Prices, prices, prices!

Down to simple maths!

Especially under a tough economy, the first question friends are asking me is about the cost of a custom made bouzouki.

Even tho the materials used for a bouzouki can easily be identified and calculated, the cost of this instrument is a complicated equation of also other factors as, fame and reputation of the luthier,characterized sound, durability through years, how much and what kind of decoration the bouzouki has on, how much each maker charges per hour, and how highly evaluates his creation as hand grafted piece of art work.This is why you can hear cost of a custom made bouzouki fluctuating from $ 1,500.00 up to $ 6,000.00-7,000.00

Taking the information from a Rebetiko forum topic, costs of materials only (without cost of work) for a cheap bouzouki are (prices in Euros):

Decoration trims:5.00
Other woods( tuners wood, laminates,etch):15.00
Simple acrylic decoration on sound board:5.00
Simple sound hole decoration:5.00
Glues ,sand paper etch:5.00
Polishing-Varnish:50.00 at least

Grand total approx: 210.00

Calculating taxes, electricity,rent etch. the cost comes somewhere at 300.00 per instrument.
For a good expensive bouzouki the cost of the materials can come up to 550.00-600.00 approx.

From conversations I had with other bouzouki players and their experiences, I created the impression the average cost of materials for a good made bouzouki comes up to the amount of $ 450.00-$ 500.00

Time to separate mythology from facts.

Bouzouki "Myths" and my personal opinion.

1.The number of staves:Less is better

The number of staves at the back of the bowl is usually 15-19-30-40-60 and very rarely 80.The bigger the number of staves ,the more expensive usually the instrument is.
The actual staves creating the bowl are usually 15-19 and very rarely 30, where the extra staves you are counting outside of the bowl, are just a decoration of the exterior bowl's construction.If you had the ability ro rip of the foil paper glued inside the bowl of your bouzouki, you would come face to face with an unhappy surprise.So really the extra money you are paying from a bouzouki made with 19 staves to a bouzouki made with 60 staves is just for the extra decoration.
Sound quality will not improve between a bowl created with 19 actual staves and a bowl created with 19 actual staves but decorated with 60

2.Decoration:Less is better

In our days, bouzouki players and owners give a great attention to the decoration.Sometimes the decoration is the main reason someone will purchase a particular instrument and not the sound of it.The more the decoration on the bouzouki ,and more expensive the materials used for it (abalone, mother of pearl, elephant bone, semi precious stones etch) better the bouzouki is.
This assumption is so Wrong! Too much decoration especially on the sound board and specifically from the sound hole & bridge back, can really hurt the sound of the instrument.The more the "pasta" on the sound board (black plastic design frame of the decoration) less ability you are giving to the soundboard to pulsate and vibrate in reproducing a good sound.Now if you think all the extra foreign objects of abalone, mother of pearl, plastic, glues etch, been used on the soundboard's decoration, then you have a more clear idea regarding the negative influence of heavy decoration to bouzouki's performance and sound.The real reason of decoration's existence is to protect mostly the sound board around the sound hole area from damages due to excessive use of pick on the strings.

3.Woods:Old is better

The best woods for the creation of bowl are old dry woods of wenge, rosewood, mulberry, maple and their combinations.The walnut wood commonly used in now days is not the most appropriate wood for bowl.Soundboard made by old dry spruce is better from the one made from cedar since its properties in reproduction of sound are better.Fret board by ebony and maniko from a combination of flampouri, wenge, rosewood.

4.Varnish:Natural is better

They are lot of techniques for polishing-varnish an instrument.From complicated and time consuming as the "mpala" and "gomolaka" to polishing with a spray gun as in furniture factories.From oil base, water base, to spirit ,from glossy to mat, varnish finish is an important step in bouzouki's construction which may effect the durability but also the sound of the instrument.Now days, very few luthiers apply varnish to their instruments themselves.Most of the bouzouki makers,give this important phase in bouzouki's final construction to outsources,treating the instrument as a furniture and spraying it with heavy spirit base and a spray gun.


  1. Very interesting and informative. But I'm wondering why you don't like walnut for the bowlback.

    What's your opinion regarding truss rods and neck woods? Traditionally, I believe necks are made from linden (basswood) with no truss rod. But linden is a relatively soft wood, and now some makers use harder woods as well as truss rods (or a graphite center).

  2. Hello Anonymous

    I am posting an answer I gave before to a member for the same question

    Truss rod debate between followers and haters , lasts for long long
    > time
    > Let me resume my opinion
    > In my opinion the only negative I find using truss rod is that
    > doesn't follow the traditional lutherie techniques
    > Since most of bouzoukia I order are influenced by the 1920s to 1950s
    > era, a truss rod would not follow the philosophy of these bouzouki
    > concepts.
    > Now they are two kinds of truss rods commonly used
    > The aluminum and the carbon fiber
    > Also is the adjustable , which u can see the nut coming out at the
    > base of the headstock, and you ate able to adjust the back and forth
    > of the bouzouki neck by tight or loose the nut
    > They are rods ( carbon) which luthiers put inside the neck for
    > stability without adjustments. No one will ever know your bouzouki
    > has rods since no one except you and the luthier will know what is
    > laying inside your bouzouki neck
    > Finally some put anthrakonimata( carbon fiber) layer inside the neck
    > as Spourdalakis
    > And of course they are luthiers constructing the old fashion way
    > with wood laminates( kontres) creating instruments stable for lifetime
    > The problem with rods is that if the luthier doesn't have an extreme
    > experience in creating instruments with truss rod, he may cause in
    > long term a bigger problem to your bouzouki than solving necks
    > stability
    > In Greece Zaxarias and Stamkos have a great knowledge in truss rod.
    > Spourdalakis also in carbon fiber
    > Now, do u need a truss rod?
    > Let be a little honest
    > Bouzouki instrument and its family appeared and constructed in
    > Mediterranean , middle eastern climate
    > Northern America climate is a monster parameter for the thin long
    > neck tabour style instruments
    > My Politiko bouzouki neck tho , with the most thin neck I have ever
    > seen in bouzouki , hasn't move a mm for a year now
    > I don't live of course in Canada, but they are luthiers who know so
    > good the angles they must give to an instrument during its
    > construction, depending of where this instrument going to be
    > shipped, that is no need for truss rod
    > But expect very small neck movements since the wood is an alive
    > component to humidity and temperature after all
    > If you go for truss rod, especially in Canada, you will sleep much
    > better in the nights , without the stress of measuring the absolute
    > humidity levels and temperature , de tuning , and tuning , testing
    > and checking
    > Just be sure you find a famous luthier who is also famous in his
    > experience with truss rod

    1. BTW I am not a luthier, so the above is just my opinion from observation .Better for you to take some opinions from luthiers constructing with and without rod


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