix, I play more counterpoint (i try anyway).  It just depends on the tune. 

I love Lunny's style as much as Alec Finn's.  They're on opposite sides of the bouzouki spectrum, and both fine examples of the potential of the instrument.  I personally strive for a happy medium. 

BTW...as an old veteran of REAL Thrash guitar at breakneck speeds (15 years in metal bands), I had a little chuckle at the title of this disscussion and what you folks consider thrash.....Donal Lunny is nowhere near death metal...maybe not thrash, but more like excited strumming....still okay when it suits the tune.




A guitar and a bouzouki only works together when one instrument compliments the other. I have found its easier to pull my flute out of my bag if I see a guitar when I arrive at a session. Dervish is a fine example of how multiple bouzoukis and guitar can work harmoniously.

I completely agree with everything you've written here!  I absolutely HATE that "bashing" style of bouzouki playing and also believe that Alec's style is vastly superior to it.  There are a few other guys who play the instrument in a more contrapuntal style (ex. Mick Conneely, Brendan O'Regan, Sean O'Lonsigh, Ruari McGorman, Jonas Fromseier), and all of them seem to have been influenced by Alec at some point or other, which says a lot.  However, Lunny still gets mad respect from me for reasons that are more about his role in popularizing the music than his actual playing.  As far as that goes, I generally liked his playing on the old Planxty records and that's largely because he seemed to use a lot more counter melody on those than what he seems to be doing on this clip.  Still, Alec does it the way it should be done, period!

Hey guys.  Here's another example of Alec's brilliant accompaniment.  I'm not sure how anyone could argue that the "bashing" style of bouzouki playing beats this!


I think it is also partly a volume issue. Don't forget that all of the clips shown here will have been amplified/balanced out. I find that my bouzouki tends to disappear in a big session or a band setting (currently unamplified) unless driven fairly hard. In a small session, it is easier to play something a bit more subtle. I could still do with more practice at the latter - not easy to come by suitable sessions round here.

I do agree with the general sentiment, though - I had the opportunity to play for a short while with Eoin O'Neill back at Easter, and he has a lovely counterpoint style - again mostly suited for slower Clare-style playing in a smaller setting.



One other thing - it's hard to learn that style: most technique instruction I have ever found has concentrated on strumming - almost nothing on counterpoint. Not easy to practice accompaniment generally without a very patient tune player to work with. Nor is it easy to work it our from clips like those, and I couldn't persuade Eoin to part with his secrets either!

I assume some people thrash the bouzouki for the same reasons some people thrash the guitar.

1. Because you can. It's easy.

2. Because it's louder that way.

3. Because they think they should. I spoke to a guitarist recently who told me his role in a session is to "drive the rhythm". I think this idea comes from playing in "groups".

Bernie, I think those responses are dead-on. 

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