Rebetiko > Learning to play > Tuition books

Learning from books

This page lists some of the books that are available, that give instruction in playing the bouzouki. As I have said elsewhere, sitting on your own with a book and a bouzouki is not the best way to learn. For those of us who are geographically isolated from any possibility of lessons, this way is good.

How to play the traditional instrument of Greece. R Northants.

Bouzouki Method book by R Northants.

Printed in Canada in 1976 by Progressive Publications. This has only 26 pages, and is slightly odd. Its main merit is that it is entirely in English. It really doesn't tell you much, starting with music theory, how to tune your bouzouki using a piano (I carry one everywhere), before rushing into fingering exercises and some scales. Western scales. A few simple chords for the tetrachordo, a note on tremelo playing and then into the tunes. Some of them are Greek, it is true, but Greensleeves and La Cucuracha? You don't want this.

The Golden Book of the Bouzouki. Professor Stavros Palias.

The Golden Book of the Bouzouki. Professor Stavros Palias.

This one is big, at over 150 pages. It has the text in English and Greek side by side, so you can learn a language as well as an instrument. After a few pages of instructions on how to hold the bouzouki, left and right hand technique, and so on, it dives into exercises. At page 50, major scales are introduced, and the minor scales at page 110. There are enormous numbers of exercises throughout, and tunes to play. At the back is a description of the author's invention, a ten string bouzouki. This has an extra pair of unfretted strings "that enable one to play in the Byzantine style". A brief mention of a second volume failed to excite me.

How to play Bouzouki. Xaralambos Pagiatis.

How to play Bouzouki. Xaralambos Pagiatis.

This one is quite easy to find. It has side by side Greek and English text, clear diagrams and tablature. It only deals with the tetrachordo bouzouki, but does mention Greek scales, mainly Hijaz and Usak. Quite good.

Method for the Three String Bouzouki and Baglama. Dimitris J Koutis.

Method for the Three String Bouzouki and Baglama. Dimitris J Koutis.

This book has side by side Greek and English text. The first section is music theory, then description of the fingerboard, followed by another theory section. Then there is a long section on scales, starting with the Western ones, then notation showing nine of the "Byzantine" scales. After that, there is a long, badly drawn section describing chords. Part six is a selection of Greek tunes. Quite good if you are learning the trichordo.

Greek Folk Scales and their practical approach. Xaralambos Pagiatis.

Greek Folk Scales and their practical approach. Xaralambos Pagiatis.

This is not a bouzouki tuition book, but you will want it if you are interested in playing Rebetiko. It is in Greek and English, and has details of all the well known folk scales used in Greek music. The scales are shown in musical notation, with tablature for the guitar, tetrachordo bouzouki and keyboard. Each scale comes with brief notes, fingering diagrams and a list of chords that go with it, but no chord diagrams. Vital for the keen Rebetologist.

Laikoi Dromoi. Xaralambos Pagiatis.

Laikoi Dromoi. Xaralambos Pagiatis.

This is the improved version of the previous book, with an enormous amount of information about each of the dromoi. Alas, the entire book is in Greek. I'm going to have to translate it, unless somebody else does first. The final section is said by some Greeks I have met to explain facets of playing that "the professionals wanted kept secret".

Akkompaniamenta gia Bouzouki. Kostas Koukoulinis.

Another book that isn't actually bouzouki tuition, this one deals with accompanying the bouzouki, or possibly accompanying other instruments with a bouzouki. It is mostly in Greek, only the preface is bilingual. The tetrachordo bouzouki is the subject, and the book is about chords. There is a section at the end about "chord progressions based on Greek-Eastern scales". This gives a fingering diagram and chord progression for the Rebetiko scales, and is useful even if you can't read Greek.

Methodos gia Trichordo Bouzouki, Baglama, Tzoura. Giorgos Krionas.

This is a great book, except that it is written only in Greek. Frankly, there isn't a lot of text, and the diagrams are so good that isn't a problem. It comes with a helpful CD as well. It has sections on the Dromoi, rhythms and lots of lovely tablature. And no hint that there is any other kind of instrument apart from trichordo. Lovely...

The Best of Greek Bouzouki with tablature. John G Demas

The Best of Greek Bouzouki with tablature. John G Demas

This brand new book by John G Demas represents a major improvement over most bouzouki tuition books, in two ways. Firstly, it has tablature as well as musical notation. Tablature is one of the things people constantly ask for on forums, and now here is some at last. After all, it's hard enough learning to play bouzouki without having to learn musical notation as well. Secondly, this book includes a CD with John Demas playing all the tunes in the book. Even better, the CD also has recordings of the accompaniments with the bouzouki left off, so that you can play along with them. The book has a fretmap, chord diagrams, Greek dance rhythms, lyrics of the songs, and then nine song tunes in very clear musical notation, with the tablature added. Apparently there will soon be a Volume 2, "Improvisation and Soloing Techniques".

Where to get them.

Bookshops. No, really. But I bought almost all of them on eBay. If you can find a decent music bookshop, or you happen to be in Greece, you have a good chance. But failing that, eBay can be very good for this sort of thing. Sellers to check are bouzoukimaster, 123789stelios and diveskin.gr who all list Greek music books from time to time. It is often worth emailing them with specific requirements if nothing suitable is listed when you look.

Some of the publishers have web sites with order forms...

Pavlos Kakouris who runs the Bouzouki World web site stocks some of the books mentioned here, and sells bouzoukis and bouzouki related things.

Update 2006

Costas Vasili in Australia has written a two book course for the tetrachordo bouzouki, and has a web site you can order from. The sample material on the site is excellent. If these books were for the trichordo bouzouki, I would definitely buy them, based on the examples he gives. The site is worth a look just for the chapter on the Hijaz scale family.

Cover of Volume 1 Cover of Volume 2