Friday, 5 February 2010

Mr Bouz's Love Rival

I've blogged previously about my beloved Mr Bouz, the Fylde bouzouki with whom I've played over twelve hundred gigs over the years. He's battered and scarred, but still going strong. For the last year or so, I've been using him to wrestle with some new tunes: Irish diddle-de-de, Eastern European kopanitsas and horas. But though I've put a lot of hours into these pieces, my progress with them has been pretty slow. No talent, you say - don't shatter my dreams. The thing is, Mr Bouz's neck is long-scale, not ideally suited for playing such complicated rhythms and melodies.

However, just before Christmas, while browsing at Hobgoblin Music's shop in Wadebridge, epiphany arrived. I came across the most gorgeous Buchanan octave mandola. Hand-built by luthier Thomas Buchanan, this little beauty is similar to Mr Bouz but has a slim, shorter neck grafted to a small neat body. I picked it up, and took it home. The smaller size means it's a lot easier to move around the fretboard, great for melody playing. The action's gentle, all the strings ring out with strong sustain, and there are no dead spots up the neck - which is more than can be said for many similar instruments.

So these days, the Buchanan rarely leaves my side. Of course, Mr Bouz hasn't become unloved, or been abandoned in a dusty corner. That could never happen. But he does have a love rival.

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