The arch of the top
The arch of the top
Looking closer my Giannis Tsoulogiannis bouzouki, I though to write a short summary of information I have collected all these years, from posts in bouzouki forums, regarding the great speculation around the soundboard construction and the bouzouki unrevealed secrets.
Without trying to simplify the most difficult, important and serious technique of bracing and tuning the soundboard, I hope I can bring some light to the most discussed and controversial subject of bouzouki construction.
Many luthiers looking back and analyzing some Zozef's instruments realized that the back of the bowl was curving up and the top (kapaki) was creating a horizontal arch shape.
Some other luthiers believed that this was a flaw.To them, the dip at Zozef's soundboards was the result of many years of string tension and it occurred with age.The less it occurred, the better for the instrument.
Finally few luthiers following the technique of old trichorda and Neapolitan mandolins, created soundboards with a sharp break-angle, at the point where the bridge sits, and a decline angle towards the tailpiece.
Luthiers from the second and third group support their opinion by saying that bouzoukia that are built to last, should be built with a slight curve in the back of the bowl so that even as the sound board sits, and even as the years go by, there is always a good pressure on the sound board and the bridge.
To support their opinion they are referring to Zozef's early years instruments construction, where the famous luthier constructed them with the back of the bowl down, similar in some ways to Neapolitan mandolins but not with the sharp angle. He created a horizontally cured board with a slightly lowered bowl back creating a soft angle.And he created soundboards that would dip, so in a short time period would create the characteristic step.However even at this state the bridge never fell below the rim of the back of the bowl.
To the followers of the first technique, the solution lays at the talent and knowledge of the maker, to take in calculation, the intentional small upward curve at the back of the bowl (elevates slightly relative to the other parts of the kapaki), the horizontal curve of the braces, the small dip underneath the bridge, the thickness of the soundboard, making sure that the instrument will keep proper and stable angles so that the pressure of the bridge is always the right one, giving the capability to the soundboard of resonance at its maximum, and to produce a very mature and deep sound.
In this type of construction, since so many factors have to be taken in consideration and lot of knowledge and experience is being required by the luthier, the line between great success and total failure is small.
Some of the most famous Greek luthiers, as also my Tsolis and my latest Giannis Tsoulogiannis bouzouki, have a similar construction.