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Bouzouki’s evolution from 3 to 4 strings

3 strungs Bouzouki
Learn to play Bouzouki with BouzoukiGreek

Stefanakis Spitambelos with the ”erivan”

According to witnesses, the 4-string instruments, similar to bouzouki, existed since the old days. Based on the great composer and virtuoso George Zabetas, we learn that a kind of 4-string bouzouki was played by his grandfather and father. Furthermore, there is a story about the typographer Giorgos Skourtis playing a 4-string  instrument way long before the 3-string bouzouki was released in discography. These 4-string bouzouki shared the same philosophy with the 3-string bouzouki as their tuning was mainly D,A,D,A.

Between 1973-1939, Stefanakis Spitabelos, who was a great virtuoso of bouzouki, hosts Manolis Chiotis at his house. This played an important role on Manolis’ musical education. As Manolis pinpointed once ” Stefanakis is my instructor”. Spitabelos was the inventor of ‘Erivan’, a 4-string instrument which was manufactured by Jozef Terzivasian. As this picture depicts, this string instrument is much more similar to the guitar than the today’s 4-string bouzouki. This instrument was the reason that Manolis Chiotis decided to alter his 3-string bouzouki.

In an interview published in the newspaper ‘Ebros’, in 9/9/1961, Manolis Chiotis mentions his first touch with bouzouki in general:


Manolis Chiotis

I liked the sound. It went straight to my heart. I had an internal need to come in contact with this instrument. The moment I touched it, it sounded like we were friends forever. Just that my ‘friend’ was ‘incomplete’. This means that it had three strings and I was thinking, throughout the years, how to give it one more string to be the proper instrument…”. 

According to the daughter of the luthier Giorgos Panagis, Manolis Chiotis, after his night shift, he was taking her father from their house in Faliro to the workshop to work on the 4-string bouzouki. Chiotis introduced a new philosophy to the instrument. As older people said, the first tuning that Manolis did was E,B,G,D but with the encouragement of Haris Lemonopoulos, he tuned the bouzouki as we  know it today to D,A,F,C. Consequently, the bouzouki changes from 3-string to 4-string in 1955 and Manolis Chiotis receives a patent. The brothers Panagis were the manufacturers of the new bouzouki, who were specialists in their  field.

In we give special attention to both 3 and 4 string bouzouki. In our lessons we analize original recordings from both worlds. Get that bouzouki you have at home and learn to play it now.


The bothers Panagis at their workshop